Review first published by Film4.
Synopsis: Disney’s 53rd animation retains the fairytale setting of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, while importing more contemporary feminist sensibilities.
Review: Disney has been toying with adapting Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Snow Queen since as early as 1943, but kept running aground on the difficulties of turning its icy heroine into a relatable figure. Yet now, Jennifer Lee’s screenplay completely rebrands the story into one of overprotective fatherhood and redemptive sisterhood, diverging widely from its original model, while also flirting with departures from Disney’s own rather hoary traditions.
Raised by the King to conceal her native powers over ice and snow and isolated from others as a misguided precaution, Princess Elsa (voiced by Tony Award-winning singer-actress Idina Menzel) grows into a deeply repressed misanthrope. With her parents now dead, Elsa appears for the first time in public at her coronation, but after angrily shrouding her home town Arendelle in permanent winter, flees to the North Mountain. Younger, warmer Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) leaves behind her fiancé Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) – whom she has only just met – to watch over the people, while she races to the Mountain, helped by gruff ice-cutter Kristoff (Jonathan Groff).
The state-of-the-art animation, focus on adolescent princesses, and (ahem) regular bursts into choreographed song, all mark this as classic Disney, yet the studio’s 53rd cartoon feature does also try to break the mould. Kristoff conducts imaginary, one-sided conversations with his reindeer sidekick Sven, rather than having the animal itself speak as usual – although this jokey deconstruction of Disney’s anthropomorphising conventions is somewhat undermined by the presence of wacky talking snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) and an army of trolls. Much more revolutionary, though, is the way that Elsa and Anna, far from needing men to rescue them, are sisters doing it entirely for themselves.
In A Nutshell: Crystal-clear 3D animation tells a tale of two sisters, gratifyingly with Prince Charming a mere optional add-on.