Frozen could be considered the Beauty and the Beast of the Disney Revival that started with 2009’s The Princess and the Frog. It received widespread acclaim, made a billion dollars at the box-office, and won Disney Animation’s first Oscar for best animated feature. For some, it turned into a virus with the amount of times Let It Go was played over the radio and shared on the internet. It’s been six years since directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck unleashed that phenomenon. And a couple of short films later, one of which I’ll always defend despite its initial backlash, the sequel is finally upon us and no one has any idea how to react. Walt Disney was never interested in sequels following his continuation of The Three Little Pigs stating, You can’t top pigs with pigs. But the new generation of animators are having another crack at breaking that mold. Can the success of the original lead to more possibilities for the royal family of Arendelle?
Anna and Elsa (Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel) are a family again with their childhood snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) and Anna’s boyfriend, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff). Until Elsa starts hearing sirens calling her to the wild. This leads to a forest occupied with dense fog and a mystery from the past left unsolved. All the while, Kristoff is trying to find the right moment to propose to Anna.
Sounds like the perfect story to expand on everything. From the siblings relationship, to Arendelle’s world building, to Elsa’s evolving powers, there’s so many opportunities for this to become the superior sequel. And to its credit it does set up a lot of ideas to be bigger and better in every way. Seeing the two sisters interact with each other after witnessing their turmoil in the original is always a welcome site. The shorts gave us a glimpse into their new lives, and this continues that same tradition with how things have changed in the kingdom. Who knew watching a simple game of charades could be so exhilarating? Every time Anna and Elsa are together, it leads to the best moments in this monumental tale. Olaf is kind of hit and miss, but that’s because his arc is more of a distraction that doesn’t really go anywhere. Including a song that, while funny, is more of a filler number than anything else. And sadly Kristoff is no better off when he’s suddenly dropped halfway through the adventure after some hilarious attempts to find that perfect moment. And that’s the biggest problem with this ambitious follow up.
With everything going on, there isn’t enough time to give the new and familiar material proper development. An unwritten rule for animated films is that they’re only allowed to be an hour and forty minutes long at max. And with multiple stories going on at once, including the introduction of new characters, it really suffers. Somewhere in the Disney vault, there’s a two and a half hour cut of this feature waiting for it’s time in the spotlight. Because this could’ve been Disney’s own Lord of the Rings style film where it builds up an expansive world with likeable characters into an epic trilogy. The mythology is there with various creatures, the expansions are there with new locations, the world building is there with new faces, the character development is there with new life tests, and there’s new commentary that could be more than just a marketing ploy. Instead it just beats around the bush with a few skimmed ideas that hurts both the side and main characters. Not even the villain amounts to much in this mystery. If anything it feels more like an afterthought. And not to give anything away, but the plot concerning Elsa’s powers oddly mirrors a very popular Nickelodeon show. But that wouldn’t matter if it brought some sort of unique spin, but most of it amounts to being relegated to a commercial for new toys and figurines. There’s no set of rules for the new ice powers opting to focus on fashion more than evolution. This had six years to brush away the Disney sequel stereotype, but instead the rich material that begs to be explored is tossed into a giant pile of wasted potential for the sake of short term marketing.
On a more positive note, while none of the new songs reach the heights of Let it Go, they still progress the story and tell us more about the characters with entertainingly catchy tunes. Some of them even surpass a few of the original tracks. As much as Kristoff gets the short end of the stick, he does have a stand out solo that makes up for the lackluster Fixer Upper song. And no matter what the lyrics are, Kristen Bell and especially Idina Menzel completely soar with their powerful vocal chords. It’s very rare to find high profile acting names that can both emote and sing, but animated Disney musicals (no, the live-action remakes don’t count) seem to bring out that endangered combination of talent. They’re so good they could sing all the words in the dictionary and still charge tickets at Broadway prices
Of course being from Disney, the animation is top notch from start to finish. The effects on the water and snow feel like testing grounds for next generation video game consoles because they look so down to Earth. And when fantasy needs to step in, it’s very imaginative what mother nature can do with such creatures that don’t feel part of our own reality. There’s not much else to elaborate on because whenever Disney Animation creates a new feature, they always bring their A game when it comes to the animation. It’s just a shame they can’t put the same amount of effort into their stories. Especially if they’re going be making more sequels in the near future.
Frozen II has a lot of ambitious ideas to expand upon for a follow up, but it’s short run time keeps everything from character development, world building, storytelling, and pacing from being the prime example of an exceedingly superb Disney sequel. If this was direct to home media, it would be par for the course. But because Disney is heading into uncharted territory with these theatrical continuations, there’s a lot of expectations to put quality effort into the script like they do with the animation. With six years to usher in a new perspective on sequels, it’s a bit disappointing to have this as the final product. But to be fair, it has some passable songs backed with incredible singing talent, many comedic moments mixed with strong emotional voice acting, and best of all the relationship between the sisters is what elevates it enough to see this in theaters. Families will definitely enjoy this, particularly if they have daughters who cosplay as either sister. But for die hard adult fans of the original, it might be somewhat of a let down because the first film’s narrative was more flowing and straight to the point. When two short stories feel more like a sequel than the hour and forty minute long movie, something’s screwed up in Arendelle. And we’ll get to one of those shorts sooner or later. However after seeing Wreck-it-Ralph 2 butcher both it’s universe and potential to expand its video game foundation, despite having a good message, this could’ve been a lot worse. Can you imagine bringing Facebook and Twitter into this kingdom that’s supposed to be timeless and free from modern day technologies? Let’s hope they never do that in the eventual live-action remake.