I’m gonna embarrass myself here, card carrying Vag Pounder after all, but I fucking love Disney cartoons. Or, at least I used to, the old ones, the ones where animals talked, princesses sang, and everyone lived happily ever after. Their animation catalogue is, cumulatively, some of the most timeless films ever created. And they got that way through a mixture of pixie dust, memorable music, and focus on, as I always harp is more important than anything, character.
Yet, over the last twelve years-ish, Disney has suffered an identity crisis. One that started with Pixar, grew with Dreamworks, and flamed out spectacularly with Meet The Robinsons. And it was all because Disney stopped trusting who it was and what it did best.
I don’t blame them. Anyone would get an identity crisis if they started comparing themselves to Pixar. Pixar, in the early nineties, was new and shiny. The pretty new girl everyone wanted to fuck. Plus it raked in a shit ton of dough. Around the time Pixar was rising, Disney was on the wane. The company had trouble with traditional musicals like Tarzan. So they switched to non-musicals, like Atlantis, which also failed spectacularly. Nothing seemed to strike a chord with the masses.
The company was at a crossroads. Pixar made it look easy. Dreamworks hit big with Shrek. And, for the next decade, Disney would lose itself. And I mean REALLY lose itself. We’re talking I’m-gonna-buy-three-corvettes-and-date-nineteen-year-old-girls level midlife crisis loss of self. They tried everything. They copied Dreamworks with Chicken Little. They copied Pixar with Meet The Robinsons. Nothing worked. Nothing stuck. They were a company lost thanks to a mixture of corporate greed and jealousy.
Then fate intervened. Pixar was officially absorbed into the Disney brand. And, with that, brought in John Lasseter, the only man alive who might possibly live up to Walt Disney himself. See, Mr. Lasseter knows that good story and character trump everything. He also knew that the one thing Disney did best is earnest musicals. If Disney did that, and did it well, the money would follow.
Now, I’m not going to lie, there’s been a bit of a learning curve. Disney basically had to reset and learn how to make great films again. They showed exceptional promise with The Princess and The Frog. Took a bit of a step back with Tangled. And almost got it right with Wreck-It Ralph. But, with Frozen, they seem to have finally gotten their shit together. I get that’s a long way to go just to say, “I fucking loved Frozen.” But, whatever, Disney had me worried there but after watching Frozen, I’m ready to welcome them back with open arms.
Everything about Frozen is both familiar and new. There are princesses, dashing heroes, magic, wacky sidekicks, and musical numbers. Everything that made Disney great is out in full force. But, because this is an older and wiser company, the plot twists trump clichés just enough to surprise the audience.
Because, truly, there are some very un-Disney ideas in this film. First and foremost, the main relationship in the film is between two sisters. Their love lives take a back seat to some really solid female bonding. In fact, this might be the most feminist Disney cartoon of all time. Yes, they have the standard Disney love story thrown in, but the main conflict comes from two sister trying to help each other.
Listen, I could write about this film all day. It made me feel warm and fuzzy like few films have in recent memory. It’s fucking gorgeous. The characters are vibrant and likable. It’s Disney as it should be. The company isn’t trying to emulate other animation houses. They’re not trying to relive their glory days. Nope. This is a studio that, finally, after years of failed ideas and identity crises, understands what they do best. And what they do best is sincere musicals that have the potential to stand the test of time.
Welcome back, Disney. I greatly missed you.