Instead of the bygone damsels in distress — yes we're talking about you, Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty — the female royals of “Frozen,” Disney's latest animated wonder, are feisty, forward and independent.
Strong female leads are fitting, as “Frozen” marks the first time a woman has occupied the director's chair in the 76 years of Disney animation features. Jennifer Lee, who wrote Disney's “Wreck-It Ralph” and the screenplay for “Frozen,” co-directed the 3-D adventure with Disney veteran Chris Buck (“Tarzan”).
Inspired by the 19th century fairytale “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen, “Frozen” marks another Disney film modernizing one of the Danish author's stories. “The Little Mermaid” also adapted an Andersen fable.
Eight new songs, by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, work well when paired with the stunning visuals. But none really shines like a “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” — and it's been too long since we've had a big Disney-stimulated hit.
But the overall message more than makes up for the film's pitfalls. Rich in magic, perils and family ties, “Frozen” encourages us to embrace our fears, overthrow our inhibitions and find the true meaning of love.
It's set in the kingdom of Arendelle, and sisters Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) are best friends who love to play in the snow. Luckily big sis Elsa can create ice and snow with her bare hands.
When Elsa accidentally zaps her sister with her sorcery during playtime, Anna is almost killed. Since their daughter can't control her power, the king and queen send Elsa to her room and isolate her from her sister. But the girls are left alone when their parents die in a shipwreck.
Dauntless optimist Anna tries, for years, to get her sister to come out of her room. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” Anna sings. But Elsa, afraid of hurting her sister again, remains locked away until she turns 18 and is fit to be queen.
On her sister's coronation day, Anna is excited to finally have a house full of people. She even plans to keep her eyes peeled for the possible swoon-worthy suitor. Like clockwork, he comes in the form of the handsome Prince Hans of the Southern Isles (Santino Fontana). Anna falls for him instantly, and the two become engaged.
Anna's impulsive behavior enrages Elsa, which results in her freezing the kingdom. Disgusted with the continued lack of control over her sorcery, Elsa flees up the mountain and builds herself an ice palace.
On a quest to bring her sister back, Anna teams with the uncouth, ice-selling Kristoff (Jonathan Groff). Anna is able to convince Kristoff that if he helps her, summer will return and he'll be back in the ice business.
When they reach Elsa, Anna is unable to coax her into returning to the kingdom. In a fit of rage, Elsa hits her sister with her powers once more and thus begins the race against time before Anna's heart freezes over. Only an act of true love can thaw her.
The animation in “Frozen” is premium, and the 3-D earmark adds to the pearly appeal of the ice and snow, but we are lacking in the sweeping romance we've grown accustomed to in a Disney princess movie.
Then again, it's a tale for gals about love as a journey and not just something meant to save the princess (or damsel) from her unfortunate circumstance.