By Dave Montalbano
Forty one years ago, WPIX Channel 11 in New York broadcast Hans Christian Andersen, a MGM musical with lyrics by Frank Loesser and starring Danny Kaye in the title role. Originally, the film was to be a collaboration between MGM and Walt Disney animation, but two decades of business negotiations fell through and the studios developed their own projects.
Walt Disney Productions stuck with animation and developed the Oscar-winning The Little Mermaid, which has become culturally significant for the past three decades. Taking a dark fairy tale like The Snow Queen and mixing it with the Disney touch, Frozen has created a Hans Christian Andersen renaissance and is easily the best holiday motion picture for 2013.
The film opens in a magical kingdom that looks suspiciously like Denmark. Princesses Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) love each other. However, big sister Elsa is a mutant who can shoot frost out of her fingertips. When Elsa frosts Anna’s brain and distorts her little sister’s memory, the king and queen teach the future Snow Queen to isolate herself from the world. These royal actions are observed on the sidelines by young Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his not-so-magical reindeer.
It is during Queen Elsa’s coronation that disaster occurs. Anna announces her impulsive engagement to a charming prince and Elsa flees into the forest to build her own ice castle. Anna recruits Kristoff in a vain attempt to get Elsa to return to the magical kingdom. With Queen Elsa and Princess Anna out of town, passive-aggressive evil brews.
One of the most overwhelming days that Disneyworld Orlando confronted this year was “Villain’s Day,” in which the Magic Kingdom was forced to stop admission. Given that The Snow Queen was one of Hans Christian Andersen’s premier villains, one expected Frozen to have sympathy for the devil. However, the dynamic between sisters keeps the villainy on a human level. In fact, it is good intentions and miscommunication that propels the plot.
The animation is filled with visual poetry, with the snowy landscapes invoking childhood Christmas season memories. There are some thrilling action sequences when Kristoff battles the Snow Beast or when the hero’s sleigh comes cliff-hangingly close to danger. There are enough action sequences to interest a father who has to babysit his kids.
Expect the song “Let it Go” to be Oscar-nominated for best song; it is a ballad tour de force sung by Idina Menzel and covered by Demi Lovato. From the breath taking opening to the clever post-credit closing gag, Frozen has all the entertaining qualities to melt one’s heart.