‘Frozen’ is a refreshing look at sisters and proactive princesses

“Frozen” gives princesses a good name. That’s not easy to do nowadays with the Disney merchandising of its stable of princesses. “Frozen” officially opens next week nationwide, but since Southern California is Disney central, the movie opens to the American public five days in advance at the El Capitan with special activities.

“Frozen” isn’t exactly an original name. There are about five other movies, including an American 2010 film, out with the same exact name, but that psychological thriller doesn’t have the thrilling soundtrack that Disney’s new animated feature does.

The voice cast includes Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff. Menzel gets to sing “Let It Go” and Christophe Beck’s score gives Menzel’s voice a soaring anthem. Chris Buck  (“Tarzan”) and Jennifer Lee direct this vibrant, humorous movie with story by Buck, Lee and Shane Morris.

The tale is based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875).  The original story was first published in 1845.  That story begins with an enchanted mirror created by an evil troll. The mirror when shattered, sends splinters into people’s hearts and eyes.  A splinter in the heart causes the person to become cold. A splinter in the eye makes the person see only the ugliness in people.

A little boy named Kai gets a silver embedded into his heart and eyes and turns away from his favorite playmate, a girl named Gerda. Kai becomes cruel and spurns his friend Gerda. The only thing he finds lovely now are snowflakes, which are really the snow bees that hover around the Snow Queen. The Snow Queen can be found where the snow bees congregate.

Kai goes to meet the Snow Queen who takes him away to her castle, but Gerda journeys to save her friend.

The Disney version of the tale is much different. In the land of Arendelle, there are two princesses. The younger one, Anna (Bell), is our protagonist. The older sister, Elsa (Menzel) has a special power to create snow and ice. Because the king and queen fear what their people will say, they keep this power hidden. However Anna delights at Elsa’s ability but during a childhood night of playing, Elsa mistakenly hits Anna and almost causes her death. The rock Troll King warns the parents that if Elsa had hit the heart, the resulting wound would have been fatal. The Troll King removes all memories of Elsa’s magical powers from Anna and the King and Queen keep Elsa’s powers a deep secret that becomes harder to hide.

When Elsa slips up and reveals her powers, her fear and the fear of her people result in Elsa fleeing Arendelle, but also leaving the land in an eternal winter.

Anna must seek out Elsa to save both her sister and Arendelle. Leaving her newly minted fiancé, Hans (Santino Fontana), in charge of Arendelle, Anna sets off on her horse, Sitron, and with Mountain Man Kristoff (Groff) and his reindeer Sven, to find Elsa. Along the way the trio meets a magically animated snowman, Olaf (Josh Gad), who is the comic relief.

There’s plenty of danger along the way, but nothing as frightening as in “Brave.”

When we saw an advance screening of “Brave” at the El Capitan, one father had to pass up the Disney special family activities because his young daughter was sobbing.

That’s not going to be a problem in “Frozen” even though the threat comes from both real and legendary figures.

There are a lot of good lessons here and, of course, cute commercially marketable animals. The costume design and scenery take inspiration from Norway. The two princesses aren’t waiting for their prince to save them like Cinderella, Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. The real evil isn’t in the magic, but in people’s hearts although there are no slivers of glass to cause evil actions. Here the root to all evil is greed. Love, in all its variations, is shown to have magical powers.

The animation is beautiful–from the scenery to the costumes and the castles. The tale gives a more sensible approach to life without being overly cloying. And Elsa’s “Let It Go” will ring in your ears in a good way and make you want to let your inner diva out.

“Frozen” begins at the El Capitan today, 22 November 2013, and the El Capitan show includes a live stage production featuring Anna and Elsa and a snow-covered wonderland. You can enjoy breakfast with Anna on certain days before the 10 a.m. show. “Frozen” will be at the El Capitan until 5 January 2014. “Frozen” opens up nationwide on 29 November 2013.

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