The evolution of the Disney princess is a fairly remarkable one. If you look back where it all began with Snow White, the poor girl was dumber than a bag of hammers and her only hope was to be rescued by seven garden gnomes and a handsome prince.
Slowly (OK, very slowly) the girls became more capable and independent to the point that the Disney princess now is strong, confident, and quite capable of rescuing herself, thank you very much.
At least that is the case with “Frozen,” an animated feature that gives us two formidable princesses in the orphaned sisters Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel).
The story is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s story “The Snow Queen” (and when I say loosely based I mean in the same way that “Blazing Saddles” is based on “High Noon”).
Elsa, the elder sister, is born with the power to create ice and snow, but she is unable to control it so she is kept away from the rest of the world, including sister Anna, a free spirit who longs for someone to connect with.
On the day of Elsa’s coronation, the castle is opened up and the girls are finally exposed to the world and to each other. In no time at all, Anna meets a handsome prince, Hans (Santino Fontana), and the two decide to get engaged that very day.
Now, here’s the point where you wonder about those strong, independent women I was talking about earlier. But “Frozen” is only just beginning to flip the script on our expectations.
When Anna brings Hans to meet Elsa, the new queen is concerned about her sister’s hastiness and forbids the marriage. The girls begin to argue and Elsa is no longer able to conceal her power as ice and snow begin forming at her touch to the horror of the people in the castle.
Frightened and confused, Elsa runs off to the mountains and leaves the kingdom locked in an eternal winter. Anna leaves Hans behind and sets off to find Elsa and convince her to defrost the summer.
On her trek up the mountain, Anna enlists the help of Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a handsome but gruff ice vendor with a pet reindeer, and Olaf (Josh Gad) a cheerful, summer-obsessed snowman who was brought to life by Elsa’s power.
What’s great about “Frozen” is how these sisters are able to save themselves and while Snow White couldn’t find her way out of a dimly lit room, Anna and Elsa are able to learn and grow and find love and happiness on their own terms.
“Frozen” is also a full-on musical and Disney went all-in to make sure they did it right. It starts with the excellent songs written by husband-and-wife team Robert Lopez (co-creator of Tony-winning shows “Avenue Q” and “The Book of Mormon”) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
Plus, the cast boasts some heavy-duty Broadway cred with Menzel, Groff, and Gadd all dripping with Tony Awards and nominations.
The animation is top-shelf as well, which is to be expected as the resurgent Disney Animation Studio continues the excellent work it began with “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph.” There’s also a nifty little short before the film that mixes computer animation with Steamboat Willie-era Mickey Mouse, thus giving Walt Disney a 21st Century voice credit to add to his accomplishments (there’s a tacky frozen-Walt-Disney joke somewhere in here, but I’m going to skip it).
At the end of it all, “Frozen” is simply a fantastic family film and as the father of a bright and spirited seven-year-old girl, it makes me very happy (for many reasons) that she is growing up in 2013 instead of 1938.
“Frozen” is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.