Why Did Everyone Love Frozen?

By Wednesday, June 25, 2014 ,

Why do so many people love Frozen? The frosty tale of Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Hans seemed to take the world by storm (pun intended…snow and ice even came soon after it was released). Little girls everywhere are singing “Let It Go” and daydreaming about Elsa’s glorious, ice blue gown and luxurious blonde braid. Anyone from two Navy baseball players to a newlywed couple I know videoed themselves lip-syncing along with “Love is an Open Door.” It’s truly incredible how popular Frozen was almost immediately. Since its release, it has become the highest grossing animated film ever, beating out Toy Story 3. It’s also now the fifth highest grossing film of any kind in box office history, finishing behind Avatar, Titanic, Marvel’s the Avengers, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. And it won two Academy Awards: Best Animated Film and Best Original Song for Let It Go.

Oh, the hearts these characters have captured!
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So what is it about this story that has touched so many hearts and delighted so many imaginations? I happily own to thoroughly enjoying the film too. I went to see it with a group of college friends, and we were totally cool with being the only people our age in the theater. I’d of course heard that it was wonderful, and I gladly joined the hype after I saw it. But why the hype? I more fully saw how excited about it people were after I’d seen it, which made me think more deeply about what exactly in Frozen thrilled so many people, yours truly included. My overall conclusion is that it simply deviates in its own charming way from the typical Disney princess movie in unexpected and compelling ways. It also made me think that there’s still hope for good, wholesome fairytales. Here’s what I’ve been considering. 

Frozen was a fresh approach to a fairytale. Let’s be real: a heroine with the magical ability to create snow and ice is pretty cool. Movies about princesses have been Disney’s forte for as long as it’s existed, but this one took a little twist. Winter-creating magic and two royal sisters, one a princess and the other a queen, were a different idea. And the music and animation are brilliant. Elsa’s ice castle and the catchy tunes still have people enraptured. What’s more, the plot structure is different and more complex than previous Disney princess movies. Usually, princess movies are pretty predictable. Frozen is not. I even knew there was a catch as I was watching, but there were still twists that surprised me. And there’s not a clear division between good guys and bad guys from the beginning. Instead, the primary conflict is within Elsa because of those amazing icy powers – she has this magical ability, but it can harm people. And because of this dilemma, there’s even more conflict between her desire to protect others and Anna’s hurt over being pushed away. And even though real people obviously lack the magical part, this can resonate with many audiences. Like Anna, many of us have probably been pushed away by a loved one and not understood why. And like Elsa, many of us probably hesitate to get close to someone for fear of being hurt or hurting the other person. Being vulnerable isn’t easy, and the spectator aches for Elsa when she’s shut up in her room, too afraid to even venture out. We know that Anna would understand if she would just explain everything! And in the meantime, we also feel for Anna. She’s experiencing deep hurt over how distant Elsa has become for no apparent reason. But we know it’s only that Elsa’s terrified of hurting her again! This is likely a scenario many viewers have personally experienced, minus the magic. We know it can be scary to open up to someone, and that it’s hurtful to be shut out, so we feel for both of these imperial sisters. So even though Frozen is still a fairytale, its conflicts and structure are different from Disney’s go-to setup in previous princess films, and viewers can identify with the characters’ struggles. 

Frozen also departs from Disney’s usual messages about self-identity and true love, and I think people appreciated that change. There are many exchanges between characters that make fun of the ideas Disney is known for promoting. I enjoy the older princess movies as much as the next five-year-old, but they obviously can suggest wrong values. Be true to yourself, do what you want, find yourself, and don’t let others tell you what to do ring loudly in many of them. In Frozen, the characters experiment with these ideas…but the story does not stop there. Anna “falls in love” in three minutes like most of the early Disney ladies, which leads to a few dialogues between characters that humorously show “love at first sight” and similar philosophies are actually ridiculous. Anna later realizes that romantic, “true love” feelings have nothing to do with real love. This funny meme was developed to show how much Disney made fun of itself…

About time, Disney
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Additionally, Elsa throws off all barriers and responsibilities for a time, trying to simply “be her own person,” as many Disney princess flicks encourage us to do. She belts out “Let It Go,” determined to let her powers be free of constraints and not answer to anyone. However, she soon discovers that this attitude is selfish and hurtful to Anna and to the kingdom of which she needs to take ownership. Her resolve to “let it go” seems pretty thrilling at first because it’s such a well-done, vivid scene in the movie – the song is dramatic and fantastically performed, and she transforms into a glamorous supermodel. But soon, she finds out that the kingdom is in jeopardy because of her fear and intense focus on herself. Channeling her powers for good and opening herself up are what she most dreads, but that is what she ultimately has to do in order to reconcile with Anna and to save the kingdom. She has to lay aside what feels best to her and sacrifice for others. And sacrifice is esteemed in Frozen, which sets it apart from most of the other Disney princess movies. One of the most profound lines in the film is spoken by the comic relief snowman named Olaf. When Anna says she doesn’t know what love is, he says, 

“That’s okay. I do. Love is putting someone else’s needs before yours.” 

I was amazed when I heard that in the theater. It’s certainly the most anti-Disney line I’ve ever heard in a Disney princess movie. As much as I enjoy Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and a host of others, they shout “true love” and “follow your heart” from the mountaintops. But this line and the ultimate climax of Frozen turn all of those Disney clich├ęs upside down, offering a powerful lesson for young children (or anyone, for that matter!) about what true love and respecting yourself really look like. So, rather than portraying love as equivalent to a starry-eyed couple, Frozen says that sisters and families need to love one another too and put aside personal preferences for each other, even when it’s frightening to be vulnerable. Instead of preaching that being true to yourself means abandoning responsibilities and getting your own way, Frozen says that doing the hard thing and giving up your desires leads to “happily ever after.” It esteems sacrifice and selflessness as vital characteristics of love that lasts and is ultimately most fulfilling. The ending scene, in which Elsa and Anna are friends again and the once-secluded castle has been opened to friends, offers a poignant picture of sweet harmony and joy that come from laying aside fear and self to love others. And I think that overarching message may have warmed a few icy hearts.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” -1 Corinthians 13:4-7

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For more thoughts on Frozen that I consulted, you can check out these links:
http://www.pluggedin.com/videos/2014/q1/frozen-2013.aspx 
http://thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-cold-that-bothers-us/  
http://www.aleteia.org/en/arts-entertainment/article/getting-upset-about-the-wrong-things-in-disney-movies-a-christian-tradition-5845591317807104

*I do not own the rights to the photo in this post. All photos used were retrieved from credited Internet sources*

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