Saturday, 1 March 2014

FIlm Club - Disney goes 'Frozen'

Like most of my friends I have been a Disney fan since childhood. I remember watching the Lion King and Aladdin in the cinema, replaying the VHS of Aristocats until it neared breaking point and singing along to the Little Mermaid. The whole family would watch Christmas specials featuring snippets from all the classics, and I adored the Donald Duck & CO shorts (not to mention collected the magazines). 

But then something happened. Since around Finding Nemo times (the Pixar + Disney into the sea epic of 2003) a change was evident. Great stories were still being told, and great success was had on the early teen front (I'm looking at you Hannah Montana and High School Musical) but it was a while ago since that magic took me away to another world and truly sparkled. So when Frozen came along I felt more hesitant then excited.  

The idea behind this film dates all the way back to 1943 when Walt Disney himself tried to team up with Samuel Goldwyn to co-produce a biographical movie of Hans Christian Andersen. It would feature animated sequences of selected pieces of his famous stories including The Little Mermaid, The Tin Soldier, The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor's New Clothes and (drum roll) the Snow Queen (originally a very dark and twisty story). 

However the animators encountered trouble with adapting the Queen and relating the character to their audiences, despite the great potential being evident in the material. The collaboration was scrapped (Goldwyn did their own live-action version in 1952 by the way) and it wasn't until the 90s that serious plans for the Snow Queen re-emerged.  

Sadly though the project was once again scrapped in 2002, despite support and varied pitches for alternative approaches to the story. In 2008 the project was re-branded 'Anna and the Snow Queen', still with the aim to create an old-school traditionally animated flick but by 2010 development swallowed the idea. Then finally, off the back of Tangled's success, 'Frozen' was not just given the go ahead but an official release date was set. 

The film was set to be a computer animated feature with limited traditional hand-drawn animation mixed in, directed by Chris Buck. A new version of the original was developed, including evolving the new character of Anna as Elsa's younger sibling to ensure the characters and their story-lines resonated. The film's look was created with a mix of the Ice Hotel in Quebec and the landscape of Norway in mind, and the Sami people provided a lot of inspiration for the society portrayed. 

So did it work? 

Well, the final result was a heartfelt and action-packed sing-along comedy (yup, you heard me) rooted in family and love. Recently crowned queen Elsa (the Snow Queen) has accidentally trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter after an incident that saw her fleeing her home to seek refuge in the mountains. Her little sister Anna, our quirky, clumsy, brave and thoroughly hilarious constant optimist, sets off on her own adventure to bring her sister, and summer, back. Along the way she teams up with Kristoff, the vaguely anti social mountain man, his loyal reindeer Sven, and the brilliant snowman Olaf who dreams of sunshine and heat. Haunted by her magical icy powers that saw her almost killing her younger sibling when they were kids, Elsa isolates herself convinced no one can help her. Can Anna bring her back and save both her sister and Arendelle? Cue drama and sing-along!

With one of the best Disney sound tracks in years, well written comedy throughout and loveable characters it certainly is worth a watch whatever your age. A re-used classic mixing the right amount of drama, action, comedy and song this certainly proves Disney's still got 'it'.  

My personal favourites throughout the movie were Olaf the snow man (who reminded me a lot of Pingu the penguin who longs for summer) and Anna (how can you not love her), but every character worked well with the story and overall the film kept me hooked.  

My main concern  (spoiler alert), which begun early on when Anna meets Hans and gets engaged five minutes later, was the outcome with two strong female leads. Sparkly dresses, princes and mountain men... Was this building up to be a cliched princess story with a '...happily ever after' once they had shared a true love's kiss? However, Disney surprised in the best of ways. Sticking to one of the themes it does best the twist centred us back where it all begun; family. 

I honestly cannot describe how happy the ending made me, I can sense quite a few sing alongs and re-watches in the future. And let's not forget... Kristen Bell can sing! The lady has some serious pipes to her, and she works her quirky charm in there bringing life to Anna's character.

So for the effort this 70+ years in the making film gets four and a half cute kittens. Well worth a watch, just keep tissues at the ready and prepare the neighbours for your singing voice. 



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