Disney’s Frozen: Awful Expectations Vs. Enchanting Reality

12.03.13 12 Comments

Walt Disney Studios

Expectation: An ensemble cast of dudes, with the princesses getting billing behind the SNOWMAN.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

So is Frozen the story of a knock-off Frosty of the Snowman? Or the emotional journey of one Ice Guy’s quest to end this eternal winter before he goes out of business? Or maybe it’s the tale of a handsome prince saving a bumbling princess from her sister? Because it sure as hell isn’t a princess story or they’d make that clear in the advertising right?

Reality: You can take the Snow Queen out of the title, but you can’t take her out of her own story.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

Obviously the best way to market a story about acceptance, understanding and the perils of not being truthful with those closest to you is to not accept that this is a DOUBLE PRINCESS ALL THE WAY fairy tale, cover up the musical aspects, and straight up lie about how much screen time the damn animal and anthropomorphic sidekicks get. Super meta, guys. Wait no. Not meta. Stupid.

Expectation: No longer content with the love triangle, Disney Frankenstein’s the monstrous love quadrangle.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

In an alarming trend, fictional women have been besieged by two love interests of late to the point of exasperated mocking. Openly. Mostly by me. Okay only by me. I digress. So what’s a company to do? UP THE ANTE. With two female leads obviously there must be two male leads because it is known ladies can’t not have a man to fawn over, especially animated ladies. And with sisters, surely they will fight over them or be thrown into some terrible comedy of errors to make Shakespeare roll in his grave.

Reality: A giant middle finger to gender expectations, effectively putting the kibosh on the “love at first sight” trope.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

Well played, writers. Lured us in with the just saccharine enough Love Is An Open Door duet to pass for unironic while making world-weary parents gag and nod at Elsa’s exasperated “You just met” only to pull the rug out from under us during the climatic plot twist. Meanwhile the Snow Queen stands alone, a ruler in her own right with nary an Elizabethan OH MY GOD YOU HAVE TO GET MARRIED YOU HAVE LADY PARTS YOU AREN’T FIT TO RULE hand wringing in sight.

Expectation: Hokey dialogue and slapstick humor create a reign of tyranny, catering the lowest common denominator.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

Disney, Disney, Disney. We all know you’re better than this. You don’t need to stoop to such base tricks as playing keep away with Olaf’s head, a bumbling snow monster, and a slapstick sequence involving a hungry reindeer, a carrot, and a snowman (which sounds suspiciously like the set up to a really dirty joke). What happened to make the House of Mouse fall so low as to steal bits from direct to DVD bait made in a weekend by a fourteen year old with access to pirated software?

Reality: Ha ha suckers! Those trailers were a classic fake-out to get boy butts in seats.

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If you don’t see the two – yes two – Arrested Development shout-outs in the first twenty minutes of the movie, pay the admission price to see it again. Call it a penance tithe for your lack of perception (shame on you!). Whip-sharp dialogue and lyrics about the importance of family, love, and overlooking such minor flaws as an unnatural relationship with a reindeer just raised the bar for how much sass a family film can get under the MPAA radar. Your move, Dreamworks.

Expectation: Musicals are the mind-killer. Duets are the little death that brings total obliteration.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

After Tangled, the heads of Disney went into a room with LucasFilm and Marvel and signed a blood pact stating never again should something so girly as bursting into song for no damn reason darken their hallowed halls. Or at least that’s the impression you’d get from watching trailers and TV spots for their 53rd animated feature.

Reality: The frozen hills are alive with the sound of music.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

You want songs? Frozen will give you some fucking songs. Nine to be exact – not counting Demi Lovato’s rendition of Let It Go playing over the end credits – sung over the run time of one-hundred and eight minutes because you don’t cast Idina Menzel without giving her a ballad to belt. Which means your ears are being assaulted by dulcet tones an average of once every twelve minutes. So this is less a movie and more an audition for a Broadway musical and you know what? You’re going to love every minute of it right up until the ear worms burrow into your brain and kill you three months from now.

Expectation: Elsa is the bad guy because witchcraft.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

The trailer says it all. “That’s no blizzard, that’s my sister,” while images of Elsa – in clothing sheer enough to garner some serious side-eye because girl that outfit looks fabulous but it is cold as shit outside – unleashes a wintery blast that turns the entire kingdom into deadly winter wonderland. Pretty damn straight forward. Slow hypothermic death caused by the Queen equals induction into the Wicked Witch Bridge Club. Case closed.

Reality: Red herrings! Get your Red Herrings here. Two for one special, today only!

Source: Walt Disney Studios

Have you ever seen a fairy tale and thought to yourself, “Why do powerful women always get regulated to the role of villain? This is patriarchal bullshit.” Well if you have, the people behind Frozen agree with you. Not content to merely turn True Love™ into a cautionary tale, they doubled down and made Elsa into flawed hero warped by her upbringing and parents heartfelt but damaging desire to keep their children safe. So basically she represents all humans ever, with the possible exception of Hitler.

Expectations: Anna is a “feisty” princess which is basically a little girl primer on how to grow up to be a manic pixie dream girl.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

Let me tell you a story. A long, long time ago – the 80s – society decided teaching children women should strive to be passive princesses waiting for rescue was bad. But what to do? Ah, yes! Make the princess spunky. Or fiery. Or…feisty. But in trying to imbue little girls with a sense of agency, the feisty girl became a caricature of herself. A proto “Strong Female Character” stripped of any emotion that isn’t sass. Thus trading one stereotype for another. The End.

Reality: Princesses are people too, dammit.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

Anna is feisty. And lonely. And loving. And determined. And rash. And naive. And desperate. And funny. And self-conscious. Elsa is aloof. And scared. And over-protective. And insecure. And full of guilt. Because people – even animated people – are the sum total of their personalities combined with their experiences. Which is something even live action films forget at least 63% of the time.

Expectation: The desire to burn Olaf the Snowman to the ground, preferably with a flame thrower.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

Based on the trailers, Olaf is the avatar of obnoxious sidekicks. If science distilled every annoying animated comedy relief character down to the essence – abrasive personality, a tendency to make stupid decisions to drive the plot, jokes that elicit more groans than giggles, overshadowing the leads, and a blatant merchandising ploy aimed at innocent children not yet jaded enough to see through corporate manipulation – it would look like this insipidly smiling pile of sentient snow.

Reality: The desire to give Olaf a warm hug and maybe a cup of iced tea to mitigate the pain of character assassination.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

I don’t know who Olaf pissed off in the marketing department but that’s the only explanation for why Disney – known for their well-rounded side characters – would actively seek to destroy the integrity of a sweet yet naive hat tip to how childhood memories stick with us, buried in our subconscious, long after we think we’ve purged them in favor of memorizing the lyrics to commercial jingles.

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