Most everyone knows of the recent rise of Walt Disney Animation Studios. After being stuck in a rut for the better part of the 2000s, the studio picked itself back up again and began delivering instant classics, beginning with 2009's The Princess and the Frog, a traditionally-animated princess flick that harked back to what Disney started with in the first place, followed by 2010's Tangled, a much more well-done CG princess movie, 2011's Winnie the Pooh, which was funny, simple, and made many feel like a child again, and lastly 2012's Wreck-It Ralph, the video game-centric picture I consider dear to my heart because of its subject matter. This year, WDAS brings us Frozen, and the question is, does it continue their trait of critically acclaimed 'toons?
GET A HORSE!
Before we get to that, let’s talk about the subject that precedes it in theaters, which is Get a Horse, a Mickey Mouse short using vintage voice acting which has been marketed as a black-and-white cartoon in the vein of Walt Disne'’s 1920s works. Without giving any too much, I must say that I really liked the way this unfolded. It's very fun to watch, beautifully animated, and extremely creative in the way it goes about things as it moves through its seven-minute run time. It compliments Frozen very well, and I can say I enjoyed even more than last year's Paperman.
Back to the film, the movie’s plot is partially inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, "The Snow Queen." After Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) accidentally reveals that she has the power to manipulate ice and snow, she runs away from her home kingdom and her sister Anna (Kristen Bell), recently bethroned to Prince Hans (Santino Fontana), must go on a journey to bring her back, with the help of some friends along the way – ice trader Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and snowman Olaf (Josh Gad).
For the most part, Frozen's script is pretty good. One of the things I like most about it is that it does a good job of subverting the typical Disney tropes. Neither of the two female leads end up hitched up with a guy in the end, and the villain doesn’t die (though I was slightly disappointed with the latter, as I was looking forward to seeing how the bad guy would get killed off after how well deaths were done in Frog, Tangled, and Ralph). When the movie introduced the "you need love to solve x problem" plot line, I mentally groaned, thinking "Come on Disney, you can do better than this," and was pleasantly surprised with how it all turned out. It also pokes fun at the "wanting to marry someone in one day" trope, almost deliciously insulting the likes of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty in its wake. The stakes aren’t that high in the climax, nor is the villain really threatening (a let-down after how great Ralph was in this regard) but it does provide some good emotional material, so it’s alright.
Regarding the characters, Anna is probably the most likable and relatable Disney Princess yet. Kind, outgoing, never wanting to give up on others, and a lover of chocolate, she really is someone you want to root for and can find yourself bonding with. Elsa is the best in the film; every scene she’s in is great and she provides most of the emotional backbone. From the ads, many predicted Olaf to be annoying, but it’s the exact opposite. He’s hilarious, adorable, and lovable; one of the best sidekick characters in a Disney movie in a long time. There’s not much to say about Kristoff other than that he’s likeable and gets the job done, and Hans... well you'll see. Alan Tudyk is also enjoyable as the Duke of Weselton, and I wouldn’t mind if Tudyk becomes WDAS's John Ratzenberger from this point on considering he also had a major role in their previous movie.
Being a musical, there are a good amount of songs, improving upon the thing I thought Tangled was lacking in. The problem though, is that that doesn't necessarily mean all of the songs are fantastic. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez do a good job with the soundtrack, with their works being serviceable in the movie itself but not necessarily being memorable enough so that you'd stay humming them days after seeing it. The only song I’d say actually is is "Let It Go," which is spectacular and absolutely stands up there with the songs from the Disney Renaissance. With great lyrics and a masterful performance by Menzel coupled with breathtaking animation, its scene in the movie is my favorite and very much a showstopper like "A Whole New World" in Aladdin or I See the Light in Tangled, doing an excellent job of illustrating Elsa’s change from helpless girl who has to keep her magic concealed to one who’s free and can do whatever she wants. Following this are "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and "For the First Time in Forever," which are sweet, and "Vuelie," a previously-existing Norwegian song which began the flick excellently.
Frozen may also be one of the best looking CG films I’ve ever seen. Tangled did spectacular things with its oil painting-esque appearance which produced beautiful results, but there’s something about Frozen's style that I enjoy more. There are plenty of neat effects and details, from the shiny snow to the amazing ice to the art direction and use of colors at certain points. It’s very visually pleasing.
Prior to release, some reviewers called Frozen the best Disney movie since the likes of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Is that true? Not at all, but Frozen is pretty good in its own right. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a grand effort on WDAS’s part; a majestically crafted flick with stupendous animation, pleasing songs, and a good message. It’s well worth seeing, and if you haven't yet, it'll be a joy to get wrapped up in the world of Frozen.
Score: 8/10 (yay, new non-alphebetic scoring system!)
(NOTE: I ended up seeing this in 3D, since it was my brother’s birthday and he wanted to. I’m glad we did, since it was actually pretty cool. The feature was excellent in Get a Horse!, which was worth the extra price just for the pop-out moments. It wasn’t quite as profound in Frozen, but it was still nice to have and added some roundness and depth to the picture. If you don’t have a thing against wearing glasses for almost two hours, I’d recommend seeing it in this).
Listening to: one minute and 29 sec itunes sample tracks
Watching: ABC Familys Countdown to 25 Days of Xmas!
Drinking: H2O without the H2