Over Christmas 2013, you couldn’t avoid Frozen, with seemingly every advert featuring the hit song ‘Let It Go’, the troubled sorceress Elsa or optimistic snowman Olaf. Loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, ‘The Snow Queen’, Frozen took the experimentation Disney had started in Tangled (its adaptation of Rapunzel) a step further, and audiences loved it.
Disney’s use of classic fairy tales to explore different time periods and themes is a big part of their success: while early adaptations like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty followed the tales fairly closely, the ‘Golden Age’ or ‘Disney Renaissance’ saw films that expanded on their source material, introducing more diverse princesses from cultures other than Europe and tackling ideas like sexism (Mulan), colonialism (Pocahontas) and environmentalism (Tarzan).
Since then, the ‘Disney Revival’ has brought us The Princess and the Frog, Tangled and Frozen, with Disney princesses have grown very far from Snow White – these princesses aren’t going to wait around for their prince to rescue them, and they all want more than just marriage or happiness, such as their own business, exploration and adventure, or just to be accepted for who they are. While there are still ongoing debates as to how far Disney princesses have really come, as Disney has moved away from traditional hand-drawn animation to computer animation, it has also made an effort to challenge the idea that female heroes have to be passive and are only interested in romance. The most recent Disney Princess, Moana, doesn’t have a prince or a love interest and sets out on a buddy-movie adventure with an arrogant god to save her people.
Frozen was a huge part of this move forward because the central relationship that drives the story forward is between two sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), the daughters of the king of Arendelle. Elsa has powers over snow and ice, but her lack of control leads her to hurt Anna with her magic. Elsa shuts herself away, terrified that she will hurt her sister again, but can’t ignore her duties to her kingdom forever. When Anna falls in love with the dashing Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) on Elsa’s coronation day, Elsa loses control and reveals her powers to the spectators, then retreats to the Northern Mountain, where she creates a palace of ice and finally lets her powers run wild (to the tune of the ridiculously catchy anthem to independence, ‘Let It Go’), engulfing Arendelle in eternal winter.
Meanwhile, the heartbroken Anna cannot marry Hans while her sister is alone out there, so she travels to Northern Mountain to try and persuade Elsa to return home. Anna’s feelings for Hans become more complicated when she meets a grumpy ice harvester called Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and he agrees to help her reach Elsa’s ice palace. And of course, in typical Disney style, there are the comedy sidekicks: a snowman called Olaf (Josh Gad) animated by Elsa’s magic and Kristoff’s reindeer Sven.
The twist in the tale reveals that all is not as it seems with the charming Prince Hans, with whom Anna is infatuated, and Frozen is rare amongst Disney films as it makes the point that marrying the first person you fall for before you really know them isn’t always the best idea! This is a story that has a lot more than the traditional Disney princess tale at play, and more even than the classic fairy tale: Elsa’s denial and fear of her own power and how she pulls away from Anna, the fact that Anna never gives up on her sister, but also doesn’t understand the difficulty of what Elsa is going through, Kristoff’s love for Anna being selfless enough that he’s willing to let her go to save her life…there’s a lot going on here. And, of course, the bit that’s pretty much guaranteed to melt the iciest heart– the idea that there’s more than one kind of true love, and that the love between family can be powerful enough to save the day.
For all that we’re all a little over-exposed to Frozen, it really is a fantastic film, filled with enough catchy songs and fun adventures to keep people of all ages entertained, and the story of Anna and Elsa’s relationship is both heartbreaking and inspiring. For a film that reminds you why Disney is still one of the best studios in the business, try (or re-watch) Frozen this Christmas.
Find Frozen in the DVD LOBBY at 791.433.
For more enchanting tales…
Try some of Disney’s other classic films, like The Jungle Book (BOOK ZONE 823.8) and Peter Pan (BOOK ZONE 791.43). Read our review of these two magical films here.
We have plenty of traditional fairy tales, like Grimm’s Fairy Tales (NORFOLK HOUSE 398.2), Usborne Illustrated Fairy Tales (BOOK ZONE 823.92) and The Hutchinson Treasury of Fairy Tales (BOOK ZONE 398.2), which includes the original tale of the Snow Queen. Or, for a humorous take on fairy tales, try Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner (NORFOLK HOUSE 823.91) or check our review of Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl.
Picture book authors have been providing some great new takes on the classic fairy tales, such as Snow White in New York by Fiona French (QUICK READS 649.58), Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story by Lynn Roberts (QUICK READS 398.2) and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by John Sciezka (QUICK READS 823.91).
For a very different version of the original Disney princess, watch Snow White and the Huntsman (DVD LOBBY 791.43), in which Snow White rebels against the Queen, who is using her as a political pawn, and leads an army into battle against her.
MaddyInDisneyland (2013) Frozen – Elsa and Anna. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/maddyindisneyland/ (Accessed: 22 November 2016).