For the past year I have kept my feelings on Frozen bottled up inside for fear of being burnt at the stake. Given the Elsa-pocalypse that was this past Halloween I consider myself justified in doing so. The truth is I think the film is hugely overrated. So, in anticipation of the upcoming Deconstructing Frozen’s Script event with Kim Hudson, I would like to take a moment to voice some of my lingering concerns with Disney’s wildly successful film.
First of all, this has to be one of the most loosely based fairy-tale adaptations I have ever seen. For those who never read it growing up, Hans Christian Andersen’s original story was a dark tale about a magic mirror created by the Devil with the power to magnify the worst and ugliest aspects of the world and omit all things good and beautiful. The Devil and his minions attempt to fly the mirror up to heaven to make fools of God and his angels but they lose their grip and it falls to earth and shatters into a million pieces. These shards, some no larger than a grain of sand, float around the world and work their way into people’s eyes and hearts turning cold as ice and causing the victim to see everything through the mirror’s lens of infinite ugliness.
Some of the splinters work their way into the eyes and heart of a sweet little boy named Kai who suddenly becomes cruel and aggressive. Then, while playing in the snow one day he decides to hitch his sled to a mysterious sleigh, which really belongs to the Snow Queen. She is a mysterious woman in white who rules over small, snowflake-like creatures called snow bees. The Snow Queen kisses Kai twice, once to numb him from the cold and again to make him forget about his family and friends, then she drags him off to her snow palace. Most of the village assumes that he has drowned in the river. Lucky for Kai, his very best friend Gerda rejects this assumption and goes on a long and arduous journey to rescue him. When she finally finds him in the icy palace it is her innocence and the purity of her love that ultimately destroys the mirror shards and melts the ice from Kai’s heart.
This theme of pure love is the only element of the original fairytale that I see carried over in Frozen. Even after years of unexplained silence and distance between them, Anna is still willing to sacrifice herself for her sister. And of course there is the concept of “ice” working its way into people’s hearts (and heads). But in the film all this does is literally turn the victim into ice, rather than induce a metaphorical freezing of their personality. Am I really the only one who’s noticed that this “adaptation” is vaguely impressionistic at best? null
I assume that secularization was one reason for the overhaul of the original plot. But looking at some of the recent trends in fairytales, I think it’s safe to say that Disney also wanted to capitalise on the fad of humanising villains. For example, they rode Wicked’s coattails with Oz the Great and Powerful and followed that up with this year’s Maleficent. Not to mention Disney’s very popular Once Upon a Time series on ABC, in which, coincidentally, Anna and Elsa have just made their television debut. Based on the success of this pattern, telling the story from the perspective of the “Snow Queen” herself is an obvious move. Word on the street is that Cruella de Vil is next in line for her own character facelift.
One of the other issues that I take with Frozen is the wide praise that it gets for freshly bucking the traditional Disney tropes. Namely, princesses needing to be rescued by their princes and the unrealistic gender and relationship standards that this sets for young people. It’s as if everyone has already forgotten about Brave (2012) and The Princess and the Frog (2009). null
Even the highly lauded theme of love between sisters is not new to Disney. Lilo and Stitch (2002) also featured a girl who didn’t quite fit in and relied heavily on her sister (her only family) and a small blue alien (Olaf), in order to feel free and accepted in her own skin.
And then there’s the charming sense of self-awareness that Frozen seems to draw to its rejection of the classic Disney stereotypes: I think we can all agree that Enchanted (2007) broke that mould a long time ago.
As overrated as I personally find it, Frozen is an undeniable hit. Any film that can make over a billion dollars at the box office and garner such a devoted fan base is definitely worthy of closer analysis.
For anyone else that feels the way I do, Kim Hudson’s discussion and deconstruction on Nov. 6th should be very enlightening!
Do you agree with Grace? Or do you think the buzz surrounding this film is justified?
For more information regarding Kim Hudson’s Frozen workshop, go here.
Or for details about her weekend class on Screenwriting From a Feminine Perspective, go here.