During the production process of “Frozen,” Disney assigned a team of researchers and animal behaviorists to study a particular species of young adults called Userus Tumblrus and Readerus Buzzfeedus. After analyzing and distilling every trait of these creatures, the team threw them into a blender. The result is “Frozen” ’s heroine Princess Anna (Kristen Bell, “Safety Not Guaranteed”), who appropriately freaks out, trips and exudes quiet courage at all the right moments — allowing the movie’s young target audience to project themselves onto her as much as possible.
She’s spunky and independent, her speech filled with, like, modern vernacular. She’s also quirkily obsessed with food, shoveling pastries into her mouth at a ball á la Jennifer Lawrence — patron saint of teenage girls — eating McDonald’s at the Oscars. When in the presence of a handsome prince, she stutters and becomes endearingly awkward. This is Disney’s new spin on the old princess trope.
In the same vein, Disney subverts the traditional fairytale canon in the animated musical “Frozen,” directed by Chris Buck (“Tarzan”). The movie revolves around two sisters, Princess Anna and her older sister Elsa (Idina Menzel, “Enchanted”), who complements her frostier personality with the power to control ice and snow. On her Coronation Day, Elsa accidentally unleashes her powers on the entire Kingdom of Arendelle, dousing it in eternal winter as she flees in fear. Anna embarks on a journey with mountaineer Kristoff (Jonathan Groff, “C.O.G.”) and sentient snowman Olaf (Josh Gad, “Jobs”) to find her sister, who she loves despite their strained relationship.
This is where the movie diverges from a typical fairytale. There is no clear delineation of good versus evil, no Dorothy pitted against the Wicked Witch. Elsa is a refreshingly reluctant villain. Anna’s spontaneous engagement to the mysterious Prince Hans (Santino Fontana, “Nancy, Please”) is a typical, Cinderella-esque archetype contested by Kristoff, who asks her the important questions: “What if you hate the way he eats? What if you find out that he picks his nose? And eats the boogers?”
“Frozen” sets itself apart from any other Disney princess movie through one last trope inversion: Only true love can break a fatal spell, but it’s not the conventional love which the audience is led to believe. In the past, Disney has moved toward a modern take on fairytales — 2007’s “Enchanted” for example, addresses true love’s kiss — but “Frozen” goes above and beyond its duty with a major twist. Hint: Girl-power advocates everywhere are cheering.
From a more traditional standpoint, “Frozen” ’s animation shines despite its limited palette of snow, ice and more snow. Watch this movie if only for the stunning wintry landscapes, especially in 3-D. There are also a few Easter eggs that nod to ’90s Disney classics, including “Mulan” and “Beauty and the Beast,” to mollify even the most ardent Disney veterans.
The film is destined to go the same way as “Beauty” and become a Broadway musical. “Frozen” delivers eight brand new songs, from anthem pop to acoustic duets, and though it oddly lacks a finale number, the timeless Disney heart in each song more than makes up for it. It’s a slogan for the whole movie: New look, same great taste.