Sometimes in order to write articles, I have to dig deep into Google for information. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. Anyway, this time as part of my in-depth research, which was cleverly disguised as a vacation, I went to Disneyland; somewhere between the Mad T Party and my ferocious speed walking from one end of the park to the other to take a picture with Merida (which was a total failure. I had to cut down a few kids to even get a glimpse. I’m so sorry boy with the blue shirt! I didn’t mean to push you into the churro cart), I heard dozens of visitors singing Frozen songs. Like most people, I had already seen it in the theater and fell instantly in love – Disney princess style. But as I walked around while snot-nosed kids screamed at their parents for more Mickey Mouse things to feed their addiction, my mind wandered as to why I have virtually no complaints about this film. That’s not to say everyone who watches it loves it because I’m sure there is some group somewhere that hates it. And that’s okay. There will never be one movie for every single person. However, the vast majority of those that I know of absolutely loved it.
When the trailer for Frozen first came out, it kind of looked like any other Disney film only with ice and a redheaded protagonist that wasn’t a brat. So how did this movie that seemed to follow the exact same formula as its predecessors win two Oscars and earn over a billion dollars? Well, the other part of my research was watching this movie until I was pretty sure I had trained my voice to sound like Idina Menzel. I dissected and analyzed every scene and song (and there were a lot of those) wondering why this movie was such a hit with people. I’m also 38% sure that adults like it more than kids. At least, that’s what I tell myself so I don’t feel too childish. I mean, this is hardly the first Disney film – or animated one for that matter – to have songs littered between scenes like a bad episode of Glee. So what was it about this dang movie that just wouldn’t leave me be?
After my twelfth view, I broke it down into four reasons:
4. A Mix of Old and New
What I figured out pretty early on during my fourth viewing was that Frozen was not like any film right from the start simply because the dialogue was so refreshing. Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Hans, and even Olaf all speak as though they belong in this century while the setting and costumes still retain that Old World fairytale illusion. This means that the audience can grasp everything the characters are saying without it sounding like some old timey production of Sweeney Todd. Instead, the creative team allows the costumes and backdrop of the film to do that for them. And it totally works. The colors amplify the effect of what is happening like the old classic Disney tales weren’t able to do. The viewer is simultaneously in awe of the landscape and able to keep up with the fast paced conversations. Additionally, there are no heavy accents that distract from the witty dialogue and catchy songs.
3. The Music
Before you even see a human character, there is a chorus of harmonizing as the title comes up along with snowflakes, which is nice touch as ice is its own character in this movie. The beautiful harmonies then fade before a rougher, grittier song introduces the world of Frozen that foreshadows the events that happen to Anna and Elsa. But of course, the song that had the most impact is without a doubt, “Let It Go.” That and Elsa was so sassy in that sequence.
Whether you like Idina’s voice (aka Adele Dazeem) or not, the song is a major step forward in terms of character development for Elsa and is a tune everyone can take something from. Also, it uses the word ‘fractals’ in the midst of the song. Fractals. That is definitely not an easy word to fit into a conversation much less a song. But of course, that is part of the brilliance that goes into this score; Olaf’s “In Summer” is full of irony and makes Dr. Suess’ rhyming skills seem elementary and my cousin’s favorite line in Anna’s song, “For the First Time in Forever” is ‘I don’t know if I’m elated or gassy.’ Yes, seriously. Somehow, it just works. It all just fits together so seamlessly you don’t even realize that most of those words had probably never even been considered to be in a melody together.
No line is wasted in any of the songs. Every word has a meaning for the character or situation. And, really, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?
Animated movies lean heavily on secondary characters to emphasize certain moments in the film. Finding Nemo had Dory, The Little Mermaid had Sebastian, Aladdin had the Genie and The Lion King had Timon and Pumba. Just about any animated movie has that one special character that brings everything together and then steals the show; Olaf is that scene-stealer in Frozen.
Josh Gad’s tone of voice made Olaf all the more adorable along with the odd-shaped body of the snowman, his innocence, and the way he saw the world made him so lovable you would sit there and say, “That’s what was missing.” Don’t get me wrong; the movie has a solid foundation before his presence but everything just got better when he came in – like a best friend joining you and some acquaintances at a party. Suddenly, that party becomes even more enjoyable and you start to have a great time instead of just watching everything from the corner.
The buckteeth and humongous carrot nose helped too. Hands down, Olaf has the best and wittiest lines in the movie. From his first introduction about chartreuse in winter to his line that some people “are worth melting for,” he brings the sweetness that elevates the movie into something special.
1. Sisters Before Misters
Think for a moment about why the first Disney princesses (Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella) had their whole movie revolve around being rescued by men. If you’re having trouble, let me help: the era in which they were released was all about women’s places being in the home. Sleeping Beauty was released just before 1960 – Snow White was in the 30’s! Of course the writer’s back then weren’t going to make a story about how a girl can rescue herself or (God forbid) rescue the man. Even the later princess from Ariel to Rapunzel, which was released only 3 years ago by the way, have them being rescued by the guys – the exception being Merida from Brave (does it count if it’s from Disney and Pixar?) Most of the time, these romances occurred with love at first sight and lo and behold, their prince charming comes to the rescue with a few close calls thrown in.
Frozen rectifies that with “Love Is an Open Door” and the result is Anna thinking she has met her true love. And finally, a Disney character has common sense in Elsa when she refuses to grant permission for Anna and Hans to marry because, ‘you can’t marry a man you just met.’ Congrats, Disney. It only took you half a century to bring stranger danger on screen.
Of course, Elsa turns out to be right but before that occurs, Anna provokes her into accidently freezing the entire town. Things don’t go as planned to return the city to summer at first, but the sisterhood was strong with this pair and Anna refused to let Elsa die and sacrificed herself instead, turning into ice in the process. …It’s complicated. She unfreezes though because who knew an act of true love could come from family instead of a man? Not the Disney people for 50 years apparently.
The point is that though Anna had love interests in the film, the writers gave the whole “true love” angle a new and welcomed twist. Everyone lives happily ever after – it is Disney after all – but the emphasis of sacrifice for family shines a new light on what could happen with future Disney films.
And that is why Frozen has two Oscars and the others don’t.