Frozen: Why Disney’s New Film Is One Of Their Best
When Disney released the trailer for their new animated film Frozen, I was understandably ecstatic. Most girls my age are still in love with all things Disney, so of course, I had to go and see it as soon as I could. I dragged my reluctant friend along with me and told him, “It’s Disney. They can’t go wrong!” The last Disney film that was released before Frozen was Tangled, and if that was anything to go by, this was going to be awesome. Boy, was I wrong.
Now, your typical Disney movie generally goes along these lines: First, an attractive female protagonist is introduced. She can sing pretty spectacularly, speak to animals, and charms everyone who is ever in her presence. She wears the same dress throughout the entire film (until the end when she goes to the final event in a stunning ball gown) and all she ever wants in life is to find her Prince Charming, someone she can live happily ever after with. Usually she meets the Prince somewhere in the middle of the story, but a villain always stops them from being together or creates a hurdle so they are separated for some time. In the end something bad always happens to either the princess or the prince and they have to save the other with True Love’s Kiss. In a lot of the classic Disney films, the prince will usually save the princess from harm and they always end up getting married in the final scenes.
Frozen did not follow this traditional story line. It had the usual amount of musical numbers (with Anna adding an unusual amount of her humour to her parts), the typical romance-type stuff and the journey element that is central to almost every Disney movie ever released. However, what Disney did this time around with Frozen that made it so popular in the box office and on the music charts (bear in mind that it won ‘Best Animated Feature Film’ at the Golden Globes over the weekend and topped the iTunes Top 10 Chart, toppling Beyoncé from the top spot) has obviously worked, with the hit film besting The Lion King as the highest grossing Disney film of all time.
So a few key differences in the film are not as obvious when you first begin to watch (do not continue reading if you do not wish to read spoilers). So first, we meet Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) who, after the death of their parents, is set to become Queen. We also are introduced to her adorable younger sister Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) who becomes the central protagonist for the story. Elsa was born with a gift — or a curse depending on how you view it — that enables her to create snow and ice, hence the name of the film. At the end of Elsa’s coronation, there is a disagreement between the sisters about Anna’s betrothal to Prince Hans (Santino Fontana). Anna pushes Elsa to her limit, causing her to lose control of her powers and reveal her secret to the world. Named an ‘evil-sorceress’, Elsa runs off into the wilderness leaving Arrendale in an eternal winter.
The first difference is that the complication of the plot does not involve a villain. It involves Anna’s sister, Queen Elsa who does not know how to control her powers and is forced to hide them away and live in solitude for most of her childhood. I think this is one of the more powerful messages that can be attained from Frozen that not all people who are deemed “evil” have the intention to do so. Some cannot help their circumstances and when judged by the outside world, it can create a false representation of someone who does not intend to be the way they are. Elsa is also later on seen as becoming the monster that people see her as, showing the audience that if someone tells you that you are ‘this’ or ‘that’ for a certain amount of time, you will start to believe it. For example, when people constantly tell you that you are stupid, you will eventually end up believing that you are stupid. Disney did a fabulous job at depicting this issue in a fun, believable way.
Another difference was the lack of the man saving the world and the woman at the climax of the film. We are conditioned to believe that as in every other Disney movie, the Prince or the protagonist’s ‘One True Love’ will save the Princess and restore peace to their respective kingdoms. Now, in the final scenes of Frozen we are all expecting the ‘Act of True Love’ that is required to save Anna will be the long anticipated kiss from Kristoff (Jonathan Groff). But then we have a glorious plot-twist. Anna sees Hans with the intention of killing Elsa and runs over to save her. It is only at this point that the audience finally realises that an ‘Act of True Love’ does not necessarily need a male and a female to make it happen. Sisterly love conquers all in the end of this film, which certainly gives a reason for all the feminists out there who still have faith in a good Disney movie to finally fist pump the air in victory. Not to mention that Anna certainly gives Hans a well deserved punch to the face after all is said and done.
One of the funniest scenes in the film also introduced Disney’s first supposedly gay characters… Big Summer Blowout! This hilarious scene in which Anna stumbles upon a hut in the middle of the snow and introduces us to a giant salesman named Oaken who tries to sell her items that are generally only available in the summer (which of course are no use to her now that Elsa has accidentally initiated an “eternal winter” in the city of Arrendale). It is not explicitly said or even hinted at that this character is homosexual, however it is only obvious when you pay attention to the camera shot of his family in the sauna. Upon closer observation, you can see another male and multiple children, hinting that Oaken is gay, the first Disney character to ever be shown on-screen with a same-sex partner — a big step for a traditionally conservative Disney.
Disney films are usually very heteronormative in nature. The man always ends up with the woman, and an extravagant wedding will surely follow, usually appearing at the end of the movie (you know, the part when everyone’s happy and the sun comes out and the big final musical number is being blasted and little blue birds fly everywhere and the kingdom cheers when they kiss…). As young girls usually grow up watching Disney films, it could be said that Disney is ultimately being used to program children into societal expectations of marriage to a male when they are in their twenties. This is all sounding quite cynical but it has a point, I promise. Heteronormative is not a word usually found in many people’s vocabulary, however it is a word we should all become familiar with. There is no doubt that our society is dominated by heterosexuality, where it is assumed that males are the superior race and a female will always marry a male. Our society favours this idea leading to this way of life being the “correct” way of living. In other words, it is expected of me, as a woman, to marry a man and create a family. However, if I was to subvert these expectations, society would in some ways shun me and multiple people who I talk to would judge me for not being a part of the heteronormative cycle. With Disney starting to explore gender roles in their modern fairy-tales, we will begin to see a change in the way these roles are played out and portrayed on-screen, leading to a more equal and diverse perspective for Disney’s younger audiences.
So why is this film so successful? And why is it one of my personal favourite Disney movies of all time? With Frozen, Disney has now acknowledge the fact that societal expectations of gender roles and feminism is becoming a significant issue and are constantly changing for the better. With a movie like this, Disney is now exploring more ways to show their audience different life lessons, the most important being that a male does not necessarily have to be a woman’s entire world and that women can be just as strong as their male counterparts.
What do you think? Leave a comment.