The best stories, the best art, change with us. I’m recently replaying the
for the first time in nearly fifteen years. The weight of the story and its characters were lost on 20-year-old Jed, but 34-year-old me finds it deeply affecting. The mood and weight of it speaks to me on a very adult level. Not adult as in mature, but adult as in how I’ve grown from being a teenager. Looking back, when I first played the game in college, I was a different person with difference experiences. Life was, for the most part, new to me. It wasn’t as real. Now, however, I have the telltale lines of age on my face and the stories to go with each one. It’s the mark of good art to touch a person’s soul in ways they didn’t expect at just the right moment and stick with them their entire life. Great stories help and heal as well as entertain. A spoonful of sugar and all that.
have been this for me and, now, I can safely add
didn’t initially capture my attention. I was, sadly, not present for “Frozember”. I knew very little about it at the time and dismissed it as something that wasn’t for me. I thought (wrongly) that it was damsel-in-distressy and passed it over for being geared toward young girls. I missed out and went about my way.
By the time I got around to watching it shortly after it was released on BluRay, the hype-train had propelled itself into pop culture with the force of a thousand
. I’d heard from some that it was ok while others say it was the best Disney movie ever made. My age has granted me a fair amount of cynicism and I went in with expectations in check. It couldn’t be as fresh and fun as
; how could it? It would never touch my favorite Disney movie
and enjoyed them for the fun and breezy stories they told. I was prepared for something cute, light, and ultimately, another decent Disney movie. What I wasn’t prepared for was something that spoke to a very real issue in my life. That March afternoon, alone on the couch, I felt a connection to a cartoon character that still sticks with me months later.
The best way to talk about my relationship with this movie is to start at the end and work backwards. Spoilers for my life follow.
In November I was diagnosed with, among other things, severe depression. It’s something I’ve dealt with my entire life, and I only just now got to the bottom of why my Check Engine light was on. The huge ups and the dangerous downs were a matter of course for my life and they were taking their toll. I’m going to get married in a less than a year and I realized I needed to be alive for the wedding. I’m not living my life solely for myself and I had to make drastic changes.
Back to that March evening on the couch. Watching the film, I was taken by the depictions of the two leads, Anna and Elsa. They weren’t Princesses merely there to be married off or put in harms way only to be saved by a man. It’s refreshing and encouraging to see two women that are such good models for young girls. Six minutes into the film and I felt it was living up to the hype. Songs weren’t half bad either.
Basically at this point, it was the opposite of Up for me. The first ten minutes of Up were the most heart-wrenchingly real moments in recent Disney animation, and the rest of the film played as something of an afterthought. Great movie, but it’s overshadowed by its powerful prologue. The beginning of Frozen played as a sweet tale of sisterly fun that pulls you into a believable relationship and instantly tears those bonds away.
This candy-colored cartoon, seemingly about a singing snowman, Trojan-horsed it’s way into my life and introduced me to a kindred spirit. She was scared. Her pain was getting stronger. She kept the ones she loved at arms length to avoid hurting them. Elsa and I were going through the same thing. Being trapped in your own mind and body, constantly anxious and full of dread or bursting with unchecked elation. It’s a unique pain many don’t understand in this day and age. “Just cheer up. Everyone has a bad day.” We fake it for ourselves as well as them, but the front can only be held for so long. As humans we’re only so strong.
I still remember the chills I got when I heard the words for the first time:
It was how I was living my life for years. I understood how she lived and felt the struggle every day. People telling you to calm down. They had no idea. Telling you to control it. It was a fallacy. There was absolutely no control to this thing. How could anyone know? Hearing these truths out loud in of all places, a Disney movie, struck me like a bolt. The feelings of isolation and fear. Fear that whatever cold darkness tangled up inside would hurt the friends trying to help. Keeping yourself apart from a world that treats you like a monster. Removing yourself from people before they pushed you away. I had no more control over my emotions than I would over a Scandinavian blizzard or a biblical rain of frogs.
It’s exhausting to live in close proximity with someone who is depressed. It’s stressful sometimes being our friend. Anna was at her wits end. She was confused and didn’t understand. Was it something she did? Could she have done anything differently? She begged to be let in. It’s not easy being on the outside but Elsa felt that letting anyone in would only lead to disaster. The only way to feel safe is to put up an impenetrable wall, or in this case, a flash blizzard covering the land in fresh blankness. It’s in this emptiness that Elsa created her own world where she would rule. No one to get hurt by and nobody to put in danger.
Upon hearing “Let It Go” for the first time, I understood something about myself. I knew millions of people had listened to it in their car on the way to work or played it for their kids for the billionth time. At that moment, however, it felt written for me. It perfectly encapsulated what I wanted and needed: to be comfortable in my isolation. Months later it’s taken on a different, more responsible flavor, that of having the presence of mind to be safe in my own wreck of a brain. It’s a song that can be a rallying cry for the depressed and the lonely to be on their own and, at the time, it was empowering for me to be alone and free. It’s since become a mantra for me, not to keep people out but to let my own emotions have breathing room. It took a single Disney song to tell me that I shouldn’t be afraid of myself.
Elsa is so focused on herself that she pushes Anna away and, in doing so, ends up doing what she always feared. Anna is mortally hurt and Elsa has only herself to blame. What people see is someone who is dangerous and needs to be put away. They don’t see the person inside who hurts, who is scared. When confronted with something they don’t understand, they react with fear and mistrust. It’s easier that way. Apathy is their solution and, unfortunately, one many choose when faced with mental illness. Reacting violently is akin to merely turning your back or passing misguided judgement. What a person needs, at that precise moment, is someone to listen. Anna loves Elsa; there is no doubt. She put her sisters needs above her own and quite literally battled the elements in order to bring her back safely. What was missing was something I’ve found to be absolutely vital in the past year and that is someone just asking me what was on my mind. What was happening in my life. What about me felt wrong and misaligned. Thinking you can fix mental illness by talking at it only puts a bandage on the laceration. A kind ear makes the world of difference and it was what personally saved me.
Elsa fell into the trap that I’ve been in for nearly my entire life. We took what our emotions and brain told us as gospel. We couldn’t allow another’s perspective. Years of being told what should happen and what could happen did nothing. Asking for my voice in the fog was what helped turn the corner. Elsa should have sung “Let It Go” not to herself, but to her sister. Making the people who loved me understand what I’m going through is absolutely the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. In the end my fears were unfounded: they loved me and they understood. Of course they did and why shouldn’t they? It took Anna sacrificing herself to put Elsa’s true self into perspective. True love isn’t a kiss or a fairy tale wedding. It’s putting yourself on the line to be there for a person who means everything to you. Not just putting the needs of another before your own but to allow the wall of snow to melt and allow a loved one in. It’s what saved Elsa, Anna, Jed, and millions of others.
The absolute best part of the film is that Elsa is never “cured” of her powers. Not only does she live with them but the kingdom around her accepts her differences and no longer fears her. They have an open mind and understand. It’s truly a story of being happy with who you are and letting ourselves be helped by the people who care most. It’s a refreshing story and a mature one at that. Disney has always had that facet in their films, the mature thread that can speak to anyone of any age. A spoonful of sugar and all that.
Watching the film now while writing this is a different experience. At first I saw the world through Elsa’s eyes and felt empowered and free. Now, however, I’m next to Anna looking in. It’s an unenviable position to be in to be sure. To slam your fists against the wall put up by the most important person in your life is painful, heartbreaking, and tiring. I admire so much that Anna never gave up and that’s the difference in anyone’s life who is going through a personal hardship. Someone who is your guide through life when you’re not aware of the pain you’re causing to others and to your own self. Anna never lost hope in Elsa and, to me, that’s as dramatic a battle as the dragon in
. The internal battles are very real and only too common. It’s so great that Disney has captured it in such a beautiful, mature and responsible way. Leave it to a company that has touched so many hearts and lives with a talking mouse and duck to tell the most human stories.
Is my experiences subjective? Absolutely. Will everyone relate to it? Not at all and quite honestly, I hope many don’t. The fact of the matter is art itself is subjective and that’s the point. What can be a fun romp for one can be a life-changing experience for another. Great art can and should be both. If every time I watched Frozen I was thrown into an introspective tidal wave, I would be a quivering mess every time I heard “Do You Want To Build A Snowman”. It’s a film that has taught many things to me, even after a year has passed. It’s fun and silly and I can laugh and forget the cares of the day. Olaf is just plain great. The songs are great to dance to while cleaning the house. No story is just one thing; the same way no one person is just one flat personality. People change just as the stories change with us. It’s that thought that brings me comfort.
helped me when I was at my worst. The great part? It’s still there now that I’m at my best. I’m glad I let it into my life.
, to me, is what defines the Disney Revival. Mature storytelling that transcends gender and age. It feels timeless like (most) of the 52 animated features that preceded it. Is it my favorite Walt Disney movie ever? No, that honor still belongs to Pinocchio. It’s definitely in good company, however. While
? Where would you rank it in our Disney Revival Rundown?
Another film that I loved. Though when Fixxer Upper was finished, there the moment of a race to the finish cause we had to go find Hans, Elsa being captured and saved, find out Hans was the bad guy (even though it was pretty obvious IMO), “defeat” Hans, and restore Arrendale. Other than that its still a good film.
Another favorite top 10 Disney of mine and also countless of many singing girls, moms, sisters, wives, guys (even soldiers) across the globe who couldn’t get enough of “Let it Go”. Every bit of the film is breathtaking. From the song Vuelie which (sort of) sets the tone of the movie, the CinemaScope visuals which created a film reminiscent of classic films such as Sleeping Beauty and The Sound of Music, to the architecture of both Arendelle and Elsa’s ice castle, as well as a musical film reminiscent of the Disney Renaissance (although Tangled’s song were great, they don’t seamlessly integrated with in-story dialogues the way the 90s films were).
Earning over nearly $1.3 billion in the WWBO is a testament of how far Disney and even animation goes in the realm of cinema. The hype throughout the course of its run had never felt as great as when the 1st half of the Disney Renaissance were. People were singing to the songs, the film’s winter setting (coincidently a deadly snowstorm that cover most parts of the US which didn’t , Frozen merchandise were booming, it feels like a perfect storm of success
I agree indeed, Frozen is exactly what WDAS really needed to show the shareholders and the executives that WDAS is a beast to reckon with. This will make WDAS as valuable as Pixar for the shareholders. That will give WDAS more freedom what they want with thier movies. (Great stuff!)
Tied with Tangled, I think Frozen is as good as The Little Mermaid. They does not have the emotional power of the Lion King or the alomst perfect character-progression and story of Beauty and the Beast. But these three princess flicks are still really good films with strong female characters, memorable comic reliefs and the musical and way their entertaining stories are told.
Frozen along with Tangled is just only barley outside of mine top 10 in flavor of other great Disney flicks. (They are around 13th-14th place in my list)
But they are really good movies in their own right and Frozen does definitely deserve the cultural impact as The Little Mermaid get which launched the Disney Renaissance. Not get me wrong, Tangled did in my opinion launched the Disney Revival in the same way Little Mermaid did creativity who show what of kind of filmmaker WDAS are. WDAS was not trusted as much as Marvel and Pixar among the executives unitl the release of Frozen. It was then Lasseter and Catmull could prove for the executives what these talents at WDAS is capable of.
I still don’t truly feel the love for this movie. I like it for a lot of things – the soundtrack (aside from one gripe I’ll get to in a sec), the clean old-fashioned timeless feel that it has, the grand visual scope, the humor, pretty much everything works for me except for one thing – a real emotional connection.
Yes, I did almost cry watching “Do You Want to Build a Snowman”, and the “Let It Go” sequence still very much gives me chills. My biggest issue is that, while it’s clearly supposed to be about the two sisters, I barely get to see them together – they have 4 scenes together in a 102-minute film. This might not bug me as much if the film didn’t also have it’s focus on Anna-Kristoff and Anna-Hans – I get what they’re going for at the end with subverting the “true love” cliche, but in the end, I just don’t feel a strong connection to the sister relationship. Also, the way Olaf’s symbolic significance is mentioned in one scene and then shrugged off immediately bugs me – his character felt like a (amusing) distraction to me for most of the film, though I did dig that scene by the fireplace.
Aside from that, the music: most of the 90s Disney films had a specific music style to match their culture. This could’ve just gone the straight Broadway-show tune route like it did, but when they start out with “Vuelie” and “Frozen Heart” and that very Scandinavian-esque sound, it feels annoyingly inconsistent to me.
Overall, I’d still say it’s my favorite of the Revival, I just wish I liked it a little more.
It’s such a shame how much backlash this movie got. It really is a gem.
Mind-boggling indeed to see so much hate over an animated movie.
It did’t get any backlash. Most critics liked it, and a ton of people did as well. Many are just tired of hearing about it now.
Frozen is one of the few movies that I have ever fallen in love with, yes it’s subjective, I couldn’t care what the analysis or reviewers think, I just love it.
My wife and I just watched this again Friday night, making it the 4th or 5th time I’ve seen it. I know I’ve mentioned my problems with the movie before in other posts, so I’m not going to get into that again, but I do want to give a few new thoughts that I noticed while I was watching it again the other night.
First, the soundtrack is fabulous. I think the songs are great and I love the whole “musical” vibe it gives to the movie. I still get chills listening to “For the First Time In Forever,” “Let it Go” (even though I do think the song is too much about being irresponsible, not doing what you should, not caring about what happens to other people, and shrugging off your responsibilities), and the “For the First Time In Forever (Reprise).” All these songs are great and really pull you into the emotion of the film.
Another thing I noticed was the rendering done in the movie. The skin on both Anna and Elsa are fabulous. The first time I watched this movie I couldn’t help but notice how the skin moved realistically over their frames/skeletons and how it folded and rolled so realistically. The light hitting the skin looked so realistic and I loved the details put into even the freckles on Anna’s face and shoulders. It’s very subtle, but it’s there and that, I think, adds to the realism.
One problem I did have was that I felt the models were not pushed as far as they could have been. Watching Tangled last month, it was amazing to see just how far Rapunzel was pushed in the animation process. This, of course, was due to the fact that Glen Keane hand-drew over the rough CG animation and showed the animators how they could push her model further and get some classic animation feel to the character. Unfortunately, this was sorely missing in Frozen. The result was that the human characters felt someone stiff and their movements weren’t as fluid and appealing as they were in Tangled. Of all the characters in Frozen, I felt that Anna’s animation could’ve been pushed more. Her personality just lent itself to that fun, fluid animation that Rapunzel had, but it was missing. I think her character could’ve been much more interesting to watch had they pushed the model further.
Though this is a good film and I do enjoy it, I’m not as “in love” with it as a lot of other people. There are good things about it, but there are also some bad things as well. It’s nowhere near a perfect movie, but it is what it is and it is what Disney needed it to be at the time. I have no doubt that it will remain a favorite of audiences and become a well-loved Disney classic for future generations.
Oh and one more thing…Anna is a way better character than Elsa. Just saying
Beautifully written article! I got the goosebumps reading it, thanks for sharing!
I happen to love Frozen, it happens to be number one on my list as far as the Revival era goes… Why? I’m not sure. Something about it speaks to me… Is it my love of all things icy and cold? Perhaps… Is it the superb songs that seemed to have been missing from Disney (save Tangled) for awhile? Maybe… A story simplistic that revolves around characters and struggles most can relate? Could be… Whatever the reason, I know one thing that did impact me a lot in this movie is the sibling relationship or sometimes lack there of… As someone who has such a great relationship with my siblings, I do indeed think of them as my best friends, seeing a loving sisterly bond ripped apart was very heart breaking to me… But their reuniting… Well I may have shed a few tears. Not to continue to ramble on, but truly I love this movie for it’s portrayal of sibling love… That and of course Olaf…
Great article about a great movie! I love Frozen. I’ve seen every Disney theatrical release, and after watching Frozen more times that I can remember, it’s my favorite. It’s not perfect – no movie is, however there’s something about Frozen that makes the characters and the story so special to me. The concentration on Elsa’s inner struggles make the movie so much more relatable, and I think that’s one reason so many people love this movie.
With catchy music,touching story and beautiful animation frozen won my heart.
Wow! Thank you for sharing this heart-warming experience of yours! I have tears in my eyes! I wish you all the best, always!
Your reflection about art was really insightful. I agree with you that the best part of this new Disney Renaissance is the deepness of plots and characters. Big Hero 6, Wreck it Ralph, Tangled, the list goes on. They were all sooo touching, and I’m sure each helped different people in different ways.
Yes it is a good movie but I’m tired of people saying it’s overrated and really there have been Disney movies before Frozen that people couldn’t get out of their heads but this one felt different like it was a real thing in our world more than a movie and for people like me who have a sister would relate to it more than other people without a sister would or like BH6 with people who don’t have or have brother but to me this is one of those movies that stay with you and can never let it go. (no pun intended)
What else can I say about Frozen, the music, characters, story I love it all! But my friends are ruining it by how they keep showing it up and just won’t shut up!! It just sucks how I can’t call it a favorite because of that
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