Frozen – Is It Really That Good?

(originally posted May 9th 2014)

(WARNING: The following post contains spoilers for ‘Frozen’)

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I can already see many of you pulling out all manner of weapons and typing my name into Google in the hopes of finding my address just by reading that title, so let me explain: I don’t hate ‘Frozen.’ I like ‘Frozen.’ It was a good movie. But when I found out how popular it was, I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. Was it really worthy of such praise? Did it truly deserve to be the highest grossing animated film ever? Well, having re-watched the film, I’m going to break down all the points I deem important; both positive and negative, and try and find out why people love it so much.

Positive: It Looks Gorgeous

I didn’t realise it on my first watch but god damn this film is beautiful. When Disney began making films with CGI instead of the traditional 2D hand drawn animation, I was a bit put off. ‘Tangled’ completely turned me around on that and ‘Frozen’ further solidifies how the animators know what they’re doing. It looks like a classic Disney movie but with 3D models.

The character models are so full of life thanks to the way they move, their facial expressions and all the little touches that make them seem almost human; you forget that these are fictional people because of it.

And obviously I have to talk about the snow effects, which are amazing. Disney seems to keep raising the bar for animation thanks to stuff like this. There’s so much beauty to it – I can’t even describe it. But you’ve seen the film; you know what I’m talking about. The way it falls in tiny drops, the way ice shines, the way it slushes; it looks and functions like real snow. I hope the people who worked on those effects know how good of a job they did.

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Positive: The Cast Are All Lovable

Disney casts are usually all likable for one reason or another, and ‘Frozen’ is no exception. There are very few Disney princess characters that I adore but Anna takes the cake with her hyperactive and awkward nature. I can’t help but like her.

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Kristoff is a great male lead as well, having great chemistry with Anna during the film (which makes their romance seem a bit more genuine) as well as having a bit of a sarcastic streak, which I always love. Plus, rather than simply acting as if his reindeer, Sven, talks, he actually does the voice. One of my favourite scenes is when he basically talks himself into helping Anna after his sled gets wrecked.

Sven himself is your typical Disney animal friend, and while seeing other animals exhibit dog traits isn’t unusual, it’s hard to not like and got a few chuckles out of me.

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As for Olaf, the resident comic relief, I’ll admit he has warmed up to me. At first, I found him a bit annoying and not really relevant to the film outside of being a symbol of Anna and Elsa’s childhood. On the second viewing, I found his jokes a bit funnier, and he actually doesn’t exhibit any cowardly traits. He tries to stop the giant ice monster and puts his life on the line to try and save Anna. It’s a nice change of pace in my eyes.

I’ll get into some of the other characters later but, all in all, this is a great cast in terms of its main characters and the minor ones, specifically the trading post owner (who is clearly a fan favourite) and my personal favourite, the moustache twirling Duke of Weaseltown (“It’s Weselton!”)

Negative: Did It Really Need a Bad Guy?

As the film progressed, I found myself surprised by how there wasn’t a villain for the majority of it. The real threat was the eternal winter caused by Elsa, and she didn’t do it out of any maliciousness. She didn’t even know she did it. I was actually surprised she didn’t become a villain (though that was the original plan).

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Arguably, the Duke of Weasel… I mean, Weselton filled the villain role, but even then, he wasn’t evil. Yes, he planned on exploiting Arendelle’s riches and did order two of his men to kill Elsa, but the latter was governed by fear; he was doing what he thought was right. I found it quite refreshing that there was no real bad guy…

Then Hans happened. A little part of me sighed at that twist. Really, Disney? The film was doing fine without a villain but they felt the need to stick one in there anyway so the heroes could triumph over something. Also, given that Anna and Kristoff were going to get together, Hans couldn’t be sympathetic in being rejected, so the only option was to make him evil. Did the writers really think that the kingdom freezing over and everyone dying from frostbite wasn’t enough of a threat? However…

Positive: Hans Is a Great Villain

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Upon further reflection, I found myself really liking Hans. I mean, I already liked him because of his personality; he wasn’t presented as being the perfect love interest – just a very likable person. Given how early he appeared though, I couldn’t help but think he was actually a bit of a prick like all false love interests. But the film kept showing him in such a positive light; he was so damn nice. Then the twist happens.

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But he wasn’t a prick. He was evil. And I did not see that coming. One of the best kinds of villains is the one who hides their evilness so well, and Hans was really good at hiding his. He has everybody fooled; look at him when he tells everyone Anna died. The look on his face seems so genuine; it’s hard not to believe him. Not to mention the way he treats Elsa as Anna would. Some Disney bad guys tend to screw themselves over but Hans was smart, altering his plan on the fly and covering all the bases; really, if Olaf didn’t get to Anna in time, he may have won.

All of his charms and kindness was a fantastic ploy, and when his true colours show, he becomes so despicable; you still can’t help but like him. The way he leans in to kiss Anna, only to pull back with that sneer is so detestable; he could’ve just revealed his evil nature there and then but no, he added that fake-out kiss just to be a dick. And that’s why I love him.

Negative: The King and Queen could’ve Handled Things Better

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Originally, I considered Elsa’s parents as possibly some of the worst parents in Disney’s history, but a short discussion with a friend of mine kind of turned me around a bit. However, while I admit they weren’t terrible, I still feel they could’ve done a few things differently.

I get why they shut themselves out from the rest of the world; it was so Elsa couldn’t hurt anyone. And it was also done out of love for their daughter; they were concerned for her safety too. But in doing so, it kind of messed up Elsa a little. She winds up shutting herself out constantly; refusing to feel any kind of emotion. “Conceal it. Don’t feel it” as they say. However, as my friend stated, the king might not have been referring to emotions with that line and Elsa just horribly misinterpreted it.

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This is all fair enough, but there’s still one issue I have: the effect on Anna. Why keep her out of the loop? Wouldn’t it have made sense to let Anna know what Elsa was going through? Maybe then, Anna would have been more understanding of why Elsa avoided her constantly. I know she’s a little kid but kids are smarter than we give them credit for. Instead, to Anna, Elsa just one day stopped loving her with no explanation. Also, by shutting Elsa off from the world, the same happens to Anna. And she has no one. Elsa is clearly being supported by her parents during her childhood but Anna… She had no one to talk to or hang out with. Couldn’t they have got her a playmate or a pet or something? Anyone to help keep the loneliness at bay. I’m sure the king and queen weren’t neglecting her but I can’t help but think that Elsa became such a priority for them that Anna kind of got side-lined. Again, a lot could possibly have been avoided if someone just told Anna that her sister was having power problems.

Negative: How Do Elsa’s Powers Work?

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This is admittedly a nit-pick on my part but I can’t help but notice this. It’s established that Elsa has been born with ice-based powers. Okay, that’s fine, but there seems to be no limit to what she can do. Now, I don’t mean I find it unbelievable that she can create a castle made from ice or cover an entire kingdom in an eternal winter; that makes sense. What I take issue with is that she can create LIFE. Life. She can create a snow person with a mind of its own. When Olaf meets Elsa, he’s essentially meeting God. What part of ice powers does creating an intelligent being come under? Pretty sure Iceman can’t do that.

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Then there’s the dress. Again, tiny thing to get worked up over, but how did she do that? How can she just make a dress? It’s clearly not made of snow or ice. In fact, where did her old dress go? They’re clearly not the same dress so either she created one or altered her old one, which still doesn’t make any sense.

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Also, how does wearing gloves stop her from freezing things? Wearing shoes doesn’t stop her from freezing the ground beneath her, and those iron cuffs she got put in froze almost instantly. So, why don’t the gloves automatically freeze? Because they keep her warm, maybe? Because she thinks they prevent her from freezing things so they act as a placebo effect of some kind? At least that’s an explanation as opposed to everything else.

However, this is all just me being horribly nit-picky, and I’ll admit that these things don’t frustrate me as much as you might think. A little bit of clarification, though, would’ve been nice.

Positive: The ‘Let It Go’ Sequence is Amazing

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I’ve heard some people call ‘Frozen’ a glorified music video for ‘Let It Go,’ and I can’t help but understand why they’d think that. It’s a good thing, then, that the song is pure bliss, to me anyway.

It was actually this song that made me want to see the film, along with the accompanying sequence. Not only was the song unbelievably catchy, but that part of the film is one of my favourite sections, mostly because it manages to do so much in the space of a few minutes.

It begins with Elsa singing forlornly about how she’s pretty much self-banished now that everyone knows about her powers. Then, she starts reciting the words her father told her: “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know,” before realising that now that they know, what’s the point in hiding it? She embraces her powers, showing them off, discarding her cape, running across the mountains – she is, well, letting it go.

The first time I saw this bit on YouTube, I had little context but I didn’t need it. I understood who Elsa was, what she wanted and how she felt all within those few minutes. Watching a sad, lonely woman coming to terms with her situation and ultimately accepting it and deciding that she’s going to make the most of out it, all through song, is just an indescribable experience; it’s essentially character development.

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The best part is as the song nears its end and Elsa throws away her crown, lets her hair down and changes out of her conserved and proper attire into the ice dress; despite my issue with it, it’s still great in showing how Elsa’s done caring about everybody else and instead focusing on what she wants for a change. And with that single line “The cold never bothered me anyway” followed by that awesome turn and the door slam, Elsa’s character has beautifully progressed from someone who has had to constantly worry about other people into a young woman who has been liberated from all her worries and is now free to do what she wants, and this is kind of synonymous with a lot of people.

‘Let It Go’ is a liberating song and I think this is the reason why it’s so popular. It’s telling us to start caring about ourselves. Forget about how people judge you for your choices and do what makes you happy. In fact, some have taken it as a pro-gay song (leading to theories that Elsa herself is gay, which I disagree with but the point still stands); it’s perfectly uplifting. If I need a little pick-me-up, this song will probably get played.

Negative: Elsa Kind of Regresses Afterwards

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So, Elsa has decided that she’s taking charge; she’s embraced herself for who she is and everyone else be damned. She’s not the cold shut-in she was before, but a young woman who’s finally free to run her life how she wants. And yet, when Anna finds her, she quickly reverts to how she was before. Um, what?

The song is called ‘Let It Go’ and yet Elsa seems unable to let go of the accident at the beginning of the film and keeps running from Anna. Elsa, you were supposed to forget all that and start things afresh. But no, this scene shows that she hasn’t let it go; she’s just running from the problem and refusing to move on from it. It’s understandable when she realises that she’s trapped Arendelle in an eternal winter but the regression seemed to have happened even before that. It’s just such a shame to see someone who once said “Can’t hold it back anymore” quickly follow that up by going back to holding it all in.

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I wanted to see more of that badass, confidant Elsa I saw during the song, but she seemed to have vanished once Anna arrived. It was quite a let-down, especially after such a powerful and awesome song.

Positive: The Rest of the Soundtrack is Great

‘Let It Go’s popularity led to two poor side effects. The first is that it became overplayed and people were quickly growing sick of it and all the covers on YouTube, even people who hadn’t even seen the film. The second is that the rest of the soundtrack is kind of left in the dust, which is a shame because it’s so good.

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‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman?’ starts off as lovely and adorable, gradually becoming more and more depressing as we see how lonely Anna becomes, culminating in the deaths of the King and Queen; Anna and Elsa unable to comfort each other in the wake of their deaths is just heart-breaking.

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‘For the First Time in Forever’ is annoyingly catchy, as it perfectly catches Anna’s emotions about being able to go outside of the castle; you feel just as happy as she is. Personally, I can’t get enough of that main chorus, and it does a good job of juxtaposing both Anna and Elsa’s feelings on the whole situation.

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‘Love Is an Open Door’ is possibly my favourite love song in any Disney movie. It’s not traditionally romantic; it doesn’t have slow melody or your usual cheesy metaphors. It’s quite peppy and upbeat, highlighting how similar Anna and Hans are, and, for a moment, you buy their love, which has the bonus effect of making Hans’ reveal all the more evil. Plus, it has some great lyrics:

“I mean it’s crazy”
“What?”
“We finish each other’s-”
“Sandwiches!”
“That’s what I was gonna say!”

I can’t talk too much on ‘Reindeer(s) Are Better than People’ since it’s so short but it’s definitely funny. Same for Olaf’s song ‘In Summer.’ It’s not my favourite and I feel like it breaks the pace of the film, but it’s short enough that it doesn’t drag and admittedly has some pretty funny imagery.

As for the instrumental tracks, they do their job well enough, though none of them have grabbed me and made me want to listen to them on loop. The track that plays during the film’s climax is pretty cool, and the opening one has a good beat to it (even if I can never make out the lyrics). All in all, the soundtrack is a great listen, whether with the film or on its own…

Negative: … Except for ‘Fixer Upper’

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Dear lord, I HATE this song. It’s the one blot on the soundtrack. Not just because it’s a bad song in general, but because it has no purpose. Its whole point was to further highlight the growing romance between Anna and Kristoff, which wasn’t needed. I think it was doing perfectly fine without it. Kristoff was notably becoming more and more protective of Anna during their travels, they bickered like a couple, Kristoff got slightly more awkward around her… there’s a bit where he asks if she’s cold and when she says she is, he’s about to put his arms round her but hesitantly pulls back. It’s a proper “You idiot” moment and it’s great; it didn’t need a song.

But the song’s biggest sin is its positioning. The gang have gone to see the trolls because Anna has been struck by Elsa and her hair is going white; clearly something is wrong. But as soon as they arrive, this song starts playing, with Kristoff constantly trying to end things and get back to the point with no avail. And as soon as this noticeably happy song ends, what happens? Anna starts dying. Why couldn’t that elder troll get here earlier and get everyone to cut their shit out?

It’s a poor case of mood whiplash – it feels like the song needed to be there simply to pad things out so Anna could get closer to death and raise the tension. And when a song is both bad and pointless, something has gone wrong.

Positive: It Subverts Your Expectations

One thing I hate is when I predict something correctly. I like being surprised by a story and if a twist is obvious, I feel a little disappointed. Which is why I found myself frequently being surprised by ‘Frozen.’

“Oh look, an obvious love interest, they’ll probably get engaged later… Oh, no they’re getting engaged now. And this early in the movie? Well, love at first sight happens all the time in Disney movies so I guess I have to… Wait, both Elsa and Kristoff are calling Anna out on it? Wait, Hans is evil?! But he was so charming! He was classic Disney prince material! Okay, only an act of true love can save the day. Well, that must mean Anna and Kristoff need to kiss. Go on, kiss, it’s not that hard. Wait, an act of true love between two sisters counts?! What is going on?!”

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Every time I expected the usual Disney methods, the film proceeded to laugh at my dull imagination and prove me wrong. And I loved it. That’s not to say everything was subverted. Everything worked out happily in the end, Hans and the Duke got their comeuppance and Anna and Kristoff got together, so it still had that Disney trademark, which I think is why this film is so popular.

It blends together two different kinds of Disney; the classic, fairy-tale style that most of us grew up with and the modern style that this generation of children are experiencing. These two writing styles manage to complement each other perfectly, creating a film that everyone can enjoy.

I’m sure there are probably other reasons for the film’s success; reasons that a much smarter person can discuss (like female representation and the theme of sisterhood) but whatever the reason, it got something right. People may love the film more than I do, but as long as they continue to love it with the same passion they do now and it still brings them happiness, then who am I to question it.

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