The new Disney movie was always a momentous event in my childhood. I always went to see it at the cinema, memorised the soundtrack, collected all the McDonald’s toys, fantasized about the various bland Disney princes. I loved getting the VHS because it contained a trailer for the next film.
But as the years went by, Disney films lost their lustre. It might have been my age, it might have been the films themselves. They became too film-like and were low on a sense of wonder. However, Enchanted brought that all back and seemed to herald a return to Disney’s Renaissance era.
Tangled and Brave were especially wonderful and represented a real evolution in Disney’s storytelling, with more empowered heroines and a more nuanced portrayal of relationships, especially romantic and filial ones. I could rewatch them again and again.
So I was VERY excited about Frozen. I was looking forward to the focus on sisterhood… the stunning animation… the music. THAT SONG. THAT VIDEO. I can’t stop listening to it. Let’s have at it again.
Unfortunately, while I had a lot of fun watching Frozen – I didn’t even hate the ridiculous-looking snowman as much as I thought I would – it ultimately left me… cold. The “Let it Go” sequence was by far the strongest part. The rest of the film was missing something. A lot of things really… things that I feel really could have been there without making the film much less accessible or much longer, particularly the lack of explanation of Elsa’s abilities, the thinly drawn relationship between Anna and Elsa, the strange lack of Elsa altogether and the extremely brief “endless winter”, which prevented the stakes from ever being too high. I felt much like this after The Corpse Bride, another film that had all the ingredients to be incredible and yet fell short. So here’s my summary of the film I would have liked Frozen to be – SPOILERS ahead, obvs.
Once upon a time, the kings and queens of Arendelle were powerful sorcerers, with the ability to bend the weather to their will. They ruled the kingdom with fear and intimidation, punishing unruly subjects with harsh winters and sweltering summers, imprisoning those that spoke against them in cages of glass and fire. One day their subjects rebelled and defeated the wicked king and queen in an epic battle. The new king took pity on the young orphaned princess, who was innocent of her parents’ crimes and had no powers of her own. The new king took her in as his ward and raised her as his own daughter. When she came of age she married his son and they lived happily ever after. Every few generations the royal children showed signs of magic, but they were always repressed and kept secret from the public, for fear of another rebellion.
Many years later, a princess was born whose magic seemed too powerful to hide. Her parents tried their utmost to hide their daughter’s winter magic, and protect her from the wrath of the kingdom. Princess Elsa and her little sister Anna were united in keeping the former’s dangerous secret.
But one day, the little girls’ games went too far.
The king and queen took their daughters to the trolls who had originally bestowed magical abilities on the queen’s ancestors. The trolls were able to save Anna & in doing so, removed all memories Anna had of Elsa’s magic. Elsa, forced to keep her secret in solitude and terrified of causing more harm to someone she loved, grew up estranged from Anna, who never understood why her once loving elder sister ignored her, especially when they lost their parents at sea and needed each other more than ever.
On the day of Elsa’s coronation, Anna met and fell instantly in love with a visiting prince, Hans.
She informed Elsa of her intention to marry Hans and when Elsa forbade her, the two sisters argued, all their resentments simmering to the surface. Elsa lost control and revealed her powers to a shocked audience, who very quickly turned on her, remembering the evil the old kings and queens had committed. Elsa fled, unwittingly causing an endless winter in the process.
Anna was left in charge of Arendelle, with her fiance Hans by her side. She wasn’t sure whether to reconcile with her sister or to view her as the villain everyone else did. She hoped Elsa would return or reverse the effects of her spell. As hers and Hans’ wedding day approached and the kingdom continued to suffer, she finally resolved to go after Elsa. She explained to Hans that Elsa was her only family and she still loved her, even if she didn’t understand her. But she also loved Arendelle, so whatever Elsa might be, victim or villain, she needed to end winter. She set off and asked Hans to rule Arendelle in her absence.
Meanwhile, Elsa built a kingdom of ice and revelled in the opportunity to finally be herself. She was lonely, but she had always been lonely. She planned never to return, creating friends and subjects out of ice, unaware that each time she used her powers, the winter in Arendelle and the surrounding area worsened. She didn’t know, because she’d never been able to feel the cold as others did.
Anna tracked down Elsa, with the help of Kristoff, a mountain man. Elsa attempted to drive Anna and Kristoff away and in the process struck Anna again, this time in the heart. Shocked at her actions, she agreed to accompany the two to try to save her sister, as well as end winter. They visited the trolls who told them that only an act of true love would melt Anna’s heart. They decided to bring Anna to Hans, for true love’s kiss.
…. At this point, I’m fairly happy to stick to the story’s original ending – Hans reveals true colours (that was actually pretty genius but would have been much more shocking if he and Anna had been together longer than 5 mins), imprisons Elsa, leaves Anna to die, Anna saves Elsa. FINITO. But I think it’s important that Elsa only ends up imprisoned because she wanted to help Anna, instead of Elsa being defeated by Hans coming to her castle (she should really be too powerful for him to be able to do that)… I always prefer when characters save each other, rather than just one saving the other.
I’d also change Kristoff and Anna being instantly in love, like the second after she realises that Hans is a bad dude. He’s cool and all but one thing I very much approved of was the way other characters called Anna out on her sudden engagement to Hans (a sudden engagement obviously being typical of most preceding Disney heroines/princesses)… which makes instant Kristoff-Anna frankly hypocritical. And anyway, Kristoff’s peripheral to the storyline. It’s not about him. It’s about sisters!