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The bitchy sisters of Arendelle: Frozen Review

Review

Frozen claims three historical points for Disney. First, it is the first post-modern revisionist fairy tale to gross over circa 1.097 billion dollars and, therefore, the highest grossing animated feature ever made. Second, the fundamental imperatives that rendered Disney obsolete by Pixar’s crass, consumerist and commercial aspects, throughout the previous decade, are restored in this pristine and beautifully animated feature. Third, Frozen represents Disney at the artistic heights of its second animated renaissance, which started with the success of 2010’s Tangled: another revisionist fairy tale, which accumulated under $600 million dollars  and sparked a renewed interest in the work of Disney studios. This was when many assumed that their stylised artwork  had disintegrated in their own relentlessly mediocre features (see, for instance, the likes of Meet the Robinsons, The Princess and the Frog and Bolt).

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Frozen veers from the narrative tropes of a traditional Disney princess movie; Here it presents the juxtaposition of two very different sisters. The different cohesive characterisations from a Freudian perspective, we  can present as two fundamental aspects of the human psyche. The first is unrestrained and eternally giddy Anna, who is blithely unaware of the family skeleton. Whilst the other sister is the repressive and tortured Elsa, whose prominent ice-cold powers (yes, that’s the above-mentioned skeleton) isolate her from loving and human connection of her younger sister. When Elsa’s powers grow rapidly out of control, Anna busts up with an ice transporting mountain man, his noble steed, all knowing trolls and a snowman spawned from Elsa’s powers to stop Elsa herself from consuming both her and the land of Arendelle.

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Hans Christian Anderson’s tale ‘The Snow Queen’ is barely recognisable with the lush Disney makeover that instils the entire set of relevant solid virtues typical of a Disney animated feature: The cute colourful supporting characters (including an anthropomorphised Reindeer and a talking Snowman); the rousing musical numbers (opening up with the ‘The First Time In Forever’); the hint of effervescence romance; the gentle and mildly rude humour. Even the Snow Queen herself is no longer allowed to be an ice-cold bitch with a serious icicle up her ass, but a multi-layered characterisation that forms the poignant crux of the narrative arc.

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However, unlike these charming clichés that anchor the story, Disney’s escapism into Elsa’s psyche and the manifestation of her powers is played effectively for psychological probing that is rarely seen in other Disney classics. Presumably, Disney strived to mirror the wonderment of their own animated style by showing Elsa’s powers at their prominence, but their tearing away of the shackles restraining Elsa (so pivotal in the ‘Let It Go’ song) is Disney exploring the repression of a character caused by social conditioning. In this case its Elsa’s parents who force her to wear gloves to hide her frosty hands.  Elsa is, hence, an interesting heroine to place at the forefront of the colourful chaos, for the writer’s comparison with her Anna – who is so bubbly and carefree –  is the crux of an internal conflict that is engrossing to watch. It also pays wonderful climatic frissons in the finale, which packs a massive emotional punch – despite the well-worn themes of love conquers all.

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Frozen also has unmistakable feminist overtones: Several twists in the narrative show the redundancy of the supporting masculine characterisations in the central plot. Instead, the healing power of sisterly love is set centre stage: Anna is no longer dependant on masculine support from both Kristoff and Hans for reward (in this case, her redemption and sisterly bonding), but is single-mindedly determined to save her wayward sibling from her all-consuming powers.

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Opening with up with a native chant akin to Disney’s 1994 masterpiece, The Lion King, Frozen embellishes stunning artwork, Freudian philosophies, as well as all the solid Disney virtues for a wonderful 94 minutes of near masterwork that will go on to outlive the smarmy crassness of Pixar’s celluloid.

It easily takes its place with Disney’s grand pantheon of animated classics.

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18 thoughts on “The bitchy sisters of Arendelle: Frozen Review

  1. I need to watch this movie again…as of this moment, I didn’t like frozen. The (about time) feminist highlights weren’t enough to get me through the terrible songs that had me cringing with reflected embarrassment. However, myself and my sister excluded, I’ve not come across anyone who doesn’t love this movie. For that reason alone, I’m going to give it another try. Maybe I had a brain malfunction the first time around?

  2. Strange title, but a very thoughtful review that I agree with whole-heartedly! I loved this movie, and the score, which is a full-fledged Broadway-musical at its finest–a bit over the top, but very catchy, and there’s no denying the majesty and power of “Let it go” with Idina Menzel’s voice behind it. Disney gave us a very rich and complicated character with Elsa as a queen coming into her power, albeit with complications.

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  3. Pingback: Film review – Frozen | AbsolutelyLucy

  4. Great movie . i just loved it . I think “Disney” has better stories . Both Tangled and Frozen were simply awesome and sweet. I didn’t like “Brave ” It was just OK but really not a match to either of the hit movies of Disney .

    • Admiring the commitment you put into your blog and in depth information you provide. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed material. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  5. Pingback: Film review – Frozen | Absolutely Lucy

  6. What’s funny is I’m 37 and forced my 48 y/o boyfriend into watching Frozen, Brave and Tangled in succession one day last week. What’s funnier is we had a very similar conversation to this post which included a number of Google searches regarding the uproars stemming from Frozen and Brave – i.e. the feminist PoV and body image rants. I think it’s great young girls are finally getting the message they don’t need a prince to rescue them.

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  8. I love this film although not the first time I watched it. It was OK but not memorable and I soon forgot about it. However as ‘Frozen Fever’ hit all the kids and the songs were everywhere I watched it again. I noticed the clever humour aimed at adults that were missed first time around and the songs were becoming more and more catchy. I have now watched it a number of times and think Disney have found themselves another classic. My son and daughter love it. In fact so much so my 4 year old daughter has performed one of the songs which gives me goosebumps everytime I hear it. I’d love to beable to share it with you and please let me know what you think :
    Frozen: Do You Want to Build a Snowman (Live and Emotional) by Alisha Aged 4.1 http://t.co/v770Tw7hcE

  9. You neglected what I think is the best feminist/modern revision of the movie: the act of true love is truly and act that Anna actively performs rather than receives. She takes action rather than passively waiting for her prince to do something to or for her.

    • Quote the article: “Anna is no longer dependant on masculine support from both Kristoff and Hans for reward (in this case, her redemption and sisterly bonding), but is single-mindedly determined to save her wayward sibling from her all-consuming powers.”

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