Friday, April 4, 2014


In recent years Disney has been feverishly trying to update its anachronistic heroines by making them more boyish, more feminist than feminine. In FROZEN they've succeeded brilliantly: the heroines run, jump, climb, punch and are even crossed eyed and freckled. Even though the zeitgeist words "feminist" and "strong female characters" have been liberally sprinkled in reviews, a “feminist princess” is oxymoronic if not just plain moronic. By the way, does being more boyish make a female character more acceptable to a female or male audience? Or both?  Anyway, none of this is feminism, it’s just marketing.

And none of it matters. This terrific film doesn’t need any of the labels that have been applied to it. Not even the “princess” label. It wasn’t marketing that made FROZEN successful, it was the elusive secret ingredient that makes a film a hit: MAGIC.

And this is top-of-the-line CGI magic. The snow and ice effects are dazzling, the camera angles are breathtaking (the opening sequence knocks your socks off), the lighting is spectacular, the  character designs wonderful, the backgrounds stunning (loved the Fragonard). But, by far, the biggest star of FROZEN is the animation. From the smallest sniff and sigh to the greatest leap and stretched-out gallop, the animation is sensational. The acting is occasionally so subtle and personalized you forget you’re watching a cartoon. The photorealism of CGI also makes some of the fairytale aspects of the story a bit jarring. Doesn’t this suggest, Disney, that
animation is ready to stop being a children's genre and start being a medium for adults

Everything was thrown into this film: joyfully exuberant Princess Anna: a bit of a klutz but really really enthusiastic and her sister the icy Elsa: not a boy in a skirt but a coldly regal femme fatale, a goofy sidekick reindeer with a canine subtext, a silly snowman for the little kids, a snow monster for horror fans and even, gasp, a woman writer and co-director to please the critics. Maybe the next Disney film will have TWO female directors and twice the success.

FROZEN deserves its Oscar, its Broadway show and its popularity. It’s as good as most recent Pixar films, so does this mean Pixar is going to eventually bite the dust? Few Disney films have that spark of wildness and humanity that made the early Pixar films great, but now that Disney owns Pixar (even though they are still separate studios) that beloved wildness seems doomed to disappear into the successful box-office formula of tomboy princesses, inept princes, goofy sidekicks, Broadway songs and stunning art unmatched by feeble fairy tales.

Finally, another message from FROZEN seems to be that we will never again see a hand-drawn animated film from Disney. Although CGI still lacks the fluidity and bounce of pencil animation, hand-drawn just can't compete with the majesty and spectacle CGI has attained.