I have to admit it, dear readers, but this nerdy dad shirt wearing dad really digs Disney’s winter tale Frozen, and not just because my four year old princess loves the line “the cold never bothered me anyway” (she really just loves the sassy shoulder-hip movement of Elsa in that scene) or because my **musically-eidetic six-year old memorized the whole soundtrack the first time he heard it (“Start it at the beginning, Dad-o, where the men are cutting the ice!”), but because it holds up. It just holds up. Here’s why.
1. Many critics love the whole true-love-is-between-family-(sisters) and not just a prince-and-princess trope. Yes, me too! Although, for a split second I was afraid that Olaf was going to save the day, and at the end of singing “Love is an Open Door” I’ve trained the kids to yell “Don’t do it!” to Anna and Hans agreeing to marriage, which I did at the movie theatre before we knew that Hans was the evil Darth Sidious. But the great redemption moment of the sisterly love is perfect, and because the sisters haven’t connected in fifteen-plus years or whatever, it makes sense on a I’m-glad-they-did-that level, where Kristoff and Hans aren’t the “true loves” that will save the day and break the curse. Stupid men princes always bringing magical true love.
**2. The soundtrack is well done. Our Kidz Bop/Pop rotation is getting oooooold. And the Frozen soundtrack is essentially a Broadway-standards hitmaker, powered by Idina Menzel of Wicked and Glee fame. “Love is an Open Door” plays second fiddle to the uberpopular “Let It Go” but if you get the deluxe album on iTunes, you can hear songs that didn’t make it. This is the first Disney soundtrack we’ve ever bought, so maybe I’m weirdly biased. I’m sure if your Lion King and The Little Mermaid cassettes are worn down to the wheel, you may have some notes for me.
3. TWO Princesses! AND two love interests – for the same princess! Two princess dresses, dolls, and accompanying sets we now have to buy? Disney you evil genius, you. Will schoolyard fights start now between older sisters and their younger, more liberal sisters as they decided who to be while playing Frozen? You bet. And the adventurous younger sister kind of cheating on Hans with Kristoff? Scandalous. But two princesses is a first for Disney – especially one who has superpowers and finds herself while communing with nature, flirting with that line between use and abuse of that self-same power.
4. New Villain Archetype and absence of Fairy Godmothers, sort of. Well the Trollfather sort of acts like that shaman/fairy godmother/Wise Uncle archetype we’re used to, but the main Villain isn’t a larger-than-life predictable character, he’s the underdog at first! Very clever. I still don’t know if I like the Trolls, though – but then I never liked the Lollipop Guild either. Granted we have the Reluctant Orphan Heroines and the Swashbuckling Loner Anti-hero character, I’m sure we were due for the Wise-Indigenous-Nature-People who really know how to throw on the southern drawl and goofy chorus-ing. Thus, the Trolls.
4. **Stars Wars-like Archetypes. Here’s my favorite connection, and I think it holds up in terms of relating the character to an all-too-familiar galaxy not that far away: Kristoff as Han Solo, Anna as Leia, and Sven the Reindeer as Chewie, with Olaf acting for BOTH comic reliefs (C3PO and R2D2) and Hans as the Palpatine-but-you’d-never-guess-he’s-really-Darth Sidious/Emperor, while Elsa as Luke gets the why-doesn’t-Leia-have-the-Force-too? treatment. Elsa’s ice castle is Luke’s Dagobah. Right?
My only criticism is that Frozen is so, well, white. When Elsa gives Olaf eternal life by providing him with a snow cloud, is Disney telling audiences that their stories and archetypes are frozen in time, and we never have to worry about running out of white, skinny, big-eyed beautiful heroes and heroines? That every good story has to take place in the 1700s somewhere in Europe? Maybe a discussion for another post.
Any way you slice it, Frozen is solid. So slice it up, form it into a snowball, and throw a few before the polar vortex takes us into the spring-climate of Disney’s other blockbusters, where sleds and ice castles wait for a winter audience.
“Yeah, people will beat you and curse you and cheat you” – Kristoff as Sven the Reindeer to Kristoff.