“You can’t marry a man you just met”, declares Queen Elsa of Arendelle, as audiences across the globe shout out with glee. Hailed as the most progressive (and most impressive) Disney animation since the early 1990s, Frozen has taken cinemas by storm (pardon the pun).
Having grossed more than $850m worldwide, and continuing to show to full screens of new and repeat audiences, something takes place in 108 minutes that – from pre-release promotional material at least – was pretty unexpected. In summer 2013, Disney Animation Studios released a teaser trailer which featured a reindeer and a snowman engaging in some Ice Age-esque japes. A few teaser images followed, and a faux-pas comment from the Head Animator about keeping female characters “pretty”. The images incited protests of Disney using the same character models in all their new films (comparisons can indeed be made between Tangled’s Rapunzel and Frozen’s Anna, not to mention their respective horses, yet it’s worth remembering that animation studios have been recycling cells and models since animation became an art form), and the animator in question recieved some serious flack. All in all, there wasn’t a great deal of positive hype which surrounded the release of the film – initially at least. I for one really wasn’t interested.
The Disney Store had Frozen product on sale from as early as October, and increasingly articles appeared as various previews were shown. But still, despite an increasing awareness, I wasn’t bothered, and as a Disney-devotee I was aware how strange this nonchalance actually was. I loved Wreck-It Ralph (really, really loved it), and now that Pixar chief John Lasseter is heading up Disney’s animation division I ought to have had more faith. Perhaps I felt that WIR was surely the top of their game. Maybe I was cautious of ‘yet another Disney Princess movie’. Either way, if it weren’t for the free preview ticket I managed to procure I’m not sure how long it would have taken after the film’s release for me to actually get around to seeing it.
My friends and colleagues who are reading this are possibly at this point thinking, “what?! You’re a liar!” and they’d be forgiven for thinking such. Because just two months after the film came out here in the UK, I am here on In Motion. to declare myself completely and utterly obsessed with it. Whatever problems [a rare few] folk are finding with the film, I am entirely blind to them. I am head over heels in love with one of the characters; I know the words and movements to Let It Go; I watch home videos of people in the various Disney parks watching Frozen segments from the various light shows (and I am regularly brought to tears by them). It’s taking all of my self-control not to buy all the merchandise. I’ve even downloaded ‘Frozen Free Fall’ – a smartphone game very similar to ‘Candy Crush’, something I swore never to get sucked in by – and have already lost many hours completing the infuriating yet satisfying (and so pretty to look at) levels. In short – I need help.
Thankfully, I am not alone. Currently, both Elsa and Anna character costumes are sold out across the UK. Certain Elsa dolls are selling for up to £100 on Ebay. Olaf and Sven toys aren’t much cheaper. The film’s soundtrack has been number one on iTunes for four weeks, and both the standard and the deluxe versions are in the top 20 album chart. Meme upon meme has been created, with Tumblr blogs, Pinterest boards, Instagram accounts and Facebook pages devoted to the film and to its characters taking over search engines.
I couldn’t even really tell you what it is specifically that has me hooked. The first time I saw the film, my feeling was one of surprise, but not overly impressed, and certainly not hooked. Then over time, as each day passed, I found myself thinking about certain moments I had liked particularly, I realised that when I was at work I desperately wanted to get home to YouTube the songs, and I kept asking my housemate “do you wanna build a snowman?”. Thankfully, she had also enjoyed the film the first time around and agreed to escort me for a second viewing, which basically had a similar effect as before. I enjoyed it, I laughed, I cheered, I booed. I didn’t cry, and I didn’t leave the cinema thinking that it was the best thing I’d ever seen, or indeed thinking it was any better than I had found it the first time. And yet, in the days following, the need to watch YouTube clips heightened, my longing looks at the various bits of merchandise in the Disney Store increased tenfold. Having now seen the film for a third time, I could take a stab at what it is that I am obsessing over, although ultimately I think it’s not as simple as one single thing.
First off, I found myself watching Elsa sing ‘Let It Go’ with an ache in my stomach. Here is a young woman, who for her whole life has been forced to hide her talent for fear of causing harm to others. Separated from her beloved younger sister, and kept away from the outside world, poor Elsa knows only solitude, fear, and disguise. Lyrics such as conceal, don’t feel / don’t let them know, and be the good girl you always have to be are so sad to hear. After accidently freezing the entire kingdom, Elsa runs away, abandoning her sister and locks herself in a (beautiful) ice palace in the mountains, belting out yes I’m alone, but I’m alone and free! – a soul-destroying moment, as you realise how trapped this girl has been, and the sacrifices she has made for the safety of her family. The feels.
Secondly, Anna. She’s a total treat. From her hilarious (and totally relatable) awkwardness, to her naivety, and her devotion to her sister, Anna is a brilliant character, and by far my favourite of the two girls.
What I love most about Anna is her wonderful friendship with Kristoff, who in my opinion is the greatest male character Disney have ever created. He is gentlemanly, he is adventurous, he is argumentative and honest. The exchange between Anna and Kristoff in which he openly tells her he doesn’t trust her judgement is smart and snappy, and you cheer at his upfront approach. It helps of course that he’s handsome, and a bit rugged, and that his best friend is a mute-but-not-really reindeer.
As previously mentioned, I also love the songs- Olaf the snowman has a fantastic song in which he croons about experiencing the heat of summer, and a love song right at the start of the film sets up a wonderful rug-pulling moment at the end.
The animation deserves a mention, of course. Every scene could be snapped and sold as a poster. The way the animators have captured the likeness of snow, snowfall, snowflakes, ice ….. it’s jaw-dropping. If you compare some of the imagery to scenes from Happy Feet or Ice Age for example, Frozen stands out as a masterpiece.
But what I love most of all about Frozen, is *talking about Frozen*. When I find a fan, a parent or a child, a friend or a colleague who has seen and enjoyed the film, my heart melts as I see their eyes light up, or they burst into song, or start gushing about their favourite bits and their favourite characters. That is what I truly love. I’ve been a Disney fan my whole life, and not once in my adulthood have I experienced this passion over a new film release, where adults and children alike are bursting in to song in front of strangers, or expressing profusely their love for a fictional snowman! Frozen addresses all kinds of issues, and much has been written elsewhere about its breaking down of narrative stereotypes, and subverting usual Disney trends – all of which it does. But I’d also argue that its most surprising achievement has been to bring together families and friends of all ages, the very thing Disney was built upon back in the 30s. It’s been a sketchy two decades since classics like The Lion King, but it does look like Disney may be back on form.
Evidence might suggest that it’s okay for me to be obsessing this way. People become obsessed with films, TV series, and video games all the time, right? But even so – when I try to deconstruct my obsession even a little bit, I get as far as “awwhhh, I love Kristoff!” and lose my train of thought. It strikes me as marginally problematic that as a film student I am completely unable to critique the film in anyway.
But do you know what? I think I’m okay with just accepting this fact. I think I’m gonna let it go.