Movie Review – Frozen (2013)

Released a few days ago was Frozen, the latest full-length computer animated film created by Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Frozen is an animated film based loosely on Hans Christian Anderson‘s classic fairy tale, The Snow QueenFrozen tells a Scandinavian tale of a fearless princess who seeks the help of others to stop her sister from trapping their kingdom in an eternal winter, a weather condition that will destroy their home.

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, Frozen stars Kristen Bell with the voice acting of Anna, the heroine of the story.  Supporting her are Idina Menzel as Elsa / the Snow Queen and Anna’s older sister; Jonathan Groff as Kristoff, a mountain man who has a pet reindeer named Sven; Santino Fontana as Hans, a prince seeking Anna’s hand in marriage; and Josh Gad as Olaf, a small snowman who aides Anna and Kristoff in their quest.

Frozen (2013) - movie poster

Before watching Frozen, theater patrons are first treated to “Get a Horse,” a restored Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1928.  What makes “Get a Horse” special is that allegedly this was a previously lost Mickey Mouse film that was recently discovered out in California.  As with the other Mickey Mouse cartoons from that era, it’s Walt Disney‘s voice that we hear for Mickey Mouse.

This is the twenty-first century, and we’re not treated to just the original black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoon.  This is something quite different and pretty slick.

“Get a Horse” begins with Mickey and the gang driving a large cart down a path.  They soon cross the path of Pete, and of course he has to cause trouble.  At one point Mickey gets “knocked” out of the black-and-white cartoon and appears as a 3D character in our world.  Both Mickey and Pete realized that the movie screen is a barrier between worlds, and the two of them battle each other.  Mickey and his friends gain the upper hand and find a way to defeat Pete and save Minnie Mouse, resulting in a happy ending.

This short cartoon is pretty slick with the blending of classic, 2D black-and-white animation and today’s world of 3D computer animation.  The cartoon itself is harmless fun, and I love the tribute with showing a Disney cartoon before the feature film.  I certainly hope that Disney continues this classic compliment with future films.

Frozen (2013) - Pulling blocks of ice out of the river.

Frozen (2013) – (c) Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Frozen takes place in the nineteenth century in the Norwegian kingdom of Arendelle.  During the opening credits we see ice harvesters collect large blocks of ice from a frozen lake.  Among the men is a young boy with an equally young reindeer, both of them also collecting ice from the river.

The main story begins late at night as the five-year-old Princess Anna is awake one night.  She wakes her sister, eight-year-old Princess Elsa, complaining that the lights in the sky (the aurora borealis (a.k.a. the northern lights)) are keeping her awake.  Elsa is not interested in playing until Anna asks if she wants to build a snowman.

Frozen (2013) - Elsa and Anna play their winter game.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

This gets Elsa’s attention.  The two girls head into a ballroom and begin playing their snowman game.  Immediately we see that Elsa has magical powers.  The girl can manipulate ice and snow, making their interior room into a winter wonderland.  They play around with the snow until Anna insists that Elsa keeping building snow mountains higher and higher.  Anna jumps too high and Elsa is unable to create a mountain of snow to catch her.  Elsa is able to send a blast of her energy into Anna to knock her into a mountain, but the energy injures her sister.  Anna is hit in the head and sent into a coma.

Frozen (2013) - The head troll is able to help Princess Anna.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The girls’ parents hear the commotion and enter the ballroom.  They discover Elsa crying over her sister’s body.  Knowing about Elsa’s powers and the kind of damage that they can cause, they carry Anna deep into the woods to meet with a group of trolls.  The head troll, Grand Pabbie (Ciaran Hinds), examines Anna’s conditions.  Thankfully she received the energy blast to her head and not the girl’s heart.  Grand Pabbie can repair this injury.  The only trick is that by doing the repair, he’ll need to remove Anna’s memories of the event and Elsa’s magical powers.  Her parents and Elsa agree, and Anna is healed.  Unknown to them, the young boy and his pet reindeer are hiding in the background, and they witness this ceremony.

Frozen (2013) - A storm at sea sinks their parents' ship.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Back at their castle home, Princess Elsa is hidden from the rest of the world, including her younger sister.  Most of the maids and servants are dismissed, and the doors and windows are closed.  Princess Anna doesn’t understand why the castle is closed and dreary, and why her sister suddenly doesn’t want to play or socialize any more.  Her world becomes even more lonely when her parents depart on a voyage and their ship is sunk in a storm.

Several years after the death of their parents, it’s time for Princess Elsa’s (Idina Menzel) coronation ceremony and officially becoming the queen and ruler of Arendelle.  Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) is overjoyed that it’s finally coronation day.  Not only is it a very important event for her sister, but it’ll finally open the castle and bring people back into the halls for a festive event.  Anna sings about how overjoyed she’ll be when meeting new people, and hopefully one of the visitors will be a future husband.

Frozen (2013) - Princess Anna meets Prince Hans.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

As Anna is singing and dancing through the streets she stumbles upon Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) of the Southern Isles.  The two of them have some awkward moments when talking, but they’re both impressed with each other.  Perhaps there’ll be more to their relationship.

Back at the castle, Princess Elsa goes through a small coronation ceremony and becomes Queen Elsa.  There’s a cautious moment as Elsa needs to touch the royal items with her bare hands.  As she’s been growing older, Elsa’s magical powers have been growing stronger.  Her father has taught her methods of controlling the power and not letting it ruin her life, but it doesn’t always work.  Elsa discovered that simply wearing gloves can help prevent her environment from becoming a land of snow and ice.  At the ceremony she’s barely able to hold the royal items before quickly setting them down as they start to become icy.  She puts on her gloves again and the celebration begins.

Frozen (2013) - Prince Hans proposes to Princess Anna.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

It’s awkward for both Anna and her sister Elsa at the ceremony and afterparty.  Despite being sisters and living in the same castle for all of their life, the two of them haven’t spoken since the incident from many years ago.  The two girls begin speaking again and repairing their bond that was broken.  It’s also during the afterparty that Anna meets with Hans again, and the two of them talk and spend time together.  They soon discover that they each have many things in common.  Hans asks for Anna’s hand in marriage, and she accepts.  However, when Anna asks Elsa for her blessing, her older sister refuses.  She doesn’t state a reason.  When Anna presses for a reason, Elsa immediately shuts down the party and orders that the guests leave at once.

Frozen (2013) - The town realizes Queen Elsa's true powers.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

This sparks an argument between Anna and Elsa.  At one point Anna grabs one of Elsa’s gloves.  When her sister refuses to give it back, Elsa unleashes her icy power in the ballroom in front of all of the guests.  It’s a complete shock to everybody.  Elsa is horrified and she runs out of the room, leaving an icy trail in her wake.  More townspeople see her powers and she runs to the river, and Elsa is practically branded as a witch.  Else runs to the river and freezes it with her steps, allowing her to cross to the opposite side and flee into the mountains.

Frozen (2013) - Elsa builds an ice castle and becomes the Snow Queen.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Elsa heads up the North Mountain to escape from the villagers and kingdom of Arendelle.  As she climbs the mountain she lets her magical powers flow, embracing them instead of fearing and trying to contain them.  Elsa declares herself free and feels fantastic with the feeling.  She creates a snowman and then a snow and ice fortress, her new home.  Elsa has now become the Snow Queen.

Anna is surprised by her sister’s powers, but she’s also angry that Elsa refuses to talk about it.  As winter conditions set into the kingdom of Arendelle, Anna sets off to find her sister.  Before leaving, Anna deems that Hans is in charge of the kingdom until she or Elsa returns.

Frozen (2013) - Anna tries to purchase supplies from a trader.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Anna’s journey is quickly cut short as she experiences a heavy winter storm.  Her horse panics and runs back to the kingdom, leaving Anna in the wilderness.  Somehow the princess finds her way to Oaken’s (Chris Williams) Trading Post and sauna, the only shelter in sight.  At the trading post Anna is able to acquire some proper winter clothing.  It’s also inside of the store where she meets an ice trader named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff).  Kristoff tries to purchase some equipment but he doesn’t have enough money.  After Oaken tosses him out of the store, Anna purchases the equipment that he needed.

Outside in a separate shelter, Anna talks Kristoff into taking her up the North Mountain so that she can talk to her sister.  Kristoff agrees to after Anna gives him the equipment that she just purchased.  Together with his pet reindeer named Sven, Kristoff takes Anna on her journey.  They climb into Kristoff’s sled and begin treking up the mountain.

Frozen (2013) - Kristoff and Anna continue up the mountain to find Elsa.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Not long after their journey begins, Kristoff hears some wolves in the woods.  It’s not just some of them though.  It’s a whole pack of very hungry wolves.  Sven runs and pulls the sled as fast as he can as Kristoff and Anna fight off the wolves.  They finally escape from the wolves but Kristoff’s sled is destroyed in the process.  Now they have to keep climbing on foot.

Frozen (2013) - Anna and Kristoff meet Olaf, a snowman from Anna's childhood.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Next on their journey the trio meets a small snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad).  To their surprise this is a walking and talking snowman.  Olaf doesn’t know how he was created or why he exists, but he does and he’s alive in the wilderness.  Anna recognizes Olaf as the snowman that she and Elsa used to build a long time ago.  She’s certain that her sister used her powers to create him again.  All Olaf knows is that he dreams of something called “summer,” and he can’t wait to experience it not knowing what it’ll actually do to him.

Frozen (2013) - Anna tries to get Elsa to listen to her.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The gang continues climbing up the mountain until they reach an icy staircase that was created by Elsa.  They climb the ice stairs and reach the ice palace’s doors.  Nobody answers after Anna knocks, so she enters the palace alone.  She’s in awe of the palace and greatly admires her sister’s work.  On an upper section is Queen Elsa.  She’s glad to see Anna again until her sister informs her of the never-ending winter that’s plaguing Arendelle.  The kingdom will die unless Elsa can stop her spell.  The only problem is that Elsa doesn’t know how to stop her magic powers.  Upon hearing that news, Elsa turns and tries to flee from her sister so that she cannot hurt her or anybody else.  Instead of leaving, Anna pursues her sister further into the palace and to Elsa’s royal chamber.  As Anna continues trying to get closer and closer to her sister, Elsa is forced to use her magic again to keep Anna away.  Unfortunately, this time the magical blast hits Anna in her heart, greatly injuring the woman.  The icy blast also turns more of Anna’s hair white.  Elsa is horrified at what she has done, but she knows that Anna needs to leave at once and stay away forever, or she may get hurt even worse.

Kristoff rushes to Anna’s aid and helps carry her out of the ice palace.  Outside, Queen Elsa creates a massive snow monster that chases the gang away from her palace and to the edge of the mountain.  They finally escape from the snow monster by jumping off a cliff and landing in a soft pile of snow.

Meanwhile, back in Arendelle, Hans notices the return of Princess Anna’s horse.  The horse is riderless and still spooked from whatever it saw up in the mountains.  Urged by the Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk), Hans gathers a force of volunteers to head into the mountains to rescue Anna and capture Queen Elsa.  The Duke also sends two of his private bodyguards on a mission to kill the queen.

Once they’re in the clear, Kristoff notices that Anna is growing weaker and weaker from the attack from Queen Elsa.  He remembers seeing the princess in a similar state years ago, so he decides to take her to his adoptive family of trolls.  They’ve healed her before, so they should be able to do so again.

Frozen (2013) - The trolls think that Anna and Kristoff are there to get married.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

When they arrive in the secret part of the woods where the trolls live, the trolls are overjoyed at Kristoff’s return.  When they see Anna the trolls think that he’s there to marry the young woman.  They sing a song and dress the two of them in proper troll wedding attire.  Their enthusiasm collapses when Kristoff explains why they’re really there.  Grand Pabbie arrives and takes a look at Anna.  Unfortunately, he will not be able to heal her this time as the damage is to her heart, not her head.  It’s just a matter of time before Anna’s cold heart freezes and she dies.  The only cure is for Anna to experience an act of true love.

Kristoff takes Anna and races back to the kingdom of Arendelle.  If she can receive a kiss from Prince Hans, the man she wants to marry, then that can break the spell and save her life.

Frozen (2013) - The fighters try to capture Elsa.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

As Kristoff races to return Anna to Arendelle, Prince Hans and his men arrive at the ice palace on the North Mountain.  After battling the snow monster and finally knocking him off a cliff, Hans and his men break their way into the palace.  Weselton’s men quickly spot Elsa and chase her upstairs to her chambers.  Elsa uses her powers and is able to stop the men, but a freak arrow shot from a crossbow causes an ice chandelier to crash to the ground and knock Elsa unconscious.  She later awakens as a prisoner in her castle in Arendelle with her hands bound to iron chains.  Later, Hans meets with Elsa and tries to get her to stop the winter and allow the summer to return to the kingdom.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t know how to stop the snow and ice.  The winter storm just continues to grow worse.

Frozen (2013) - Kristoff returns injured Anna to Arrendelle.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Kristoff is able to return Princess Anna to her castle in Arrendelle.  The servants take the princess inside and sent Kristoff on his way.

In the castle, Anna is placed near a fire in a private room.  She sees Hans and tries to get him to kiss her and break her sister’s spell.  Just as he’s about to do so, Hans suddenly refuses.  He uses water to extinguish the fire, making the room cold again.  Prince Hans explains that he really wants both Anna and her sister to die.  Hans has eleven older brothers, so there’s no chance that he’ll rule his family’s kingdom.  His only option was to find a princess desperate enough to marry him, such as Princess Anna.  He could then assume control of the kingdom once Anna and her older sister were eliminated.  Hans leaves Anna to freeze and die in the room while he goes out to give the order to execute Queen Elsa.

In her prison cell, Elsa is able to slowly use her magic to break free of her iron bonds.  She then makes the winter storm escalate and then uses her magic to break out of her prison cell.

Out in the woods, Kristoff talks to his reindeer and has a change of heart.  He knows that there’s something wrong and Anna still needs his help.  Kristoff climbs onto Sven and the two of them go running down the mountain and back into the kingdom.

Frozen (2013) - Anna realizes that Kristoff is her true love.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In her room, Anna is surprised when Olaf suddenly picks the lock and opens her door.  He sees her condition and rushes to help build a fire in the fireplace.  This works and Anna is able to warm herself so that she can walk again.  The two of them then see Kristoff returning, and Anna realizes that the ice trader really loves her.  He is her true love.  Knowing that her time is still short, Anna braves the heavy winter storm and tries to reach Kristoff.

Frozen (2013) - Prince Hans tries to kill Elsa.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Elsa is trying to make her way through the winter storm and back into the wilderness and her ice palace when she’s cut off by Hans.  Hans informs her that Anna is dead because of Elsa’s actions.  This horrifies Elsa and suddenly the winter storm stops.  This break in the weather allow Anna and Kristoff to reach each other.  Hans takes advantage of Elsa’s grief and draws his sword, preparing to kill her.  Anna sees this, and instead of kissing Kristoff, she uses the last of her energy to run over and stop Hans.  Anna’s body freezes into a solid block of ice and Hans’s sword shatters when it strikes her body.

Elsa is shocked by Anna’s sacrifice.  As she’s grieving for the loss of her sister, we see Anna’s body slowly warm and come back to life.  It turns out that Elsa’s grieving and love for her sister counts as an act of true love.  Elsa’s spell inside of Anna is broken and the younger of the princesses is now alive and well.  Elsa realizes that love is the key for controlling her powers, and she’s able to reverse the magic and return the kingdom to summertime.  All of the snow and ice quickly melts away as warm air returns to the kingdom.  Before he melts away, Queen Elsa creates a miniature snowstorm that hovers over Olaf, allowing him to continue living and not melting in the warm weather.

Frozen (2013) - Anna and Elsa are friends once again.

Frozen (2013) – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Frozen ends with Prince Hans returning to his kingdom while bound in chains.  The Duke of Weselton is also exiled and all trade is eliminated with his kingdom.  Princess Anna and Kristoff are now a couple, Anna has become friends again with her older sister, and both Anna and Elsa look forward to the castle being open and lively as it used to be during their childhood.

So is Frozen any good?

For the most part Frozen is a great film.

The music is good, the animation is fantastic, and the winter scenes will give you the chills.  Add in the Norwegian setting and some magic, and there you go.  Frozen is a family-friendly story that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

I did have a few minor problems with this film.

First of all, Frozen is basically a chick flick.  This is going to be far more appeasing to girls and their mothers than it will be to boys and their fathers.  Frozen is a story that revolves around two sisters, one of them good and the other bad, though she’s not really that evil.  We’ve seen far worse in Disney films.

There’s no true villain in the movie Frozen.  At first it’s Queen Elsa who uses her magic powers to create winter effects and keep everybody away from her.  Then we see that the Duke of Weselton wants the queen dead so that he can exploit the kingdom’s economy.  Later in the film we learn that Hans is evil as he’s had his eye on being the king from the moment he first met Princess Anna.  He was never in love with the young princess.

Perhaps the true villain in this film is Elsa’s magic powers.  Without those powers Elsa would have never injured her younger sister and caused herself to be hidden away from the rest of the kingdom.  Those powers got out of control and the queen accidentally caused a never-ending winter over her kingdom, resulting in great anger from the villagers.

Personally, I would have liked it if Frozen had a more pronounced villain and some darker moments in the film.  Maybe it would have been better if we didn’t know Elsa’s story and continued to feel sorry for the woman, both as a child and later as the Snow Queen.  Hans had potential to be a great villain like Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, but we really don’t see much of his character.  It’s like he was just thrown in there to make the film a little more interesting.

Another underdeveloped character is that of Kristoff and his profession of ice trading.  In the film’s introduction we see the men cutting chunks of ice from the frozen river, but that’s all that we see.  We later hear Kristoff mention that he’s an ice trader, and that the winter is really hurting his business, but that’s it.  We never see him trade any ice or see any other aspect of his profession.  That’s really a shame too as the introduction looked really interesting, but that’s all that we see of it in Frozen.  So why did the film make such a big deal about it in the beginning?

Another slightly wacky aspect of Frozen was Olaf, the little snowman character.  I’m probably one of the few people who think that Olaf was slightly annoying and feels out of place in this film.  I understand that he’s just a sidekick and another incarnation of the snowmen that Anna and Elsa used to build when they were little, but Olaf is just a little too wacky and annoying in this film, especially with his love affair with summer.

But these are just minor issues in an otherwise great animated film and worthy addition to the Walt Disney Animation Studios.  Frozen will eventually be classified as one of the better Disney animated films in the past five or ten years.

One of the best segments is when Queen Elsa climbs the North Mountain and gives in to her snow and ice powers, embracing it rather than fearing it.  The whole segment is very impressive as she sings “Let It Go” and builds her ice palace high on the mountain.

Frozen (2013) – movie trailer

Frozen is yet another example of why Disney continues to be the king of animated films.

four stars

Elsa – [singing] “The cold never bothered me anyway.”

——————–

[after listening to Olaf sing about his dreams of summer]
Kristoff – “I’m gonna tell him.”
Anna – “Don’t you dare!”

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NOTE – The screenshots of Frozen were added to the article after the film was released on DVD.

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