By Brenda W. Clough
I believe I can remember seeing my first Walt Disney animated movie. It was Sleeping Beauty. I see from IMDB that this came out in 1959, so that would be just about right. If anyone wants a research project to apply to a Ph.D. a century from now, it probably would be profitable to write about how animation and comics have affected me. That movie is seminal in my development. And by extension all Disney movies are, as well.
So it was annoying when the great studio fell onto hard times, and began putting out lesser works that shall not be named here. Amalgamating with Pixar seems to have put life in the old gray horse, however, and no better example could be found than Frozen, probably still in theaters in your area.
This is a return to Disney’s great years. Princesses in peril, a thrilling and truly gloriously rendered setting, a couple of grand production numbers, and a heart of gold. Icy gold, to be sure, but gold. Impulsive Princess Anna and her older sister the troubled Princess Elsa are at the heart of this movie. Sororal love, rather that the search for one’s Prince, is the emotional engine of this movie, a very welcome development. I also note a quite modern emphasis on not falling in love at first sight and immediately running off with the guy. Instead the heroine is firmly encouraged to get to know her intended and wisely assess his character, a theme that also appears in Enchanted. A sad necessity of our wary and litigious modern age, or the tinkle of a golden nugget of common sense dropping into the vacuous vessel of popular consciousness? We could discuss this.
The visuals are unbelievably gorgeous. CGI has made enormous strides in just this decade. Go and look closely at the rendering of transparent ice and glass, the flurry of snow, the flow of fabric and the texture on the horns of the reindeer. It is magnificent. And the beauty and glory of the music simply cries out for a transfer to the Broadway stage. I cannot imagine how they could do it (surely this is a show foreordained for Disney on Ice instead?) but if they could stage Beauty & the Beast then it certainly can be done. Idina Menzel sings like an angel, in a production number clearly written for her voice.
And! The studio is clinging stoutly to the tradition of a short film preceding the main feature. And the opener for Frozen is a honey. The ancient and original pencil-limbed Mickey of my girlhood is back, breaking the fourth wall and having a marvelous time. It’s worth the price of admission just to see this one. When you have this deep a catalog, there’s no point in being shy. I noted the upcoming Malificent, due out in 2014. With Angelina Jolie in the title role? OMG. I am a girl again.
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