Monday, August 1, 2016
5 Reasons We Love Frozen
Frozen remains one of the most popular animated films in recent history. Even three years after its initial theatrical release, the film remains unrivaled as the top-grossing animated movie and best-selling Blu Ray of all time. Having recently spawned two attractions (a show and ride) in Disney Parks as of this summer, and with a planned sequel on the horizon, Frozen is driving a hype train that Disney hasn’t ridden since Lion King. But is this hype simply the hype of a one-hit wonder, or does Frozen truly deserve to be considered a Disney masterpiece? For any doubters out there, here are five reasons we can’t seem to “Let it Go” when it comes to Frozen:
#1: The Soundtrack
Hey! I saw you roll your eyes there. Don’t pretend you’re sick and tired of “Let It Go!” You may claim you’re going to perforate your eardrums with a rusted ice pick if you hear that song one more damn time, but we know you still secretly belt out the lyrics while in the shower. Or at least you’re still whistling “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” or humming “For The First Time In Forever” to yourself.
Don’t be ashamed. We’ve heard all the songs umpteen times and over, even three years after the movie's release. And admit it: you're still loving it! The songs may have been overplayed, and in many cases, over-hyped, but if anything, that shows just how much we still love them. The songs are simply that good. If they weren’t, nobody would be playing them over and over again. If they’re getting stuck in our heads, it’s only because they’re so memorable—and if a song isn’t memorable, it simply isn’t a good song!
These songs may be over-hyped, but that hype isn’t unwarranted. "Let It Go!" and the rest of the songs are just that good, and they deserve their place alongside other Disney classics like "Part Of Your World" and "Circle Of Life." That’s why Disney has released sing-along versions of the movie in theaters and on DVD. That’s why a stage version has premiered in the Disney Parks. That’s why the movie’s being considered for a Broadway stage show. And that’s why, even three years after the movie was released, people are still singing "Let It Go!" And if it’s really bothering you that much, well, how about you just—let it go? Because the hype never bothered us anyway!
Be honest: if you’re like me, and you first saw Olaf in the original teaser trailer with his goofy, buck-toothed smile and his phallic-looking carrot nose and his head three-times the size of his own body, you initially wanted to grab a blowtorch and melt him into a puddle—which is exactly whatever snow does in summer!
Like most of you, when I first saw him in the trailer and promotions, I thought Olaf was going to be yet another obnoxious Disney side character, and I was going to hate him just as much. Then I actually watched the film, and discovered that he wasn’t that bad. In fact, he wasn’t bad at all. He was actually pretty decent.
But what about Olaf makes him such a good character? You know, aside from the fact that he’s more marketable than Elsa? The long answer is to watch Chad Rocco’s "Familiar Faces" review, as he does a good job of explaining what makes Olaf great. The short answer is for me to provide a more succinct response:
Olaf is part of a long line of Disney side characters. Some of the more notable examples include Aladdin’s Genie or Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa. Some of the more infamous are Hunchback of Notre Dame’s gargoyles and Treasure Planet’s B.E.N. (Seriously, anyone remember B.E.N.? Anyone want to forget him?!)
But while most of those characters are loud, bombastic, and even obnoxious (which makes most of them “infamous”), Olaf is the exact opposite: he’s quiet, soft-spoken, and in many cases, subtle—so much so that there are times you even forget he’s even in the movie.
And even when he does make his presence known, he doesn’t really do anything “obnoxious.” Seriously. Unlike other “annoying” side characters, there is never one point where he annoys or frustrates or inconveniences another character. That makes him all the more tolerable and less hair-pullingly aggravating as a character.
But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a significant character. Far from it. He’s actually the most important. Olaf serves as the physical embodiment of Elsa’s and Anna’s relationship and a link that connects the two together. He’s the first thing that the two sisters create in the movie. He’s the first thing Elsa creates when she starts to freely use her powers again. He’s the character that brings the two sisters together again, and the character who motivates them to rekindle their relationship. (“There are some people worth melting for.”)
In short, Olaf’s a much more tolerable Disney side character who helps rather than hinders the main characters and whose very presence serves as a motif for the film’s overall theme.
(Plus he’s an extremely marketable character. Have you seen his snow cone maker? Actually, now that I think about it, that toy looks rather creepy. It’s like you’re scooping out his insides in order to consume them. You’re eating Olaf’s internal organs. That’s disgusting!)
#3: Subverting The Disney Formula
I’ll be perfectly honest: when I first watched this movie in theaters back in December 2013, I was almost ready to hate it. And the first act-and-a-half made it easy for me to do so.
When I saw the Duke of Weselton mumble to himself how he wanted the Kingdom of Arendelle to “open those gates so I may unlock your secrets and exploit your riches!”, only to become self-aware of his actions and and ask, “did I say that out loud?”, I rolled my eyes and replied, “obvious villain is obvious!”
When I saw Anna accept Hans’ spur-of-the-moment marriage proposal, after spending an entire musical number singing about how the two were meant for each other, despite either of them only knowing each other for less than five minutes, I had to hold back my vomit at what I assumed was yet another love-at-first-sight trope that Disney has been infamous for.
When I saw Olaf make his first appearance and introduce himself as the loveable dopey side character who “loves warm hugs”, I was ready to reach for the nearest hair dryer and melt that dopey smile off of his frozen face. I knew an annoying Disney side character when I saw it.
After all of that, I had assumed that I knew how the rest of the movie would play out and was ready to turn off my brain in order to enjoy the remainder of the film.
But then something major happened: the rest of the movie.
What I had initially assumed were annoyingly Disney clichés were really slight-of-hand illusions designed to set up my expectations during the first one-and-a-half acts, only to knock them over in the third act like an elaborate domino display—and it played out just as spectacularly!
Yes, the Duke of Weselton’s hammy “obvious-villain-is-obvious” shtick was supposed to be obvious, but only to serve as a distraction from the real villain, making his reveal all the more shocking and revealing!
Yes, Anna falling head-over-heels in love with Hans and accept his marriage proposal within only five minutes of screen time was supposed to be as sickening as it was saccharin, but only to allow the schadenfreude of seeing every other characters’ dumbfounded reaction to the situation all the more satisfying.
And yes, Olaf initially came across as yet another annoying Disney side character, but as I mentioned earlier, it's so that the rest of his performance proved him to be otherwise.
Never before had I seen a Disney movie subvert its own formula while, at the same time, following it to the letter. To be sure, there have been plenty of films before, from Shrek to Enchanted, that have mocked the Disney formula; but while those movies made the subversion as painfully obvious and heavy-handed as possible, to the point of absurdity, this movie did it in such a subtle manner that it still came across as a genuine Disney movie—albeit a very self-aware one!
The Nostalgia Critic said it best in his own "Disneycember" review when he mentioned how the genius part of the movie was its “ability to break certain clichés while still holding true to others that made Disney so popular.” The end result is a genius subversion of a Disney movie that gave you the satisfaction of watching a Disney classic while having a collective chuckle at its obvious clichés.
#4: Frozen’s Fairly Feminist Frame
I’m not a feminist. I believe that women deserve equal rights to men, but if anything, that makes me more of a ‘small-f’ feminist. I’m by no means a ‘big-F’ feminist who wants to ban the color pink or who thinks that video games brainwash men into becoming mindless rapists.
But if there’s one thing that I can somewhat concur with most feminists, both big and little ‘f’, it’s that most Disney films have not been the best for women. That’s not to say that they didn’t have good or even strong female characters. If anything, their princesses have more character and screen time than the princes. The problem is that most of the Disney princesses are defined solely by their relationships with their respective princes.
Snow White sings about how someday her prince will come. Cinderella goes to the ball to meet her prince. Sleeping Beauty spends the entire movie pining for her prince to rescue her. Belle needs to fall in the love with the Beast to turn him back into a human prince. Ariel goes to the surface to meet a prince and falls in love with him, to the point where she trades her voice for a pair of legs so that her prince may later spread them.
Pretty much most Disney movies center on the female character, mostly a princess, falling in love with the male character, mostly a prince. This story line has been done so many times that it’s developed into its own formula: Princess meets prince. Falls in love with prince. Gets separated from her prince by the villain. Gets saved by prince. Marries prince. And they all live happily ever after…until Disney needs some cash and creates a sequel, or two, or three!
This isn’t some crazy feminist conspiracy theory. Everyone know this to be true about Disney films. Even Disney is well aware of it and the somewhat “problematic” implications it may have on its young female viewers—which is why they did an excellent job lampooning and subverting the very concept in this movie.
As I mentioned in the previous point, Anna falling in love and accepting the proposal of Hans within the very first act of the movie is blatantly sickeningly sweet because it’s supposed to be. While most other movies treat “love at first sight, honeymoon the next night” as normal, pretty much every other character in Frozen, from Elsa to Kristoff to even Hans himself, chastises Anna for making such a foolish decision precisely because of how foolish and unrealistic it is.
Furthermore, the romantic subplot of the movie—or rather, the clever subversion thereof—better highlights the theme of the main plot, that being the importance of healthy familial relationships, specifically between siblings. Later in the movie, when Anna is inflicted with the curse, the “true love” required to lift it doesn’t come from her supposed prince Hans, nor does it even come from Kristoff. It comes from her sister, Elsa, who comes back to terms with their relationship as sisters.
In the end, we have two female characters breaking away from the stereotypical "princess falls in love with prince" character trope and developing their own sense of empowerment. Anna, of course, learns that she doesn’t have to rush through a relationship in order to experience true love, and that it’s more preferable to allow such a relationship to develop over time as she starts out steady with Kristoff.
And then there’s the main character, Elsa. Which leads me to my final point:
#5: Elsa's Empowerment
There’s no doubt that Elsa has quickly become one of the most popular Disney Princesses as of recent—even if she’s technically not an official princess. (Seriously, what the heck?) Even three years after her introduction, little girls are dressing up for her on Halloween, buying her merchandise ranging from dolls to mini-ATVs (seriously, what the heck?), and waiting up to three hours in line at Disney World for her autograph. (Again, what the heck?).
But what is it about the Ice Queen that has attracted the admiration of so many little girls? Is it her dress? Her hair? Her powers that spiral into frozen fractals all around and crystalizes like an icy blast? Or is it her epic empowerment ballad of “screw the haters, I am who I am”?
Well, yes, clearly her ice powers and song are the most famous aspects about her, but a catchy song and cool-as-ice superpowers would be nothing if it weren’t for the character they were associated with—and boy, is Elsa quite a character.
Ever since birth, Elsa has exhibited special powers that has made her different from other people—and contrary to what another song would say, what makes you different does not make you beautiful, it makes you scary! As such, Elsa was taught by her parents that her powers were a “curse” that should be feared and kept to herself. ("Conceal, don't feel!")
Spending so many years repressing her powers and isolating herself from other people only wore away at her self-esteem and mental state. It’s only after she escapes her kingdom and breaks free from her boundaries, allowing herself to freely use her powers, that she starts to accept herself for who she is; and it’s only after she has become accepted through the love of her sister and of others that she finally gains control of her powers.
As such, Elsa isn’t simply a princess with pretty hair and clothes for little girls to admire. Like Harry Potter or the X-Men, she’s a role model for children and other individuals whom have felt outcast for their differences, teaching them to embrace their differences and accept themselves as who they are.
Whether her character arc is interpreted as an allegory of homosexuals “coming out of the closet” or people with depression or special needs refusing to allow their disability to limit themselves, Elsa serves as an inspiration for everyone to love and accept themselves, regardless of their differences.