Friday, 20 December 2013


Walt Disney Studios Films

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Continuing the trend of their recent animation revival, Disney's latest feature is, like The Princess and The Frog (2009) and Tangled (2010), a princess story. Or a tale of two princesses, as it happens: Elsa and Anna, two royal sisters in the kingdom of Arendelle whose loving bond is severely tested in Frozen.

Not by a rivalry for the throne (elder sister Elsa will one day be queen) but because Elsa possesses powers (the ability to produce ice and snow at will) which, during some late night shenanigans, almost fatally wounds the younger Anna. From that day forth, their parents decide it best that Elsa remain separated from her sister -- and the outside world -- until her powers can be tamed.

Or until she ascends the throne, which she does as a young woman (voiced by Broadway star, Idina Menzel) when her parents' royal ship is lost at sea. Elsa's coronation comes is a double celebration for Anna (Kristen Bell), who not only gets to finally see her sister up close and in person, but because the gates to the palace are finally opened to the outside world (Anna becoming an involuntary shut-in of-sorts as a result of her sister's isolation).

That would explain her immediately falling head over heels for visiting Prince Hans (Santino Fontana), who, as the youngest of several brothers and sent to attend the coronation on behalf of his nation, also seems deliriously happy to be striking out on his own. The pair are instantly smitten and before they've even caught their breath from singing their first duet, Hans has proposed.

But just as quickly, Elsa's powers are revealed to a less than welcoming royal court and visiting dignitaries which sees the newly crowned Queen fleeing into the mountains, setting off a not-so wonderful winter land in her wake. It also sends Anna, believing in her sister's goodness, in hot pursuit; on the way meeting an ice salesman, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his loyal reindeer, Sven, and Olaf (Josh Gad), a talking snowman with a jovial disposition who was conjured in Elsa's escape (and a terrific musical number about breaking free and self-acceptance, Let It Go).

And if you were to go by Disney's marketing alone, you would think Frozen, loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, was an adventure mostly concerned with the comical prat falls of Sven and Olaf (and throw in some cute woodland trolls for good measure). For whatever reason (the boy dollar?), Disney seem to have gone out of their way to hide the fact that Frozen is indeed a "princess movie". And a musical!

Not that Frozen, directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, is your typical princess animation. Yes there's a 'happy ever after' but unlike The Princess and the Frog and Tangled, which also featured pro-active female protagonists, that happy ending isn't dependent on a romantic coupling. Sisters are doing it for themselves in Frozen, and that's quite refreshing.

It might not be quite the female empowerment film some have tried to make it out to be, but it's certainly a positive message young girls -- and boys -- can take away from this snowbound, fun-filled, and tuneful (with some impressive Broadway-ready songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez) animation.

Indeed, Frozen is arguably the year's best animated feature, if only for a lack of any real competition: it's been a lacklustre year for animated films, on the screen if not at the box office.

And without any real competition this summer, it should perform just as nicely at the Australian box office as it has State-side: Elsa and Anna joining the likes of Sandra (Gravity; The Heat), J-Law (Catching Fire) and Melissa McCarthy (The Heat; Identity Thief) as proof-positive that sisters did indeed do it for themselves in 2013.

Note: preceding Frozen is a short film titled Get A Horse!, a rather loud and obnoxious mix of black and white and colour animation, as well as 3D (not that you need to see Frozen in that format to enjoy it), which seems to exist solely because it uses Walt Disney's voice for that of Mickey Mouse.

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