It’s pretty weird to think that Disney used to recycle its own animations to save a few bucks. So, Baloo from ‘The Jungle Book’ magically became Little John in ‘Robin Hood’ with a little sleight of hand by its toiling animators. Of course, that was long before the Mouse House became a world-conquering animation behemoth on the back of Pixar’s success and smash hits like 2013’s ‘Frozen’. That made $1.3 billion, so around one dollar for every time your kids have made you watch it. Happily, this long-anticipated sequel feels entirely fresh. The world it creates is charming, the wit sparkles and – one brief burst of ‘Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People’ aside – the songs are all new. So let go of ‘Let It Go’ and clear some room for a new batch of earworms.
As you’d expect, the self-contained Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) remains at the heart of the story, but ‘Frozen 2’ also belongs to her exuberant sister Anna (Kristen Bell). She’s very much a co-conspirator here, sharing ‘When-Harry-Met-Sally’-ish tiffs with lovestruck Kristoff (Jonathan Groff, blessed with a genius ’80s-style power ballad from songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez) and helping to guide the scene-stealing Olaf (Josh Gad) through a very funny coming-of-neige plotline. The hilarious ‘When I Am Older’ and some philosophical musings on the nature of existence are an absolute delight.
If there’s a flaw, it’s the slightly fiddly plot that has more folky symbols and elemental runes than a Hoxton tattoo parlour. One or two of the (admittedly charming) new characters feel designed to drive merchandise sales rather than the story. There’s a mist-shrouded forest, a sort of generic indigenous people, some rock giants and a mystical spirit calling Elsa north to an uncertain fate. The quest itself is stirring, if a little Tolkien-lite.
While ‘Frozen’ was about coming to terms with who you are, ‘Frozen 2’ is about transformation. Does it offer further evidence for those who saw ‘Let It Go’ as Elsa’s covert coming-out anthem? Sadly not, though she remains an intriguingly elliptical canvas on which to project genuinely groundbreaking ideas about empowerment and identity. There is nothing recycled about this Disney icon.