Frozen created the most hype I’ve heard in a long, long time. Loosely based off of “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Anderson, Disney’s film went back to traditional fairytale roots while staying away from the cliché love story. Since I’m far from a dedicated moviegoer, I sat back and watched the excitement grow and grow. Finally, instead of going to the theaters, my husband and I bought it.
I settled into the couch cushions and pressed play, afraid that it would be over-rated. Surely it couldn’t be so laudable as I had heard. And just as expected, the first few scenes piqued some scrutiny: why does the random gnome want to keep Kristoff and Sven? Who does Kristoff belong with? Why does Anna have to forget? The story didn’t offer many explanations.
Though key answers were missing, the movie won me over surprisingly quickly. Frozen is hilarious. It’s touching, tender, and emotionally alive. For 102 minutes, it swept me along with the intoxicating rush of what a fandom engrossed friend calls ‘feels.’
Trouble in Arendelle
The plot and characters came to a happy ending, but as the emotional rush faded, I left the movie feeling a lack of resolution. I couldn’t help but ask: why does Kristoff dislike people when Anna first meets him? It doesn’t seem to fit anything else in his personality. What happened with the ice men, don’t they care that Kristoff left? Why doesn’t Elsa confide in anyone? Was she tempted to? How did she hide her powers from everyone for so many years? Why can’t the king and queen trust anyone with their secret? Are the people that unreasonable or irate? They all seem to be lovely, understanding people—how could they not know their own people well enough?
Some of these questions can be answered with vague “well, because of the magic and the emotions.” But the story lacks a grounded backstory and complex reasoning behind character traits and choices. We see all of the effect, but we’re missing most of the causes.
It’s all about the emotional rush.
After watching Frozen, I asked my writing group what they thought, and only then did their critiques come out. The plot is weak. But somehow, the story enchanted millions. Frozen works just like those physics defying fight scenes from action flicks. Viewers want an emotional experience, not a realistic one. Especially when watching a Disney movie, they come to forget about their troubles and leave with a lighter heart. Frozen is emotional escapism at its finest. How can other storytellers recreate this sugar high?
The story builds off of a common sibling relationship, making it easy to empathize with the characters. The sisters may annoy each other sometimes, but their relationship is generally loving. Before their friendship can mature, fear drives Elsa away. Through the course of one song, the girls become tragically orphaned and distant siblings. Excitement becomes longing. The initial emotional high juxtaposes the sudden low, making the distance feel all the more tragic.
Now, this will be hard to say. It goes against every storytelling bone in my body. But I must admit. Frozen succeeded without a logically grounded plot because of its humor and heart.
Art graciously provided by:
- “Elsa Bust” by Amy: Discover her work on DeviantART and Tumblr!
- “Frozen” by Maria Perez Pacheco: See more of her work on DeviantART!