Frozen has officially thawed out audience hearts throughout the globe. It joins an honorable class of films which has made Disney a pinnacle in animated movies. Frozen, Tangled, Brave and other Disney epics continue to shatter box office records as the animation gets sharper, the songs get hipper and the comedy gets funnier.
Frozen has been in the pipelines for well over 60 years, though not in its original form. When Walt Disney and his animators marveled at their huge successes with films such as Snow White and Cinderella, they immediately turned to their next source: Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen is undoubtedly one of the most recognized persons in the subject of children stories. Tales such as The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina and The Steadfast Tin Soldier are only some of his masterpieces. True to form, Frozen joins past triumphs as an adaptation to an Andersen epic.
Back in the 1940’s Disney dreamt of one day being able to portray the incredibly complex tale of The Snow Queen. It should be noted that Andersen’s original stories are much more brutal and shocking than their Disney counterpart. Frozen, Tangled, Brave and others of Disney’s epic movies are no different. For example, in the original Little Mermaid the prince does not choose the mermaid, but another princess. The little mermaid, broken hearted, throws herself into the stormy ocean where she is pitied by her father and instead of dying is transformed into sea foam. Slightly different than the Disney version, no? Likewise, Frozen strays from the original plot in which a wretched mirror which reflects all that is bad in the world is broken into millions pieces. Those pieces find their way into people’s hearts and eyes, turning them cold, unaffectionate, discontent and unable to recognize beauty. Traces of these mirror shards develop into different stories, one of which is The Snow Queen. A little boy, Kai, is affected by two mirror shards and it is up to his best friend, little Gerda, to bring him back to himself. It is a tale of bravery, friendship, love, growing up and magic with no small amount of pain, suffering and, well, snow.
Despite the enormous enthusiasm and attempts the tale has gathered over the years, it was not until 2011 that a film was finally ready to come to life. The efforts of songwriting couple Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez highlight the fantastical plot and have received rave reviews. Viral videos of “Let it Go” – one of the movie’s and Disney’s greatest hits- have been uploaded to YouTube for days (original video below). It seems to have given hope to people much like The Lion King’s “Hakuna Matata” which portrays similar sentiments of letting go of the past and living life to the fullest.
Frozen also joins a new wave of Disney princesses who have moved away from house chores, fragile frames and “damsel in distress” syndrome. These new princesses take charge and are in fact the main character of the film, no longer simply the prince’s counterpart. A visible transformation can be seen throughout the years from Snow White to Jasmine, Esmeralda and Meg from Hercules, each one tougher than the next. Brave eventually shattered stereotypes, Tangled combined past and present and now Frozen sets about a new idea that love is not merely between a man and a woman but between siblings and friends. This type of love can, also, break the ice and melt the heart.
Frozen, Brave, Tangled as well as all others of Disney’s epics stand as standard around which other films are weighed and measured. Some are found wanting and others find their place among those heroes. Films such as The Prince of Egypt, the box-office giants Shrek and Madagascar are but a few films which have won global renown and prestige and do not carry the Disney torch. It just goes to show that epic and heartwarming tales will always find a way and Frozen drives that snowmobile home.
Commentary by Atar Kishon