From 1989 to 1994, Disney animation was at the top of its game. Starting with The Little Mermaid and continuing through Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, Disney found critical and commercial success that rivalled anything they’d earned before. The arrival of Pixar in 1995 knocked Disney off their throne, which they’ve only recently reclaimed with Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph. Frozen, though, is the best animated movie Disney themselves have made in almost 20 years.
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” Frozen tells the tale of two princess sisters, Elsa and Anna. Elsa was born with a Midas touch of ice, and when she and Anna are playing one day, Elsa nearly kills Anna. After that accident, Elsa stays in her room for a decade, until her coronation day. Her powers are kept secret from the entire kingdom of Arendelle, including from Anna, who lost the memories of them.
At the coronation ceremony, Elsa loses control of her powers and sends Arendelle into an eternal winter. Elsa flees and secludes herself in a faraway ice castle. Anna ventures after her, to convince her to thaw the land out, assisted by a prince, his reindeer, and a snowman Elsa enchanted as a child.
Frozen represents a near-perfect fusion of modern Disney and early ‘90s Disney. It covers similar territory as Tangled, but brings back the theatrical musical numbers that were once a staple of animated Disney fare. The songs are insanely catchy and grandly operatic, recalling classics like “Part of Your World” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” And the cast of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff are all magnificent.
As great as the songs are, they’re almost all in the first 45 minutes. The movie loses a little of its magic in the second half, once the characters stop breaking into song. As well, at just 90 or so minutes, Frozen’s a little too lean for its own good. An extra 20 minutes in the third act would’ve made for an even more powerful movie with a stronger ending.
Minor quibbles aside, though, Frozen is nearly flawless entertainment that not only redeems a disappointing year for animation but gives Disney their best animated film since The Lion King. If this is the future of Disney, Pixar may soon lose their crown.