Academy Award winning Best Animated Feature Frozen was released on March 18, much to my nine-year-old son and several of his friends’ delight. Frozen marks the 53rd animated movie in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series and it’s loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Snow Queen. The critically-acclaimed box office smash features the voices of Tony Award winning actress Idina Menzel (Wicked) as Elsa the Snow Queen and Kristen Bell as her younger sister Anna, princess of Arendelle, along with Tony Award nominee Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening) as Kristoff, a handsome and humble mountain man with his trusty reindeer Sven.

Sheltered and Shut Out

Elsa possesses the power to create ice and snow and huge trouble ensues when she accidentally freezes Anna while playing. Anna is healed from trolls and her memory of the incident is erased. However, both Elsa and her parents are afraid of Anna being hurt again. Both girls are isolated in the castle and Elsa pushes her Anna away in order to protect her. Anna doesn’t understand and feels lonely, sad and rejected.

This estrangement is really tough to bear. We feel terrible for both of the sisters, but especially sad for Anna who doesn’t know why her sister doesn’t want to play with her anymore. To make matters worse, their parents are killed at sea when the girls become teenagers.

Disney is known for spinning some tragic tales. In fact, many of the Disney princesses endure great sorrow and hardship. Snow White and Cinderella are two prime examples. But the sisters’ plight feels excessively tragic.

Coronation Chaos

Elsa comes of age and she is crowned Snow Queen at a lavish coronation ceremony. Anna feels so alive with a taste of life outside the castle and she’s even more excited to dance. She daydreams of finding true love and Prince Hans appears to sweep her off her feet. The ball is beautiful and fun. But Hans proposes to Anna and Elsa forbids the marriage. The sisters quarrel and Elsa’s hidden powers are exposed. She panics and flees the castle, which brings an eternal state of winter on the kingdom.

The film transitions to Anna’s quest to find her sister and bring her back home. Along the way she meets mountain man Kristoff and his reindeer Sven. Who can resist that adorable reindeer? Plus, we can tell Kristoff is rather sweet on Anna but she’s driven on her quest and is oblivious to his charm. The entire journey seems long and arduous and so very cold.

We realize Elsa is just trying to protect everyone she loves and it’s so sad that she feels like the only way to do that is to isolate herself in an ice palace high up in the mountains. Elsa sings the Oscar-winning Best Original Song “Let It Go” as she’s trudging up the cold mountain, trying to talk herself into her self-induced exile. The song is beautiful and is destined to be crooned by children and adults in living rooms across America with the DVD rolling in the player.

Meanwhile, whipping winds and blowing snow won’t stop sweet Anna from trying to reach her sister and the love she has and the lengths she’ll go to get to her is intensely moving.

Reunion Gone Wrong

Anna encounters her childhood snowman, Olaf, who leads her to Elsa. Elsa panics again and sends a snow monster to frighten them away. Anna is relentless and when she finally faces her sister she begs her to come home. She says she knows Elsa won’t hurt her. But sadly, Anna is accidentally struck in the heart and she’s doomed to become permanently frozen unless an act of true love saves her.

On top of everything else, Prince Hans is revealed to be a liar and a schemer. Everything seems hopeless and adorable Olaf is the only one to provide occasional comic relief in the middle of the impending tragedy.

True Love Prevails

It’s a notable and rather wonderful change that romantic love isn’t the saving factor in this story. Kristoff loves Anna, but the romance is subdued. Hans captures and imprisons Elsa. He eventually tries to kill her and Anna throws herself between them and freezes into ice to block the blow. In her willingness to sacrifice herself to save her sister, Anna’s act of true love is the key that controls Elsa’s powers. The kingdom is thawed and the sisters reunite. My son and I yelled a collective, “Yahoo!”

Overall, the power of sacrificial love ultimately redeems the dark tone of this film.There are also great messages about strength, determination, the sacred bond of family and helping someone recognize the good inside themselves. The soundtrack is superb and Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell give glorious musical performances. The animation, costumes and scenery are also stunning.

This DVD is definitely worth keeping in the family collection, though you may need to shield younger children from some of the tragic themes, like the loss of both parents and perceived sibling cruelty. The snow monster and Elsa’s use of her “powers” may also be scary for younger children.

Blu-ray bonus features include a making of the film feature, a look at Disney’s attempt to adapt the fairy tale, four deleted scenes, original theatrical short “Get a Horse!” the film’s teaser trailer and “Let It Go” music videos by Demi Lovato, Martina Stoessel and Marsha Milan Londoh.

MPAA Rating is PG for “mild action and rude humor.”

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