A beautiful princess with magical powers, an adorable snowman with buck teeth and a carrot for a nose, and a picture-perfect prince. These characters, from the new Disney 3-D animated movie musical Frozen, may sound conventional, but the film still manages to do something Disney animation films don’t often do — break stereotypes.
The combination of the words “Disney” and “princess” used to mean one thing: a film targeted at the little-girl market. But Frozen is evidence of how things have changed.
Loosely based on Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 story The Snow Queen, the film focuses on two princesses, Elsa and Anna, who live in the fictional Scandinavian land of Arendelle. Since the plot is quite simple, we won’t give any more spoilers.
Indeed, Frozen looks like just another Disney princess movie. It has all the glorious settings, the storybook characters, and songs fit for a classic musical. The animation is simply great — ice has never looked so good and everything is made with attention to detail.
But quite unlike its Disney forerunners, Frozen has characters that are a little more psychologically complex, and is more feminine in its ideas and themes.
This may largely be attributed to co-director and co-writer Jennifer Lee, who is the first female director of a Disney animated feature film. This is a bigger shift than it sounds. After all, Disney is defined by its iconic female-centric fairytale adventures. Who could do a better job telling a story from a woman’s perspective than a female director?
If a part of Frozen still hangs on to 19th century children’s literature, it’s the not-so-clear-cut line between good and evil. In the original story, the title character is evil. Her 21st-century version is just confused and scared.
As always, love is the solution to everything. When it seems as if nothing can melt the icy heart of the frightened Elsa, love proves everyone wrong. But in this case, it’s sisterly loyalty and devotion rather than romance.
With Frozen, Disney seems to know what kind of movies it should be making, and how to separate itself from Pixar, DreamWorks and all the other animation studios. It’s both a declaration of the company’s renewed cultural relevance and a reaffirmation of its own identity.
As far as animated movies go, it doesn’t get much better.