Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #53: Frozen

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

"Come again?"

“Come again?”

""Well…I was wondering if you wanted to come over and destroy me? You know? Like old times?"

“Well…I was wondering if you wanted to come over and destroy me? You know? Like old times?”

"You…want me to destroy you?"

“You…want me to destroy you?”

"Yeah, you know. You trap me in some alternate universe and then I escape and…you know?"

“Yeah, you know. You trap me in some alternate universe and then I escape and…you know?”

"Mouse. What’s this all about?"

“Mouse. What’s this all about?”

"Oh. Well, see I’m supposed to be reviewing Frozen…"

“Oh. Well, see I’m supposed to be reviewing Frozen…”

"OH MY GOD SHUT UP YOU’RE AT FROZEN ALREADY?!"

“OH MY GOD SHUT UP YOU’RE AT FROZEN ALREADY?!”

"Yeah!"

“Yeah!”

"NO WAY!"

“NO WAY!”

“I know!”

“I know!”

"It seems like just yesterday that…"

“It seems like just yesterday that…”

"I know, right?"

“I know, right?”

"Well congratulations!"

“Well congratulations!”

"Thank you."

“Thank you.”

"No, seriously. I mean, you know. You stuck with it through to the end."

“No, seriously. I mean, you know. You stuck with it through to the end.”

“Well, you know, it was all for the fans…"

“Well, you know, it was all for the fans…”

"That’s just…go you."

“That’s just…go you.”

"See, the thing is, I think people are expecting some kind of big epic climax with all the plotlines of the last two years just being tied up neatly and I just thought that since you’re my arch-nemesis…"

“See, the thing is, I think people are expecting some kind of big epic climax with all the plotlines of the last two years just being tied up neatly and I just thought that since you’re my arch-nemesis…”

"I’m your arch-nemesis? Really?"

“I’m your arch-nemesis? Really?”

"Well yeah, I mean…amn’t I your arch-nemesis?"

“Well yeah, I mean…amn’t I your arch-nemesis?”

"Oh…of course you are. (Yikes)."

“Oh…of course you are. (Yikes).”

"So…you want to come over?"

“So…you want to come over?”

"You know Mouse, I’d love to but I don’t really have a lot of time what with this new job…hang on, call on the other line."

“You know Mouse, I’d love to but I don’t really have a lot of time what with this new job…hang on, call on the other line.”

"Okay."

“Okay.”

"Thank you for calling EA customer support, your call is important to us. Please hold. Sorry, where were we?"

“Thank you for calling EA customer support, your call is important to us. Please hold. Sorry, where were we?”

"The Frozen review."

“The Frozen review.”

"Right. Right. Listen, Mouse you’re overthinking this. Is this going to be the last review you do?"

“Right. Right. Listen, Mouse you’re overthinking this. Is this going to be the last review you do?”

"Well, no."

“Well, no.”

"Right. Then it’s not an ending. You don’t need a big climax. And besides, if you just try to cram in as many cameos and running jokes as you can it’s just going to turn into a massive circle jerk. Your readers just want to see you review a movie they love. Trust your instincts, do the best job you can and that’ll be enough."

“Right. Then it’s not an ending. You don’t need a big climax. And besides, if you just try to cram in as many cameos and running jokes as you can it’s just going to turn into a massive circle jerk. Your readers just want to see you review a movie they love. Trust your instincts, do the best job you can and that’ll be enough.”

"Wow. You're right. Thanks HK."

“Wow. You’re right. Thanks HK.”

"Think nothing of it. Soon I shall destroy you."

“Think nothing of it. Soon I shall destroy you.”

***
So.
Yeah.
What crushing burden of expectation?
Okay.
Alright.
Okay.
Wow.
Okay.

I began this…thing…two years ago with a fairly modest goal. I wanted to review every movie in the Disney canon to see which would be the best one to show my baby daughter (who was one month old at the time and who is now singing and swinging from monkey bars and talking back and doing all kinds of magic). I was going to do short reviews. Maybe a paragraph or two, once a week. And maybe a few of my friends would read them and say “Oh, I remember that one.” That was the plan.
The plan did not turn out as planned. Unshaved Mouse has become something far beyond what I ever could have imagined it becoming. The friends I’ve made here, the encouragement and support I’ve gotten from all of you, the sheer fun and joy and satisfaction this project has given me is hard for me to put into words, and putting stuff into words is something I do on a semi-professional basis. This is starting to sound a lot like a goodbye, and it’s not one. But, I do think that this is a fitting place to stop the music and thank the audience. Thank you all. Thank you all so much.
And however far removed this blog is now from what it began as, it did achieve its original mission. Because whenever I ask my daughter if she wants to watch a movie, she answers with three words: “Let it go”.
The first Disney movie that we ended up showing her, and that she was actually old enough to watch all the way through, is today’s movie. I found what I was looking for at the very end of the canon.
Well. It’s always in the last place you look.
Disney have been trying to wrestle a version of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen onto the big screen since, no lie, 1937. The original conception was for a co-production with Samuel Goldwyn based on the life of Anderson, with Goldwyn handling the life action footage and Disney providing animated sequences for various Anderson stories such as The Little Mermaid, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Snow Queen. That movie never got made because of, well, you know…
““We honestly could not give two fucks about your little Snow Queen movie.”

““We honestly could not give two fucks about your little Snow Queen movie.”

World War 2. The only war in history to kill almost as many movies as people.
Anyway, the concept bounced around for decades with people as diverse as Glen Keane and Harvey Fierstein all pitching versions that never got off the ground. Why? Well it’s kind of tricky to adapt faithfully to the big screen seeing as it’s kind of Jesusy. Jesusy movies are almost impossible to get right, as you’re inevitably going to take fire from both the people who object to it being Jesusy and the people who object to it not being their particular brand of Jesusy.
"It's been three hours and he hasn't punched a single gay, what even the hell?"

“It’s been three hours and he hasn’t punched a single gay, what even the hell?”

The project was finally kicked into life with John Lasseter’s assuming control of Disney Animation in 2006. Lasseter was determined to bring Disney back to their roots, and The Snow Queen seemed like a prime candidate. Chris Buck (one of the director’s on Tarzan) was brought in to direct. Crucially, Buck’s interest in making the film was not necessarily from the source material, but from a desire to explore a concept of true love different from that was usually depicted in Disney movies.
The script for the movie that became Frozen started out as a more or less conventional retelling of  the Snow Queen story, (although less-Jesusy, obviously) but the characters were found to be pretty flat and the movie (at that time titled Anna and the Snow Queen) stalled again. Then inspiration hit.
Oh, don't look so smug.

Oh, don’t look so smug.

Okay, I know the fighting between the Team Frozen and Team Tangled has been bloody and bitter. They stole our mascot, we TP’d their treehouse. They pelted us with ice in the streets, we broke into their homes at night and shaved their heads. They wrote Elsa/Sven slashfic in the very poorest taste, we burned their cities to the ground and salted the earth. Things escalated quickly, no question. But, my fellow Team-Frozeners, in the interest of peace and reconciliation I say we must do something. We can continue to maintain (as I do) that Frozen is the better movie. But we must have the grace to admit that Frozen owes Tangled
BIG TIME.
Tangled’s success lit a fuse under the movie, prompting a title change to the more catchy, gender neutral Frozen. And then came the first big breakthrough, the decision to make Anna and The Snow Queen sisters. Jennifer Lee, one of the writers on Wreck It Ralph was brought on board and took that idea and ran with it, drawing on her own relationship with her sister until this one detail of the movie became The Movie.
How did it turn out?
I imagine you already have an opinion on that.
So the movie begins with some lovely, atmospheric Sami chanting which sets the tone beautifully before the movie segues into Frozen Heart, probably the most overlooked song in the movie. That’s a shame not just because it’s a lovely piece but because it sets up some very important motifs, both musical and lyrical, that pay off later on down the line. We see a young blonde Sami named Kristoff and his pet reindeer Sven trying to harvest ice with zero adult supervision and my God these kids need to be taken into protective troll custody ASAP.  Meanwhile, in Arrendelle Castle, Princess Anna (Olivia Stubenrauch) wakes her sister Elsa (Eva Bella) because “The sky’s awake. So I’m awake. So we have to play.”
"Logical."

“Logical.”

Elsa at first tells Anna to screw off and let her go back to sleep but then Anna asks her slyly “You wanna build a schnowmaaaaan?”

They run downstairs and Elsa uses her magical ice powers to turn the ballroom into a winter wonderland and fuck up the floorboards just forever. Alright, this scene is really important in my eyes because it is utterly, utterly sweet. Disney hasn’t done anything this purely sweet in decades. Now, of course, there’ve been plenty of sweet moments in other more recent movies. But this is old-school Disney sweetness. Almost bordering on saccharine but just on the right side. There is nothing undercutting it. No snark. No eye-eyerolling. Even Tangled, which was on the whole a very sweet movie, had that faint air of Dreamworks sass, a kind of winking at the audience that is completely absent here. I think the reason why this movie connects with so many people is that it is enormously sentimental but utterly sincere about it It feels like the first canon movie in a dog’s age that’s not worried about being uncool. It does not give a solitary fuck if you think it’s sappy or old-fashioned or square. It is completely comfortable in its own identity, which of course is the coolest thing of all.
That, and smoking.

That, and smoking.

 Also, major props to Stubenrauch and Bella who both do phenomenal work here. Things go pear-shaped however, when Elsa tries to save Anna from falling and ends up hitting her with her ice magic. Elsa yells for her parents and they come running. King Agdar grabs his old D&D map and they all go riding off through the forest looking for the trolls, kind hearted forest creatures who heal people cursed by magic.
Look, I don't know how familiar y'all are with Scandinavian folklore so let me just clarify: NOOOOOOOOO...

Look, I don’t know how familiar y’all are with Scandinavian folklore so let me just clarify: NOOOOOOOOO…

 Grandpoppy the Troll King (Ciarán Hinds) heals Anna by mindwiping all memory of magic from her little frozen noggin and tells her parents that she’ll be okay.
But what to do with Elsa? Too icy for girl town, too much of a girl for ice town. The child was an outcast. So, they lock her up in her bedroom and feed her a bucket of fish-heads once a week.
"It saved our marriage!"

“It saved our marriage!”

Okay, all joking aside, I think we need to clean up a few misconceptions about what happens in this montage and why the King and Queen aren’t actually the awful parents a lot of people claim they are. So, let’s review some of the charges against them.
  1. “Why did they lock Elsa away and not let Anna see her sister?”
They didn’t. We see Elsa outside her room several times. Elsa refuses to play with Anna when the two of them are alone because she’s afraid of hurting her again but there’s no indication that her parents are keeping the two of them apart.
  1. “The way the king makes Elsa control her emotions is so paternalistic.”
Yeah. He’s paternalistic. He’s her frickin’ dad. But cut the guy some slack. It’s not like he has a manual for this stuff. All that he knows is that Elsa loses control of her emotions and things get Title of Movie. We know that the key to Elsa controlling her cryokinesis is good old fashioned wuv but how was he supposed to know that?
  1. “For the love of Mickey why didn’t they just TELL Anna about Elsa’s powers?”
Okay, the movie only has itself to blame for the confusion over this one. It’s kind of suggested that the King Troll wiped Anna’s memory to reverse the effects of the spell and that if she ever remembered what happened she’d freeze again but then later on she remembers everything and is fine so what even the hell? (this is also the one that has the least explanation in-film so I’m going to have to extrapolate a little). Firstly, I do think that wiping her memory was necessary to heal Anna, but that once she was healed there wasn’t any risk in telling her that Elsa has powers. Correction, there wasn’t any risk to Anna. I want you to remember the first question the King Troll asks Elsa’s parents; “Born with the powers, or cursed?” This tells us something. Elsa is not an anomaly. There are others like her, people born or cursed with powers beyond their control. Now how would a pre-industrial European society react to people in their midst with strange, uncontrollable magical powers?
Mob
Yeah. When it’s clear that her powers are becoming uncontrollable, Elsa’s parents shut the palace doors, keeping only a few loyal retainers on staff. Because if word gets out amongst the citizenry, things could get very ugly. Like, Salem ugly. And as a genuine rule, if you have a secret that your daughter’s life depends on not getting out, there are two kinds of people you don’t tell; Jimmy the Squealer and six-year old girls.
Johnny Tight Lips

Johnny Tight-Lips though? He’ll take that shit to his grave.

This is why they didn’t tell Anna. Yes, she could probably be trusted to keep the secret and not share it with anyone or let it slip out…but how is that worth risking Elsa’s life over?
  1. Well for crying out loud, why didn’t Elsa tell Anna when they were both older and more mature?”
Yeah, she’s a stinker. But think about it for a minute. This movie has rightly been noted as a rather perfect LGBTQ parable (has there ever been a better coming out anthem than Let it Go?). And as already mentioned, revealing that she has powers is not so much “coming out” as “coming out in UGANDA.” Elsa’s probably terrified that Anna will reject her. The fact that they’re family doesn’t make coming out easier. I makes it so, so, so, so much harder.
This sequence, of course takes place as background to Do You Wanna Build a Snowman? Now, I’ve already gone into detail here as to why this song is a goddamn weapon of mass emotional destruction so I’m just going to say that Frozen adds two all-time classics to the Disney songbook and this right here is one of them. Over the course of this song  we see things go from bad to worse in the royal household. Anna is Title of Movie out of her sister’s life and starts going crazy with isolation.
"Hang in there, Joan!"

“Hang in there, Joan!”

"Thanks kid!"

“Thanks kid!”

Meanwhile Elsa tries to control her powers by becoming more and more emotionally withdrawn. And then, on a voyage to attend Rapunzel and Flynn’s wedding (yeah, I buy this fan theory), the King and Queen’s ship goes down despite the best efforts of the captain.
 Wave 1
"COME ON YOU BITCH!"

“COME ON YOU BITCH!”

Wave 2
Funeral. Sad Anna. Do you want to build a snowman? Mouse cries like a banshee.
A few years later everyone in Arrendelle is getting ready to party most hearty because Elsa is now old enough to assume the throne, thereby becoming the first Disney princess to actually become a Queen.
Relax, relax. I was testing you. You passed.

Relax, relax. I was testing you. You passed.

Ambassadors from all around the world have also arrived in Arrendelle, including representatives from France, Italy and even Ireland. And considering this movie is set in the 1840s, the Irish ambassador was probably only too glad to make the trip.
Irish ambassador

“So, there’s going to be potatoes at this wedding right?” “Oh yes. And other types of food too.” “OTHER TYPES OF FOOD ARE YOU SHITTING ME?”

We’re also introduced to the Duke of Weselton who’s very curious as to why Arrendelle shut its gates all those years ago and is played by Alan Tudyk. And after the last character Alan Tudyk played you can bet I’ve got my eye on this guy.
Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice? I cut you.

Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice? I cut you.

But nobody is as excited about the coronation as Anna, who is giddy at the thought of actually having real person people to talk to (instead of just the mannequin village that she’s assembled in the attic) and runs through the palace singing The First Time In Forever. I don’t actually think there is a single bad song in this movie (no, not even the one you’re thinking of), in my opinion they range from “good” to “serious contender for the best thing ever”. First Time In Forever falls somewhere in the middle of the pack, not quite hitting the giddy heights of Wanna Build  a Snowman? but still very good. The contrast between Anna’s glee and Elsa’s utter dread is brilliantly contrasted with the use of the same line to give a very different meaning : “It’s agony to wait!”/”It’s agony to wait…” And Kirsten Bell as Anna is just adorkable. In fact, despite the absolutely phenomenal work by Idina Menzel, I have to credit Bell as this cast’s MVP. She rocks this so hard.
Anyway while Anna is strutting around town she gets whalloped by Hans of the Southern Isles (Santino Fontano) riding his horse. Hans apologises and the two have an instantaneous attraction (the best kind. It’s so convenient). The coronation goes off mostly without a hitch and at the party afterwards Elsa seems to be more relaxed and at ease. But when Anna suggests that, hey, maybe we don’t live like shut-in crazy people anymore? Elsa puts the the boot down and Anna wanders off and runs into Hans. They spend the rest of the night talking and swapping sibling stories, and he tells her how he has twelve older brothers and that three of them pretended he was invisible for two years. Pff. Big deal. My brother built a machine that actually turned me invisible for two years.
"Ha! It works! VICTORY IS MINE!"

“Ha! It works! VICTORY IS MINE!”

iNVISIBLE MOUSE
"“Are…are you ignoring me? Or did you leave?”"

““Are…are you ignoring me? Or did you leave?””

iNVISIBLE MOUSE
“Curses! Map of Islamic State!”

“Damnation! Map of Islamic State!”

"Durr, yeah boss?"

“Durr, yeah boss?”

“My accursed brother has escaped! Find him at once!”

“My accursed brother has escaped! Find him at once!”

"Durr, okay boss."

“Durr, sure thing boss.”

iNVISIBLE MOUSE
iNVISIBLE MOUSE

“Idiot.”

This leads us into Love is an Open Door, a peppy little duet between Hans and Anna where they sing about their shared love of sandwiches. By the time it’s finished, Hans has proposed and Anna gleefully accepts for he is totes dreamy.
"Whoah whoah whoah! Slow down guys."

“Whoah whoah whoah! Slow down guys.”

Of course, before she can marry Anna needs the blessing of someone very important to her.
"Young man, what are your intentions towards my crazy person?"

“Young man, what are your intentions towards my crazy person?”

No, Elsa of course. Anna asks for permission to Hans and Elsa tells her that she can’t marry someone that she’s just met.
“Besides. You’ve been betrothed to the Duke of Weselton since you were six.”

“Besides. You’ve been betrothed to the Duke of Weselton since you were six.”

I’ll get into the way this movie deals with the notion of love at first sight later on, for now let’s just continue with the scene. Anna and Elsa argue and Elsa tells everyone that the party’s over. Anna has a real “I can’t go back to the nothing” moment and desperately pleads with Elsa saying “I can’t live like this anymore!”
And Elsa looks her in the eye and whispers “Then leave.”
Boom.
This line, this line right here. I love this line so much because of how emotionally devastating it is both coming and going. It’s devastating for Anna because she thinks her sister is rejecting her and it’s devastating for Elsa because there is nothing she wants more than to show her sister how much she loves her but she can’t. And the guilt and regret and desperation that Idina Menzel manages to work into those two words…I love this film in case I’ve been unclear on that point.
Anyway, Elsa tries to leave and Anna yells at her “What are you so afraid of?!” and Elsa finally loses control of her powers in the most public way imaginable.
"Well. Now they know."

Well. Now they know.

The Duke of Weselton freaks out and starts throwing around words like “Monster!” and “Sorcery!” in a distressingly cavalier manner. Elsa runs outside in panic and terrifies the townspeople when she freezes the fountain and makes her escape running across the ocean like a frosty Jesus. Arrendelle is now Title of Movie and caught under a permanent snowfall and Anna calls for her horse so that she can go after Elsa. Hans is worried but Anna assures him  that Elsa’s not dangerous.
Subsequent events will not bear this out.

Subsequent events will not bear this out.

Hans agrees to look after Arrendelle while she’s gone (wow, what a nice guy) and Anna rides off on her horse who is not named in the movie but who I have decided to call Zebra Neck.
Zebra Neck
Meanwhile in the mountains, Elsa sings a song called Let it go.
It’s fine.
But dammit, it’s no Am I Feeling Love!
Ha ha…
Guys? Guys it was a joke.
I’m sorry. I am very, very sorry.
Would...would money smooth things?

Would…would money make amends?

Okay, here are my thoughts on Let it go. It’s not (in my opinion) the best Disney song. It’s up there. Definitely. No question. If you told me this was the best Disney song I could very, very respectfully disagree with you on that. It is, however (again, in my opinion) the best performance of a Disney song. Idina Menzel tops them all here. Better than Jodi Benson singing Part of Your World, better even than Tony Jay’s rendition of Hellfire. The emotional agility she displays here is jaw-dropping.
“Snow glows white on the mountain tonight, not a footprint to be seen” Lonely.
“A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the Queen.” Bitterly ironic.
“This wind is howling like this swirling storm inside, couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried.” Regretful.
“Don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be” Angry.
“Conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know. Well now they know!” Devastated.
“Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back any more.” Barely controlled panic.
“Let  it go, let it go, turn away and slam the door.” Defiant.
“I don’t care, what they’re going to say.” Satisfied.
“Let the storm rage on.” Joyful.
“Cold never bothered me anyway.” Bad. Fucking. Ass.
And she hits every single note perfectly. I don’t really think there’s anything else I can say about this song that hasn’t been said already in a million different articles. Let’s be honest, this is the reason this movie is a cultural phenomenon and not just another very good Disney movie. This song is what made Frozen a generational touchstone. This is the song that my daughter asks to hear again and again, and that she has worked out an elaborate choreographed dance routine to go along with it. And, may I remind you, she’s frickin’ two.
All I can say is, Disney better hurry up with the Broadway version cause I really, really want to see this performed onstage.
On an entirely unrelated topic, let’s take a moment to remember the great horses of the Disney canon. Achilles from Hunchback of Notre Dame. Khan from Mulan. Maximus from Tangled. Although they only played a supporting role, they were true heroes. Loyal, wise, and fearless.
And then there’s Zebra Neck.
If Zebra Neck was in a theatre and someone yelled “fire!” he’d trample his own mother to get to the exit. He is just the worse kind of craven coward. Heck, Philippe in Beauty and the Beast may have abandoned Maurice in the woods but at least there were actual wolves and it was a scary forest in the middle of the night. And he did at least go back. Zebra Neck panics  and ditches Anna in the mountains, in broad daylight, when some snow falls off a branch.
out of the genus
Anna finds Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post (ooh, and sauna!) which is run by Oaken, who has a big bushy brown moustache and eyebrows and talks in an outrageous Scandinavian accent wait just a damn minute here!
Swedish Chef

Oh my God. Disney, you whores!

Here she runs into the now adult Kristof (Jonathan Groff) who’s in a bad mood because he sells ice for a living and Elsa has put him out of business with her frosty shenanigans. His day goes from bad to worse when he calls Oaken a crook for jacking up his prices (and you would think an ice-seller would understand the concept of supply and demand) and gets thrown out. Anna buys the supplies he wanted and gives them to him on condition that he takes her up the mountain.
No, that he takes her up the mountain… that he brings her up the mountain. With his sled. And his reindeer. Alright?
Y’all have dirty minds. And besides, may I remind you that she’s engaged?
In fact the impending nuptials soon come up in conversation and Kristof is aghast that she’s decided to marry someone she just met. He asks her what will happen if it turns out Hans is into stuff that she doesn’t like, like picking his nose and eating it (and Bell’s indignant line reading of “Excuse me sir, he is a prince.” is just glorious). Now, I’ve heard some people complaining about this scene (“yes, marrying someone you just met is stupid WE GET IT”) but I am actually really glad the movie takes as much time as it does to drive this home, especially considering how an entire generation of young girls have taken this movie to heart. Guys, I love Disney. Obviously. To an obsessive, dangerous degree. But the notion that love is something that just happens instantaneously and not as a result of  weeks, months and years of patient building of trust, respect and loyalty is not just a silly romantic idea. It’s fucking dangerous. And if this movie takes a good long time to make that very, very clear to its target audience (especially given some of the movies that have come before in the canon) then I am absolutely on board with that. I am on board and catching a tan on the deck.
And I also don’t think that her infatuation with Hans weakens Anna as a character. I think it makes perfect sense that someone who’s been so isolated and desperate for affection would fall so completely for someone, especially a slab of doe-eyed, soft voiced, epauletted hunkiness like Hans.
This conversation gets cut short by the appearance of some wolves who chase them through the forest. Alright, this right here demonstrates one of the big weaknesses of CGI versus traditional animation. These are the wolves from Beauty and the Beast.
Wolves_(Beauty_and_the_Beast)
 
 And these are the wolves from Frozen.
Wolves frozen
Look at that soft, perfectly rendered fur! I’m not scared of them! I want to give them a frickin’ cuddle!
Anyway, they have to leap a cliff and Kristof’s sleigh falls to the bottom and bursts into flames (and it had just two days to retirement). Anna promises to get him a new sleigh and they continue on their journey.  They find themselves in a beautiful Title of Movie forest and it’s here that we meet Olaf.
Alright, show of hands. Who was dreading Olaf? I recently went back to read some of the old comments from the blog and what really struck me was how utterly un-hyped for Frozen I was before it came out. Not quite dreading, but still really, really, dubious. And I think a large part of that was that frickin Olaf/Sven teaser. Olaf just rubbed me the wrong way that time. I remember recoiling in horror and hissing “Smells of the Gurgi this one does! Hsssssssss!” In their review of Frozen  Doug and Rob Walker talk about almost physically bracing for Olaf’s first appearance. Now of course, everything turned out fine but apparently our trepidation was not entirely without merit. See, when Elsa was still being conceived as a villain, Olaf was going to be her evil lackey, the Iago to her Jafar so to speak. This version of Olaf was apparently so obnoxious that Jennifer Lee’s first note on reading the script was “Kill the fucking snowman”.
You may be shocked at the idea of the people who make Disney movies swearing. If you are, you probably don’t read this blog.

 

"Ub! Get the fuck in here!"

“Ub! Get the fuck in here!”

Ub-iwerks

“What’s the fucking problem, boss?”

"Have you seen these rushes for Sleeping Fucking Beauty? They look like Sleeping Fucking ASS!"

“Have you seen these rushes for Sleeping Fucking Beauty? They look like Sleeping Fucking ASS!”

"Oh fuck me!"

“Oh fuck me!”

"Tell those overpaid pencil monkeys to crack open a manual and look up "Squash and Stretch" and if they're still unclear tell them I'll be happy to demonstrate on their fucking necks?"

“Tell those overpaid pencil monkeys to crack open a manual and look up “Squash and Stretch” and if they’re still unclear tell them I’ll be happy to demonstrate on their pasty thin fucking necks!”

"Mr Disney? Pamela Fucking Travers to see you sir."

“Mr Disney? Pamela Fucking Travers to see you sir.”

"This better be fucking important Pam, what do you fucking want?"

“This better be fucking important Pam, what do you fucking want?”

"What do I want? See this finger? I want to stick it in your fucking eye."

“What do I want? See this finger? I want to stick it in your fucking eye.”

But Olaf was eventually  reconfigured into Anna’s sidekick. Olaf works, or at least I think he does. But why does he work? I actually put it down to Josh Gadd’s very restrained and low-key performance. Now, that might surprise you since everyone thinks of Olaf as the wacky comedy relief. But next time you watch this movie actually listen to Gadd’s line readings. Oh sure, he gives big reads here and there but he’s actually playing the part very subdued for the most part. And I think that’s what makes him so effective comedically and emotionally, the juxtaposition of that incredibly exaggerated face with this very restrained performance. It’s what makes lines like “I don’t have a skull. Or bones.” so funny. I think what makes Olaf so appealing is that he’s a Disney hero in the body of a Disney comic relief character, and that makes him both hilarious and very affecting. I also like how the movie doesn’t deny the inherent, well, creepiness, of Olaf as a concept. When they see a walking talking snowman Kristof and Anna freak out, as well they might. After they talk with him, Anna explains that they have to find Elsa so that they can bring back summer. Olaf perks up at this, because he’s always dreamed of seeing summer for himself and sings In Summer, a charming little comedic number complete where he obliviously sings about how awesome it would be to catch some rays.

"Oh its a jolly holiday with Mary."

“Oh it’s a jolly holiday with Mary…”

 I like the song a lot, but…

Okay, I’m not even sure if I should bring this up because it’s kind of disturbing but at the same time I can’t really pass up an opportunity to show off my animation nerd cred so here it is. This sequence creeps me out a little because the character of Olaf bears a strong but entirely coincidental (no you know what, we need to all caps on this) ENTIRELY COINICIDENTAL resemblance to a snowman character from an old cartoon short called Der Schneerman. Der Schneerman is about a snowman who dreams of leaving winter behind and travelling to the magical land of summer. He gets there and then melts, but he’s happy because it was totally worth it. What makes the short so disturbing is that it’s a German cartoon from 1944, about the time when everyone was realising that “thousand year Reich” might have been a tad overly optimistic. Which kind of puts a new spin on it, dunnit? It’s a short about sacrificing your life for your crazy dream. It’s Nazi propaganda, and it’s also one of the most disturbing fucking things I’ve ever seen.

He wont stop singing. He wont stop singing.

He won’t stop singing. He won’t stop singing.

Now, again. Let me be perfectly clear. Disney did not know this. Disney did not reference this. Disney are not secretly Nazis. It’s just a very unfortunate coincidence that I wish I wasn’t aware of.

Meanwhile, back in Arrendelle the cold is getting worse, people are getting desperate and disputes over whether the bark should be facing up or down are threatening to spill into violence. Hans is distributing blankets and setting up a food kitchen for the populace (gee, what a nice guy) when Zebra Neck arrives back to tell of the horrors he has witnessed.

"It was awful! There...there...there was a TREE...and...and...and...SNOW!"

“It was awful! There…there…there was a TREE…and…and…and…SNOW!”

Hans calls for volunteers to rescue Anna from the trees and snow and the Duke offers two of his lackeys, telling them to kill Elsa if they get the chance.

Anna, Kristof, Sven and Olaf finally reach Elsa’s incredible ice palace and Anna tries to convince Elsa to come home through a reprise of First Time In Forever. Elsa tells Anna to leave her be so that she’ll be safe and Anna tells her that she’s frozen Arrendelle like next week’s dinner and that the kingdom is now in “deep, deep, deep, deep…snow.”

"And Im using "snow" as a euphemism."

“And I’m using “snow” as a euphemism.”

 Now Idina Menzel and Kirsten Bell go into full on power ballad warfare and it is awesome. Elsa’s panic and desperation rises and rises until finally she loses control and blasts Anna with her ice magic while the soundtrack reminds us to “beware the frozen heart”.

"Yeah...no snow Sherlock."

“Yeah…no snow…Sherlock.”

 Kristof and Olaf come running and Elsa finally has enough and creates Marshmallow, a massive snow-bouncer to chase them off the mountain. Anna’s hair starts turning white so Kristof says that they need to meet his friends “the love experts”. Olaf says that he considers himself a “love expert” which is interesting when you consider the theory that he’s a manifestation of Elsa’s love for her sister.

Marshmallow, on the other hand, represents the time Anna borrowed her sweater without asking.

Marshmallow, on the other hand, represents the time Anna borrowed her sweater without asking.

 Anyway, it turns out that as a child Kristof was taken and raised by trolls (which, okay, THAT is something trolls would totally do). Kristof introduces Anna and Olaf to them but they just pretend to be rocks so that he looks crazy because, y’know, they’re total trolls. I bet they do this whenever he brings friends over. Anyway, they finally acknowledge his presence and instantly try to set up Anna and Kristof which brings us to Fixer-Upper, by far the least popular song in the movie. In fact, a lot of people seem to loathe this song and I gotta ask: what’s the issue guys? Is it the clunky way it rhymes? Or the dumpy way it…rhymes? I actually really like this song, while still thinking that it’s probably the weakest in the film. It’s certainly a lot less polished, but I think it’s catchy and charming and it actually sums up the central theme of the movie very well: “People make bad choices/When they’re scared or hurt or stressed/ But throw a little love their way/And you’ll bring out their best.” I mean, that’s the movie right there. Another reason I think people don’t like this song is because this movie has pretty much the exact same problem as Mulanthat it forgets it’s a musical around halfway through and since Fixer Upper is the final song it leaves a bad taste in people’s earholes. I think we’re missing at least two songs in this movie, a villain song and a big finale number. Hopefully that’ll be addressed if they ever do a stage version. Anyway, Anna passes out and Grandpoppy rolls up and tells them that the only cure for a frozen heart is an act of true love, which everyone assumes is a true love’s kiss because of course they do. This is the Disney universe, true love’s kiss cures everything from death to piles (although finding a kisser for the latter can be quite difficult). So they ride off to find Hans.

Hans, however, is leading a force of men to Elsa’s castle (now THAT’s a man. So take-charge) and shit kicks off with Marshmallow. The Duke’s two lackeys break into the castle and corner Elsa which is a really, really bad idea. This scene is about as close to full-on villain as Elsa gets in this movie, almost impaling one man and almost shoving another out the window to his death.

"Hey asshole! Are you familiar with the expression "Lazy..."

“Hey asshole! Are you familiar with the expression “Lazy…”

3

Lazy

“BASTARD”

4

"KOOKABURRAS?!"

“KOOKABURRAS?!”

 Hans manages to talk her out of icing them (sorry) but then one of the goons tries to shoot her with his crossbow but Hans blocks the shot (he’s so dashing) and instead the bolt hits Elsa’s big snowflake chandelier…thing causing it to collapse and knock her unconscious.

Elsa wakes up in the castle dungeon wearing the iron mittens of chastisement and Hans begs her to undo the winter. Elsa says that she can’t and begs to be let go but Hans can promise that he’ll do what he can. Kristof brings Anna back to the palace and tells the staff to bring her to Hans. So of course we get the scene where Hans kisses her and cures her frozen heart and wait, wait, wait what the hell is this?!

kiss

 

So yeah. It is at this point that I must throw up my hands and admit that I didn’t actually see this twist coming.

Now don’t get me wrong, I knew that Hans and Anna weren’t going to end up together, that was obvious as soon as they started pointing out how idiotic marrying someone you just met is, but I thought they were going to do an Enchanted style switch, with Kristof pairing up with Anna and Hans and Elsa tying the knot at the end.

"They were both voiced by Idina Menzel for chrissakes!"

They were both voiced by Idina Menzel for chrissakes!

Now, I don’t have a problem with Han’s face-heel turn. I actually think it’s quite brilliant and makes the movie much stronger for it. But I’d be lying if I said that Hans doesn’t disappoint me bitterly as a villain. See, from that very first line “Oh Anna, if only there was someone out there who loved you.” Hans was poised in my mind to join the very, very best Disney villains. I’ve talked about The Moment before, and Hans-as-villain introduces himself with The Moment.  But here’s the thing, he doesn’t follow through. His plan is ridiculous. What, you think that you can just claim the throne because you said you married the princess? Yeah. No. Monarchy no worky that way. Hell, marriage, no worky that way. You need witnesses. You need a frickin’ priest. Besides, marrying a princess only gets you the title of Prince Consort. If Elsa and Anna are both dead and have no issue, the throne reverts to Agdar’s oldest living male relative. Oh shut up Mouse, it’s a cartoon. Fine. But it’s still monumentally stupid for him to just leave Anna still alive in the living room where anyone can find her. Dude, you can’t wait five minutes for her to freeze? FIVE MINUTES? And then there’s that bit where Anna says “You’ll never get away with this!” and he answers “I already have.”

Okay, one? Get a writer. Republic Pictures called and they want their stock phrase back.

Two? NO YOU HAVEN’T! YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY GOTTEN AWAY WITH THIS! THE SUCCESS OF YOUR PLAN IS AT A CRUCIAL JUNCTURE!

See, this is why Hans is not ready for the big leagues. And that’s gutting for me, the only really weak point in an otherwise very, very strong movie. This kid could have been a champ. He had such a fantastic start. And he threw it all away.

Broke my heart you bastard.

Broke my heart, you bastard.

 Alright, so Hans tells the ambassadors that Anna is dead (five minutes. It would have taken five minutes, but hey, you’re a busy guy whatever) and the Duke says that they have to kill Elsa. Elsa meanwhile, has plans other than dying today, and uses her powers to break out of the dungeon and escape across the frozen fiord fiyord fiiyord inlet and my apologies to Ms Sue Townsend. Olaf finds Anna in the palace (but how? Hans took such precautions!) and lights a fire to keep her alive, even though he’s risking his own life to do it because, as he explains “Some people are worth melting for.” (Olaf, you silver tongued devil.) Olaf sees Kristof and Sven riding back towards Arrendelle as fast as they can and Anna realises that her one true love is not the guy she met three days ago but the guy she met two days ago and Olaf helps her outside to get to Kristof. Meanwhile, Hans has chased Elsa out onto the ice and we’re all set for our big climax. Kristof, Hans, Elsa, Anna, Ice, Storm, GO!

As Anna and Kristof try to reach each other through the storm, Hans catches Elsa and tells her that her sister is dead and that it’s all her fault. Elsa collapses and the storm disappears. Suddenly the way is clear and Anna can see Kristof. But she also sees Hans about to kill her sister and so the throws herself in front of his sword just before she turns into solid ice.

And, no lie. This shot of her last breath escaping is so beautiful that every time I see it I gasp.

And, no lie, this shot of her last breath escaping is so beautiful that every time I see it I gasp in wonder.

 So now we come to the whole point of this movie. The point being that there are many, many kinds of love aside from the “boy meets girl” variety that makes up such a massive part of our fiction. The act of true love that thaws Anna’s heart is her selfless sacrifice to save her sister.

As Elsa weeps for her, Anna transforms back into flesh and blood. Elsa realises that love is the secret to controlling power and draws away all the ice and transforms it into a massive snowflake that flies off and I’m sure will never bother anyone again.

"Damn you Elsa!"

“Damn you Elsa!”

 And now, all that’s left is the wrap up. Elsa gives Olaf his own personal flurry so he won’t melt and Anna confronts Hans. He asks her why she’s not dead and she says “The only frozen heart around here is yours” which is a lame comeback and then she punches him in the frickin’ face which is a much better comeback. Kristof is made the royal ice getter guy (which is nice for him, but if there is any royal family in history less in need of ice it’s this one) and he and Anna kiss.

Know what I love about this ending?

Kristof and Anna end up together and that’s fine. Elsa doesn’t end up with anyone and that’s also fine. They go ice-skating, they have fun and then they go off and win a ton of awards and make more money than any other animated movie in history.

The End.

The End.

***

Okay, I want you to imagine you had a friend in school. And she was just the sweetest, most good-hearted person you knew. She was, maybe, a little old-fashioned. A little naive, even. But she was just pure sunshine. She just made you feel so happy to be around her. And you grew up and you drifted apart, but you sometimes find yourself wondering about her. Did she ever change? Well, she must have done. The world is a tough place, and you either get tough or it grinds you down. And then, years later, you meet her again. And something absolutely wonderful has happened. She’s still the same. Oh sure, she’s older and wiser now. And she realises that some of the things she held to be true aren’t. But all the important ways, she stayed the same. She’s still the sweetest, most good-hearted person you know. She’s still pure sunshine.

That’s Frozen for me.

Watching this movie for the first time, I was in tears. Tears of pure joy. This is such a beautiful, warm-hearted, wonderful movie and it represents Disney at its finest.

Thank you for the last two years. I wouldn’t have missed a moment of it.

Scoring:

Animation: 18/20

Beautiful, lustrous and with some wonderful character design, but just not quite in the very top tier.

"MENTION THE FABRICS!."

“MENTION THE FABRICS!.”

"Sigh. My wife would like to make mention of the animation of fabric in this movie which is phenomenal."

“Sigh. My wife would like me to make mention of the animation of fabric in this movie which is phenomenal.”

"Which you did not notice."

“Which you did not notice.”

"Shut up."

“Shut up. Sweetheart.”

Leads: 20/20

Two of the all time greats.

Villain: 14/20

He coulda been a contenda.

Supporting Characters: 18/20

Hey guys, we were just talking about you. All good things, all good things.

Music: 20/20

Phenomenal.

NEXT UPDATE:  16 October 2014

NEXT TIME: DON’T! GO! ANYWHERE! We are not done here! Next week two VERY important updates go up. Firstly, I’ll be announcing my final definitive ranking for the entire canon as well your choices for best canon movie and favourite Unshaved Mouse review. Second, I will be making a couple of very big announcements about the future of the blog. See you then. Mouse out.

 

 

203 comments

  1. Okay, so first of all you can’t have Elsa/Sven slashfic. Because slashfics only work if the two characters are the same gender. Also, I have two problems with this movie. The first is that it’s so all-pervasive that you can’t avoid it even if it annoys you, which it does by the sixtieth time that you’ve wondered if small children these days have any shirts without a picture of Elsa on them. The second is that, due to Elsa’s not having a love interest, people automatically assume that she must be a lesbian, because we all no that if you turn eighteen and you don’t have a boyfriend you must be a lesbian, which sort of misses the entire point. So the movie’s not bad, but the marketing and fans are.

  2. So, funny story, Zootopia’s come out, but I never got to see it in theatres, so I’d rather not read its review at this point, but I FINALLY twisted my sister’s arm enough to have a movie night with her and watch this, so I can read this review I’ve been avoiding for who knows how long. So, let’s see what the mouse thinks. And let’s see what me thinks of what mouse thinks (warning, likely a novel’s worth).

    Hmm, surprised Rapunzel’s around to give you those smirks of hers. Did she somehow evade her brutal punishment you’d sentenced her for making you have to review Dinosaur? Maybe you set the angry mob on her and she just bludgeoned them all to the grave with her frying pan, I noticed they weren’t there to get mad for that dig at Let It Go. In any case, I loved Anna’s reverse Gretl Von Trapp-ing Elsa awake to get into some snowy shenanigans, such a cute moment. That scene was pretty impressive, but when watching it, I did know that wasn’t the first time I’d seen a flurry inside a castle, the first of course being… Wait a minute, was Kay the same Kay from Snow Queen? Was that the real reason why he was so nonchalant about Merlin’s Wizard Blizzard? Has anyone else noticed this before?!?

    I guess most of your arguments made sense, though I did find it a bit of a wonder the trolls deliberately kept Anna’s memories of her relationship with Elsa during their little obliviate episode. You’d think they’d have seen it coming that retaining those memories would only make Elsa’s being forced to be so closed off to Anna sting more for her. Especially because she couldn’t know the reason for the sudden personal barrier. Though I guess perhaps they didn’t know Elsa would withdraw as much as she did. Poor Anna.

  3. Wow. You sure inverted my emotions at a rapid rate, that jab at Kida made me laugh out loud for, like, half a minute. Especially how mad she got at it, oh man. And for the record, I remembered her, probably specifically because you mentioned it when reviewing Atlantis. Poor low-grossing movies. Always in the shadow. Even if just about every movie seems to be in Frozen’s shadow (I’ve even heard a couple of Mulan fans say it’s taken a bit of undeserved recognition). Totally agree about Anna though, I really loved her in this, so much darn charm. Especially all the little quirks the filmmakers weren’t afraid to give her.

    Yeowch, did Pegasus just get snubbed? Well, dang. And in any case, interesting you should bring up the relatively heavily delivered message that love’s not a first-sight thing. I have memories of a certain Disney adaptation of an Andersen work that made me rethink the relatively juvenile romantic fixations of my youth. That was The Little Mermaid. Yeah, I was sixteen at the time (young and foolish by my age’s standards, but old and wise to those of anyone in the single-digit age), and it probably didn’t hurt just how scary I find Ursula, but all that trouble was enough to make me think maybe don’t go so headlong into this whole love thing, even if it was all resolved in the end. I don’t think that’s truly here nor there concerning your argument, I just thought it was funny how one of the “potentially harmful message” movies had a bit of a reverse effect on me. As for Kristoff himself, his arc gave me a bit of an Emmett Richmond vibe, which I’m not sure I particularly enjoyed, but I guess you can’t say there wasn’t a point to it.

    C’mon, don’t blame Zebra Neck for being afraid of trees. He’s probably a German breed. And you’ve seen those trees in Snow White, right? Being from that kingdom would make you petrified of trees as well. And dang, you really pulled off that troll pun. Made me guffaw there. Though yeah, when I watched this movie, everyone was actively putting down the trolls’ musical number by the time it came on. And to be fair, I can’t remember the tune for the life of me. Loved Elsa’s one-liner here though. And honestly, every time someone got left hanging over a cliff in this movie, I’d say “Long live the king.” out loud and chuckle to myself.

  4. By the sounds of it, we’re both in the same boat regarding Hans and Olaf. Hans was probably a bit of a weak link to me. I think especially because his portrayal didn’t make his ruse make much sense in hindsight. Especially his going out of the way to save Elsa, whom he said later on he was counting on to drop dead. And, as you pointed out, he had all those genuinely nice moments which came off a bit hard to buy as a front.

    As for Olaf, I actually liked him a lot, to a surprising degree, really. I found his air (snow?)headed cheerfulness pretty good comic relief in such an emotionally heavy movie. Though I was pretty surprised you didn’t take the opportunity his line at the hearth gave to bring up Andersen’s apparent affinity to make his characters melt in his stories (does anyone actually melt in The Snow Queen though? It’d be a tad ironic if that was the one where no one did). I kind of felt that moment seemed like a better candidate for thawing Anna than what actually did. Anyone can regretfully sob over a dead body, but risking death to try to preserve someone’s life? That’s love right there. Then again, the way the troll worded the cure, it does seem open for the interpretation that Anna in fact saved herself by taking that blade for Elsa. It would make sense that a heart would thaw if its owner does something the opposite of cold-hearted. By the sounds of it, that’s how you saw it too. I still would’ve liked for Elsa to get a big heroic moment, as giving Anna the final defining move didn’t do much to counterbalance the one-sidedness of their relationship (an understandable one, yes, but one that had room for development).

    I’ve got to say though, I did like how the movie didn’t make any kind of deal about Elsa’s ending up single. Brave flaunted that with Merida close to the point of coming off as trying too hard, but here, it wasn’t even treated as an issue. I like that kind of subtlety, to be honest. And hmmm, maybe the male mice would notice the fabrics more readily if the female mice didn’t dismiss them, saying to “leave the sewing to the women” whenever fabrics are involved. Ever thought of that, Mrs. Mouse? Also, where’s the final score of the final movie? What, did the computer end up Title Of Movie just before you typed it in?

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