December 6, 2013

Frozen : Do I wanna build a snowman?

Firstly, Spoiler Alert. Do not read anything here unless you've seen the film!!

Before I say anything else, I need to sing along to "Let It Go" and get it out of my system so I can organize my thoughts. Disney released this today on Youtube and I have it on repeat!

OK woo! Now that's out of the way I'll get down to brass tacks.

I have not read even one review of Frozen online or anywhere else, and I won't. I like to form my own opinions, and while I enjoyed reading how excited people were on Twitter about the film, I don't like to prematurely jump on a bandwagon and assume that just because it's a new Disney film it's going to be the bees knees.  I also like using random phrases from the 1920's just because.

Character Design

I saw Frozen last weekend. The animation is gorgeous, the ice and glittering snow were stunning, and while I had my doubts about the uniqueness character design for the main human characters, and I still feel that they are all derivatives of Tangled's Rapunzel and Eugene, they are appealing to look at.

Let's be honest, it looks like they pulled the Rapunzel and Eugene 3D CGI models out of archive and mostly changed their hairstyles and eye colors. But it's ok, because it still works. If they do it in the next movie though...we might have an issue.

Exhibit A: Tangled vs Frozen character design

They did the same for the horse's design, too! Considering Maximus was such a main character in Tangled, with so much screen time and such a human-like strong personality, and Hans' horse is more or less background window dressing, they could have made more of an effort to differentiate between the two with the design.

Exhibit B: character recycling in Frozen

I love Olaf and Sven, they're perfectly appealing, goofy, cute, fluffy, and make you want to squeeze and hug them. They were the first characters from the movie we 'met' a few months back when the first teaser was released.  Wonderful sidekicks and comic relief (and make for great toys, of course). 

The Music

I LOVE the music. It reminds me so much of Wicked (Idina Menzel's unique amazing voice and character parallels contributes to that too), with a touch of Jonathan Larsen (Rent) thrown in for good measure.  I can't wait until a live stage version of Frozen whenever it comes to Broadway.

I enjoyed hearing Kristin Bell sing! She went to NYU Tisch School for the Arts studying Musical Theater. Who knew, right? Would really like to see her perform in more musicals!

Back to the Wicked/Idina Menzel thing for a minute. I find the parallels between Wicked and Frozen casting to be more than a little bit interesting. Idina Menzel plays both Elphaba in Wicked, the socially outcast female protagonist turn-semi bad girl, and Elsa, the socially outcast female protagonist of Frozen. Smart casting to draw such a strong parallel, or easy choice?

Time to sing along to "Defying Gravity"! I like the similarity of each character's turning point with the major showstoppers "Let It Go" and "Defying Gravity".  Elsa recognizes her full powers and "Can't hold it back anymore" and Elphaba declares "It's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap!"

Also strange coincidence that 2 Kristins: Kristin Bell and Kristin Chenoweth (who plays Glinda in Wicked), both with beautiful soprano voices, are the young, stunning, bubbly, 'normal' counterpoint to Elsa / Elphaba (brought to you by the letter 'E'), both long-suffering outcasts with physical anomalies (white hair / green skin) and hidden powers.

The Story & Characters

I really enjoyed the film, but all throughout, I simply wanted more. I wanted to cry (or at least get choked up) when their parents die, and more importantly, I wanted to really feel the emotional roller coaster at the climax. I just didn't. I'm not a heartless movie-watcher, actually when a movie really hits me I cry like a baby. But this didn't do it for me, for a lot of reasons I'll address below.

I'm tempted to say I'd like it to be 5 minutes longer so we could spend more time with all of the characters, so we could really feel the emotional hit when the time was right, but on the other hand I've seen plenty of short films that have made me want to cry (Paperman or the Blue Umbrella, anyone?). Therefore, potential emotional impact doesn't have anything to do with length.

On a totally unrelated side note, one line stuck and bugs me - when Anna refers to how Elsa set off an "eternal winter". 'Eternal'... really? Because it seems to me like it's only been a couple days, if that. A bit melodramatic to call it "eternal" anything, but whatever.

I don't want to analyze every single character, but I do have some major questions about a couple...


I really craved even more from her. She let loose in the big song "Let it Go" which totally hits a home run aesthetically and musically, but I wanted more emotional connection.

I would have loved to have seen more of Elsa growing up scared and alone, in her room. Again, another few glimpses of her lonely life would have strengthened my empathy for her.

Did she really never ever come out, growing up as a complete invalid? How did she eat? Did her parents never interact with her either, or was she only not allowed to be around Anna?

Doesn't Elsa look a bit like Vanellope Von Schweetz from this angle?

Beast's self-imposed solitude comes to mind as a comparison. We see his decrepit living arrangements in the West Wing, how he interacted (or refused to do so) with society, and how his relatively short (compared to Elsa's) period of isolation affected his ability to relate to other humans.  How did Elsa keep from going crazy?

Hard to believe that if she was a child kept in 100% solitary confinement every day of her life, up until Coronation Day, that she would have any capacity for love or social skills at all.

If she had been kept locked in her room for years on end (Hello? Social services?), how could she not have developed a bitterness or hatred for her sister, who (in a way) was the reason she was locked up in the first place?

Just another example of how I wanted to see more. More depth and complexity to the emotion in the characters.  Make me feel for the characters throughout the story, and I'll feel with them at the final emotional climax.


I walked away with a bunch of questions about Kristoff that I felt could have easily been addressed in the film. First off, it was not clear to me that he was an orphan. I thought at the beginning that he was out mining ice with his Dad and brothers as an apprentice or something, then all of a sudden he's being adopted (kidnapped?) by a Troll? What the heck?

He's got nice pointy shoes and a fab furry sidekick, but what's his story?

We learn in the "Reindeers are Better than People" song that Kristoff doesn't like people. ("People will beat you, and curse you, and cheat you" are lyrics to that song) OK... What happened to him that was so bad? We never really find out, and that's not fair. I don't want to feel robbed of the opportunity to feel empathy for a main character.

We don't even get to see one glimpse into his troubled backstory like we do with Eugene in Tangled. That scene where he tells Rapnzel about his time in the orphanage made a world of difference to his character. It made us understand him, and therefore love him. We don't get that with Kristoff, so just like a lot of the Disney princes of yore with no strong characteristics or personalities (sorry to say it, but...) we just don't care about him that much.

I do like his relationship with Sven though. It's clear that he is his only friend, and Sven acts as his conscience. I'm also glad Sven doesn't talk, but they gave him a doglike personality, similar to Maximus in Tangled.  I guess if there's a nonverbal animal in a Disney film we relate to them only if they act like dogs.  Maximus was a super smart German Shepherd police dog and Sven is like an eager-to-please Labrador Retriever.

The Trolls

They're very cute and I love their song, but yet again, wanted more out of them. I compare them to the Will O' the Wisps in Brave.  We (and Merida) are introduced to the Wisps early on, and Elinor teaches us (and Merida) of their significance and powers. And those exact powers provide backbone for the theme of the film and are vitally important to the story.

Oh Trolls, how we hardly knew thee.

Regarding the Trolls however, I have questions (of course!)

How or why does the King know about them and their abilities?  Did they have to heal him in some way when he was little perhaps? He certainly knows exactly how and where to find them in the woods, but we don't know why.  What is the Trolls' history of interacting with humans? Why are their powers limited in what they can and cannot heal?  Why do they appear to Kristoff and adopt him into their family?

The King

I feel like the King has potential to be a big piece of the puzzle here. When they are running to the Trolls to save Young Anna there is a magical trail behind them. Does he have special powers too? Is that how he knows to go to the Trolls to save Anna, and to have Elsa wear gloves?  He says Elsa was born with the powers, so does it run in the family? There's no indication to tell me for sure.

Are You Still With Me?

All righty, I really need to wrap this up, as it's getting pretty long. If you're still reading, thanks! You're cool.

I should reiterate that I really enjoyed Frozen. I bought the soundtrack and have been listening to it nonstop for days. I can't wait to go see it again, this time in 3D or Imax or both if I can. That being said, I don't really feel that it's the "best Disney film since the Lion King". It's great, for sure. But I simply wanted more of an emotional "punch".


I'd love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree, let me know in the comments!


  1. Nice review Angela. Well worth the watch, especially if the whole family wants to go out to the movies and see something that will please everybody.

  2. I totally agree with you but unfortunately, i didn't like the movie. and i cant believe it's popularity which in my opinion doesn't deserve, there are better movies than this.

    I liked your review a lot, about the design, the concept and pencil design are different , but i think it's because of the 3d they all look a like. I like the pencil design more.

  3. Although we have to use our imagination on Kristoff's back story... One can fall in love with him (or at least care for him by the end) because of his present day actions and what he goes through to try and save Anna. So romantic! Such a contrast between instant love and real love in the two men characters we know nothing about. I enjoyed reading your article.

  4. Hi Guys!
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, I appreciate it. Since some time has passed, I realize I may have to side a bit more with the naysayers when it comes to Frozen. It just didn't do anything for me, so much so that I haven't wanted to watch it again even once, in all these months since I saw it in the theaters.

    The music, on the other hand, is getting a lot of plays on my iPhone. I walk down Park Avenue in NYC on my way to work singing 'Let It Go' out loud (no I'm not sick of it!). Midtown needs a bit more Disney cheer and I'm happy to oblige.

    So, I guess you could say I have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of Frozen, just not the movie / plot / characters part of it. :P