Voices of: Kristen Bell Idina Menzel Jonathan Groff Josh Gad Santino Fontana
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ latest confection exploits the romance of icicles and ice crystals to tell a story inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, The Snow Queen. The writers (Chris Beck and Jennifer Lee, also the directors, and Shane Morris) have altered it considerably and given it a heavy dose of adolescent romantic love, which seems a little odd to me, since it is likely to appeal mostly to much younger children. Nevertheless, the children in the screening loved it and clapped afterwards, talking excitedly about it as they walked out of the theater.
In this version, a princess, Elsa (Menzel) has magical powers that allow her to transform the area she’s in into a winter playground. This delights her sister Anna (Bell), who tends to go over the top in her enthusiasm. She is so rambunctious once, that she falls into a frozen stupor; whereupon she is rushed to a healer who proclaims that while her head can be easily changed, her heart will stay frozen until she is kissed by love. The parents—in their “wisdom”—begin to see that Elsa can be dangerous with her powers, so they isolate her, even from her sister. As time goes by, the parents are killed in a storm at sea, and Anna is especially lonely, since Elsa refuses to open her door to her. With the parents gone, the kingdom passes to Elsa, and a coronation is planned. Anna is overjoyed because she thinks she and her sister will be close once again.
But it is not to be, since Elsa is still fearful, and after the coronation when Anna keeps persisting, Elsa sends out icicles and ice crystals to keep her away, which results in the transformation of the kingdom from the summer to the winter. Elsa runs away to an ice palace she has constructed where she can be “free”, i.e., not have to worry about damaging others. Unbeknownst to her, however, is that her kingdom remains covered in ice and snow, so Anna at first, and soon others go to find her to beg her to bring back the summer. Included in the trek at various times are Anna, a prince (Fontana), and a boy who hauls ice with his reindeer (Groff), along with other young men.
Andersen’s Snow Queen involved a boy and a girl, and I wonder why these writers decided to make their story about two girls. It still has themes valuing friendship, bravery, and love, and shows how unintended consequences can occur, even with the best of intentions. I especially appreciated their illustrating the idea that “powers” can be used for good or for ill, and that sometimes the person possessing them has to learn how to master them to use them for good. It was also nice to see the twist of the story where it was the sister’s love (not the prince’s) that melted Anna’s heart.
A different take on a traditional fairy tale with beautifully drawn figures and special effects.
By: Donna R. Copeland