Everything Wrong With Frozen

In 1845, Hans Christian Andersen wrote a story called "The Snow Queen" about a girl named Gerda who bravely journeyed through many dangerous lands to rescue her friend Kay, who was possessed by a cursed mirror and seduced by the beauty of a wicked queen. In 2013, Disney released a movie that had absolutely nothing to do with any of that. I go back and forth between hating Frozen and thinking it was just okay. The more hype it gets, the angrier I become. When people ask me why, I get tired of going into the same explanation again and again because it's long and complicated. That's why I'm writing this post.


Most of what I knew about Frozen before seeing it in theaters came from the D23 Expo in summer 2013. I went to several panels where I saw the early footage and listened to the filmmakers discuss their progress. At the time, I was very excited about it. Olaf's song was hilarious, and Elsa's disapproval of Anna's engagement to Hans seemed like an interesting plot point. In fact, I was so impressed with what I saw that I left the Expo raving about the movie and encouraging all my friends to see it when it came out. Unfortunately, the small taste I got was not indicative of how rushed the story would be and how far it veered from the original tale. I made plans to see the movie twice in advance before ultimately realizing my mistake.

My biggest issue with Frozen was the awful pacing. Everything happens way too quickly to be believable. First, Elsa's family encourages her powers, then Anna's memory is taken away and Elsa is told she can't ever use her powers again. The next thing we know, they're grown up, Anna is in love, and Elsa snaps. Anna goes off and falls for someone else, there's a long unnecessary scene involving some rock trolls, and suddenly the first guy she liked is evil. Disney named Hans after Hans Christian Andersen, which is kind of a slap in the face since the character was a backstabbing jerk. Then again, it's just salt in the wound considering how much they had already demolished his story. Hans is a troublesome plot device because he is supposed to teach girls that the first guy they like isn't always "the one," but Anna just winds up with the second guy she meets. He was also very passive for a Disney villain. All he did was wait around for Elsa to conveniently screw over Anna and her kingdom so that he could take the power for himself with minimal effort.

That brings us to Queen Elsa herself. Based on an unquestionably evil character, Elsa was originally written to be a villain. However, the film's composers at the D23 Expo explained that after writing the explosive hit ballad "Let It Go," they realized the character was far too sympathetic to turn evil at any point in the story.  Apparently, freezing her sister's heart twice, sending a giant snow monster after her and her friends, and completely shirking her responsibility to her kingdom are all perfectly acceptable behaviors for a Disney heroine on the side of good. Don't get me wrong. It sucks that Elsa grew up alone and had to hide who she was, but it was difficult to see how she was the perfect responsible queen that Anna saw in her when her actions were entirely self-motivated.

If I rack my brain, I can see how Disney attempted to recreate the same themes as "The Snow Queen" with some role reversals, but they did not do this nearly as well as they did with "The Frog Prince." In "The Snow Queen," Gerda used to be best friends with Kay until his eyes and heart were tainted by shards of the cursed mirror, which blinded him to beauty and goodness, causing him to run off with the Snow Queen. Gerda overcame many obstacles to retrieve him from the queen's ice palace and cured him of the mirror's curse with her love, causing him to cry out the shards. Ironically, these same mirror shards were incorporated into a version of "Snow White," a completely unrelated story, from 2001 called Snow White: The Fairest of Them All. In Frozen, I suppose the mirror was represented by the ice shards that Elsa kept accidentally shooting into her sister's heart. Disney combined the characters of Kay and the Snow Queen for Elsa, but since one was a victim and the other was pure evil, it didn't work out very well.

The underlying theme of "The Snow Queen" was that Gerda's love for Kay was stronger than anything else in the world. It overcame a possessive woman who tried to make Gerda forget her quest and keep her forever, and it charmed a princess and a little robber girl whose mother wanted to kill her. In Frozen, it was Anna's sisterly love for Elsa that overcame her curse. Now, I liked that this movie focused on sisterly love. It was an excellent change of pace for a Disney Princess story, even if it did denote the beginning of the end for animated princes. However, Frozen failed to even get that right by making the last scene about Anna's newfound relationship with Kristoff instead of her newly reformed relationship with her sister. Not to mention that Disney had already introduced the concept of a princess falling for another guy who was better suited for her than her prince in 2007 in a more convincing and realistic manner with Enchanted.

The thing that I found the most frustrating about Frozen, though, is that it could have been great. Heck, just keeping the original title would have been an improvement. The Snow Queen sounds like a much more awesome movie than Frozen, just as Rapunzel beats Tangled, but I'm not here to argue semantics. It seems to me that the writers were originally going to follow the fairy tale pretty closely, but when they wrote "Let It Go" and decided to turn Elsa into a heroine, they realized the movie was lacking a villain and did a sloppy rush job on Hans. They went through so many changes that they lost sight of what they were initially trying to do. The deleted songs prove this. If they had kept any one of these songs, it would have been a much stronger movie. "More Than Just the Spare" gives us a better insight to Anna's character, and "Life's Too Short" is way more effective at fleshing out the sisters' quarrel in Elsa's ice palace than the "For the First Time in Forever" reprise. Subsequently, the reprise of "Life's Too Short" shows us that both sisters had learned their lessons and admit to their mistakes, something that was mostly glossed over in the final product.

In summation, Frozen no longer makes me angry, but it makes me sad for all if its lost potential. There were so many awesome details from the source material that would have enhanced the story tenfold. Even the original drafts of the movie had some great material that the filmmakers carelessly threw on the cutting room floor. With the way it is now, Frozen does not deserve all the hype, the live Disneyland stage show, the upcoming Broadway play, or the 21-minute long short preceding the upcoming Coco film. I actually think that Once Upon a Time improved the formula a bit in 2014 by expanding upon Anna and Elsa's parents' backstory and revealing that Gerda was their mother and their aunt was the original Snow Queen, but by then, it was too little too late. The damage had already been done, leaving me here to forever reminisce about what could have been.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

"The Grande Mermaid" Is Finally Here!

Rapunzel's New Quest (and My 200th Post!)

Live-Action Little Mermaid Movie News

One Hundred Princesses for My 100th Post

Wreck-It Ralph 2 Trailer Analysis

Disney Princesses Break the Internet!

New Princesses of Heart in Kingdom Hearts III

Disney Princess Designer Dolls

The Princess Blog Is Celebrating Its First Year!

Wreck-It Ralph 2 Photo Analysis (Where's Ariel?)