There are three things classic Disney animations are supposed to have. One: belting showtunes. Two: a bit of danger and darkness amid all the schmaltz. And three: a conservative message wrapped up in a traditional feelgood happy ending. Loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s story ‘The Snow Queen’, ‘Frozen’ initially promises to deliver on all three. We open with two tiny princesses playing together in their parents’ palace.
Elsa is entertaining her younger sibling Anna by shooting ice and snow from her hands, creating a secret nocturnal playground that nods to the classic ‘Mice Follies’ episode of the Tom and Jerry cartoons.
As the girls grow up through the medium of song, the film proper begins, with icy blonde Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) charged never to use her powers or show the world who she really is. Cut off from her repressed older sister, spunky redhead Anna (Kristen Bell) is bored beyond belief, dreaming of true love. As a first act, it’ll do. We get where the characters are coming from, we can see where it might all go wrong for them, and everything looks pretty.
It’s as ‘Frozen’ unfolds that the film kicks up a notch. The standout song, ‘Let It Go’, feels like Disney’s most inspired coming-out anthem yet (‘Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know. Well, now they know’). It’s also now that we meet the irresistible comic relief, Olaf the Snowman (Josh Gad), and encounter the danger essential to a satisfying Disney experience. So ‘Frozen’ has tunes and darkness. But most satisfying is a formula-defying finale that subverts fairytale status quo. More of this please, Disney.