Since Disney bought Pixar, two things have happened – the Disney films have become better and better while the Pixar films have become significantly worse. Whether you take that as a blessing in disguise for Disney or as a tragedy for Pixar is up to you, but with Frozen one thing is for sure – Disney is back in a big way.
Without a doubt, Frozen is Disney’s most visually spectacular and enjoyable film since 1994’s The Lion King. It’s obviously not as good as the latter, but it is way more entertaining than 2010’s fun Tangled. The film finally achieves what Disney had been trying in the last two decades – it finds the right balance between the nostalgia of the old Disney films and characters and forging some new ground into narrative and style. Plus as a bonus you get to see an amazing Mickey Mouse 3D short film before the movie begins.
Like most Disney films the plot contains a kingdom, a princess, a mysterious handsome prince, an everyman of a hero, ‘true love’, a supernatural curse, half a dozen songs, quirky perpetually smiling good natured side characters, not so subtle life lessons and lots of ice. Every element of Frozen has been done before but directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee find that sweet spot between a throwback and the contemporary, thanks to some great characters, dialogue and truly outstanding visuals, demonstrating that good writing and not just CGA makes for a good animation film.
What makes Frozen so refreshingly different from the rest of the Disney cannon is that the filmmakers challenge the viewers’ expectations and as a result there is no central antagonist in the film. There are no evil Wazirs or shady sorcerers or witches to make the hero fight against, instead Frozen plays out like a fun character based comedy-drama with a tinge of adventure thrown in. And surprisingly it works this time, despite the fact that a similar tactic used by Pixar in Brave failed. More importantly, for the first time in years, a Disney movie managed to pass the Bechdel test.
The lack of a villain is counterbalanced by a terrific voice cast including Kristin Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff and Alan Tudyk – because they aren’t big stars it enables you to invest in their characters rather than constantly and jarringly be reminded that a recognizable big movie star is voicing some computer puppet. The filmmakers also subvert the old good-vs-evil storytelling gambit with a grown up, astute sensibility and yet is still fun enough to keep the kids entertained. There’s plenty of jaw dropping large scale animation, which is not terrible in 3D but will most definitely be better in 2D. This has been a pretty very weak year for CG animation movies and Disney shows them all who the boss is. Watch it on the most gigantic screen that you can find.
(First published in MiD Day)