OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE…
most… adequately satisfying…
ANIMATED MOVIE I’VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE!
Beautiful, powerful, dangerous, SPOILERS!
There’s this girl born with the power to control ice.
She’s called Katara… no, wait, Elsa.
Oh, and she’s a princess, the heir to the throne in fact.
(How groundbreaking for Disney!)
And her life is all well and good until she accidentally injures her little sister Anna with an icicle.
So Elsa becomes afraid and ashamed of her powers.
So the king and queen contact Professor Xavier to help her embrace her nature and use it for the greater good.
…Nah, actually they don’t.
They just wipe Anna’s memory and lock Elsa from the rest of the world.
Because that always ends well!
What, they have no psychotherapists? And no group of people like Elsa who could band together and share stories about how the society shuns and misunderstands them?
Well, that doesn’t matter because the parents soon die in a boat crash.
And the moral of this story is: don’t be a dick to your children and don’t isolate them from each other, because… wait, that’s only the prologue?
So the real story begins on Elsa’s coronation day.
She is still hiding her powers and wearing gloves to avoid freezing everything she touches.
Meanwhile, Anna falls in love at first sight with Prince Charming.
And over the course of like two hours, they go from the castle to a waterfall to a balcony to the top of a mountain and back before everyone notices.
That’s some really powerful love montage!
Or maybe they just changed the backdrop a few times. Like Julio Scoundrél.
And Prince Charming also wears gloves. They’re in like every single shot.
GEE, I WONDER IF HE’S HIDING SOMETHING TOO!
(Maybe he has fire powers?)
So Anna and the prince want to marry right away, but Elsa thinks it’s not a good idea to propose to someone you just met.
Not that I don’t completely and utterly agree, but let me get this straight. A Disney princess has just said that marrying a complete stranger over love at first sight is not a good idea.
[dials the phone]
Hello Mr. Beelzebub, how’s weather in Hell?
Sorry, can’t hear you over the sound of the snowstorm!
Guess Elsa got them too.
So the townsfolk find out about Elsa’s powers, call her a freak and a monster, and she runs away and builds herself a fortress of solitude in the frozen wasteland.
(Ask me what it means, ask me what it means!)
But by accident it also summons an eternal winter over the whole country.
But Anna wants her sister back, so she chases her.
In a thin evening dress. In a snowstorm.
But it’s okay because she’s saved by a rowdy peasant guy. And despite him being sarcastic, dismissive of her and her love for the prince, and smelly, she grows to kind of like him too.
That sneaky two-timer!
And they’re also joined by Jar Jar Binks!
Except he’s now a snowman.
Hmm, I kind of wish the original Jar Jar Binks was a snowman too.
He’d melt as soon as he first stepped into that lake, reducing his total screen time to about five minutes!
So Anna meets Elsa, who, despite just learning the hard way that keeping secrets from your best friend is bad, decides once again to hide the real reason she’s hiding from Anna, and banishes her.
And accidentally wounds her with an icicle again. In the heart. Making her slowly turn to ice.
But it’s okay, because the living rolling stones [rimshot] say a display of true love would heal her.
So what’s the matter? The peasant guy is right there! Kiss him already!
But no, he carries her back to the town so she can kiss the prince instead.
And walks away.
Oh, he definitely won’t have a change of heart and return. Definitely! Just like Han Solo!
But then the prince refuses to kiss her… because he was evil all along! And he only faked his feelings!
WHAT A TWEEEEEEEST!
Wait, what? Prince Charming — in a Disney movie — is actually the bad guy?
So the prince wants to kill Elsa and inherit the kingdom from Anna — with or without her.
Wait, if he wanted to kill Elsa, why didn’t he just deliberately fail at saving her from that crossbow shot in her ice palace?
Instead, he tries to kill her directly when she’s back in town.
And meanwhile, the peasant guy comes back to save Anna with his kiss of true love.
But before he reaches her, Anna gets in the way between the prince and Elsa and completely freezes over.
So Elsa hugs her and starts crying.
And it heals her!
Hooray for a sisterly display of true love!
(You know, I always shipped Hawke/Bethany…)
And then she realizes that love can help her control her powers.
So she suddenly unfreezes the kingdom and they all live happily ever after.
So I found this movie good, if not as good as BioShock Infinite: The Disney Movie.
It was a really faithful adaptation of The Snow Queen!
Even though there was no shattered mirror, or Kay, or Gerda, or gratuitous Biblical passages, or anything else whatsoever from the book, really…
But there’s snow! And there’s a queen! So they at least got the title right!
Even though they renamed it, too…
On second thought, why did they market it as an adaptation anyway?
Okay, here comes the Serious Part™. Unlike apparently most viewers, I actually don’t mind the part where Prince Hans reveals his plan in a Bond villain fashion. That’s right, I actually have no problem with the most controversial part of the movie. I can understand why they really needed to hammer this point home: this is a Disney cartoon, after all, and anything more subtle could have failed to capture the author intent. Even with that scene as is, viewers are already acting in denial and insisting that the prince “really” has the best of intentions, despite the clues being obvious in hindsight.
So yes, Frozen continues the trend started by Tangled — the trend of Disney looking back and critically rethinking their much-maligned stock characters and plots. Even Tangled played love at first sight mostly straight, while Frozen deconstructs it. Sorry kids — you know those movies of ours your parents watched when they were themselves children? Well, they sent the wrong message! We apologize for the inconvenience!
What’s interesting here is how, perhaps for the first time in its history, Disney has executed a genuinely surprising twist. Prince Hans was not Anna’s true love — we were supposed to catch that. But his revelation as a manipulative sociopath? So perfect, and yet so obvious only in hindsight.
And they introduce a second twist! Kristoff’s return was inevitable the moment we saw him go, sure. We all know how these stories end — the good guy has his doubts and leaves, only to have a change of heart and steal the girl from the bad guy right in the end. But it’s not his true love’s kiss that cures Anna, not his romantic love, but rather Elsa’s sisterly love.
Which brings me to another point: people who insist on seeing subtext and metaphors in everything.
No, there is no incest subtext. You can throw “death of the author” arguments at me or whatever, but there is no way that was actually the author intent, even as Parental Bonus. Just to be clear: I see no problem with a consensual romance between siblings, I’d cheer at a work that portrayed one openly, but come on, it’s Disney. A somewhat-reformed Disney, sure. A Disney that is learning from criticism and actually improving its reputation compared to the usual stereotype… But Disney nonetheless. Safe, unquestioning, and rebellious in a conformist sort of way. Heck, they’ve yet to introduce an openly LGBT character.
Which brings me to the second point. Even if Elsa’s powers actually are a metaphor, it’s most likely not a metaphor for what you think. The idea that people with special powers must either keep them secret or be locked away from society is not exactly new, and common in recent works too. And societies hostile towards people alleged to have special powers go back at least to medieval witch hunts, to which the hunt for Elsa is compared in the actual story. There’s no need for subtext here when you have the text-text.
So, as an LGBT person, I don’t think it’s a metaphor for LGBT issues, or rather, not a metaphor only for LGBT issues. And considering I once posted a reading of The Little Mermaid as a gender transition tale (heck, you can interpret even James Cameron’s Avatar as one if you squint just right), you know how I like to overanalyze these things. But no, the much broader, more timeless archetype of “being shunned for being different” applies equally well to many other situations, and limiting the interpretation to issues floating in the zeitgeist of the early 21st century, in my opinion, trivializes the work.
Maybe if, instead of running away to live as a hermit in the mountains, Elsa ran away to a society of perceived “freaks” like herself, or at least a society where they lived openly alongside petty mortals, and they — not a sudden deus ex machina epiphany about family love — taught her self-control, and not hating herself, and helped her adapt and socialize, and then she returned to her kingdom with a renewed sense of self-worth and told her haters to suck it up… maybe then I could admit the writers were making a metaphorical statement. But as presented? Nah.
My one real complaint about Frozen is that despite its success of subverting the crap out of the Disney formula, and avoiding stock aesops that invariably make the audience groan, it offers nothing in their stead. The pacing is problematic and the story is lacking a distinct character. It’s well-made, in the sense that a generic mass-produced toy is well-made, but it’s empty and detached, like Elsa in exile. Though perhaps this feeling can be blamed on Tangled setting the bar too high; a work that I would otherwise endlessly praise instead fails to properly impress me because I’ve already seen Disney do better than that.