When I was in Disney World this past January, my daughter expressed a desire to meet Anna and Elsa, Disney’s two newest princesses and the lead characters in Frozen (2013). A stop by the Anna and Elsa meeting location in EPCOT led us to find out that at 2:30 in the afternoon, people were already lining up for the 6pm meeting opportunity (there was a greeting every two hours).
We did not meet those two princesses during our trip, but the fact that the line was so long is a testament to the incredible instant popularity of the Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee directed film. Inspired (not “based,” but “inspired”) by the Hans Christian Anderson story, “The Snow Queen,” Frozen has won not just legions of young fans, but two Oscars as well. Put another way, there is more than just popularity here, there is some recognition that this animated film is something special.
The DVD and Blu-ray editions of Frozen landed on store shelves this week. It ought to be instantly snapped up by anyone who enjoys a fun, well made, animated musical film. Featuring the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, and more, Frozen is the story of one princess with the magical ability to create snow and ice, and her younger sister who wants nothing more than to have a friend and doesn’t understand why her elder sister can’t be around.
The animators at Walt Disney are on something of a role in recent years, putting out The Princess and the Frog, Winnie the Pooh, Tangled, Wreck-it Ralph, and now this movie. There is a recognition in all these films of the classic tropes of animated features in general and Disney ones in particular, and this new wave of films is greatly successful at playing against those tropes without either completely repudiating them nor truly straying too far from the formula.
Is that too complicated? Going a little more in-depth on Frozen seems to be in order.
The movie is about the two sisters, with Elsa (Menzel) due to be crowned Queen of Arendelle, but who can’t control her (secret) magical ability to make things frozen and who ends up running away in shame. It is left to Anna (Bell) to go find Elsa and convince her to return to the city and unfreeze the kingdom. Along the way, Anna meets a helpful man, Kristoff (Groff), who sells ice and his reindeer, Sven. Because it would be ludicrous in this world to have the reindeer talk (as occurs in older Disney films), Kristoff talks for Sven. There is still a talking snowman, Olaf (Gad), but that makes sense within the world (kind of) because he’s been created by Elsa’s magic. There are also talking trolls, which everyone sort of acknowledges as weird, but again, magic.
Frozen unfolds with a story of true love, great music, funny animals/creatures, humor, wit, a little bit of magic, and a wonderful story. It offers up some positive messages, is full of adventure, and—if you’ll forgive me—brings out the kid in all of us. There is an enthusiasm to the film that propels it forward and is infectious.
For my money, the best moment in the film is the singing of “In Summer,” by Josh Gad’s Olaf. In this song, the snowman ruminates on just what it would be like to be able to experience summer, entirely without knowing what would happen to him (as a snowman) if he did. It is this sort of child-like (not to be confused with childish) enthusiasm which so much of the film imparts to the audience. It is impossible to watch and not find yourself smiling or vaguely mesmerized or simply enjoying what it is you’re witnessing. If asked, I would rank “In Summer” more highly than Frozen’s Oscar-winning “Let it Go.”
The new Blu-ray release beautifully captures the essence of the film, talking what was offered on the big screen and putting it on the small with no loss of color, clarity, or detail. The sound, a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, imparts all the wonder of Arrendelle’s aural qualities. It proffers great bass, directional effects, and the fully realized world the production team created.
In fact, the most disappointing aspect of the entire affair is the Oscar-nominated Mickey Mouse short, “Get a Horse” which is available on the release and accompanied the film in theaters. This animated piece starts out utilizing a small portion of the TV so as to better mimic old Mickey Mouse cartoons. While on a theater screen this minimal use of space does not detract from the proceedings, on a TV set, it appears awfully small. There is nothing that can possibly be done about this while maintaining the artistic nature of the piece, but it is a diminished experience from what was offered in theaters.
The Blu-ray set contains various other bits of paraphernalia, from music videos and deleted sequences and a brief piece on the history of Disney wanting to making the film to a behind-the-scenes song where they sing about how they’re going to show you how the made the movie (but don’t really tell you how they made the movie). It is the exact same sort of infectious feeling which permeates the main feature. What the release lacks, is a solid in-depth look at the actual making of the movie. Additionally, while the main section of the menus use white as the highlighted color and blue as the not-highlighted, heading to the bonus features reverses this choice and is exceptionally confusing. A DVD and digital copy round out the release.
I can’t imagine that at any point in the near future there will be a second release that offers up the myriad of behind-the-scenes discussions which must surely exist somewhere on tape (or digital) about the process of making the film. But, probably the vast majority of individuals are far more interested in having a beautiful home version of the film and less interested in special features which they may never look at. This Blu-ray release certainly offers a great version of a wonderful movie.