Hey all, Fenrir here with another tasty tidbit of some “Food for Thought!” On the menu tonight is Disney’s up-coming film, Frozen. Frozen is a very loose adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. If you watched Monsters University (review here) you probably saw this trailer in the theaters — which by and far shows little of the actual plot other than the cute animal sidekicks, including yet another dog-like four-legged steed (think Maximus from Tangled) and a snowman fighting over a carrot.
…Yeah, now let’s backtrack to the Japanese trailer, which gives us an entirely different impression of what the film seems to be like:
Looks cool, no? Well some fans don’t think so for various and rather legitimate reasons; let’s take a look at some of the reasons why the fans are disappointed by this upcoming feature film ranging from tricky adaptation issues to art direction and beyond!
I believe two years or so ago I talked about The Snow Queen in its pre-production when we were only treated to a few images that promised a stylized depiction of the titular Snow Queen that seemed to please fans. It promised, perhaps, another chance at a 2D movie — and in the wake of the sort-of-success-sort-of-flop of Princess and the Frog, it was a much needed boon for those of us wishing for another 2D Disney masterpiece.
But it looks like the production is going in the totally opposite direction, and with the success of Tangled as a cult-hit perhaps a good incentive, Frozen is now a 3D movie with an impressive cast of voice actors. Also much like Tangled, it seems a title change from “The Snow Queen” to “Frozen” is a strategic marketing attempt — much like Tangled – to go for a gender-neutral title to attract a a diverse male and female audience. Hmm.
Anyway, there are some good things to come out of this! Idina Menzel of Wicked Witch fame will take on the role of the titular Snow Queen. This casting choice may promise some singing with Menzel definitely in her (wintry) element. And I guess that reindeer and snowman thing is kind of cute, if you’re into side-kicks doing side-kicky things, I suppose.
But interestingly enough, denizens of the Internet have a lot to say about this — particularly, how much they dislike it. And personally, I am in some agreement with a few of the complaints.
As with most Disney animated features, especially those that take cues from known fairy-tales, they do take some liberties (read: many) with the original content. Hans Christian Anderson may not be the epitome of feminist leanings; however, his work, The Snow Queen, does have a surprisingly active cast of female characters. For one, our original hero, Gerda, has to rescue her male best friend, Kai, who takes on the role of passive victim, aka damsel in distress — a surprisingly refreshing twist on the usual fairy-tale convention.
In fact, The Snow Queen surprisingly passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. Female characters far outweigh male characters; much of Gerda’s innate cleverness and resourcefulness is buffered with the aid of female characters, from good witches to female robbers and rogues that help her on her quest to save Kai. And again, we’re talking about Hans Christian Anderson here — you know, the guy who wrote the original Little Mermaid in all its “purity and virtue” undertones — so this is an unusually female-positive work. And of course, in the end, Gerda is able to save the day and her friend — thus the happy ending for our female hero is right up there with tales of dashing knights and chivalry.
However, Disney decided that a twist on this rather rich and interesting fairy-tale was needed. Instead of Gerda out to rescue Kai, we now have Princesses Anna who must save her sister, Elsa, newly cursed with magical ice powers and who is now dubbed “The Snow Queen”. Along the way she is accompanied by Kristoff, a “Mountain Man”, his loyal reindeer, and a talking snowman, which leaves fans of the original work with little to be hopeful for.
Now while one can argue it is simply Disney’s own spin on the original, thus leaving room for interpretation, it does seem like a very big loss to NOT include some of the rich characters that made their way into the Anderson work. And, as consumers of Disney merchandise and about half of the population, it would have been prudent to keep some of the original story and perhaps build off of it. I can only imagine how innovative, and how perhaps even highly praised, this film could have been if it took the chance to go with the original work’s predominantly female cast and maybe put a “romance option” (Kristoff) on the back-burner.
Furthermore, fans have taken umbrage with Frozen’s similarity to Tangled. Call it “house style” or “laziness”, but when comparing the original, dynamic concept art to what we have now, it is little wonder why some netizens are unimpressed.
Still, with Frozen slated for a holiday release, it is anyone’s guess as to how well it will do. I mean, I once slated Wreck-it Ralph with dubious interest, but it turned out to be one of the better films of last year. Perhaps Frozen will be another one of those unexpected turn-arounds.
We can always mourn what it could have been, at the very least :’D
Annnnnnd that’s all there is to this week’s “Food for Thought!”