These days it seems like every time Disney comes out with a new “princess movie,” there’s some sort of brouhaha. For Tangled it was the title being changed from girl-centric Rapunzel. Then Frozen‘s turn came, and it was an animator’s comment about the difficulty in animating two female characters with a full range of emotions while still keeping them pretty. Citizens of the internet were understandably annoyed, pointing out that giving women unique emotional responses might be easier if all the female characters didn’t have strikingly similar facial features (huge eyes, delicate nose and mouth).
Disney claims that the comment was taken out of context from a discussion of CG animation and not meant to be taken as a generalization about animating male versus female characters. Okay, I can buy that. Not that I approve of the assumption that female characters always need to look pretty (hence the reason it’s so difficult to give them emotions!), but the brouhaha was not enough to keep me away from a new Disney/Pixar creation. That, and some of my favorite internet personalities freaking out over Frozen on Tumblr.
From the opening moments of Frozen, I was sitting in the theater with a dopey smile on my face. Everything about it is visually pleasing. The color palette is beautiful cool tones, all blues and purples and greens. The setting is fantastically Nordic, a favorite aesthetic of mine, which is reflected in the costumes and architecture. Seriously, I don’t know when I have ever been more excited by a Disney castle, with its pointed rooftops and triangular windows that still manage to feel homey. The animators seem to understand snow and ice the way any good Midwesterner does: that it has the capacity to be both beautiful and dangerous.
Frozen has the hallmarks of a classic Disney film, but certain plot choices make it unique. The most important relationship is not romantic but sisterly. Princess Elsa was born with the ability to create ice and snow, but she is forced to hide her powers when an accident injures her younger sister Anna. Elsa’s transformation from royal recluse to sassy Ice Queen is a perfect musical theater moment. Princess Anna is our plucky heroine, voiced by Kristen Bell, she of the adorable comedic timing. I can’t think of a time when Disney has truly explored sibling relationships (Wicked Stepsisters don’t count), and it makes for a movie that you would be happy to let your daughter watch.
Of course, there are secondary characters to amuse and delight. Every Disney movie needs at least one good sidekick, and Olaf the Snowman is just the right combination of sweet and hilariously oblivious. (“Hi, I’m Olaf, and I like warm hugs!”) My other favorite is the rock trolls, who are so cute that I honestly wish they had more screen time. I haven’t revealed much about Frozen that can’t be deduced from the trailers, and I hope every animation lover gives it a chance.
So now I join the scores of adults obsessing over the latest Disney flick. No shame here. There’s certainly an element of nostalgia since Tangled and Frozen actually live up to the Disney movies of my childhood. But more importantly, I don’t believe that childhood wonder is just for kids.