Amanda Doughty ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
In recent years, it seems as though Disney has finally caught up with the times in terms of feminism. The Princess and the Frog featured a business-driven princess, Tangled featured a princess who ended up saving her prince, and Brave featured a princess who ended up not choosing a prince at all. Given Disney’s history with passive female characters, this has been refreshing.
But Disney’s newest princess film, Frozen, features a princess doing something never seen before in a Disney film: punching her prince in the face.
Yes, in Frozen, Princess Anna truly stands up for herself and her family. She’s also Disney’s first “quirky” princess: being awkward around men, having a teensy bit of an anger problem, and acting relatively confused in a majority of social situations. Appropriately and adorably, she’s voiced by Kristen Bell, who truly captures the essence of her awkwardness while also grasping her sense of independence. And her male counterpart isn’t so perfect either. Kristoff the ice salesman (voiced by the fabulously talented Jonathan Groff) chooses the company of reindeer over people, knows far too much about the types of wood used in sled-making, and frequently talks to himself. Both of these characters are quite flawed and imperfect, something rarely seen in Disney protagonists. By doing this, Disney makes the first realistic characters seen in a long time, and it’s truly great to see.
But Disney decides to shake things up even further in terms of characters and give us not one, but two strong female characters in Frozen. Anna’s sister, Elsa (Idina Menzel), is an equally independent and empowering woman, though for completely different reasons. She’s rigid in her beliefs, powers through her greatest fears, and even owns up to her mistakes. Overall, both of these women are actually dynamic characters, and are solid role models for young girls watching the film.
This is all incredible, but these characters are not the only thing guiding this film in a new direction. As a whole, this film goes where no Disney film has gone before.
Set in Norway, this film centers on a mysterious royal family with a dark secret: Elsa, the eldest sister, freezes everything she touches. In an attempt to learn to control her power, she shuts herself away from everyone, including her younger sister, Anna. When Elsa’s eighteenth birthday arrives, they open the gates to their kingdom to celebrate her official coronation. In the midst of a party, Elsa ends up getting overwhelmed and accidentally freezes the entire kingdom. From there, it’s all about Anna’s journey to retrieve her sister and save the kingdom from the endless winter.
Like every other Disney princess film, this film features music. While it is not on par with its predecessors, Tangled and Princess and the Frog (both of which rank among Disney’s best in terms of music), the music is quite good. Given that the film features Broadway actors like Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana, and Idina Menzel, expectations were high for the music in this film, and it does not disappoint. The standout would be Elsa’s ballad “Let it Go,” which makes sense as Elsa is voiced by Menzel, a modern Broadway legend.
But the music is just another example of how Disney is changing the game with this film. For example, the ballad between Princess Anna and Prince Hans, “Love is an Open Door,” is Disney blatantly making fun of itself. It completely acknowledges how insane love at first sight is, and is so over-the-top that even the youngest viewers will be able to pick up on the satire. In addition, the song “Summer” openly pokes fun at one of its own characters, as it talks about a snowman’s ridiculous desires to experience summer. Broadway actor Josh Gad’s comedic timing is probably a huge cause of this, and Olaf the snowman ends up being one of the funniest characters in the film. Both of these songs give the film a satirical nature that has never been seen in previous Disney films, and it is very refreshing to see.
All in all, Frozen is an incredibly satisfying Disney princess film. It’s refreshing, it features an amazing cast, and it’s a delight to watch. If Disney continues to produce films like Frozen, audiences can expect much more high-quality entertainment to come.