Over the weekend thanks to a continued strong performance in Japan, Frozen became the number one animated movie of all time at the global box office, overtaking Toy Story 3. It now stands at number 10 on the all-time list and will end up with over $1.1 billion.
It’s not bad for a movie that six months ago had relatively little buzz. The film came as a surprise to many, as evidenced by how its box office worked. It got a pretty good but not spectacular opening (it wasn’t even the number 1 film in the US on the weekend it got its wide release), but then continued to play in cinemas for months, due the fact it had such amazing word of mouth.
Watching the movie it’s not difficult to see why it’s been such a success. The film manages to catch much of the best of classic Disney – strong storytelling, wit, and incredibly detailed and beautifully designed animation – while also managing to feel modern and occasionally even a little subversive to the way old Disney fairytale movies worked.
Frozen also seems to have learned from Up, by having an incredibly sweet and moving opening sequence, where young princesses Elsa and Anna are best of friends, until Elsa causes an accident due to the fact she has the incredible power to create and control ice and snow. After that her parents tell her she must learn to control her powers, which means she spends much of her childhood locked away afraid she’ll cause an accident, growing into a young woman terrified of who she is and what others will think if they know.
Anna meanwhile knows nothing of this and can’t understand why she barely sees the sister who was once her best friend. However they are brought back together when their parents die and Elsa is expected to take the throne. On the day of her coronation the thing Elsa fears most happens, and she unleashes her icy powers in front of everybody. Despite being queen, she flees to the mountains, where she may be alone but she can finally use her powers with no one around who she might accidentally hurt. However what she doesn’t know is that she’s left her kingdom in a permanent state of winter.
Anna sets out to find her, teaming up along the way with mountain man Kristoff, his reindeer Sven and a living snowman called Olaf. However it’s not as simple as just finding Elsa, especially as back home there are people who may not want either princess to return.
It’s all great fun, with plenty of laughs, an incredibly fast pace and some awesome tunes, including the Oscar-winning Let It Go, which you’ll be humming for days afterwards. As with many Disney movies it’s pretty episodic, and while some of those episodes are a little random they’re all incredibly entertaining, almost without exception.
The film also has a great message, which deliberately takes some classic Disney themes further than usual, as well as having some that set out to counter what’s gone before. With the latter the most noticeable is that at the beginning of the movie Anna is a proper Disney Princess, singing about how all she wants to do is fall in love. Then in proper fairytale fashion she meets a prince and by the end of their first song together they’re madly in love and wanting to get married. However Anna has to learn that life doesn’t and shouldn’t work that way, and that thinking it does might actually ruin any chance you have of happily ever after.
Elsa meanwhile embodies the theme that it seems almost compulsory for every family film to have – learning to be yourself and taking pride in that. For most films that’s enough, but Frozen is about the fact that sometimes being yourself has consequences. Although those repercussions shouldn’t necessarily stop you, you may have more to learn than just letting it go and letting it out if you want to be truly fulfilled and happy.
There’s been a fair amount of talk about whether there’s a big gay metaphor at the heart of Frozen, and I’d be surprised if the challenges of being young and LGBT wasn’t at least in the back of some of those involved’s minds. Let It Go has already become a coming out anthem, and it is true that the lyrics seem almost deliberately designed for that.
However Frozen is far from the first family film to have people wondering if it’s really about being gay, as it’s an obvious thing to wonder if any character in a film has to learn to be proud of themselves and to take pride is who they really are. The parallels are slightly stronger in Frozen, but even so there are plenty of other things it could apply to, as many youngsters feel the pressure to please others rather than being totally true to themselves, whether it’s down to peer pressure or trying to make their parents happy – and not all of them are gay. It does work as a metaphor about coming to terms with your sexuality, but it’s not as narrow as just being applicable to that.
As you’d hope the Blu-ray looks great with rich colours and crystal clarity, along with an immersive audio track that really brings out both the dialogue and music. There are also some decent special features. There’s not that many of them, but what’s there is interesting. Oddly the best thing is something that isn’t what it appears to be at all. When you click on ‘The Making Of Frozen’ you’d expect a behind-the-scenes Featurette, but instead you get an incredibly funny song and dance number featuring Frozen voice actors Jonathan Gross, Kristen Bell and Josh Gad.
There is a more traditional ‘making of…’ which doesn’t just take a look at the film itself, but also goes into the Disney archive to look at previous attempts to bring Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen to the big screen and into Disney theme parks, something Walt himself contemplated several times. The disc also includes the new Mickey Mouse animated short ‘Get A Horse’, which is fun but gives the impression it would be better in 3D, along with some deleted scenes, music videos and a trailer.
Overall Verdict: Classic Disney with a modern touch. It’s not difficult to see why Frozen has been such a huge success. It’s funny, immense amounts of fun and will leave a big smile on your face.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac