Tag Archives: disney

How Frozen Warmed My Heart

Frozen Castle

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.

Frozen Elsa

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.

Frozen Olaf

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.


Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

Three Dimensions of Belle

In college I took a class about fairy tales. Because I’m a female born in the late ’80s, my favorite part of the course was inevitably the week of Disney movies. The professor, a native German, told us that he was shocked by how much Americans love these movies. I mean, love with a burning passion. We tried to explain that they were a big part of our childhood, but he probably still thought we were silly.

So when I saw the commercials for Beauty and the Beast in 3D, I reeeeeally wanted to see it. Not because of the addition of 3D — that was actually kind of a drawback. I just didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see one of my all-time favorite animated films on the big screen. An invitation to a friend’s birthday party, which included a trip to the movie, was just the excuse I needed. There’s no shame in a group of twenty-something women attending a Disney movie with no kids in sight. Right?

It’s worth mentioning that this was my first 3D movie experience. I guess the lack of theater trips throughout college caused me to be a little behind on the 3D trend. And honestly, I always suspected that it was a gimmick more than an exciting development in film. Beauty and the Beast was perhaps not the best introduction to the technique because it was never intended to be in 3D. Most of the previews were in 3D as well, and that probably gave me a better sense of what 3D can do. The illusion of an object flying off the screen was certainly a new one. (Never mind that it was a berry bounced off The Rock’s pecs. Click here is you require proof.)

But what about the main event? I enjoyed seeing a very familiar film in a new way, both on the big screen and in three dimensions. I could hear the intricacies of the musical score. I could see details that I had seemingly never noticed on a TV set. The 3D did its best work in detailed landscapes. For instance, the beautiful opening shot of the Beast’s castle through the forest or Belle exploring the castle hallways. 3D enhances the feeling of depth in a visual image (duh), so it makes sense that these scenes would have the most 3D potential. However, in shots of the characters, it felt odd to see them appear to exist on different planes. To me the 3D often felt like the image was layered. The closest layer might contain Belle, then a middle layer might contain the Beast, and the farthest layer might contain the backdrop. It was a striking effect, but not the way I experience the world through my eyes.

Perhaps the best part of the movie was the little girl sitting next to me. She was probably two or three years old, sitting on her mother’s lap. This child found the Beast absolutely terrifying. Now I’m not saying that frightened children amuse me, but her presence helped me see the movie with fresh eyes. And yes, when you haven’t seen him before, the Beast is scary! In any number of dimensions. And Belle is still the patron princess of all girls who love books.

1 Comment

Filed under Movies

Tangled Up in Disney

Did anyone see the movie Tangled? If you didn’t, I can’t entirely blame you. I felt fairly ambivalent about it while it was in theaters. Then, after hearing some positive word-of-mouth, I decided to give it a chance on DVD. And I was very pleasantly surprised!

Why did I — a self-proclaimed animation nerd — skip this movie in the first place? It all started with hearing the words Disney and CGI in the same film. I grew up loving Disney, but their first attempts at computer animation have looked a little pathetic. (Yes, I know, Pixar is a part of Disney now, blah blah blah, but I still think of them as separate entities.) There is nothing worse than bad CGI, y’know?

Then there was the brouhaha over the title. Originally the project was called Rapunzel, in the tradition of other fairy tale films. When the title was changed to Tangled, there was speculation that the studio was trying to distance the project from other “princess films” in hopes of attracting more boys to the theater. This was followed by a trailer that featured Flynn Rider, the mischievous male lead, more than Rapunzel herself, clearly trying to sell the film as an adventure story. Entertainment Weekly did an interview with the directors in which they denied those reasons for changing the title. Still, I was skeptical of their motives. All my favorite Disney movies have strong heroines, and most of the films are (gasp!) named after their heroine. Plus the title Tangled just had sub-par Disney knockoff written all over it.

Okay, so obviously the debate over the title hit a feminist nerve that turned me off from seeing the movie. This was the pre-Netflix era, so I had to be picky. But now it’s a brand new day of movie open-mindedness. My mom also wanted to see it, so we popped it in on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I think both of us had only moderate expectations, so we were surprised by how much we enjoyed it. Having seen the movie, I understand the directors’ reasons for changing the title. The story really does hinge on the duo of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, rather than a hero who pops in and out at convenient times. And despite being computer animated, the quality felt comparable to the Disney films of my childhood.

This post should explain why I’m very excited for the next Pixar movie Brave. It features Pixar’s first female protagonist (squeal!), and it’s set in mythical Scotland (double squeal!). Pixar and girl power, a perfect blend of things I love. If you want to geek out with me about Brave, check out this article or this teaser trailer from the always informative folks at Entertainment Weekly. Where would I be without them?


Filed under Movies