After the princess Anna is nearly killed by the ice-powers of her older sister Elsa, their father the king decides that Elsa must be kept from society. The castle gates are locked, and the royal family live in isolation. Memories of Elsa’s abilities are removed from Anna’s mind, and she reads her sister’s hermitude as bizarre. Meanwhile Elsa’s powers grow beyond her ability to suppress them. The daughters remain cut off from the outside world even after the king and queen perish while sailing in rough seas.
On the occasion of Elsa’s twenty first birthday, she must assume the title of queen in a public ceremony. The gates open much to Anna’s delight, but Elsa cannot maintain her composure and her abilities are finally revealed to an audience of nobles and dignitaries. Unwittingly she plunges her kingdom into a deep, permanent winter, running away to the solitude of a mountain hideaway. Anna goes on a dangerous quest to find her sister and save the kingdom.
Disney pioneered the “animated princess” genre with their first feature film, Snow White, a towering cinematic achievement in nearly every regard.
Frozen marks the first time a woman takes the helm for a Disney feature. Jennifer Lee was both the primary writer and co-director. She comes into the princess genre overflowing with ideas and like the protagonist, Anna, a pugnacious sense of spunk in challenging convention.
Time after time Frozen will follow genre convention only to pull the rug out from under the audience. Nowhere moreso than the finale which sets up a rescue from one of the male suitors but instead redoubles on the theme of the sisters’ interreliance.
The character of Elsa is pretty interesting herself. Though appearing in barely a quarter of the feature, she dominated not just the plot but the film’s pop cultural afterlife. Normally films are wary of creatures that wield nearly omnipotent power. Reportedly Frozen was not intended to be an exception, with Elsa set to fill the role of villain. One listen to the character’s signature song, “Let it Go”, and the producers changed their minds. In doing so, Elsa became a much more interesting character than her sister.
Anna’s plot follows a typical hero’s arc: a harrowing journey full of dangers that brings together a disparate group of strangers into a family unit. But by contrast, Elsa’s journey is almost entirely internalized. Her struggle is in accepting that she’s extraordinary.
In the summer of 2014 over a separate controversy, Moviebob noted how rare it was for any Western fiction to feature a truly powerful female character free of character flaws. Some go crazy from their power, for others their abilities are no more than metaphors for hysteria or PMS… In this regard too, Elsa is an extraordinary creation. Embracing her true nature coincides with improving her looks and adopting her iconic blue gown. By the end of the film Elsa is embraced by her subjects and respected by her aristocratic peers, notable in that the typical fate for characters of such great power are laser duels or sojourns on Mars.