Frozen, Disney’s icy fantasy story about real love, has redefined Disney, and the double win that the animated feature snagged at last night’s Academy Awards was richly deserved. The film is a breathless, exciting visual stunner in Disney’s usual tradition of making beautiful films to watch, but it has modernized previous conceptions of love stories, and brought female leads into the 21st century.
Disney has always been known for its love stories: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty are all well known in the Disney canon and have become instant classics in any family with daughters. However, Disney’s films have always been known to feature the beautiful girl finding true love with the man of her dreams, who is always a handsome prince. Frozen handily breaks that mold.
There are princes in Frozen, but one of the two female lead characters, Princess Anna – voiced by Kristen Bell – is more drawn to ice salesman Kristoff – Glee’s Jonathan Groff. In fact, the princes in Frozen tend to come off as a little too charming and a little too perfect. They are definitely not the sort that many girls today would find themselves drawn to. In winning the top prize for Best Animated Feature, Frozen has shown girls everywhere that princes do not necessarily have to be royalty.
Let it Go, the other half of Frozen’s double win at the Academy Awards, has also helped redefine the Disney image. Let it Go, Frozen’s anthem to being an individual and shaking off everyone else’s expectations, does not feature lyrics about pining for the perfect love or the ideal prince. As sung by Tony winner Idina Menzel, who voiced Queen Elsa, the other female lead in the film, this is a song that speaks of frustration about hiding one’s true self. It is a song about breaking free of expectations and learning to accept who one truly is, rather than living by pre-assigned roles that are steeped in tradition.
Let it Go is a real anthem, acknowledging the swirling emotions many young girls feel inside themselves as they grow. It speaks about how girls – in this case, Elsa – are expected not to reveal any emotions and always be good. It encourages young girls to stop holding back the swirl of emotions and not to be afraid to be who they really are. It is really about self-acceptance, rather than worrying about whether they are accepted by anyone else in their lives. It also talks about leaving past issues and mistakes behind as “the past is in the past.”
It is a powerful message, to be sure. It certainly has broken ground that Disney has not really gone over before; with songs like Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, and Someday My Prince Will Come, Let it Go is a refreshing change from the usual songs that are either infectious with their playfulness or bittersweet with their aching for real love to come. It is a song that today’s girls can connect with; young girls of today are not the dewy-eyed sorts that want to sit around waiting for someone magical to come into their lives. They are looking for people to accept them for who they are and what they are becoming, and Let it Go handily salutes that.
The double win for Best Animated Feature and Best Song that Frozen received at the Academy Awards last night has really helped redefine Disney and how it approaches the notions of love and what girls want. It will be interesting to see if the studio will be able to continue that trend with future releases like The Pirate Fairy and Into the Woods.
By Christina St-Jean