December 7, 2013

Disney Canon #53: Frozen (2013)


BROOM While we’re waiting to place our orders, let’s start by talking about the short that preceded the movie, “Get A Horse.” Many of these movies have been released with theatrical shorts but this is the first time we’ve watched one, so let’s talk about it. I think that falls within the range of our project.

ADAM I thought it was promising. The humor was a little broad but it was a very effective use of 3D.

BETH It was. When the curtains swished, I thought, “That looks like a real curtain! That stage looks like a stage!” I was impressed, and I thought it was charming that they really mimicked the old animation style accurately.

ADAM Although they did modernize Mickey Mouse’s head.

BROOM Very very slightly. It was a loving and careful re-creation of the old style, which is a thing that in this project I’ve frequently said I don’t think they can even do when they try. And here they did.

ADAM And it looked cool. The effect of them going back and forth from the movie world to the real world was neat.

BROOM The short was just a piece of technical showing-off, and it was a good one. It had a little too much sadism in it. By the end I thought, “This doesn’t all quite fit with the old Disney spirit.”

ADAM Right, it was a little Itchy & Scratchy.

BROOM Some of those old cartoons do have casual pitchfork-in-the-ass sadism, but here it happened six times. It was when the pitchfork got pushed further in that I thought, “ooh, I don’t think they would have done that in the 20s.” But I really enjoyed and respected the whole thing.

BETH I actually was fooled at first, thinking that we were going to see an old cartoon.

BROOM They got you.

ADAM Well, why don’t we just start. Because we don’t know how long the waiter is going to be. Well. I thought it was great. I have almost entirely positive things to say about it. In fact I can’t even think of any negative things.

WAITER How are you guys doing?

BETH Good!

ADAM We’re gonna just have dessert.

WAITER Sure! What can I get for you?

ADAM The… pumpkin pot-au-creme.

WAITER Pot-au-creme.

ADAM And the apple crisp.

WAITER Pot-au-creme and apple crisp.

BROOM That’s it.

ADAM And I’ll have a Laphroaig with a single ice cube.

WAITER Sure. Any drinks or anything for either of you guys?

BETH I’m gonna have the Taylor Fladgate.

WAITER Anything for you, sir?

BROOM Nope, just the water. Thank you.

BETH Thank you.

WAITER Thanks guys.

ADAM See, I knew that would summon him. Let me start over.

BROOM You thought it was great.

ADAM Almost entirely positive things.

BROOM In fact you can’t even think of…

ADAM … any negative things to say right now.

BETH That’s awesome.

BROOM I also thought it was great and I also have almost entirely positive things to say. But I could think of some negative things to say if we had to.

BETH The negative things I have to say are almost all about the songs, which I felt were very weak. Remarkably annoying.

ADAM Let’s talk about the songs, because I disagree with you.

BETH Wow. I thought that the lyrics were overly cutesy and cloying. The jokes were just not funny, to me. They were trying too hard.

ADAM Okay, I don’t necessarily disagree with that. But I thought the bigger risk was that the songs would be intrusive and weird. They managed to be sort of Broadway and a little bit contemporary, but sound relatively natural with the action. For a Disney musical.

BETH Okay, sure.

BROOM I agree with both of you. Maybe you do too.

BETH Yeah, I agree that the integration of the songs was nice.

ADAM I mean, I can’t remember any of the songs now.

BETH I can’t either. Truly.

ADAM But at least they sounded kind of like natural speech, and they had a slightly current pop flavor to them.

BETH I thought they were a little overly current-pop, and this movie is going to feel dated in 20 years because of the style of the songs.

BROOM I don’t think either the style of the songs or their integration were wrong. I saw the movie as an attempt to work with the impulses they had during Tangled and improve on them. And in almost every way they did. Even in terms of the songs, I think they did improve on making the movie a more coherent overall tonal package. But I also thought that the actual specifics of the music and lyrics were rote and uninspired. The script was sensitive to character in a way that the jokes in the songs weren’t; they were just borrowed from a Broadway playbook and grating.

ADAM I think this is the first one we’ve seen in a long time where there was a semblance of character development and backstory that was more than just “yearning.” [drink is delivered] Thank you.

BETH [drink is delivered] Thank you.

ADAM Maybe it wasn’t very much, but Elsa had some complexity. She wasn’t a villain, but she had legitimately motivated coldness. She was likable even in her dislikability.

[Discussion about various character relationships for a while, in a way that is unfortunately too dependent on spoilers to convey. Maybe the transcript will be instated here after the movie leaves the theaters. Or something.]

BROOM I thought that Kristoff was great. He was my favorite “guy” in one of these movies. Maybe ever.

BETH I agree. He seemed like he did smell kind of bad. In a cute way.

ADAM He had that big nose.

BETH He was very well drawn and acted and written.

ADAM I thought he was great. I mean, I was torn, because Hans was also really cute. And funny.

BETH I didn’t like his nose. It was too pointy.

ADAM I mean, who doesn’t yearn to meet someone at a party and finish each other’s sentences?

BETH That song concept was agreeable to me.

ADAM I thought “finish each other’s… sandwiches” was a funny line.

BETH Uh-huh. [ed.: BETH was in fact in the bathroom during this song.]

BROOM But that was right on the edge of the kind of joking that I thought didn’t fit with the movie.

WAITER All right. There we are. Pumpkin pot-au-creme. And the apple tart.

BETH and ADAM and BROOM Thank you.

ADAM Let’s talk about the politics, because BROOM mentioned them [in the redacted part of the conversation]. I too really admired the politics of it. I think in general it’s better to make politically progressive movies than not, but this really wore its progressivism lightly.

BETH I wasn’t really thinking about its feminist underpinnings while I was watching it. It was just a story.

BROOM You know what the “Bechdel test” is?

ADAM I was thinking about that the whole time.

BETH I’ve heard the term but I don’t know what it is.

BROOM Alison Bechdel, a lesbian cartoonist, coined this notion in her strip sometime in the 80s…

ADAM One of the characters says, “I’ll only see movies if they pass this test: There have to be two women… who have a conversation with each other… about something other than a man.”

BROOM And most movies do not pass this test.

ADAM An embarrassingly large number of movies do not pass that test.

BROOM Probably all of the Disney movies thus far. I mean, I don’t know that for sure, but many of them. But this one does.

ADAM I thought about that a lot, because I thought, “they’re really going for it!”

[Spoilers on the degree to which they went for it.]

BETH So let’s talk about the snowman. I basically didn’t have a problem with him.

BROOM Me neither.

ADAM Yeah. I was really surprised.

BETH I expected to, when I saw him in the ads.

BROOM I don’t know what to call that voice he was doing — sort of a Jewish New York simp.

ADAM He was doing something like the Gilbert Gottfried parrot, lite.

BROOM I kept thinking of Richard Simmons.

ADAM I thought he was funny because the humor wasn’t ‘tude humor. It was legitimately funny because it was so totally out of place for the rest of the movie.

BROOM I was so concerned about ‘tude, going into this, because on the poster they’re smirking some serious smirks. But in the actual movie they barely ever made that face.

BETH Apparently Disney put a lot of effort into marketing this to boys.

BROOM Because it’s about two women.

ADAM I saw a preview for this and it was all Sven and Olaf cavorting on the ice.

BETH They’re trying to trick boys into seeing it, basically. Because they know that boys would actually think it was fine, and like it.

BROOM Somewhere, maybe in the review I read, it was pointed out that this is the first Disney animated movie that is co-directed by a woman. Who also wrote it.

ADAM What was her name? Jennifer Lopez?

BETH Jennifer Lee.

ADAM There was also a Lopez.

BROOM That’s the songwriters. They did Avenue Q. Which was sharper than this. When she sang about how when she sees a cute guy she wants to stuff her face with chocolate, I thought, “I don’t think this script would have had her say such a thing!” Then it did, later. But I think they got it from the song. That really felt like a wrong note in this movie.

ADAM I thought it looked totally gorgeous. And a really subtle use of 3D.

BROOM Yes, the 3D was beautiful, and the lighting was beautiful.

BETH The animation was great!

ADAM The ice looked great.

BETH And even just the bodies.

BROOM I’m so glad you guys are saying this stuff, because while I was watching I was worried that I was just having a severe case of, you know, Critic’s Toothache Syndrome. “Maybe I’m only liking this because I’m just in a different mood today. And susceptible to the effect of actually being in the theater. Maybe I would have liked all those other ones if I hadn’t been so cranky, because this seems great to me.” But no, you agree, it was legitimately better.

BETH Yeah.

ADAM I mean, even the trolls I didn’t mind.

BETH I liked the trolls a lot.

BROOM I thought their song was one of the most interesting moments in the movie, because the discomfort the characters are feeling, the audience sort of shares in a happy way, thinking, “I don’t know… are they supposed to be falling in love?”

ADAM Well, when they start singing that song…

BROOM But you don’t know until the song is going. And even then…

BETH I was preoccupied during most of the movie thinking, well, there’s clearly a romantic connection here, so what are they going to do with it?

[Spoilers about what they did and didn’t do with it.]

ADAM I’m glad the trolls weren’t all voiced by black actors. Just the most prominent one.

BROOM So, you’re the only one here who has any memory of “The Snow Queen.” Can you tell us what happens in it?

ADAM Not this! I’m trying to remember exactly what happens. I mean, somebody’s heart does get pierced with ice. And there is a voyage to an ice castle where the snow queen lives. But I don’t think it ended like this. And I think there was some Jesus in it.

BROOM Well, there would be.

ADAM It’s weirder. This was pretty satisfying.

BROOM I really liked the sensitive new-age psychology of it, that when she’s afraid she becomes more dangerous. That she is born with power and she becomes dangerous because she’s told to fear her own power.

BETH I thought about you so much. “This is exactly BROOM’s stuff!”

BROOM I really identified with it and was moved by that. And I thought, “does this come from Hans Christian Andersen?”


BROOM It seemed like a very 2013 thing to put in a movie. But also a thing that I would never have expected Disney to go so far as to put in a movie, because it’s a step beyond the existing pat fantasy psychology; it’s a little subtle. I wish that the songs had risen to it. But, you know… I thought “Let It Go” was basically close to the mark for what it was supposed to be.

ADAM “Do you want to build a snowman…?”

BROOM That one was problematic.

ADAM Oh, I don’t know. If you have to have a call and response song…

BROOM When she sang that line the first time, I thought, “oh god, please don’t let the next line have ‘snowman’ at the end of it too.” And it didn’t… but then later in the song she did sing ‘snowman’ on two parallel consecutive lines. Dammit, they did it. They did that thing. “Do you want to build a snowman…? It doesn’t have to be a snowman…!” Argh! Stephen Sondheim, go away!

ADAM What’s wrong with that?

BROOM It’s just, like, a Stephen Sondheim trick from 1970, and stop already! Stop doing that!

ADAM To have a rhyme where the word is just repeated in a slightly different context?

BROOM Yeah, to indicate vulnerable melancholy. The song goes into an extra loop to be poignant.

ADAM You mean like a fifth bar.

BROOM It’s like, the lyric can’t get away, because the feeling is stuck and festering. It came at the end of that song, when they’re grown up and she’s singing into the keyhole, and it’s already sad, and then there’s that beat where she adds “… it doesn’t have to be a snowman…” I feel like, “you guys just got that from your stupid musical-theater-writing class! It’s so rote! This movie is already doing better than you are!” In fact in that moment, my thought was, “The lighting guy is doing such a lovely subtle thing compared to what the songwriters are doing.” And the music itself: basically every song said “You know how there are songs that go like this? Well, we wrote one of those.” They never had any turns that you didn’t already know and expect.

ADAM Wasn’t there a song that went: [hums ‘Go the Distance’ from Hercules]

BROOM That’s from Hercules. That song is more interesting musically than any of the songs in this, and that’s not a very interesting song. All of these songs were like, “phrase 1; phrase 2; phrase 3; phrase 4” the four things you already thought they were going to do. And then the bridge. And there’s nothing to them. That works when it’s a comic song, like the snowman’s song about summer. In that case it helps the joke that it’s “just one of those songs.” But when it’s supposed to be a big anthem, you want a little more than that.

ADAM Why did they have like an Africa drum tribal thing at the beginning?

BROOM It felt totally inappropriate.

BETH It made me fear what the movie was going to be. But then it disappeared until the very end.

BROOM I guess it was an attempt to be Scandinavian. Like, the sounds of the trolls. But they didn’t even get close to it.

BETH It sounded like The Lion King.

ADAM If you compare this to, say, the two moose in Brother Bear, they could have done that with the sauna-keeper or the reindeer, and they didn’t. I appreciate that.

BROOM This is their best fairy-tale-and-we-mean-it movie since Beauty and the Beast. I put it to you. Does anyone want to agree with me?

BETH I agree.

ADAM By that do you mean with the possible exception of Lilo and Stitch?

BROOM That was in a whole other category. It wasn’t a fairy tale.

ADAM Yeah. I think this was super-good. Solid.

BETH And its own thing. It wasn’t trying to be…

BROOM Well, it did feel like a sequel to Tangled, but I thought it was a hundred times better than Tangled.

BETH I was going to say it wasn’t trying to be Pixar. Even though it was influenced by it.

BROOM I thought this movie — and the previews we saw, for that matter — were the best 3D I’ve seen yet. And I just saw Gravity.

ADAM The 3D was a lot better than Gravity. Maybe it’s because it’s animated, but Gravity had that Captain EO jaggedness to it. I’m not sure how to describe it.

BROOM This 3D had a very soft, gentle touch. It was really well done.

ADAM There were hardly any spears in your face.

BROOM The very first thing in the movie was, but it was a good one. Very effective. In Gravity when her teardrop is a sphere and it comes at you, there’s an effect of “hold on everyone, look what I’m doing!” This movie never said “hold on everyone, look what I’m doing.”

ADAM Well, well done Disney. What else do I have to say? BETH, I think you sort of look like Princess Anna.

BETH Thank you. To me she looked like my cousin Molly.

WAITER Should I clear this stuff out of the way for us then.


ADAM Thanks.

BROOM Both sisters had the ski-jump noses and the twisty lips that might be ready to do some ‘tude, but they didn’t do it. It was a lot of the same slickization of feminine features that offended me in Tangled, but there it offended me in part because they made her out to be this fabulous theater girl. Anna, yes, she had a lot of “spunk” and “attitude,” and it was fake, but in a way that didn’t feel like a selfie.

ADAM Like a duckface.

BROOM Yeah. There was a selfie quality to Tangled. This didn’t have it.

BETH I’d be interested to see Brave now just to compare.

BROOM I also appreciated that this was a basically sexless movie. They dressed up and looked pretty and wanted to attract men, but there was no undercurrent of sex in it.

BETH They did have really good bodies, though.

BROOM That’s just a given.

ADAM And both of their male heroes were very handsome. I would be happy with some slash fiction.

BROOM Not being turned on by the male physique, I wasn’t sure how Kristoff read to those who are…

BETH He was the cutest one ever.

ADAM He was totally dreamy.

BETH I feel like I’ve never been as attracted to a cartoon as I was to Kristoff.

BROOM Well, that’s great, because I was attracted to his humanity, because he did not seem at all porny. A lot of their “good-looking guys” have seemed kind of porny. Whereas this felt to me like an actual “guy,” that girls might like because he’s genuinely guy-y. The ways that he was kind of a clod were characteristic of a real type. I know people of that type.

ADAM I liked the villainous old prince from Weselton. “A chicken with the face of a monkey” is funny.

BROOM Why did he say that?

ADAM I don’t know. I liked that he cut loose in this incongruous way.

BROOM I was so glad that this was our last one. I mean, obviously it’s not our last one for all time, but it comes at the end…

ADAM … of a hot streak.

BROOM Of a hot street? Is that an expression?

ADAM Streak.

BROOM Oh. I like “at the end of a hot street.” Here’s why I felt positive about this one: because they were living up to positive values that matter without feeling retrogressive. It was very 2013. It did not lack for trying to be hip and appeal to the kids, and it just did what I’m always hoping for them to do, which is to do that with some class, and care about it a little bit. And they did.

[ADAM begins looking up the New York Times review]

BROOM I would see this again. And those of you reading this: I recommend you see it in 3D. It really contributed to the sense of being in the spaces of it, which were so pretty. BETH, I would readily tell your family to go see this at Christmas time.

BETH I was considering it.

[we read the New York Times review, which casually contains major spoilers and should not be read until after viewing]

ADAM There you go.

BETH We really did it.

BROOM So: loyal readers. Next what’s going to happen is…

ADAM You don’t need to tell the loyal readers. They’ll get it.

BROOM Well, we have to have a sign-off on this one. Stay tuned…

ADAM That’s true. Stay tuned for the future!

BROOM Stay tuned for the recap post and then for summary contributions from all involved.

BETH Yes. We just need a couple bucks more.

ADAM You should just put in the tip.

BROOM Well, what is it?

ADAM You should leave… eleven.

BROOM So the question is, how am I going to get the title and ending screens? I’m going to have to find a site that’s already ripping this movie off.

BETH Oh, you’ll find it. We’re all set, thank you.

WAITER Thank you so much. Have a great night.

BETH You too.



  1. I just saw this with Ed and his best girl friend in a second run theater and I’m glad that for once my positive feelings for a Disney movie were reflected by the Broomlet crowd! I thought it was great and I even liked some of the songs – do you know there’s a sing-along version of this in theaters now? So apparently musical-theater-writing pablum sells. My only quibble was with the girls’ eyes – I mean, if they make them any bigger, they basically won’t have any other facial features left. Just tone it down a wee bit, seriously!

    Ed liked Olaf and the scene at the end where Anna punches Hans, though he tends to be heavily influenced in his preferences by whatever happened most recently in time, so that may be pushing the “punching Hans” scene a lot higher. He repeated it about 20 times in the car on the way home, which is either a sign of his increasing recall abilities or that he liked this movie a lot.

    Posted by Maddie on |

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