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In the new Disney animation “Frozen,” Elsa and Anna are two inseparable sisters and are both the young daughters of the wise and noble rulers of the Scandinavian kingdom called Arendelle. The older daughter Elsa was born with the power to create snow and ice with magic energy that appears instantly from her fingers. One day, however, when Elsa and Anna were playing in the snow, Elsa accidentally blasts her sister in the face and freezes her in the head. Anne’s memory has to be erased as a consequence by the forest trolls, and Elsa promises her parents to never use her magical powers again, and to keep her ability hidden from the world. Later, their parents were tragically drowned at sea, leaving Elsa and Anna as orphans.
After many years of not getting a glimpse of her sister, Anna feels heartbroken that Elsa, once so close, shuts her out and stays confined in her room. On the day of Elsa’s coronation as queen, the gates and doors are opened, yet Elsa is still cold and distant to Anna, vowing to keep complete control over her powers. However, Elsa looses her temper when the naive Anna asks Elsa to bless her love with Prince Hans from a neighboring country, who is a complete stranger that she had just met that very same day. Elsa freezes the palace, starting a never-ending winter in July, and flees to the snowy mountains. With the help of Kristoff, a young man who makes a living as an ice cutter and his adorable reindeer, Anna must find and bring back her sister at all costs to stop the winter, understand the power she knows nothing about, and reconnect with Elsa.
I liked how the characters are complex, with positive attributes as well as negative character traits. Elsa has a strong sense of duty/responsibility and cares deeply about her sister and wants to do whatever she can to protect her. On the outside she is calm and composed; however, she harbors a secret that she can tell no one, not even her sister. Her negative trait is that she is careless and doesn’t think about the consequences of her actions, like when she created a snow monster that nearly killed Anna, and when she hit her sister with ice while she was singing. Anna is very daring and courageous. She is, however, naive especially in terms of romance, and, more often than not, acts before she thinks. Anna is still very optimistic in adversity, and extremely determined to do what is right.
I also enjoyed the visual effects, the best thing about this movie, such as the formation of snowflakes from a single drop of water, the clear, glassy ice, and the swirls of magic that Elsa created. I also noticed an interesting detail: Hans, the name of the prince Anna fell in love with, shares the name with Hans Christian Andersen, the writer of the fairy tale “The Snow Queen” which was the inspiration for this film. However, the fairy tale was completely different from the film. The original story was about a girl who tried to save her brother from a wicked snow queen. The movie is completely different, and only borrows the general idea of Andersen’s original fairy tale.
“Frozen” has a few flaws. If the royals have normal feelings like us, how come Anne did not hold a single grudge against her sister shunning her for so many years, and was still undyingly loyal to Elsa even after she blocked her out of her life for no reason after they were so close before? The snow monster that Elsa summoned was the source of a story flaw and an aesthetic flaw. First of all, the design of the snow giant seems so crude and out of place in the story. The CGI quality on it is the kind of visual effects you would expect to see on a low-budget animation film, not a multimillion dollar Disney production. The story flaw is that the massive snow giant that Elsa summoned to keep her sister out of her castle nearly killed Anna after it became vicious and enraged. The beast provided some action to the film, but I don’t understand why Elsa summoned something that could kill her sister. How would she forgive herself if her only living family member died at the hands of her creation?
The final design flaw is that all of the royalties have perfect and unblemished facial features, yet all of the townsfolk and commoners had unappealing faces: too fat, too thin, or wrinkled and bony. With all of the noble faces looking perfect, it’s no surprise that they all look similar, especially Elsa and Anna, and Prince Hans and Kristoff, with the same facial features and built, and were only differentiated by different hair color, voice, and facial hair (Prince Hans has sideburns).
(Spoiler alert) At the end of the film, to show her gratitude for helping her and saving her life multiple times, Anna bestows the title of “Royal Ice Cutter” to Kristoff (who has also fallen in love with Anna), and pays him a brand new sled. I thought that the idea of the “Royal Ice Cutter” is completely laughable, because Elsa could make ice to the castle whenever needed. And the quality of ice that she could produce is far superior to any ice that Kristoff could find and cut. So, the title given by Anna is utterly useless. The only thing of value that Anna gave Kristoff is a new sled, a gift that required absolutely no sacrifice on her behalf. To thank him for saving her life, she gave him a useless title and a meaningless gift with absolutely no importance. But, I suppose it’s better than nothing. Although I admire Disney’s efforts in trying to bring a new twist to the age old romance, it completely bombed here.
I give Frozen 3.5 starfish. With the exceptions of “The Princess and the Frog” and “Aladdin,” I noticed that every Disney movie about princesses is about white European princesses with perfect faces and “ideal” hour-glass figure. The recent Disney/Pixar movies about princesses such as “Brave” and “Tangled” have essentially the same characters and personalities: feisty, determined, more daring than graceful. The only differences are in their appearances and outfits. I wish the studios have more imagination in creating interesting characters and stories. “Wreck-it-Ralph” from Disney last year is far more interesting and refreshing.
In contrast, I truly enjoy watching Japanese animation such as “Spirited Away.” The animation looks so rich and people seem so real and relatable, unlike puppets. Even though CG adds another dimension, hand-drawn animation can never be replaced for its pure joy and artistry.
Perry Chen is the youngest award-winning film/ entertainment critic & animator, artist, speaker, and entertainment personality. He started writing movie reviews at 8 using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, under the guidance of his mom Dr. Zhu Shen and his 3rd grade teacher Ms. Harris. Perry’s debut on the CBS Evening News in 2009 made him a national sensation. He has been featured extensively on local, national, and international media, including NPR, Fox, CNN, NBC, The Guardian, The China Press, and many more. He has interviewed prominent filmmakers at film festivals, red carpet premieres, and press junkets. He won a prestigious “Excellence in Journalism Award” at the San Diego Press Club in 2010 as its youngest member. Perry currently writes movie reviews for the Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews website with a combined readership of over 2 million worldwide. Perry and his family live in the community of Carmel Valley San Diego.
Dr. Zhu Shen’s love for the movies started when she was a young girl, growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution where watching movies was the only entertainment available to the masses. Her journey to become a filmmaker took a convoluted path. She studied medicine at Peking Union Medical College before coming to the US and earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of Colorado, and then an MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson School. She is a producer of the upcoming documentary feature “Average Joe on the Raw,” about journey into raw food and health. Dr. Shen is also an award-winning biotech executive, author, speaker, China business expert featured on national and trade media including CBS, Fox, Business Week, Pharmaceutical Executive, and more. She has worked at IBM, Bayer, Chiron, Immusol, and is the CEO of BioForesight, consulting on cross-Pacific life science business. *Photos of Perry Chen and Zhu Shen by Brian Bostrom.