Review by-Jarrett Leahy
Remember when Disney was the king of the animated film? Remember when every new Disney release was a highly anticipated event? Unfortunately for most of this new century, it appeared that this legendary studio had lost its way. The list of films Walt Disney Animation Studios released during the 2000’s decade included Dinosaur, The Emperor’s New Groove, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Lilo & Stitch, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, Home On The Range, Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, and Bolt. None of these films would ever be considered close to their best effort. John Lasseter, who was named the chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios when Disney purchased Pixar back in 2006, obviously knew the importance getting Disney back to what made them great. It took a few years to do so, but great strides were finally made in 2010 with the release of Tangled, a fairytale adaptation of the Rapunzel story that most critics agreed was very solid effort. 2012 offered an even more impressive achievement in Wreck-It Ralph, an animated film based on a video game character.
That brings us to Frozen, Disney’s latest animated effort which is based on The Snow Queen, a short story by Hans Christian Anderson. Frozen tells the story of two Princesses, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), whose close relationship is jeopardized by Elsa’s secret power to create ice and snow. The King and Queen decide to close up the castle, isolating their daughters from the outside world in the hopes of helping Elsa learn to control her powerful gift. Unfortunately, as the two girls get older this isolation continues to create a rift in their relationship. On the day of Elsa’s coronation, nervous emotions bubble over, unleashing an uncontrolled burst of her magic power, putting the kingdom into an eternal state of winter. Fearful of hurting the ones she loves, Elsa runs away, disappearing high into the surrounding mountains. Adorably naive and forever the optimist, Anna sets out on a dangerous trek in the hopes to bring back her beloved sister and free the kingdom from its deep freeze.
Even the most moving of stories can be deflated if the animation that accompanies it is not up to snuff. It was reported that the animators in charge of Frozen were sent on a research trip to Norway to help inspire the designs and visual artistry of the wintry, mountainous settings. That inspiration is quite evident as the animators were able to skillfully capture and create an enchanting snow-covered world that is both sweeping and majestic. No scene in the film wowed me more than when Elsa, free of all her fears, begins to create her own ice castle high among the mountain tops. Walls, chandeliers and staircases of solid ice were magically conjured up on screen leaving me in awe by the extraordinary visuals the artists where able to create. I can’t even fathom how seven or eight year old must have felt seeing that type of magic come to life. Watching the film in regular 2D, I could tell where certain animated effects were put in to aid the 3D version of the film, however I never felt the visuals were diminished in any way by seeing the 2D version.
Frozen’s superb music is one the film’s true shining components thanks in large part to the impressive singing talents of the two lead stars, Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel. Each has a unique sound that helps set their individual performances apart from one another while still allowing their harmonies to blend flawlessly during duets. Both Bell and Menzel had previously auditioned for the part of Rapunzel in Disney’s 2010 film, Tangled. Though the part was eventually awarded to Mandy Moore, those audition tapes aided in convincing the Disney execs these two young ladies were the right choices for Frozen. Menzel’s Let It Go is among the four nominees for Best Original Song at this year’s Academy awards, but there are easily another handful of equally impressive numbers that could have also been chosen. The Frozen soundtrack is currently so popular that it just spent its 5th straight week at the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 charts. According to http://www.AVclub.com, the last movie soundtrack to accomplish that feat was Titanic, which spent 16 weeks at #1 back in 1998.
Animated films are ultimately made to entertain the little ones with the hopes of selling a bevy of cute little toys and merchandise. But what the truly great and successful ones know is it also helps to create a story that wows and entertains the adults who are accompanying them. I’m happy to say that Frozen, with its heartwarming tale filled with wonderful music and stunning animation, is truly the first Disney film in almost two decades that can lay claim to being on par with the All-Time great animated films the studio is so known for. Frozen will definitely entertain both the youngsters and the forever young at heart.-JL