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Disney’s “Frozen” is a Joyous and Heartfelt Animated Triumph

November 27, 2013

By John Corrado

Frozen PosterWhen animation enthusiasts talk about the Disney Renaissance, they are referring to the period in history when the studio gave us such great films as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Now Frozen has come along, a joyous and heartfelt animated triumph that deserves to be mentioned alongside these timeless classics from the studio.  From the haunting opening sounds of a choir, we just know that we are going to be in for something special, and directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee deliver on that promise.  This is one of the best movies of the year.

After a childhood accident, Anna (Kristen Bell) and her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel) grew up separated, with Anna remaining optimistic despite her circumstances and Elsa coming to fear the powers she has to cast ice and snow out of her hands.  When their kingdom of Arendelle is accidentally cast into eternal winter, Elsa hides away on the side of a mountain, and Anna sets off to find her.  She meets the adventurous Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer Sven on her journey, along with Olaf (Josh Gad), an adorable snowman who dreams of experiencing the summer.

Kristen Bell brings her signature adorability to this character, while also getting the chance to show off her incredible singing.  The voice of Broadway superstar Idina Menzel is put to great use, practically exploding throughout the theatre during the big musical numbers.  Her performance of the powerful song “Let It Go” partway through the film as she constructs a castle made entirely of ice, is a spectacular scene on par with any classic musical.  It’s that good.  And who can forget Olaf, a loveably innocent snowman wonderfully voiced by Josh Gad, and created in the grand tradition of the classic Disney sidekicks.

The excellent soundtrack features eight original songs, written by the husband and wife team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.  The aforementioned “Let it Go” and the recurring track “For the First Time in Forever” are both standouts, and there are plenty of wonderful musical numbers that come up throughout the film.  Even Olaf gets his big moment in the spotlight with the irresistible “In Summer,” a scene that plays as one of the best examples of pure joy since The Muppets back in 2011.  The songs are perfectly complimented by Christophe Beck’s majestic score.

Not only is Frozen an incredibly faithful tribute to the Disney legacy, the film also seems to be having a lot of fun with these ideas.  After having just met, Anna and her love interest Hans (Santino Fontana) perform the upbeat duet “Love is an Open Door” during a delightful musical montage, and the scene is played for knowing humour in the same vein as the great Enchanted back in 2007.  The screenplay by Jennifer Lee is tightly written and filled with instantly quotable dialogue, allowing for perfectly timed moments of humour and even some dark twists that add suspense to the story.  The animation of the ice and snow is breathtaking, with the snowflakes appearing to float right off the screen in 3D.

Some critics have already declared Frozen to be Disney’s best film since that much talked about period in 1990s, a sentiment that is sure to be shared by many.  Although on par with these classics, I don’t want to preclude their many great films released between then and now.  For my money, Lilo & Stitch, Brother Bear, Bolt and The Princess and the Frog were all standouts last decade, and the studio has been on a recent winning streak with Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph.  But Frozen stands alongside all of these films as a new classic, a throwback to the animated musicals of yesteryear that still manages to feel fresh and exhilarating.

Like any great Disney film, Frozen also has a lot of heart, and it’s touching that the core relationship here is the one between two sisters.  The messages of fear holding us back and love being the warmest emotion are deeply felt and handled in a wonderful way, leading up to a finale that is both exciting and uplifting.  With beautiful animation, a heartfelt story, great characters and terrific songs, Frozen proudly stands alongside the many timeless films that Disney has given us over the years and is another instant classic for the studio.

Playing before Frozen is the hilarious new short film Get a Horse!  Starring Mickey Mouse, the short starts as the completion of an unfinished work from the early days of the studio featuring the voice of Walt Disney himself, before morphing into a delightfully wacky adventure that pays fun tribute to the power of cinema.  It’s a lot of fun, especially in 3D.

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