I have to say, Disney's animation studio has been doing pretty well for themselves in recent years. Despite having a rocky start with their early computer-animated films (Does anyone look back on Chicken Little fondly?), they've put out some good work since, such as Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, and even returned to their 2D animation roots for a bit with The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh.
After a chain of solid films, I was easily sold on seeing the latest work from their main animation team, that being the recently released Frozen. So what do I think of the final product? While I had a very good time with the movie, I'd argue that Tangled and Winnie the Pooh are still the studio's best animated output in the last decade or so. Still, there are many positives to Frozen, and it's up there with Monsters University as one of the better animated movies I've seen this year.
Taking place in the medieval kingdom of Arendelle, the film tells the story of two sister princesses, one being Elsa (Idina Menzel), who is gifted with the power to conjure the elements of ice and snow from her hands, and younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell), who enjoys playing in the snow her sister creates until she's injured in an accident one night. To prevent further incidents, the king and queen magically remove Anna's memories of Elsa's power, and the older princess becomes cut off from her sister and the rest of the kingdom due to fear of her own powers.
After losing her parents in a shipwreck, Elsa soon becomes old enough to have an official coronation and take the position of queen. Anna even falls for a visiting prince named Hans (Santino Fontana), and rashly accepts his marriage proposal despite barely knowing him. This culminates in an argument between the sisters that ends with Elsa accidentally unleashing her powers, causing her to flee to a neighboring mountain, and her outbursts bringing an eternal winter to the formerly-warm land.
Feeling guilty, Anna sets off to find her sister and hopefully reconcile. Along the way, she meets Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), who ironically specializes in collecting and selling ice, and a sentient snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad), who is a side effect of Elsa's magic, and himself dreams of experiencing summer one day, oblivious to what will happen to himself.
To say what happens beyond that would spoil most of the film's second half, particularly a good third act twist that seemed to catch my audience completely off guard, myself included. The story is overall paced pretty well in terms of not feeling stretched out or boring at any point, but I do think some of the character focus could have been better balanced. I would have liked Elsa to get a bit more screentime, especially considering that she and her powers are the main catalysts behind the movie's main conflict. I also thought that the solution she comes to regarding her conflict seemed a little rushed and vague, but obviously going into further detail would spoil the movie.
On the other hand, there are some good subversions of typical Disney tropes that many have come to expect. I was initially annoyed by how quickly Anna and Hans fall for each other and get engaged, but much like Disney's self-satirical film Enchanted, the film turns out to be aware of this, and even has characters pointing out how the two should get to know each other before rushing anything. Also, without getting specific, there's a plot point where a character must perform an act of true love to save another, and the movie does a good job of setting you up to believe in a more standard solution than the clever one it ultimately provides.
Much like many recent Disney and Pixar films, there's a load of jokes to be found, and thankfully, the majority of them are solid and laugh-out-loud funny. Given that characters like Olaf and Kristoff's reindeer Sven are clearly there to be comic relief, it's a good thing that they're able to deliver the goods.
It should also be noted that if you dislike musicals, you might want to skip this film despite all of its positive points. Moreso than any other post-Little Mermaid Disney film (Bar maybe The Nightmare Before Christmas), there are numerous songs, and this is probably my biggest issue with the film. Some are absolutely wonderful, particularly Elsa's solo number on a snowy mountain, but others, like Olaf's song about summer and a comedic track by a group of trolls that serve as Kristoff's adoptive family, lack truly memorable melodies and lyrics, and feel like they're in the way as a result.
To sum my feelings up, I feel that Frozen is a bit flawed in some areas, which holds it back from the same greatness that I feel Tangled provided. Despite this, I still had an overall great time watching it, and I get the feeling that families may have less of an issue with the things mentioned above than me. It's still a must-see for Disney and general animation fans, but it's just shy of being one of the studio's all-time triumphs.