That movie that everyone couldn’t stop talking about for months. Ranked as the highest-grossing animated film of all time (Lion King holds that distinction in traditional animation), ninth highest-grossing film of all time, highest-grossing film of 2013, and currently fourth highest-grossing Disney film, behind the new Star Wars movies and new Avengers movies. It won two Oscars, for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (Let It Go), a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, and a BAFTA for Best Animated Film. On the one hand, I agree it has a story that departs from typical Disney. My (distant) cousin also designed young Anna. On the other hand, why did kids love this more than other movies? Why did everything go Frozen-crazy for so long?
Proceeding…the film is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Snow Queen, a darker story (aren’t they all?) with the titular Snow Queen as the villainess. The names of the four main characters are inspired by the storyteller’s name: Hans, Kristoff, Anna, Sven (read them quickly together). Kristen Bell (part of several television series, includng the titular Veronica Mars) voices Anna and Idina Menzel (she won acclaim for premiering the role of Elphaba for Wicked on Broadway) voices Elsa. Josh Gad is Olfa, Alan Tudyk (among some other voice acting roles, he’s in Knight’s Tale and the sci-fi show Firefly) is the Duke of Weaselton, sorry, Weselton, and Ciarán Hinds (an Irish actor who has appeared in several period pieces, and Game of Thrones) pops up as Pabbie the troll.
The opening music has a different tone than the rest of the soundtrack; inspired by Scandinavian culture and indigenous chanting (Fun fact: Cantus, the group that performs the piece, is all female). Then we’re into Frozen Heart as men cut ice, aided by a young Kristoff and Sven. My question is, why are they there? Is Kristoff’s father an ice cutter? And no one seems to be paying to this little boy. Then we come to the palace and meet little princesses Elsa and Anna. Anna begs her older sister to “do the magic!” so they can play in snow. They sneak to a ballroom and Elsa freezes the floor. We briefly glimpse Olaf, who likes warm hugs. But Anna goes too fast jumping from snow mound to snow mound that Elsa creates. When Elsa trips, her shot goes too high and hits Anna. Their parents rush in from the commotion, their father demanding “Elsa, what have you done?” and they immediately head out of the capital, Elsa still trailing ice.
Kristoff and Sven spot the royal family on their venture to the mountain and look on. A collection of rocks turns out to be a troll community (whom promptly adopt the wayward boy and reindeer). The leader can cure Anna, this time; the head can be persuaded, but a shot to the heart is more dangerous. But Anna can no longer know about Elsa’s powers; her memories are changed to remove the magic – but keep the fun. Pabbi did ask if Elsa had been born or cursed with the powers – she had been born with them. Then he warns Elsa that while there is beauty in her powers, there is great danger as well. She must learn to control them, for fear will be her enemy. Her father’s response: lock her away and limit all human contact, even with her sister. I agree with most fans that this is just about the dumbest thing a parent can do. Bottle all your feelings, be scared of an integral part of yourself, and separate you from everyone else, including a beloved younger sibling. Not a smart move.
We watch the princesses grow up during Do You Wanna Build a Snowman? [I like about two songs from this film; this is not one of them]. Anna pleads with Elsa, “we used to be best buddies.” The whole time, Elsa grows more afraid of herself. Their parents eventually take a trip, and their ship is overpowered by a storm. Anna must attend the funeral alone. Afterwards, she sits outside her sister’s door; it’s just the two of them now. On the other side of the door, Elsa is in the same position, with her room looking like a snow blast went off.
Now, there is a fan theory floating around, and I honestly don’t remember which parts have been confirmed or not, but Frozen is connected to other Disney movies. It is generally postulated that the queen of Arendelle and queen of Corona are sisters. And the king and queen of Arendelle were heading to Rapunzel and Eugene’s wedding when their ship went down. This is supported by Rapunzel and Eugene showing up at Elsa’s coronation (if you’re watching closely, it is distinctly them) and further supported by Frozen releasing three years after Tangled, and Elsa comes of age three years after her parents’ death. It is further theorized that the Arendelle ship is the shipwreck Ariel is exploring at the beginning of The Little Mermaid. This stems from the fact that both original fairytales were written by Hans Christen Anderson and there is a statue of a mermaid in Denmark, which lies along the route Anna and Elsa’s parents would have taken from Norway to Germany (Rapunzel being a German tale). Another option is that the Arendelle ship was blown way off course and ended up finally sinking off the coast of Africa and Anna and Elsa’s parents are in fact Tarzan’s parents, making Tarzan their brother. (Would that make him Rapunzel’s cousin as well?) I side more with the Tangled connection since we actually see the Corona couple at the coronation.
There is another backstory that has been created for Anna and Elsa’s mother. The first half of season four of Once Upon a Time involves characters from Frozen. Here, Elsa and Anna’s mother is named Gerda, and she has two older sisters, Ingrid and Helga. Ingrid has ice powers, which explains how Elsa has them. Without getting too into (and spoiling) the whole plot, events happen that cause Gerda to become queen. I liked the way Once Upon a Time handled Frozen, particularly examining Elsa’s bond with Anna and her new bonding with Emma.
Continuing on with the original animated movie: three years pass and Elsa is now of age to assume the crown. Time to open the gates For the First Time in Forever, after Anna is woken (looking like every other woman when she first wakes up). Anna is excited and wishes the gates would remain open; she’s also hoping to meet “the one,” which, considering she’s been left alone and possibly read dozens of romances, not a completely crazy dream (unrealistic, yes). Elsa is nervous, practicing removing the gloves that have been a protective layer for years, urging herself to be the good girl. While exploring outside, a horse knocks Anna into a boat, but she is gallantly rescued by a dashing prince, Hans of the Southern Isles. Anna is adorably awkward, then has to rush off to the coronation. Elsa manages to get through it without revealing her powers, though it was a near thing.
Later, at the ball, the sisters awkwardly stand next to each other. They no longer have the rapport they shared as youngsters. Though they share a love of chocolate. They start bonding, but Anna is soon swept off her feet by Prince Hans and the couple harmonizes that Love is an Open Door. At the end, they share the same crazy thought: “Hey, let’s get married!” They reenter the ballroom to ask for Elsa’s blessing. Elsa refuses, calling out Disney’s age-old cliché: “You can’t marry someone you just met.” Anna insists it’s true love and argues that Elsa wouldn’t know anything about that since she’s shut everyone out of her life. Anna pushes the issue with her sister, pulling off one of the gloves. In confusion and annoyance, Elsa sends a blast of ice. Weaselton, sorry, Weselton immediately declares sorcery and calls Elsa a monster. Elsa flees and is overwhelmed by the crowd outside. At first, they’re kind and adoring, but once she freezes a fountain, they turn on her. Elsa continues her flight, pausing for a moment at the fjord, but her powers allow her to freeze a path. She runs to the mountains, unknowingly leaving a path of ice that freezes the whole capital. Anna and Hans had followed her. Anna insists that she caused Elsa’s panic; her sister isn’t dangerous and would never hurt her, so she should be the one to go after the queen. Anna leaves Hans in charge.
Elsa is making her way up North Mountain and ponders everything that had brought her to this point. She finally had to let some of her emotions out, after trying for so long. “Don’t let them in/ don’t let them see/ be the good girl you always have to be/ conceal, don’t feel/ don’t let them know. Well now they know!” She Let[s] it Go. She’s able to use her power freely; and it’s beautiful. She creates a magnificent ice castle and to match her new mood, she creates a new (iconic) dress. The cold never bothered her, so she’s comfortable where she is. She’s never going back and tosses away her crown. According to Disney trivia, this song was the turning point the in the development of the film. At this point, the Snow Queen was not longer the villain. The song has also topped the Billboard list and that was the only song we heard on repeat for about a year, I think (Piano Guys did a beautiful crossover between this song and Vivaldi’s Winter; as I have often found, I prefer Piano Guys’ covers to the original). It was during this song that I figured out Idnia Menzel voiced Elsa, because the singing tone matches Defying Gravity from Wicked. I personally believe that the lyrics to this song are an aid to those who bottle up their emotions and worry about being themselves.
Meanwhile, Anna is still searching for her sister. Her horse bolts, leaving her freezing. She finds Oakens’ outpost and manages a costume change and meets ice deliverer Kristoff. After Kristoff is sent to sleep in the barn, Anna approaches him (with the supplies he needed) and requests/demands he take her to the North Mountain where the worst of the storm is, figuring that is where Elsa will be. Kristoff reluctantly agrees. He sides with Elsa, that you cannot marry some guy you’ve just met. Before their conversation can go much further, a pack of wolves attacks. Anna is helpful in chasing some of the pack away, but they’re still forced to jump a gorge, letting the sled fall. Anna understands if afterwards, Kristoff doesn’t want to help anymore. Sven persuades Kristoff, and they set off further up the mountain. Along the way, they encounter a talking snowman, Olaf, who likes warm hugs. Elsa made him, a reminder of her childhood with Anna. The little snowman dreams of what will happen to him during Summer. [Personally, I agree with Kristoff, let’s tell him what happens! I also find Olaf annoying; he’s the tagalong who never shuts up.]
Back in Arendelle, Hans is assisting the people when Anna’s horse returns without its rider. He wants to head out and calls for volunteers to help find the sisters. Weasel sends two of his burly guards, with instructions to put an end to winter (meaning, kill the queen. Buddy, that’s treason).
When Anna and Kristoff finally meet with Elsa, she still wants to be left alone. It’s for Anna’s protection, she doesn’t want to hurt her sister (again). However, she did not realize that she had caused eternal winter back in Arendelle. To her, this is just another reason why she should be alone and she hasn’t gained control of herself or her powers. Her emotions spiral and she shoots another blast, unknowingly hitting Anna. Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf leave, firmly persuaded by a new giant snowman. More like, chased off the mountain. Kristoff notices that Anna’s hair is turning more white and decides it’s time to introduce her to his love expert friends; they’ve had dealings with that sort of thing before. His love expert friends are the trolls who took him in. They’re so excited that Kristoff has brought a girl home, they at first don’t listen to the pair’s protestations, declaring that love is power and can help both Fixer Uppers. When Anna collapses, Pabbi comes out. But this time, the power struck her heart, only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart. Both Anna and Kristoff figure a kiss from Hans will do the trick.
Hans and his volunteers find Elsa’s new castle and battle her giant guard. A few manage to duck, Weasel’s two guys aiming to kill. Elsa defends herself and almost kills both attackers. Hans urges her to not turn into the monster people believe she is, be better. He knocks a bolt out of the way, but it severs the chandelier, knocking Elsa out when she dives out of the way. She wakes up in a jail cell, chained, her hands manacled. Hans informs her that Anna hasn’t returned, but they all need her to unfreeze the capital. Elsa doesn’t know how.
Kristoff and Anna arrive at the castle; Kristoff stays outside and the servants take Anna to Hans. She begs for a kiss, explaining that Elsa froze her heart, by accident. A act of true love will thaw it. He makes her comfortable and leans in…only to say, “if only there was someone out there who loved you.” He extinguishes the candles and fire and reveals that it was all a ploy. As thirteenth in line for his own throne, the only way he would become a king was to marry. Nothing was known about Elsa, but Anna – young and eager, it was easy. He originally intended for an accident to befall Elsa after his marriage to Anna. Now, he will just have to kill her and that should bring back summer, making him a hero. He leaves Anna alone and informs the council that she is dead, only after they managed to say their vows, making him the ruler of Arendelle. His first act, execute Elsa for treason for murdering her sister.
In Elsa’s cell, ice spreads and she manages to break free. She sets off across the frozen fjord. A storm swirls around her. Sven is trying to persuade Kristoff to go back, for Anna. When he catches sight of the storm, they take off. Olaf makes his way through the castle and happens upon Anna’s room, lighting a fire to keep her warm. Anna urges him to stop, he’ll melt. “Some people are worth melting for.” He also figures that Kristoff is the one who loves Anna, not Hans. The blond man raced to get her to the castle, and sees that he is racing back. They escape the rapidly freezing palace (Anna slides like a lady, straightening her skirts after) and Anna makes her way to Kristoff. Hans finds Elsa, telling her that it was too late to save Anna; “she’s dead because of you.” Elsa collapses in grief, which freezes the center of the storm (snowflakes are frozen in place). Anna and Kristoff see each other and Kristoff races to Anna, but Anna hears a sword and turns to see Hans behind her sister, ready to strike. She makes a decision and steps between the two, stopping the sword as she freezes solid. Elsa turns around and sees the new statue of her sister and hugs her, crying, as Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf look on.
Anna starts to slowly thaw. The sisters embrace, Elsa in disbelief that Anna would sacrifice herself for her. Anna simply responds “I love you.” Olaf realizes “an act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.” Love. That gives Elsa an idea. Armed with new knowledge and a reprise of the opening track playing, she unfreezes Arendelle. Luckily, the heroes were standing over a locked ship. Olaf starts melting, but Elsa gives him “my own personal flurry.” Hans gets up and Kristoff starts marching towards him. Anna stops him. She strides over to Hans, tells him “the only frozen heart around here is yours.” Turns, then turns back and punches him in the face. Brilliant!
Hans will be returned to the Lonely Isles to face his twelve older brothers. Weaselton will no longer be allowed to trade with Arendelle for his actions against the crown. Kristoff is the new official Ice Master for the capital and Anna gifts him a new sled (keeping her promise to replace the one that burned). He’s so happy, he could kiss Anna. May he? He may (they’re adorable together). Elsa makes a pond for everyone to skate on in their courtyard and she and Anna declare they are never closing the gates again.
A short, Frozen Fever was released in 2015 alongside the live action Cinderella film. A sequel to the full-length movie is due out this November.
I enjoyed the “Hans is actually the bad guy” twist; I believed he was good right until he betrayed Anna. While she was falling in love with Kristoff, I thought maybe Hans would pair with Elsa. But this made it a more complex story, which is good. Again, I appreciated both Elsa and Kristoff warning that one cannot marry someone they just met. The relationship between Kristoff and Anna was built on working together and accepting each other’s flaws. The relationship between Elsa and Anna was wonderfully done; they were adorable as kids and understandably awkward once they were in the same room again, having grown up separated. (And again, horrible decision on their parents. Anna could have helped Elsa so much). And I appreciated that the “act of true love,” was between sisters, because that is a very strong bond. Siblings give their loyalty to each other first. A partner may come and take their own place, but a sibling grew up with you and knows all your secrets.
Overall, not my favorite soundtrack; it’s cute and fun, but doesn’t have quite the depth that Disney has shown (Lion King for example). It is a fun movie, though it took me a while; I tend to not be eager to jump on band wagons. I resisted Harry Potter when the books first came out because I didn’t want to read what everyone else was reading just because everyone else was reading it. But it is a cute story and I certainly want to see more of Anna and Elsa.
As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments. This is shockingly, my thirtieth blog (more like, how did I get this far?) There’s still lots more to come!
Next Time: The last Disney animated film I’ll be blogging, Moana
Burning in the Fire of a Thousand Smiles by qqueenofhades is a modern Alternate Universe story involving the Once Upon a Time characters, pairing Emma with Killian and does include Elsa as one of Emma’s friends.