Since 1937, with the release of ‘Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs’; Walt Disney Studios has continuously charmed audiences with princess films. While many such as ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Beauty And The Beast’ went on to win Oscars and dazzle the box office – no Disney Princess film has reached the pinnacle of success Disney’s surprise 2013 hit ‘Frozen’ did.
‘Frozen’ which followed Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) and her quest to reconnect with her estranged sister Elsa (Idina Menzel) went on to become the highest-grossing animated film of all time and ultimately is the crowning jewel in the multi billion dollar Disney Princess brand. So it comes as no surprise that the Mouse House, which rarely releases theatrical sequels, made an exception for Princess Anna and Queen Elsa.
‘Frozen II’ takes place three years after the original. Queen Elsa, who once feared her powers to control ice and snow, has now embraced them along with her responsibilities as Queen of Arendelle. She is supported by her doting younger sister Princess Anna, Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and sidekicks Olaf and Sven. But a mysterious voice (Aurora) is calling Elsa and she can’t help but wonder if her destiny lies beyond the kingdom of Arendelle. After accidentally reawakening the spirits of the Enchanted Forest, Elsa and Anna with their friends in tow on a journey to discover the source of Elsa’s powers while also uncovering secrets of their family’s and kingdom’s past.
Part of Frozen’s success was its Oscar-winning music by Bobby and Kristen Anderson-Lopez; who have returned with more infectious tunes. Power-ballads ‘Into The Unknown’ and ‘Show Yourself’ both have ‘Let It Go’ potential and showcase Broadway star Idina Menzel’s powerhouse vocals. The latter features one of the most visually stunning animated scenes in recent memory and boasts one of the film’s most emotional moments that rivals Simba’s reunion with Mufasa’s spirit in ‘The Lion King’.
Kristen Bell’s heartbreaking ballad ‘The Next Right Thing’, feels more of a fit for ‘Les Misérables’ than a family animated film but it’s a beautiful ballad nonetheless. Broadway favourite Jonathan Groff, who hardly sang in the original, gets an '80s love anthem all to himself in ‘Lost In The Woods’. The scene is reminiscent of a David Bowie music video and offers plenty of laughs, while Evan Rachel Wood, who plays the princesses' late mother Queen Iduna, performs the hauntingly beautiful lullaby ‘All Is Found’, which boasts a hummable melody and some dark foreshadowing.
‘Frozen II’ is surprisingly darker in tone than its predecessor. The film plays more like a fantasy adventure film than a Disney Princess musical. The action sequences including a mythical water horse and a group of earth giants will most likely frighten younger viewers and the plot might go over their heads; but credit is due to the creative team for deciding to not tread familiar waters and venture 'into the unknown'. The film explores mature issues such as colonialism, reparation and climate change; but with so much going on the film only skims over these issues which means its impact on younger audiences will most likely be minimal.
While some might question whether 'Frozen' warranted a sequel after the original tied the story up perfectly, directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck have ensured to build on the world of Arendelle and its characters in this film, which gives the series plenty of avenues to go down via sequels or spin-offs. The introduction of Nordic creatures, a native tribe, family backstory, new lands and Arendelian soldiers mean there is plenty of story to uncover in the 'Frozen' franchise, but that’s part of this film’s downfall. So many exciting elements and characters are introduced but have little lasting impact and plot threads feel incomplete – it seems the film is too busy setting up for future 'Frozen' instalments.
Regardless of the story’s shortcomings and tonal issues, 'Frozen II' still boasts plenty of magic. The film is arguably one of the most beautifully animated films of all time; everything from water drops, to autumn leaves and the details on the characters clothing is spellbinding and Josh Gad’s naïve snowman, Olaf, once again delivers plenty of laughs. 'Frozen II' might not be as solid as the original but its commitment to venturing into unknown territory is commendable and if future instalments in the 'Frozen' franchise are produced to this calibre – then why would we want to let it go?