“Frozen” sets heart-warming, action-packed tone as Walt Disney Animation Studios preview shows more than comedy

in Disney, Entertainment, Events, Movies

There is much more to “Frozen” than Disney would have you believe. Based on the two United States teaser trailers Walt Disney Animation Studio has revealed so far, it’s easy for anyone to confuse the upcoming 3D animated film with a slapstick comedy. But that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

I recently attended a special 30-minute sneak preview of “Frozen.” Though I was initially disappointed I wasn’t going to be seeing the entire film, upon looking over the day’s event itinerary, that disappointment was quickly replaced with excitement as I was scheduled for an entire day at Walt Disney Animation Studios filled with opportunities to not only see a portion of the film but also talk with the talented artists and filmmakers who worked on it.

The day started with a screening of the short film that will be accompanying “Frozen” in theaters, called “Get a Horse!” starring Mickey Mouse. I’ll write more about the making of this short in a future article, but for now I’ll just include this note: If “Frozen” turned out to be complete garbage (it’s not!), audiences would easily want to pay the premium to see this short ahead of the film in 3D. Seriously. It’s that good.

The main attraction of the day was around 30 minutes of “Frozen,” several scenes from throughout the film with interstitial cards between to help tell the story. I went in not knowing too much about the film, only having seen the characters and preview short with the snowman (Olaf) and the reindeer (Sven), otherwise totally unaware of what the story was about.

Worry not. All impressions that follow are spoiler-free.

“Frozen” is absolutely gorgeous. The art design is fantastic throughout. Everything from the tiniest details on the costumes and buildings to vast mountain vistas is beautifully rendered. “Frozen” is a visual treat.

Usually I’d say a movie review that starts with praising the visuals is trying to find something positive to say, to make up for a story that doesn’t work. But in this case, this is not a review, as I only saw a handful of scenes. It wasn’t enough to know how well the story works, but what I did see had much to be praised.

While I didn’t quite grasp the full complexity of all the characters and their relationships and motivations, they seemed well developed and unique. This isn’t just a re-skin of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider of “Tangled” – despite the obvious similar character design.

The voice acting in “Frozen” is terrific. Kristen Bell (like Mandy Moore before her) was born to be a Disney Princess, now playing Anna. I didn’t even recognize it as her voice until later in the day. Idina Menzel (Elsa) and Josh Gad (Olaf) were more recognizable voices, both wonderful as well.

The studio showed off two of the film’s musical numbers during our preview. The music by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez of “Avenue Q” and “The Book of Mormon” fame (and my personal favorite, “Finding Nemo: The Musical”) was good. The first was a show stopping ballad sure to be a highlight of the film, called “Let It Go.” It reminded me of Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked, almost a little too much. Menzel recently debuted it in a performance at the 2013 D23 Expo, much to the audience’s delight:

The second song previewed was a wildly different comedic song, more along the lines of what you’d expect from Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon – minus the raunch of course. It featured Olaf singing about all the wonderful things he would do under the warm sun, comedically oblivious to the fact that he, as a snowman, would melt into oblivion if that ever really happened. This same bit was also shown at the D23 Expo, again much to the audience’s delight. Most importantly, it showed that Olaf has a much better sense of humor than has been seen in the film’s previews so far, with rich comedy trumping slapstick and silly one-liners.

But that does brings me to my one concern about “Frozen” – the tone. The scenes I saw were full of drama, emotion, action, and adventure. And then there were some really “out there” comedic bits. It’s not that they weren’t funny. They were. I’m just not sure how well it’s going to fit in with the rest of the movie which is easily among Disney’s most epic. Again, these impressions are based on just 30 minutes of footage, so it’s not a final review of the film. The filmmakers I spoke with at the event were keenly aware of the movie’s tonal issues and I can only assume they have worked to strike the right balance in the end.

When I asked co-director Jennifer Lee about the tone after seeing the film clips, she told me “You’re always going to get the perfect balance of comedy and drama if you give it to the characters because people are funny. Even in dramatic situations they do awkward things and if you root your comedy in that and who they are and what they want – even the simple want of a carrot – there’s a humor that comes naturally and organically.”

After the screening I toured Walt Disney Animation Studios and was given a chance to meet many of the artists behind “Frozen.” I learned plenty more about the film’s creation, more of which I’ll share in a future post.

For now, take a look around the displays that were set up for this special event, a great opportunity to take a peek behind the scenes of Disney’s famous studio:

“Frozen” arrives in theaters on November 27, 2013.


  1. Chaz

    Sounds very exciting. I’ve been looking forward to this film for some time now, and I’m pleased that your general impression was good. It makes me hopeful.

    And I agree that there are definitely similarities between “Let it Go” and “Defying Gravity.” Really, I feel like all of the members of the main cast are somewhat typecasted to different degrees.

    I’m still really looking forward to November.

  2. aly

    i’m both worried and excited for this film, excited cause i know some parts of the story and it is GOOD! worried cause people who only saw the trailer thinks its just slapstick and appearantly ‘TANGLED ON ICE’== i hope the marketing team knows this prob and find ways to overcome this, cause i already had friends boycotting this film eventhough i tried so hard to convince them otherwiseT.T THIS IS A GREAT FILM! T.T

  3. UhHuh

    Yeah, I was hoping for a dazzling Disney rendition of “The Snow Queen”. This ain’t it.

    1. Aveeva

      Don’t judge something before you have seen it.

      1. UhHuh

        AH, yes, the usual reply when someone sees a film trailer that doesn’t inspire him/her to see the film. Tell me, why does Hollywood even MAKE film trailers if the potential audience isn’t supposed to see them and make a judgement? Nice try. Not going to see this. Period.

        1. Aveeva

          It’s your loss bud.

  4. Jeff Lynch

    I heard a rumor that Frozen will have Disney’s first gay prince character, Hans and Kritof. In one of the trailers they have Kristof being upset that Anna put her feet on his sled, which was “freshly lacquered”. I wonder if in the movie Hans and Kristoff fall in love and Anna ends up with no one.

    Did you pick up on anything like this in the preview they showed?

    1. Dallas

      Hans and Kristoff are not gay.

      1. Dallas

        I know because I have read the entire plot..

    2. UhHuh

      NO, Jeff, the author of the article didn’t pick up on anything like that, and I can guarantee you that neither did anyone else, except the delusional and those sad souls who write gay fan fiction about straight characters, like those pervs who get off on My Little Pony. And FYI, nobody wants to see a family-oriented cartoon featuring gay characters. Nobody even wants to see a live-action show featuring them, which is why NBC’s “The New Normal” got cancelled. Disney will never do that. If that’s what you want, go watch the ending of that box-office bomb “Paranorman” over and over.

      1. Jeff Lynch

        Dear UhHuh,

        Did you happen to see the movie “ParaNorman” that was very popular last year. It featured a gay character (the big blonde football player guy). So, you’re wrong about there not being gay characters in a family-oriented cartoon.

        It’s 2013…and news flash…gay people are part of the family too!

        1. UhHuh

          Paranorman was not “very popular”. It was a bomb, Jeff. For many reasons (it was damn ugly-looking for one), but the blonde gay dude probably didn’t help it. And of course some families have gay members. But most families don’t, and most people, despite the incredible hype and incredible pressure and incredible aggression of gay-marriage advocates (who often display an interesting lack of tolerance themselves), most people still feel uncomfortable with homosexuality. And Disney is not going to make a family movie that would make most members of the family uncomfortable, at the very least. Traditional family values still rule in this country, and it’s those values Disney and other entertainment companies are going to aim their entertainment at. That’s just the way it is. Inclusiveness is all very well, but to ask that a sexually-deviant character be made a main character in a Disney movie is just not going to happen. Ever. Period.

          1. Dallas

            I’m Gay and we want characters too. I’m sorry it upsets you that I am engaged to a man but I’m a human being too just like you.

          2. Dallas

            Also I’m pretty sure WIll and Grace, Modern Family, and Broke Back Mountain were all big hits. Just saying.

          3. UhHuh

            Will and Grace was popular…until Will started dating. Then the ratings plunged. Look it up.

            Modern Family’s gay couple are not the main characters. If they were the focus, it’s likely that show would no longer be on the air, at least not on a mainstream network.

            Brokeback Mountain was not a family movie.

          4. Dallas

            Why are you looking into this so much? Its kind of creepy. DO YOU GAY URGES?! Are you suppressed?

          5. ShaBAM

            You seem pretty snipety and snarky and frankly a little rude. You don’t have to try to put everyone down for an opinion or their interpretation of something. Also, if you have no interest in seeing a movie then stop commenting, get off this site and leave everyone alone. As for the controversial gay subject, there could one day be a gay character in a Disney film. I’m not saying it’s in this movie but you have no authority to make such an absolute. Be chill, this is a Disney website.

          6. Michelle

            You are one poor little soul. Open you heart brother.

          7. LoveIsFree

            Actually, frozen DOES feature a gay character. The guy who owns the sauna and shop is implied to be gay. When he mentions the sauna and says “Hello, family!” We see his five kids… And a blonde male. This implies that not only is he gay, but he has kids with his partner. I for one liked the fact that Disney did this, and better yet that they didn’t make a huge deal of it. It was just like “Here’s the character, here’s his family, moving on.” Frozen was an amazing movie. I loved every bit of it. <3

          8. Mary

            Being gay isn’t sexually deviant… Most people I know would want to see gay characters. This is just like how back in the day people didn’t want to see interracial couples on tv because it was “unnatural” and “against the norm”. Just because u don’t want to see something doesn’t mean others feel the same way. I hope that by the time I have kids there are strong gay role models in Disney films and other kids channels, so tha they know that it’s normal and know that everyone has the right to love.

      2. NuhUh

        Well, looks like someone’s got several severe issues… Love yourself first, baby, and then maybe you might be able to love others. Ain’t nobody got time for hate. And you seem quite hateful. Not Pat Robertson hateful, but the vitriol and the bile are evident,

    3. Anna Santiago

      They are not gay. Hans gets punched off a ship by a girl and kristoff ends up with anna

  5. Ryan R

    This film has to do well because mad by the same people who made tangled and wreck it Ralph. That snowman still worries about this movie going down, but I hope for the best.

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