Frozen, the highest grossing animated film of all time after less than six months of general release, is already a cultural mammoth and its release on home video will only excel its ubiquity. The Blu-ray is the ideal choice, not only because it features the extras the DVD lacks but also because this is a gorgeous film, and high-definition is part of the appeal here, key to appreciating its advancements in technology and animation. The most vital of these is the Matterhorn program, which allowed artists to create snow that acted and behaved realistically, giving it a distinctive realisation in the movie and proving that Disney are still operating at the vanguard of animated cinema.
Frozen is nonetheless a vital component in Disney’s second renaissance (after their first major comeback in the ’90s), which follows the takeover by Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, starting in 2009 with the release of The Princess and the Frog. The studio is on fire as of late, and with their Oscar-winning latest entry catapulting them even further back up the ladder, it’s unlikely we’ve seen the last of the modern Disney mega-hit.
This isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. The first Disney movie to be directed by a woman is an ideal Christmas choice, full of warmth in less-than-accommodating surroundings, drawing on Norwegian iconography to provide a mystic quality which has long been the studio’s backbone. Frozen benefits from referencing the sublime in its beautifully rendered fjords and icy mountains in that it creates that sentimental sense of epic as befits the end of a year.
But despite its broad scope and technical developments, it’s considerably safe in terms of the Disney standard, picking up on many usual motifs and even referencing their most popular tropes. Aside from the fantastic and complex Elsa (Idina Menzel, or Adele Dazeem if you’re John Travolta) and another I shouldn’t really spoil, there’s no deviation from typical fairy-tale character types or plot points, and even the jokes are routine and clichéd, only ever rescued by vocal delivery. This isn’t to say the film isn’t funny and/or enjoyable – it certainly is, especially the latter – but it’s disappointingly by the books in terms of narrative, which is where the film makes no distinctions from most other entries in the Disney catalogue.
Still, Frozen is undeniable, partly because of its charm but also because of its soundtrack, each track a winner oozing with bombast that fills the movie’s wide-open scenery with a lot of heart. Moreover, commenting on the reliance on tried-and-tested formulas by a film such as this is beside the point; Disney created a product (finally – they’ve been trying on-and-off to make Frozen since 1943) with the intention for it to win, and it won. It’s communal in every way, garnering most of its poignance from the estrangement of sisters Anna and Elsa, who mourn the time wasted by their years of separation. If that’s not a recipe for a strong family movie, I don’t know what is.
Frozen was directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, written by Jennifer Lee (based on the fairy tale The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen) and stars Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad and Santino Fontana. It lasts for 102 minutes and is a production of Walt Disney Animated Studios. Distributed on DVD, Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray 3D by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.