Latest Disney offering succeeds through genuine relationships


Sam Lineberger

The universal appeal of animated Disney features spans generations.

Where our parents grew up with Dumbo, Bambi and Peter Pan, we spent at least part of our formative years with Mulan, Aladdin and Simba.Frozen-movie-poster

That isn’t to excuse Disney from the occasional misstep – cultural misappropriations come to mind, as does a sometimes-heavy reliance on formula.

But at their heart, Disney films are known for not only their positive messages, but for their incorporation of memorable tunes and benchmark-setting animation. “Frozen” fits tidily into this description.

There’s the protagonist – in this case a bubbly princess named Anna – who wants nothing more than for her icy sister Elsa to open up to her.

Then there’s the love interest, Kristoff, who at first seems an unfit match due to his unrefined manners. There’s the love interest’s animal, Sven the Reindeer, who is pretty much a carbon copy of Flynn Ryder’s own companion beast in 2010’s “Tangled.”

There’s the hilariously exaggerated sidekick Olaf, an animated snowman who thinks he wants to experience summer.

In short, all the expected pieces are in place. What sets “Frozen” apart is not its components, but rather its fresh approach in depicting relationships.

“Frozen” explores the strains and joys of sisterhood through the lens of individual maturation.

Elsa and Anna are set up as stock character twins. Elsa’s introversion is characterized by white-blonde hair, while shimmering brunette locks represent Anna’s extroversion. Yet, as the film develops, we get to see an organic relationship bloom.

For once, here’s a depiction of “true” love that actually isn’t about a singular, fated partner. Instead, Anna’s longing for the familial love of her sister is what takes center stage. Her partnering with Kristoff stems from an at-first-platonic friendship and genuine caring.

Additionally, the Broadway-inspired musical numbers are at least on par with what we’ve come to expect. In other words, they stand head-and-shoulders above every other contemporary musical film out there.

Tony Award winner Idina Menzel shows off her chops as Elsa in the soaring, if overwrought, “Let It Go,” and Kristen Bell is an effortless Anna. Josh Gad as Olaf holds up fine, too, although he comes nowhere close to the genius of Robin Willams’ Genie or Eddie Murphy’s Mushu.

The animation is mostly gorgeous, although Olaf sticks out and most of the film seems to inexplicably be set at night.

Despite minor qualms, “Frozen” rates as another Disney classic. The filmmakers shot for more modern and candid portrayals of relationships, despite the Hans Christian Andersen-inspired fairytale world.

Though it depends on a few overdone animation tropes, “Frozen” succeeds as an emotionally keen and pleasantly entertaining canonical offering.

Story by Sam Lineberger, A&E Reporter