There are three things classic Disney animations are supposed to have. One: belting showtunes. Two: a bit of danger and darkness amid all the schmaltz. And three: an ultimately conservative message wrapped up in a traditional feel-good happy ending. Loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, Frozen initially promises to deliver on all three.
We open with two tiny princesses playing together in their parents’ palace. Elsa is entertaining her younger sibling Anna by magically shooting ice and snow from her hands, creating a secret nocturnal playground that recalls the classic ‘Mice Follies’ episode of the Tom and Jerry cartoons.
As the girls grow up through the medium of song, the film proper begins, with icy blonde Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) charged never to use her dangerous powers or show the wider world who she really is. Cut off from her increasingly repressed older sister, spunky redhead Anna (Kristen Bell) is bored beyond belief, dreaming of true love. As a first act, it’ll do. We get where the characters are coming from, we can see where it might all go wrong for them, and everything looks very pretty.
It’s as Frozen (Frozen - Uma aventura Congelante) unfolds that the film kicks up a notch. The standout song, ‘Let It Go’, feels like Disney’s most inspired coming-out anthem yet (‘Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know. Well, now they know’). It’s also in the second act that we meet the irresistible comic relief, Olaf the Snowman (Josh Gad, familiar to musical fans as Elder Cunningham in The Book Of Mormon), and encounter the danger essential to a satisfying Disney experience.
So Frozen has both tunes and darkness. But most satisfying is a formula-defying finale that successfully subverts fairytale status quo. More of this sort of thing please, Disney.