Why are we ashamed of our fairy tales? Disney’s Frozen

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In this post-Wicked era, we seem to be ashamed of our fairy tales. Everything has to be postmodern, postfeminist, postmillennial, postfun … and titles we used to know and love need to be replaced by edgy (and meaningless) adjectives.

For example, Rapunzel is now Tangled. Today, Snow White would be Pale or Cinderella would be Shoeless or Sleeping Beauty would be Snoozy. Hence, now The Snow Queen is called Frozen. And it’s a bore.

I really wanted to like this. I love Disney animated movies, and I love musicals … and I adore Disney animated musicals. But not this one.

With the pedigree that this film has – from the creators of The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q (which I admit does seem like a bit of a stretch for Disney) providing the music and Pixar’s John Lasseter producing – I had high hopes. I also think The Snow Queen is a fascinating (and weird) story to adapt. Plus, you have voice work from Broadway’s Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad as well as TV star Kristen Bell.

Sadly, the film is dead on arrival. The musical numbers are forgettable – completely. And the storyline is so far afield from the familiar narrative, bolting on, yes, a Wicked-esque sisterly rivalry that adds little. And, I will admit it, I still miss hand-drawn animation. I know 2D is basically gone forever, but this computer-generated business where everyone looks like a glassy-eyed Bratz doll is for the birds.

There are folks out there who loved Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame with its singing and dancing gargoyles and creepy, oversexed, misogynistic clergy villain. I’m not one of them. And I kept thinking of that misfire while watching Frozen. The plot is similarly disjointed, and I just couldn’t get too geeked about musical numbers featuring rastafarian rock trolls and goony snowmen.

I wish I had more to say. I’m fresh out of clever. There’s an interesting twist in the film’s final act that helped me engage a bit, but at that point the movie had already lost me. There will be people who – on their Thanksgiving holiday high – will adore this, and they will likely tell me “you just didn’t get it” and “you are thinking about it too much.”

Well, I like thinking. And the Disney classics of old weren’t devoid of thought. In fact, they were rich with it. Frozen left me uninspired and bored to icy tears.

17 thoughts on “Why are we ashamed of our fairy tales? Disney’s Frozen

  1. sad to read this but i was afraid it was going to become mainstreamed and ‘broadway ready’ when i heard about the voices and name change from the original story. also their first directed by a woman, so i was hopeful. i did hear the mickey mouse short before it was quite good – any word on that ?

    • your instincts were right on, Beth! right on. it all felt “focus grouped” within an inch of its creative life. the mickey short is fun – with a blend of traditional B&W animation and 3D computer generated imagery, but it felt more like novelty than narrative to me – though I did enjoy it

      • wow, too bad, even that was a bit of a letdown. it does seem, sadly, that their films are now created more with merchandising and a look towards the future, i.e. live stage productions, ice shows, and oscar winning songs, than in keeping focused on the telling of the story. like you, i am a sucker for the hand-drawn animation, give me bambi anyday, though i know it is rare these days.

  2. Is this a Hans Christian Anderson tale? I forget…though I do see that snow lady every day on an old cookie tin. What does “Rastafarian” mean? My dictionary is buried under a heap of copy paper at this point…now, there’s a story THERE somewhere. Survival games beneath sheets of paper instead of ice and snow. Great review of the Gumby doll performances. Does 2D refer to the Disney films from ancient days when Walt was an exciting person…I think? As in Disney Disney? or Disney Drawn? Enlighten me.

    • that would be an interesting film! rastafarian is like Bob Marley or reggae stuff. and yes, 2D means the classic hand-drawn animation of old. when these movies were good! and, yup, this is a Hans Christian Andersen tale, though it is completely unrecognizable in this rendition

  3. “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin” insulted their source material in favor of focus-grouped slapstick and happy happy ending, but they had damned catchy scores. “Brave” and “Up” were disjointed and frenetic but they had interesting stories. Your review that “Frozen” combines the worst of these is disappointing. And not even the celebrated Elphaba could save it? Ugh.

    • exactly, right, Brent! I’d forgotten how far afield “Aladdin” and “Little Mermaid” got. I found both of those movies a bit insufferable also – and they have not aged well at all. I wonder if I was in a better mood when I saw “Frozen” if I’d like it better. I was hoping that movie would PUT me in a good mood. alas, it didn’t.

  4. I thought the song they chose as the opening number was perfect for setting the story’s stage, but then once they(the sisters) grew up… The movie fell apart… I rarely(if ever) felt like our heroes were in danger, there weren’t any tragic scenes(such as Mufassa being killed by Scar or Ramon being squashed by the evil witch doctor), and the ending just seemed… Off.

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