Monday, December 30, 2013

Panetti Corrects Me on 'Frozen'

My frequent movie companion and girlfriend - who's seen close to two thirds of the movies that I've gone to see this year - had one major bone to pick with me: I did not like Frozen enough. After many a bristled debate over whether or not the latest Disney animated film is the best movie of 2013 (she thinks it is, I very much do not), I have given her her very own platform. Probably should be noted that Panetti is a graphic designer with a habit for animated movies. It was her childhood dream to animate for Disney. Keep this in mind as she delves into long passages about the inner workings of animation procedure. Without further ado, here is Taylor Panetti's case for Frozen as her favorite movie of the year.

TAP: Simply put, the greatest thing about Frozen is how much it deviates from the typical Disney Princess story. Actually, these deviations started in 2010 with the underrated Tangled and continued through with 2012's Brave (although technically a Pixar movie, but for the sake of argument, I'm lumping it in with Disney for obvious reasons). The studio began to explore new relationship dynamics, stepping away from Prince Charming and to some extent, even making fun of themselves and their Princess formula.

Frozen is the first sibling relationship to be explored so thoroughly by Disney. Yes, plenty of Disney movies have had siblings, but they have never been the focus. And they're sisters! Win for the feminists! Well, sort of... Neither Anna nor Elsa are incredibly dynamic characters on their own; Anna is the quirky, naive do-gooder younger sister while Elsa is the moody, conflicted older sister. However, combined I think they do cover the duality missing from almost all female characters in mainstream media - especially Disney. But their relationship is what defines the entire movie.

It's also important to point out that this is one of really only two Disney movies (Brave being the first) that has a story revolving around two female figures -neither of whom are wholly good or evil, but simply human- in which one female is essentially rescuing the other. But don't be mistaken, neither woman fits into the stereotypical 'damsel in distress' Disney is so fond of turning its princesses into and neither need a man to save them. In fact, all the male characters in this movie are in place to assist the sisterly bond.

With the emphasis being on the sister relationship, Prince Charming gets pushed out of this story. And good riddance! Disney even goes so far as to make fun of the P.C. archetypes. The character of Hans, who is everything Prince Charming should be (you know, a charming prince) turns out to be a power hungry jerk. You could poke a hole in this argument by suggesting that Kristoff is in reality the P.C. of Frozen, and you'd be kinda right. But even then, Kristoff is still a refreshing deviation from the usual P.C.; he's blue collar, brusque and flawed with an un-princely physique (so essentially a real man, amirite?). But even if Kristoff is our P.C., his relationship with Anna is not what takes center stage in this movie.

Another thing which goes hand-in-hand with this 'Anti-P.C.' theme that I applaud Disney for stepping away from - and essentially mocking - is the 'love at first sight' motif. Anna believes that her and Hans are in love after meeting only once and when she asks Elsa for her marriage blessing, Elsa calls bullshit and thank God for that! It even becomes a recurring joke throughout the movie when Kristoff repeatedly scoffs at Anna's belief in 'love at first sight'. The point is driven home when it turns out that Anna's "true love" Hans, who is presumably the only one that can save her with an act of true love after Elsa accidentally freezes Anna's heart, reveals that his love for her was a sham. And although you can say there is a romantic relationship in this movie once Anna realizes that Kristoff is in fact her "true love", it's purely incidental and not the main emphasis. The real love story here is the love between Anna and Elsa.

Along with Disney's departures from its typical Princess approach, Frozen also features something of a deviation musically. Yes, Frozen is a musical - as most Disney movies are, but it's musical-ness is something that some would complain was not clearly advertised * (although I think Idina Menzel's presence in the cast should have made that clear enough). But it's not a musical in the bouncing ball sing-along way. It's a musical on a Broadway theatrical scale. The songs have a more casual lyrical quality and at times are downright satirical, detracting from the typical melodrama of most Disney musical numbers. The treatment of the songs by the characters is almost as if the movie is aware of itself being a musical. The only other time that Disney has done this so successfully would be in Tangled, when Flynn Rider is the only character that questions why everybody is constantly singing. But the most obvious feature of the deviation is Idina Menzel, most well-known for her role as Elphaba in Wicked. This woman is a beast... words just cannot describe how amazing she is. Her voice is unlike any ever to grace a Disney character; this is not your typical bubbly singing-with-woodland-creatures princess, Elsa's a queen dammit! And her voice is a pure powerhouse. Menzel is singlehandedly responsible for the greatest three-and-a-half minutes of Frozen.

And of course that one thing that Disney is the absolute king of is animation (duh). It's one of the few computer-animated movies Disney has done independent of Pixar, which Disney is proving to be capable of doing quite well. The animation is nearly impeccable. The environments and backgrounds are beautiful, vast and incredibly detailed encapsulating Scandinavian design and architecture. Every subtle facial expression is so perfectly captured down to the tiniest lip twitch, it's as if these characters are composed of real flesh and muscle rather than pixels. Even the gestures and body movements are so insanely human, most notable during musical numbers, when these characters more closely resemble live performers rather than CGI cartoons. Elsa alone has 400,000 individual strands of hair that has to be animated (for reference, Tangled's Rapunzel only had 27,000 - and her hair is historically hella long). The Disney animators also sprinkled lovely little Easter eggs throughout the movie, something that they are oh so fond of doing. But hands down, the greatest bit of animation in this movie is the fabric. Every piece of fabric in this movie has its own texture and they are unbelievably realistic. Seriously, looking at just the shoulder and collar of Elsa's coronation dress and how the light plays on those two separate textures blew my mind. And they did this for the entire movie, which should be impressive to anyone who isn't a troll making gifs on Tumblr catching animation errors after watching the same thing on a loop over a hundred times.

To conclude, Frozen was my favorite movie of all the ones I saw in 2013 and its absence on any of James' lists all but required me to deliver a response this long. Aren't you glad you have me around to fix all your mistakes?

Hey! It's my Tumblr!

*Note from James: It's not that it wasn't clearly advertised, it wasn't advertised at all!



I loved Frozen. I even made the argument on my blog that Frozen's Elsa character could be one the strongest gay allegories on film. I felt like there was a lot of allusion to her not being able to be her true self...and the whole "conceal, don't feel" thing really spoke to this. Also, the whole Let It Go song would make just as much sense coming from the mouth of a drag queen as from Elsa. Read the lyrics through that lens and let me know what you think.

James Colon said...

I'd never really thought about it that way, but that certainly applies. Kind of in the same way that there is a lot in 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' that I can relate to, even though I'm a straight man, not a dispirited transgender. Interesting insight!