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Peter T Chattaway

Frozen

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The Bear and the Bow became Brave. Rapunzel Unbraided became Tangled. And now The Snow Queen has become Frozen.

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Kristen Bell Set to Star in Stage Adaptation 'Some Girls', Animated Feature 'Frozen' (Exclusive)

The "House of Lies" actress plays a jilted ex-girlfriend in a big-screen version of Neil LaBute's play, then plans to sing her way through Disney's upcoming animated odyssey. . . .

She is also set to provide the speaking and singing voice as the lead in Disney’s upcoming animated feature Frozen. Directed by Chris Buck (Surf’s Up), the film is being produced by John Lasseter and Peter Del Vecho. . . .

Hollywood Reporter, March 5

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Disney names Jennifer Lee co-director of “Frozen”

The news today from Disney annoucing the promotion of Jennifer Lee (Screenplay, Wreck-It Ralph) to co-director (with Chris Buck) of Disney’s next major feature, Frozen, has animation people buzzing. After the PR debacle over the replacement of Brenda Chapman on Pixar’s Brave, could this be a sign of trouble – or just business as usual?

All I know is the advance visuals I’ve seen on the film look spectacular and I am prepared for a Frozen treat when Disney releases it next winter. Here’s the studio’s full press release . . .

Jerry Beck, Cartoon Brew, November 29

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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As some people have noted, the teaser for Disney's latest princess movie seems, for some reason, to be some sort of Ice Age knock-off.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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So there are humans in it. I was wondering after the teaser I saw before Monsters University.

The tone in the two trailers is completely different. It's kind of hard to envision both of them coming from the same movie.

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The film's head of animation says female characters are hard to animate because they have to be pretty, and being pretty limits the range of facial expressions available to them. Controversy ensues.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Seriously, if that is creating limitations, your animation team needs to try harder. 

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Todd McCarthy @ Hollywood Reporter:

You can practically see the Broadway musical Frozen is destined to become while watching Disney's 3D animated princess tale. Shrewdly calculated down the the smallest detail in terms of its appeal factor, this smartly dressed package injects a traditional fairy tale, Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, with enough contemporary attitudes and female empowerment touches to please both little girls and their moms. Energetic, humorous and not too cloying, as well as the first Hollywood film in many years to warn of global cooling rather than warming, this tuneful toon upgrades what has been a lackluster year for big studio animated fare and, beginning with its Thanksgiving opening, should live up to box-office expectations as one of the studio's hoped-for holiday-spanning blockbusters.

As an added bonus, Frozen is fronted by one of the wittiest and most inventive animated shorts in a long time, Lauren MacMullan's Get A Horse! debuted to rave responses at the Telluride Film Festival over Labor Day weekend preceding the screenings of Gravity, Horse begins as an early black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoon but then bursts its boundaries into color and 3D in marvelously antic ways that call to mind the stepping-off-the-screen techniques of Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr. and Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo. It's a total winner.

Frozen, which will use the Andersen tale's original title in many foreign territories, was in development with numerous different writers, directors and songsmiths for more than a decade, as Disney hoped to strike gold with another Andersen story after the great success of The Little Mermaid. As even reasonably successful recent girl-aimed films, such as Pixar's Brave and Disney's own Tangled, have shown, it's not all that easy to recycle the well-worn princess format without being hopelessly retrograde on the one hand or knee-jerk revisionist on the other. But one can feel that extra effort was expended to try to get the formula right this time. Directors Chris Buck (co-director of Tarzan and Surf's Up) and Jennifer Lee (co-screenwriter of Wreck-It-Ralph, who also wrote this script and here becomes the first female director on an in-house Disney animated feature) do a pretty decent job of hitting the required cues for youngsters' dream-come-true expectations while also introducing darker tones by way of a mentally tortured youthful queen and a two-faced royal suitor. . . .

The most consistently annoying aspect of Frozen is the screenwriter's insistence upon putting banal and commonplace teen Americanisms in the mouth of Anna in a clear sop to that major component of the film's intended audience. Anna's dialogue is full of “you know” and “freaked out” and many other phrases her parents and sister never use; where did she pick them up? More than do the other characters, the two sisters have a plastic, big-cheeked, tiny-upturned-nose cherub appearance that looks fake and inexpressive and requires getting accustomed to. . . .

That last sentence sheds an interesting light on the girls-are-harder-to-animate-because-they-have-to-be-pretty controversy that was mentioned earlier in this thread.

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Todd McCarthy @ Hollywood Reporter:

 

The most consistently annoying aspect of Frozen is the screenwriter's insistence upon putting banal and commonplace teen Americanisms in the mouth of Anna in a clear sop to that major component of the film's intended audience. Anna's dialogue is full of “you know” and “freaked out” and many other phrases her parents and sister never use; where did she pick them up? More than do the other characters, the two sisters have a plastic, big-cheeked, tiny-upturned-nose cherub appearance that looks fake and inexpressive and requires getting accustomed to. . . .

That last sentence sheds an interesting light on the girls-are-harder-to-animate-because-they-have-to-be-pretty controversy that was mentioned earlier in this thread.

 

I'm with Todd McCarthy on this - I thought Tangled was good, but disliked the way the dialogue was trying too hard to sound 'contemporary', with Rapunzel talking like a teenager from New York rather than Fairy-tale-land. The power of Disney films is that they don't age in quite the same way as most films. Show a child Bambi or Pinocchio or Snow White and they probably won't realise they're watching an 'old' movie. I can't help thinking that the more they strive to make the dialogue hip and 'with it', the sooner the films will sound dated. Anyone agree?

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My daddy said every time an angel gets his wings, an embargo is lifted. What? Did you hear the midnight chimes?

 

In which Ken apologizes to parents for loving Frozen as much as he did:

 

I don’t have kids, so I feel as though I almost have to apologize for having an opinion when my stakes in the debate are seemingly much less. But I do have an opinion, and it is a passionate one.

 

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My contrarian review. (60 second review below.)

 

Frozen may be the most tragic fairy tale in the Disney canon, which is saying something. Sure, Rapunzel was stolen from her parents and raised in a tower by a witch, but at least she had her books, her art, her astronomy and her pet chameleon Pascal. Her life was painfully limited, but within those constraints, she achieved some measure of accomplishment, fulfillment and even happiness.
 
Now consider poor Anna, who grows up literally outside Elsa’s closed door, plaintively singing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” And Elsa never, ever opens the door to her sister: literally at first, and later emotionally, for pretty much the entire movie.

 
How fatal a problem that is isn't clear until the very end of the film. 
 
One of the things that is remarkable about Frozen is that not only does it have two central heroines, it also has two seemingly strong, heroic men, either of whom is a credible love interest. This is remarkable, because, as I point out, a major positive female character in an American animated film is almost always the only one — and strong, heroic men are basically a thing of the past. 
 
And then it squanders all of that. Both male characters are thrown under the bus in the third act — one in an infuriating way, the other in a head-scratching way. And the girls — let's just say their story is so tragic for so long that by the time the movie ends there's basically no way to make it up to them, or to the audience. 
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISV8_4_VfMo&list=PLPu38Ui5dTDINmv5o5eF6Y0GAlkTBqoeP&index=1

Edited by SDG

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From SDG's review:

 

There’s an act of love that melts a frozen heart, though in a way that may not really make sense of the symbolism of frozen hearts.

 

Does that mean the cute snowman dies? Now I'm not sure I want to see this.

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From SDG's review:

There’s an act of love that melts a frozen heart, though in a way that may not really make sense of the symbolism of frozen hearts.

Does that mean the cute snowman dies? Now I'm not sure I want to see this.

No. Without being too explicit, this is a happily ever after story, although not in the way that other stories that have used that coda have been.

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Saw this with my daughter last night. We liked it, and had an interesting talk on the way home about love versus fear (cue I John 4:18) and about growing up with a special-needs sibling. I may or may not flesh that out into a blog post when I get more time.

I haven't read your review yet, SDG, but I did see the teaser for it, and I can totally understand how this film basically fails next to Tangled on a number of levels (and the comparison with Tangled is earned by so, so many elements in this film: the strand of differently-coloured hair that represents a tragic moment in one's past, the comic-relief horse (and reindeer), the heroine(s) who grew up cut off from society and now yearn to be free, etc.

My daughter said this morning that the villain in this movie was fear, and I honestly can't remember if I said that to her first (on the drive home last night) or if she formulated it that way herself. But I thought that was a nice way of putting it. That being said, I found myself humming 'Mother Knows Best' this morning and a part of me did kind of wish that this film had had a more *personal* sort of villain.

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Oh, one other thing: What's with this word "reindeers"? The plural form of "reindeer" is "reindeer", no? Just like when Bambi and Faline play in the woods, we're talking about two "deer", not two "deers", right?

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Saw this with my daughter last night. We liked it, and had an interesting talk on the way home about love versus fear (cue I John 4:18) and about growing up with a special-needs sibling. I may or may not flesh that out into a blog post when I get more time.

I haven't read your review yet, SDG, but I did see the teaser for it, and I can totally understand how this film basically fails next to Tangled on a number of levels (and the comparison with Tangled is earned by so, so many elements in this film: the strand of differently-coloured hair that represents a tragic moment in one's past, the comic-relief horse (and reindeer), the heroine(s) who grew up cut off from society and now yearn to be free, etc.

My daughter said this morning that the villain in this movie was fear, and I honestly can't remember if I said that to her first (on the drive home last night) or if she formulated it that way herself. But I thought that was a nice way of putting it. That being said, I found myself humming 'Mother Knows Best' this morning and a part of me did kind of wish that this film had had a more *personal* sort of villain.

 

I wish it had a "more personal" anything: specifically, any kind of compelling personal relationship. At all. As I wrote in my review, "Rapunzel had two important, complex relationships, with Mother Gothel and Flynn Rider. Anna has none. For that matter, no one in this movie does." 

 

For awhile at the beginning it looks like this could be Anna and Hans, and then it looks like it could be Anna and Kristoff, and of course Anna and Elsa's relationship is always hanging over the whole movie. In the end, though, none of these relationships really crystalizes (har) into anything worth talking about.

 

Anna's relationship with Elsa remains strictly on the level of childhood memories. As for Hans and Kristoff…well. When I realized they were pulling a King Candy with Hans, whatever hopes I still had for the movie came crashing to earth. FWIW, writer-director Jennifer Lee has a screenwriting credit on Wreck-It Ralph.) And the other one gets this odd set-up for a heroic climax — he's riding hard to the rescue … riding hard to the rescue … riding hard to the rescue through blinding snow! … riding hard to the rescue past toppling ice-bound ships! — and then suddenly the story veers, and there's nothing for him to do, really.

 

As for a villain … I kind of wish it were possible to have a Disney movie like this with no villain. Ken remarked to me (and his review nearly says the same thing, so I don't think he'll mind my mentioning it) that he liked the appearance of Elsa's snow monster because it looks like the movie might get its externalized action needs out of the way and still focus on the internal, psychological struggle, without resorting to protagonist-vs-antagonist conflict. As it is, I think the movie falls between two stools: I don't think it works as a protagonist-vs-antagonist story, and I don't think it works as a psychological struggle either. 

 

It's so frustrating to me that this movie sets itself up to break all kinds of contemporary Hollywood animation precedents — two capable young female protagonists! two strong, respectable heroic types who could be viable love interests! — and then throws at least two of these characters under the bus in one way or another, and really lets the other two down.

Oh, one other thing: What's with this word "reindeers"? The plural form of "reindeer" is "reindeer", no? Just like when Bambi and Faline play in the woods, we're talking about two "deer", not two "deers", right?

Right.

Edited by SDG

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As for a villain … I kind of wish it were possible to have a Disney movie like this with no villain. Ken remarked to me (and his review nearly says the same thing, so I don't think he'll mind my mentioning it) that he liked the appearance of Elsa's snow monster because it looks like the movie might get its externalized action needs out of the way and still focus on the internal, psychological struggle, without resorting to protagonist-vs-antagonist conflict. As it is, I think the movie falls between two stools: I don't think it works as a protagonist-vs-antagonist story, and I don't think it works as a psychological struggle either. 

 

 

I don't mind.

Just as a general, blanket statement, I usually don't mind stuff from personal messages shared unless it's about a third party. We were mostly only talking in private because of embargo. (Plus it takes a lot of time to monitor and participate in every A&F thread that one does participate in, so anytime someone wants to give a shout out to something I've said without me having to take a break from grading...I'm all for that!)

 

I enjoyed Frozen immensely. It was almost great. But I did think the end was a failure of nerve. Steven and I appeared pretty close in our diagnoses/descriptions, we just differed in how much they (the flaws) bothered us. 

 

MAJOR SPOILERS:

 

This is how I told Steven I thought the film should have ended:

But then the end just felt like a failure of nerve. I assumed Anna would have to go back to Hans and say "what I accomplished was I got my sister back...what I LEARNED was that although she might be wrongly motivated she wasn't wrong...the fact that I have developed feelings for Kristoff is evidence that I am only really learning what love is, that I was swept away...oh, and by the way, I know that must hurt you and I am sorry, but I don't want to hurt you more by marrying you when I don't really love you." Hans, then being the good guy that we at the time assumed him to be, would say, "Yes, of course, this movie is about putting those you care for above yourself, and yeah, that hurts, but it's right" The two sisters would then honor him with an advisory post for his admittedly excellent service to the kingdom and there would be a hint that Elsa would eventually fall in love with him (wouldn't have to be in this movie) because there was someone she could trust and who had proven himself faithful before she was queen. That's what would have happened if

Frozen had been a Jane Austen novel (or a Shakespeare play), but, hey, I get that would be a little daring for a Disney movie.

Edited by kenmorefield

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kenmorefield, I love your proposed ending.

SDG, when did you figure out where the movie was going with Hans? The plot twist came as a complete surprise to *me*. And I love your take on Kristoff's (non-)role in the climax: it kind of reminds me of how it nagged at me the day after I saw the movie that the movie had kind of skirted around the fact that Kristoff was taken away from his real family by the trolls and everyone seemed to be okay with that. There are gaps in Kristoff's role within this film that leave him rather ill-defined.

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kenmorefield, I love your proposed ending.

SDG, when did you figure out where the movie was going with Hans? The plot twist came as a complete surprise to *me*. And I love your take on Kristoff's (non-)role in the climax: it kind of reminds me of how it nagged at me the day after I saw the movie that the movie had kind of skirted around the fact that Kristoff was taken away from his real family by the trolls and everyone seemed to be okay with that. There are gaps in Kristoff's role within this film that leave him rather ill-defined.

 

I also love Ken's proposed ending.

And, like you (and Ken, I think), I was caught totally flat-footed by the twist. I suspect on reviewing it may become clear that the movie basically cheats:

Hans is nothing but gallant, trustworthy, heroic, selfless and good-hearted right up to the moment he's revealed as the Secret Villain. He's the kind of guy in whose hands you can totally leave your kingdom at the drop of a hat, and he'll take care of things for you! He fearlessly fights snow monsters! He appeals to Elsa's better nature when she's in danger of going to the dark side!

I mean, yeah, some things I'm sure support a double reading, such as a silly exchange with Anna: "And we finish each other's…" "Sandwiches!" "I was just going to say that!" On first viewing it just looks like giddy romantic silliness, but in view of his later comments about how ready she was to fall for the first man who looked her way, obviously he's toying with her naivete. Still, I doubt all three of us would have been surprised if there'd really been any inkling of his villainy.

With two princesses and two romantic leads, it wouldn't be hard to do the math and end, if not with a double wedding, at least with two weddings on the way. 

 

OTOH … well, I can't say it any better than I did in my review

 

Continuing in semi-spoiler mode: I understand that, on some level, Disney is still doing penance for the relentless romanticism and passive heroines of the age of “Someday my prince will come.” It’s okay to say that a heroine doesn’t need a man to complete her. Fine.

 

At this point, though, Prince Charming is dead. He’s been dead for years. The Shrek franchise killed him, and his heirs are the ridiculous, preening buffoon of Enchanted and the various insipid suitors of Brave. Last year’s little-seen Mirror Mirror offered the closest thing to a bona fide Prince Charming of any family film I can think of in the last decade or more (he was still kind of silly).

 

Hollywood animated heroes and/or love interests are allowed to be redeemed rascals (Tangled, The Princess and the Frog, Sinbad) or they may be seemingly unmanly misfit/underdogs who make good (How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, Rio, Happy Feet, etc.). But your actual manly hero is practically a thing of the past, alas. (Have I mentioned that I also have four sons?)

 

That parenthetical tag about having four sons ties in with my opening line that "Hollywood family fare, like mainstream Hollywood fare generally, remains thoroughly boy-centric — dishearteningly so, for this father of three daughters."

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