Dir: Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee
Loosely based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen called ‘The Snow Queen’, this shows that something has clearly changed at Disney in recent years, back to making animated films that may stand alongside their ‘classics’ against the test of time!
Elsa and Anna are young princesses who are very close, but when Anna accidentally gets injured as a result of Elsa using her magical ability to make snow and ice while they are playing, the two sisters are kept apart as they grow up so as to keep Elsa’s abilities hidden. However, the death of their parents forces the sisters to take on their royal responsibilities, opening their castle back up to visitors, and thrusting Elsa’s secret into the open. Being a Disney film, there’s also love interest in the forms of Prince Hans and Kristoff an ice trader, and comedic relief in the form of Olaf (Josh Gad) a naive newly created snowman.
After the huge success of Tangled (originally titled ‘Rapunzel’), Disney named this film in such a way that while still descriptive, would sound very gender-neutral to appeal more widely. It was very cleverly marketed to avoid the whole princess element at first, with the original trailer that I saw a number of times featuring just Olaf the snowman and Sven the Reindeer, no dialogue, just a carrot-based mishap. This trailer was designed to help create a gender-neutral buzz. It worked! Families flocked to the cinemas on release, assuming that they were going to see a film that would appeal to the whole family including both sons and daughters, evidently despite the Disney princesses that may have come unexpectedly it really did find wide appeal! On a budget of apparently $150m it has to date made over $950m, far surpassing the success of the brilliant ‘Tangled’.
Nominated for Oscars for both ‘Best Animated Feature’ and ‘Best Original Song’, it looks poised to very likely win both. As a Disney animated film it does genuinely tick all the boxes, with the music being a major one. The vocal talents are key to this, with the grown up Elsa voiced by Idina Menzel, a veteran Broadway performer who made the move to screen a few years ago with a role on ‘Glee’, and Kristen Bell (‘Safety Not Guaranteed’) as Anna also performing the song vocals herself. The male voices are also done by experienced broadway singers, Santino Fontana (Hans) and Jonathan Groff (Kristoff). Having the speaking and singing voiced by the same people does keep everything sounding very natural and their performances are excellent throughout. One of the opening songs ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman’ really hit me as a brilliant piece of songwriting early on in the film, it beautifully hits the right tone between melancholic and playful. The Oscar-nominated ‘Let it Go’ is also superb, and the accompanying visuals are spectacular and effective at enhancing the power and lyrics of the song, as is the case with all the songs throughout the film.
The comedy sidekick character Olaf the snowman is one of the best seen in any Disney animation. He reflects the fact that he was literally only born yesterday through his charming naivety, really wanting to bring back summer not knowing that it would bring about his end. There’s even a brilliant song (as there should be) to highlight this point. Josh Gad is excellently chosen to do the voice, he does often play characters with a sense of fun or mischief, and here that quality to his voice and delivery comes across very clearly.
As a 20-something man with no kids, I know I’m far from the obvious target market for this film, but I watched it with a 30-something man with no kids (who has seen it at least 5 times) and spoke to another 20-something man (also childless) today who loves it too! Disney’s marketing may have been cleverly aimed at bringing both young boys and girls to see this, but it’s proven that a really well-made film will have a far wider appeal that transcends gender or age!