The Disney princess is changing, and not before time.
Even the most beloved of Disney’s female characters have arguably questionable messages behind them, leaving contemporary fairy tales to walk the line between fantasy and shifting audience tastes.
The last Disney princess, Merida (Brave), went beyond established female roles, with no singing to woodland creatures and no love at first sight. It seems that the modern princess can have flaws that aren’t variations on ‘feisty’ and meaningful relationships not defined by romance.
Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale The Snow Queen, Frozen is Disney’s latest animated musical with two regal women at its heart: Queen Elsa played by Idina Menzel (Wicked) and her sister Princess Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell (Heroes, Veronica Mars).
Elsa was born with the power to create snow and ice, but hides her abilities after a childhood accident that hurt her little sister. The two grow up isolated from each other, but Elsa’s secret is revealed during her coronation. She runs away out of fear, triggering a storm that casts winter across the kingdom.
Anna fearlessly pursues, aided by a young mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven and a magical talking snowman called Olaf (Josh Gad) – well, this is Disney, after all.
If you aren’t a fan of Disney musicals then this will never be for you, but if you are then showstoppers like ‘Let it Go’ sung by Elphaba herself will give you goosebumps. The spectacle of the snowy landscapes looks great in 3D if you have the option, but it’s not essential.
The Snow Queen was already a very female-centric story which subverted the damsel in distress trope by having the girl rescue a boy. It is somewhat diminished by this new take, but the effort is there to make the antagonist more relatable and show a meaningful relationship between two women.
Frozen is an exuberant piece of escapism that’ll enchant kids. Like its fairy tale inspiration, the story is dark in places – still in a very Disney way, but it could have gone even further.