Disney is back, this time for real. The sparkling you see around the name of this new movie is the golden aura of an Academy Award for best animated movie. A well deserved one. Frozen is a winner. When I set down in the movie theatre with a bunch of extremely excited young boys and girls, I was not expecting an opening short film to the main feature. Surprised, I wore my 3D glasses and waited to see what Disney had come up with. The characters are the original first black and white Mickey and Minnie, along with – among others – Horace Horsecollar and their old antagonist Pete. The idea is simple but genius, constructed to play with the transition from a vintage black and white word to a 3D stage in Technicolor. You realize only at the very end that you have been holding your breath all the while. There’s no comparison possible here, even with the adorable The Blue Umbrella that opened Pixar’s latest Monster University. This short reminds us why there is an Academy Award dedicated to the category and why it can be regarded as a filmmaking art on its own. Now the audience is prepared for what will come next. The bar is set so high that everybody is thinking it’s going to be hard for Frozen to jump over it. But it does. Perfectly.
The movie tells a story loosely based on Andersens’ fairy tale “The Snow Queen” about two sister princesses. The older sister, Elsa has the power to create snow and ice but has to suppress it because of a childhood incident. She goes into hiding until the day of her coronation, when her sister Anna (Kristin Bell) triggers her and she accidentally reveals her cryokinesis and flees into the mountains. It’s then up Anna, who is brave and optimistic, to go on an adventure to bring her sister back. The storyline is simple for a young audience to follow and yet engaging for people of every age. The characters are well-rounded and developed in an accurate way. Their backstories are told throughout the movie and we end up feeling connected to them, just like we have learned to love the Little Mermaid or Simba.
Speaking of the characters, I have personally fallen for Elsa, the Snow Queen. She is one of the most interesting female figures I have seen in a while. Her role is not to be a courageous, likable girl, who falls in love and has the crowd rooting for her. She is a teenager who is struggling to accept herself, who is trying to find a way to cope with a reality that seems not to suit her. If this sounds familiar, wait to hear who dubbed her: Broadway’s favorite Idina Menzel, who lent her voice to the conflicted witch Elphaba from Wicked. It would be reductive to say that “Let It Go”, her main song, is going to spell you. Just like “Defying Gravity”, this song is going to be sung out loud by people for years, completely out of tune. Because let’s face it: nobody can reach Idina Menzel’s notes. Anna also has a lovely voice, which actually belongs to Kristen Bell. Her interpretation of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” is going to make you shed a tear. Have tissues at hand for the whole movie. If you are not sentimental, you will at least need them for how much the movie is going to make you laugh. The presence of the goofy snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), brought to life by Elsa’s power, is golden. He is probably the character who will remain in the spectators’ hearts the longest. Not only does he provides comic relief to the most serious moments, but he also has an adorable desire of seeing summer and having friends. Be ready to take a selfie with his cardboard cutout outside the theatre. Nobody is going to think you are a weird. No, not even if you are forty-five and keep telling all your friends that you are just there to take your kids.
Finally a shout out to the animators. From the opening of the movie we can already tell that they have taken a huge step forward since Tangled. The snowflakes sequence with the titles is fascinating. Impossible to stay impassive to is also the creation of Elsa’s glass castle. Everything goes so smoothly we forget that somebody actually had to draw that. Although John Lasseter produced Frozen, Pixar will have to fight hard to come out with something as good. I adored Monster University as much as the next guy but the awkwardness of that one scene in the human world by the lake is going to cost it the Oscar. This is Disney rebirth from the ashes of movies like Planes. Frozen might be the best old dear Walt people have created in a decade. Don’t sit in front of this screen a second longer, go buy a ticket!
Review Giulia Rho