In early February, Disney released the posters to their upcoming feature, Frozen. Like most girls of my generation, I grew up with the princesses of the Disney Golden Age and Renaissance and so I can’t help but get excited at the prospect of having a new princess movie to go see. That stated, after viewing the posters and reading what little information there is on the premise, I am not hopeful for this film.
Frozen is supposed to be an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen yet the two premises have next to nothing in common. Andersen’s story is about a little girl named Gerda who embarks on a journey to save her friend, Kai, who has been kidnapped by the Snow Queen. According to Disney, Frozen will be about a young woman named Anna (Kristen Bell) who joins forces with mountain man, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer, Sven, and a goofy snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) to defeat Anna’s sister, Elsa, aka the Snow Queen (Idina Menzel), whose magic has cursed the land with eternal winter. The plot seems solid enough in its own right (without a trailer it’s hard to form much of an opinion) but I just don’t understand why Disney insists on toting Frozen as an adaption of Andersen’s fairy tale when the two stories share nothing but a Snow Queen. Yes, yes, Disney is notorious for its loose adaptations, but at least Bambi, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and even Tangled used the character’s names and some of the motifs from the original works. Additionally, the inclusion of an animal companion and silly sidekick suggests that Frozen won’t be straying far from the standard Disney character tropes we all know and are supposed to love.
One positive note I have for Frozen‘s plot is that its heroine does seem to be self-determined and motivated by an objective other than romance (though Anna and Kristoff’s relationship is so predictable I can already hear Bell and Groff’s love duet). I can’t quite call this progressive since hobbies and spines are two things that Disney has been stamping onto their heroines since the feminist backlash against The Little Mermaid in 1989. Still, I appreciate strong female characters wherever I can find them.
Frozen‘s promotional posters and concept art provide some insight into how the film will look,which leads to my greatest concern for this movie: its painfully generic aesthetic. By all appearances, Frozen might as well be titled Tangled 2: A Very Tangled Christmas. Princess Anna might as well be Rapunzel’s blue-eyed twin, with the wide-eyed smile and blonde hair and identical facial dimensions. It’s as if the financial failure of The Princess and the Frog scared Disney from writing non-caucasian heroines so badly they can’t bring themselves to stray from the teutonic extremes of straight blonde hair and blue eyes. They couldn’t even take a note from Pixar and give their white heroine curly, ginger hair. Furthermore, based on the concept art, Anna’s dynamic with Kristoff is going to be more or less that of Rapunzel and Flynn: the spunky, naive Barbie and the reluctant, lower-class hunk.
I do appreciate that Frozen seems to incorporate Scandinavian designs into its costumes and, hopefully, its architecture. This will at least give the movie a distinct “look,” as opposed to Tangled‘s vaguely medieval western-European aesthetic. I also appreciate that the villain, Elsa, isn’t stereotypically dark-haired or clad in black. I realize that she is the snow queen but that didn’t stop BBC from giving their White Witch black hair and grey skin. I look forward to the day that Disney announces plans to write their first goth princess but until then, I’ll settle for villains dressed in white.
I’m certainly looking forward to Frozen, if only to appease my inner five-year old, but from a critical standpoint Frozen may be further proof that Disney has unofficially declared creative bankruptcy.