Frozen (2013) - In Theaters
Rating - 4 out of 4 stars
Frozen marries the best of Disney's past musicals with state-of-the-art animation and storytelling. And even though it's aimed squarely at children, I enjoyed it as much as anything I've seen recently.
Frozen was executive produced by John Lasseter, the wizard of Pixar Studios. But ever since Disney purchased Pixar in 2006, he's been the chief creative officer of both Pixar and Disney. During this time (and even before Pixar was acquired), Lasseter was the executive producer of these non-Pixar Disney films (the scores in parenthesis are the average Metacritic score):
- Wreck-It Ralph (2012) (72/100)
- Winnie the Pooh (2011) (74/1000
- Tangled (2010) (71/100)
- The Princess and the Frog (2009) (73/100)
- Ponyo (English) (2008) (86/100)
- Meet the Robinsons (2007) (61/100)
- Howl's Moving Castle (2004) (80/100)
- Spirited Away (English) (2001) (94/100)
Anyone who thinks getting these kinds of consistent scores is easy should take a look at some other studios' releases. (Check out this Metacritic article that compares Pixar and Dreamworks animation studios.) But what's really telling to me are these two things:
- Lasseter released several Hayao Miyazaki films with Disney (Ponyo, Howl's Moving Castle, and Spirited Away). The Miyazaki films are not typical Disney fare, but they are realized on a level that very few animation films ever achieve. Clearly, Lasseter knows talent when he sees it.
- Of the original films he helped produce, many of them are musicals, starting with The Princess and the Frog.
Which brings us to Frozen. The story is about two princess sisters, Elsa (who has magical powers to create ice and snow), and Anna. After almost killing Anna during a late-night snowfest in the castle, Elsa is shuttered away in her room. Years pass. The two sisters never talk and are lonely. But she can't stay hidden forever. When Princess Anna's powers are revealed at her coronation, locking her kingdom in an eternal winter, she leaves to avoid hurting anyone else. But Anna pursues her, helped by many great characters, including a reindeer and snowman.
Like many of the Disney films from recent past, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, Frozen is a musical. And like those films, the songs are great (and mostly move the story forward), the characters are memorable, the story engaging. Like 1989's The Little Mermaid, Frozen is based on a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale (this time The Ice Queen). The design and animation are superb and, at times, breathtaking. (I didn't see it in 3D, but something tells me this would be a good one.) And the dialog, like a lot of Pixar films, is smart and witty. It even creeps into the songs in unusual ways -- but never through crude jokes aimed above kids' heads.
I really didn't expect to like this film as much as I did, and I think it's a testament to John Lasseter's leadership with Disney animation. He clearly understands how to bridge the old Disney magic with a modern approach.
Here's a great review from Rotoscopers that has more info about the movie.