Disney’s ‘Frozen’: The Acting and Performance Analysis

ED HOOKS is the author of Acting for Animators, (revised third edition, Routledge, 2011). Ed pioneered Acting for Animators in 1998 while working with the animators at PDI/DreamWorks in northern California, and teaches the Acting for Animators masterclass internationally. For more information about his practice, visit EdHooks.com


DISNEY’S FROZEN WILL SOON MERIT its own chapter in the entertainment industry Big Book. The 2014 Oscar winner for best animated feature has earned over US$1 billion at the box office, currently the second highest-grossing animated feature in history, behind Toy Story 3. The movie’s phenomenal financial success has obscured under-the-hood examination of its performance engine. As an acting teacher, I am an artistic purist; grosses and popularity awards don’t mean much to me. My standard of measurement is the emotional impact a movie has on its audience and its elegance as a work of art. Frozen is beautiful to see, fun to sing along with and is a modern day marketing marvel, but the script has structural and performance issues that are worth examining because they impact directly on acting.

In a nutshell, Frozen tells the story of a fairy tale princess named Anna who must find her runaway, freshly crowned, ice-and-snow-controlling queen sister, Elsa, and in the process rescue the kingdom of Arendelle from perpetual winter. Along the way, she accumulates and interacts with a cast of characters that are, by turns, funny, romantic and dangerous. In the end, Anna and Elsa learn the value of selfless love and form a new lifetime sisterly bond as a result.

Introduction: Acting and Story are joined at the hip

Even the most talented animator can work only with the character that is given to him or her by the writer(s). If a character is not fleshed out in the production script, it is not the animator’s job to revise or amplify. In the case of Frozen, there are serious weaknesses regarding Hans of the Southern Isles, and the net result is that Hans gives an under-developed and often notably weak performance. In order for us to look specifically at the acting issues, therefore, we must first point to the structural flaws that caused them.

According to voice actress Idina Menzel, Elsa was originally conceived to be the antagonist, but that idea got rejected along the way. Elsa was moved aside, leaving biblical-level snow and ice as Anna’s primary obstacle. The antagonist slot in the narrative was ultimately assigned to Hans of the Southern Isle. The problem with that decision is that Hans does not reveal himself to be the villain until late in the third act, during the fireside scene with Anna. There is no foreshadowing for the revelation, nothing for the audience to refer to. Therefore, the movie as a whole is left with a structural dysfunction that character animation cannot fix.

A second structural weakness is that, while Frozen is technically Anna’s story, Elsa is the character that experiences the most interesting and compelling changes. Anna is pretty much the same lovely, awkward and self-effacing girl at the end as she was at the beginning, just a little older. Elsa, on the other hand, learns how to harness her own inner powers and is transformed as a person, a human.

PERFORMANCE: HANS OF THE SOUTHERN ISLES

Hans’s Act 3 fireside scene with Anna establishes that he is – and has been all along — a full-stop sociopath, a cold-blooded manipulative murderer. That means that Hans has known from the start what he has been up to. He had a plan in place the first time we met him, early in the story, during Elsa’s coronation. The script, however, does not include foreshadowing for Hans. If Frozen was a stage play or live-action movie, a good actor would identify the character’s objectives during rehearsal and then structure his performance so as to steadily pursue that objective during the course of the story.

In scene after scene in Frozen, however, Hans is a blank slate, a mental rag doll. There were opportunities galore for the animator to “animate the thought,” to capture at least a reflective shadow of Hans’s plan, but the opportunities were left untapped by the script. Imagine watching the TV show Dexter without knowing up front that the lead character is a sociopath pretending to be a regular, normal person. Imagine how it would have been if you had not known Hannibal Lecter was a cannibal until the third act. Hans of the Southern Isle had the potential to blow the seats in the cinema auditoriums off their braces, but he was unfortunately not developed effectively.

Frozen Scene-by-Scene Analysis

With that preface, let’s take a close look at a few sequences from the movie, deconstructing them for performance. Timing references are taken from the iTunes download version of Frozen. They might be different on the DVD/Blu-ray release.

Anna: “Tonight was my fault. I pushed her. So, I’m the one that needs to go after her. Bring me my horse, please.” (30:45) Anna gets on her royal horse and races out of Arendelle in search of her runaway sister. This is the movie’s first example of strong acting. Ideally, an animator should be able to freeze frame a character at any time and ask, “What are you doing?” The character should be able to answer in theatrical terms: Action in pursuit of (provable) objective while overcoming an obstacle. If we freeze frame Anna the moment she calls for her horse, her answer would be: “My objective is to find Elsa; my action is to get on my royal horse and locate her; my obstacle/conflict is with the situation.” Everything up to this point in the movie, the entire first half hour, has been backstory, the movie equivalent of videogame cutscenes.

Note Hans’s demeanor in this sequence. There does not appear to be a devious thought in his head, only sincere concern for Anna’s safety. Re-wind a bit to Hans’s first entrance in the movie (the sequence with him and Anna playfully tumbling around in the rowboat). No indication of any ulterior motives. Also, watch Hans in the coronation sequence (25:44), when Anna leads him by the hand to get Elsa’s blessings on their prospective marriage. Again, Hans is mentally a blank slate. In order for the animator to deliver a strong performance for Hans, the character’s criminal objective would have to be taken into account because everything that happens, including all of this surprising ice and snow, will cause him to adjust the actions he is taking in pursuit of that objective. If we freeze frame Hans at any point before Act III and ask him, “What are you doing?” he would not have a theatrically valid answer.

Regarding this particular acting lesson, which is base line for character animators, Hans might answer at various times, “I’m confused,” “I’m excited,” “I’m worried,” etc. That may be true, but those are emotional states and are not theatrically valid answers. Acting is doing. If a character is not doing anything to achieve a definable and provable objective, he is not acting. Emotion tends to lead to action.

Elsa on North Mountain sings “Let it Go.” (31:09) Objective: To construct a fortress. Action in pursuit of that objective is tossing away the glove, cape and giving total free rein to her magic powers. Conflict is with her situation. The fact that she is climbing a steep mountain rather than walking on easy-to-navigate flat land signals strong conflict. This entire sequence is brilliantly designed and executed, visually and from an acting standpoint. In many ways, it makes the whole movie work. Try to imagine the story without it.

Beginning of sled ride. (40:15) Objective: get to North Mountain. Action and conflict are clear and valid. Then Anna relaxes by putting her feet up on sled – “I like fast,” she explains to Kristoff. This is not a credible thing to be doing. Rough terrain and winter conditions would motivate a person to hold on tighter, not to put her feet up like it is an afternoon drive in Malibu. Acting can be defined as “behaving believably in pretend circumstances for a theatrical purpose.” In this sequence, Anna’s behavior is not believable.

Kristoff and Anna talk. (40:35 To 41:53) And talk. And talk. There is no acting at all in this entire sequence, just some bickering. Maybe the idea was to set up a kind of Bogart and Hepburn African Queen relationship, but it doesn’t work. Kristoff criticizes her for agreeing to marry Hans after knowing him such a short time. His advice on the subject is unsolicited and unnecessary, and we also learn nothing new about Anna’s character during the exchange. The sequence is an interlude, not a scene. What the characters are doing is not correlated with any definable objective.

Anna and Kristoff should be aware of Olaf’s presence earlier than they are. (45:35) The little guy is chattering away, literally under their noses, and they still seem not to notice. Obviously, a creative decision was made to have both characters react at the same time, which is a kind of a sight gag. The character behavior, however, is not credible in terms of acting. (A note regarding Olaf: Olaf is a fun character that could probably carry his own movie, a snowman that dreams of beach life and warm sunshine. In the context of Frozen, however, Olaf is an add-on character. The story would work just fine without him.)

Anna tries in vain to climb North Mountain. (51:29) The gag is that she is slipping and sliding and making no progress. Although this is not world-class acting, the sequence is theatrically valid for her character because she has an objective, an action and an obstacle.

Regarding cross-species animation. Note that Sven the Reindeer exhibits human thought when he nudges Kristoff to take a look at Anna. (51:33) The audience understands that Sven behaves a lot like a Labrador Retriever dog, which is amusing. He is, however, one hundred percent reindeer, and reindeer are not capable of abstract thought. This is the same kind of mistake that Pixar made with the talking dogs in Up and DreamWorks made with the Jerry Seinfeld bee in Bee Movie. It is not okay to bounce around with species attributes in order to conveniently connect narrative dots. If you are going to have a cross-species character, you need to set it up at the top of the story, like Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio.

“BUT, ED, THIS IS ANIMATION!”

Animation may be able to take liberties with the laws of physics, but storytelling basics are the same for animation and live action. The audience and the actors pretend together in a successful theatrical transaction. They will go anywhere the storyteller wants them to go in order to do the pretending, but the rules must be made clear up front, and you cannot change them mid-story. When you change the rules, it amounts to aesthetically pulling the rug out from underneath your audience. In the case of Sven, the audience arrives at the screening knowing that, in some countries, reindeer are food for humans, cows with antlers. If the storytellers had wanted Sven to fly like Superman, the audience would have gone along with it if he was flying when he first appears. It would not work, however, to have him take flight half way up North Mountain in Act II.

In Frozen, Sven starts thinking like a human when the plot needs for him to, and the device was not set up properly. Pixar did this with Merida’s horse in Brave, endowing him with an opportunistic human brain. Remember the scene in which Merida rides out into the woods to meet the witch? Look at it again more closely. The horse is the one that makes the decision to see the witch, not Merida. That is a major structural flaw in that movie. Merida should have made her own choices and then been responsible for them. The horse’s human brain let her off the hook. It is not okay to justify this kind of thing on the grounds that, “This is animation!” Doesn’t matter that it is animation. It is a violation of basic storytelling guidelines.

Elsa creates snow monster. (58:20) This was a terrible idea for several reasons, not least of which is that the snow monster gets Elsa off the hook. The moment could have been one of the most powerful in the movie, calling for Elsa to weigh her values against commitment to her sister and her obligations as a queen. The snow monster draws focus away from Elsa at a critical self-discovery moment and is a missed opportunity. In general, it is best to make acting choices that get you into the most trouble. In this case, the acting/writing choice—creation of a brainless snow monster—gave Elsa a way to avoid trouble rather than confront it.

Anna meets Kristoff’s troll family. (01:03:00 to 01:08:00) Musical number. From an acting standpoint, there is not much happening in this sequence. The trolls are cute, and the sequence is expository. If you freeze frame one of them and ask what he or she is doing, there would not be a theatrically valid reply. How Kristoff came to be adopted by trolls in the first place is vague in the screenplay, and I wish the musical number had been used to explain that.

Anna passes out in Kristoff’s arms. (01:08:33) Kristoff now has a fresh objective, namely to save Anna’s life. That is when Grandpa troll provides what amounts to a videogame cutscene moment: “Anna, your life is in danger. There is ice in your heart, put there by your sister. If not removed, the solid ice will make you freeze forever. …only the act of true love can thaw the frozen heart.” Once again, this is a sequence that is mainly expository. A basic rule of screenwriting as well as acting is: “Show; don’t tell.”

Elsa is taken captive by Hans. (01:12:00) Iron gloves block the magic powers in her hands. She asks Hans to release her. A scene is a negotiation. The sequence would be stronger if we in the audience had known all along that Hans is a sociopath. Instead, we are left to guess at what is going on in his mind. We cannot even be absolutely certain that Hans is the one responsible for taking her captive!


A true love’s kiss… (01:15:00) Note that the audience is still being misled about Hans’s motives, up until the moment when his lips almost meet Anna’s. Then, suddenly, Hans does a 180 degree Jekyll & Hyde-character reversal and admits to being a murderous sociopath. The transition is not even close to being credible because there has been no foreshadowing. “If only there was someone out there who loved you…” Frozen has only fifteen more minutes before final credits, and this is the first overt appearance of a recognizable villain?

Sven the reindeer conveniently develops a human brain again and urges Kristoff to return to Arendelle. (01:19:00) A stronger choice would be to let Kristoff introspect about his feelings for Anna and make his own decision to go back to Arendelle. As was the case when Elsa created the snow monster earlier, Sven’s human brain lets Kristoff off the hook.

Kristoff’s objective is to save Anna. (01:19:30) Action in pursuit of that objective is to get to Arendelle in a hurry, before she turns totally to ice. Conflict is with situation. The sequence is theatrically valid.

Olaf: “Love is putting someone else’s needs before you – like Kristoff brought you back here to Hans…” (01:21:00) Acting note: show, don’t tell. Acting has almost nothing to do with words. We did not need to hear Olaf enunciate the story’s theme this way. We could have figured it out for ourselves, and it would have been more satisfying emotionally.

Anna sacrifices her life for that of her sister. (01:26:00) Then Elsa’s tears melt Anna’s frozen heart, bringing her back to life. These events work theatrically and emotionally. Actions, objectives and obstacles are clear. Actions are dominant over words. We see what the characters do theatrically, which is cathartic and satisfying.

CONCLUSION: A FEW NOTES ABOUT MOOD AND THE ‘ILLUSION OF LIFE’
A widely held misconception among animators is that if they can endow their character with emotion and an illusion of life, that equates to good acting.

It is not enough to endow a character with an illusion of life. Back in Frank and Ollie’s day, that might have been sufficient because the skill was revolutionary, but it is not enough in 2014. We now know that there is a difference between theatrical reality and regular reality. In regular reality, you show one hundred percent of everything. What you see at the mall and supermarket is regular reality. You could have an entire cast of characters endowed with an illusion of life, and if they were only shopping at the supermarket, you would bore the audience. Theatrical reality has structure and is selective, showing only the parts of reality that are necessary for telling the story and illuminating character.

There is a widely held misconception among animators that, if they can endow their character with emotion and an illusion of life, that equates to good acting. The fact is that mood is not acting at all, and emotion alone has zero theatrical value. There are sequences in Frozen during which Anna or Elsa is alone and depressed, very sad (see 10:40, end of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”). Those are moments in time, expertly animated, but they are only that. As a character animator, you do not want to hang your acting hat on a moment during which the audience is feeling sorry for your character. Yes, the audience can empathize with a character being sad but, in life, emotion tends to lead to action. The longer the mood and negative behavior persist, the further removed will be the possibility of the audience feeling empathy.

In terms of her character arc, Anna only partially achieves her stated objective. She does indeed find her sister, and she does try to talk Elsa into returning to Arendelle—but she is unsuccessful. Elsa’s character transformation happens because Anna turns into a piece of ice, the implication being that she is dead. Elsa killed Anna and is overcome with grief.

It is Elsa’s remorse and bitter tears over her own shortcomings that bring Anna back from the dead. In my view, Frozen would have worked better artistically if Anna and Elsa had been given free reign to go at one another without snow monsters or psychopaths getting in the way. The audience would have learned that, ultimately, we humans must not depend upon magic in order to survive. We must work it out ourselves.


  • Ad

    This is the best thing I’ve read about Frozen.
    I couldn’t agree more.
    Thank you!

  • storyfan

    A lot of cool notes here! I like seeing thorough explorations of film strengths and flaws.

    However, I will point out a misconception that the author perpetuates here:
    “A second structural weakness is that, while Frozen is
    technically Anna’s story, Elsa is the character that experiences the
    most interesting and compelling changes. Anna is pretty much the same…at the end as she was at the
    beginning. Elsa…is transformed as a person.”

    There is nothing wrong with a story that has a stalwart main character who causes the secondary character to change. By the above logic, “The Iron Giant” is flawed because the Giant (secondary) changes while Hogarth (main character) remains the same.

    • Toonio

      Not to mention Elsa grew her breast in 3 sizes, and so did her hips but who cares.

      • Pennyjpie

        That’s not possible. They would need a different model for that. Models cost money. I don’t think Disney would waste money on such a thing. Her tighter clothing just makes things look bigger, just like in real life. You have more of an idea since its easier to allude to.

    • edhooks

      Hogarth changes a LOT, friend, and the reason he changes so much is because the Giant becomes more human than humans. Hogarth parents the Giant in the classic parent/child way, and then the Giant shows Hogarth what true maturity is all about.
      In my book “Acting for Animators”, revised third edition (Routledge, 2011), you will find a complete acting analysis of “The Iron Giant”. That movie is my personal hands-down favorite, a total classic. It is significant that Hollywood considered “The Iron Giant” to be a failure and “Cars II” to be a success. Says a lot about Hollywood values.

      • IJK

        Iron Giant was a financial failure when it first came out, it is a highly regarded and very popular film now. I don’t think you can still consider it a failure unless you are only talking about its initial release.

        Cars II, on the other hand, is repeatedly made fun of and frowned upon.

        Those films say nothing about Hollywood because you have to take into consideration when both were released, the company they were released by, and how well the marketing was.

      • storyfan

        I’m not saying that Hogarth didn’t grow — I’m saying that Hogarth did not change his fundamental approach to life. The same tactics that get him in trouble at the beginning also save the day at the end — Hogarth does not have to change how he does things in order to solve the story.

        But the Giant does. Through Hogarth’s stable influence, he changes from a creature of impulse and, as you say, becomes “more human than humans,” saving everyone through self-sacrifice.

        Whether or not Hogarth ‘changed’ in the story, the Giant’s change-arc is bigger and more impressive through either lens. My point is not, “Frozen is as good as Iron Giant” because it’s certainly not. My point is that what you consider a flaw is not necessarily so.

        • http://narrativefirst.com Jim

          storyfan nails it again! bravo.

    • http://narrativefirst.com Jim

      This guy knows story.

      What he is describing is a Main Character with a Steadfast Resolve and an Influence Character with a Change Resolve. Perfectly “valid” story structure. For reference see “Silence of the Lambs”, “Amadeus”, “Braveheart”, “The Iron Giant”, “The Incredibles”, “Ratatouille”, “Field of Dreams”, “Back to the Future”, “Kung Fu Panda” and “Romeo and Juliet”. For a complete list go here: http://bit.ly/OPxUGv

      Both Main and Influence Characters change. But one will maintain their resolve as they change, while the other will actually change their resolve (adopting the other’s point-of-view). This is how an Author proves his or her point (message, theme, etc.).

      For an introduction to this dynamic please see my article http://narrativefirst.com/articles/a-reason-for-rules

  • Matt

    Great article, it still befuddles me how this movie has made the money it has made. It feels like an early 90′s Disney animated feature but in CG and mediocre. Still unsure of why they chose CG. Well we can all assume that Ed Hooks, even though very correct with what he said in this article won’t be hired by Disney any time soon.

    • LB

      If Disney hired Ed Hooks, we’d all be much happier!

    • GS

      Frozen did well because people liked Tangled and they wanted to think of it as Tangled 2.0. It wasn’t as good, but people just WANT more of that kind of film, so it benefited from that bump.

    • JK Riki

      Frozen did as well as it did because of its themes. It played to a very particular crowd, who wanted certain ideals repeated back to them so they could feel good about believing in them. (For example, the “I don’t care what anyone else thinks” aspect of Let it Go.) It has been most popular with tweens, and tweens generally feel extremely strong about this sort of thing. This was catering to what they already thought, and “proof” that they were right.

      It’s kind of a like a cult. A cult will tell you exactly what you want to hear in order to get you to eventually drink the Kool Aid it’s pushing. And I’ve met some fans of Frozen who’s adoration was very much at cult-levels. Said some insane things, going so far as “Frozen is the best Disney animated film ever made.”

  • burymylovely

    I disagree with there needing to be foreshadowing of Hans’ evil nature. There’s nothing worse than a movie where someone is cleary hiding a secret or evil nature and no one in the movie around them notices. Its infuriating. If he really is a sociopath, he will show no other side until he wants to. That’s why its so creepy.

    I do think there is a problem in the early writing. His character in the first part doesn’t seem too much more interesting once we know his true nature. So I don’t need any foreshadowing, I don’t want to get hints at who he is. But there is a way to write his acting like a nice guy sections, so that on second viewing, they are very creepy. That way the movie is even more enjoyable in later viewings.

    • Rufus

      I disagree with your disagreement. There needs to be some kind of foreshadowing or the sudden emergence of the bad guy we thought was good comes off as contrived. It’s not necessary to give the game away and spoil the surprise, but, like all the plot twists in a well built story, it has to come off as believable. I didn’t get that from this movie and it left me wondering if the script was changed at the last minute or hadn’t been polished enough.

    • Kevin

      I agree with you on this one! Knowing he had an ulterior motive the whole time would have RUINED his reveal. My wife would not have an audible “GASP” when he pulled back from that kiss.

      For the first two acts Hans himself was acting the part of “The Charming Prince” and he pulled it off perfectly. Compare him to the princes in Snow White, Cinderella or Little Mermaid etc. and Hans is perfectly convincing. He’s one of the more interesting characters because of all of this.He was pulling off a Long Con; playing his cards VERY close to his chest and staying in character as the events unfolded. Even when he goes after Anna, he instructs the men to not harm Elsa, and even goes as far as bringing her back alive, when he could have easily got rid of her.

      And let’s not forget The Duke, who was essentially there as a Red Herring to distract from Hans. We think of him as the main antagonist pursuing Elsa. The genius of all of this is that the writers of Frozen took these fairy tale tropes and used them against the viewer. Hans is not the charming prince, The Duke isn’t a “big bad,” And the ‘True Loves Kiss” bit actually fools us TWICE before it’s tossed aside.

      There are VERY slight hints to Hans’ motives throughout, like with his duet with Anna; his first line is “I’ve been searching my whole life to find my own place.” He doesn’t mention Anna at all, and instead gestures away from her towards the kingdom. Not something that sends up a red flag on first viewing, but looking back it shows his his intentions. The pieces are there, the writers are just not smacking us in the face with them.

    • Funkybat

      I think the filmmakers were purposely hiding any hint of his intent to appeal to just such a sentiment. Problem is, the bombshell really does seem to come out of nowhere, and leaves the audience wondering what they missed the first time around. A truly subtle performance will avoid the more obvious foreshadowing burymylovely is complaining about, but plant these tiny little seeds that are not really noticeable consciously the first time you see the film, but are seen like glinting little gems in the dirt upon repeat viewings.

      I think they tried to do this by having Kristoff call into question the suddenness of Anna’s ‘engagement” but it came on hurriedly, since these two had ALSO just met each other! Who the hell is he to get into that with her? It was funny, and meant to show Anna’s naivete and over-trusting nature, but in the end it wasn’t enough to hint at the danger lurking. Hans’ battle with the snow monster would have been a great time to show his more vicious side, since he was “out of sight” of most of the people he was trying to con. I looked for it on my second viewing; nothing.

    • Stanley

      Anybody familiar with Disney formulas knew something was up when Hans threatens the Duke with execution for treason early in the film.

    • Betty Marsden

      Foreshadowing is an element of storytelling, but where is it written that it is a requirement? There was a very strong statement being made about rushing into marriage with someone you barely knew. Every time I saw the film, those who did not anticipate Han’s reveal gasped. I can’t think of any animated film in which that was done so effectively.

      Good storytelling also requires insight, picking up on things that resound with the viewer. Maybe you’ve never seen a person turn on you and stab you in the back — or the heart — after you thought you knew them, but it happens a lot, especially in the workplace. These people are so good at their craft, there is no foreshadowing. Not only that, once they strike, others around you who have not been targeted cannot see what you now see to be the truth — until it happens to them too.

      Why drag Frank and Ollie into a discussion of animation as if their execution of “acting in animation” is outmoded? No one who knows animation would suggest that unless the motive was to establish themselves as the new authority.

      • Tony

        I agree that there are people who are so good at their craft that they don’t leave any hints or clues. But if you as a writer want to write a story about a character like that, you have to be able take the audience on a journey that shows us how the character is able to pull that off. You have to find a way to make the audience relate to that character. If that isn’t the case, then anyone can write a twist. It would take no skill.

      • TheNamelessDoll .

        Just because the audience gasped does’t mean it is a fell written twist. He could just as well have put Anna’s hand on his cheats and have her realise that there was no heart beat (or turn into a tomato for all I care): a twist that makes people gasp, but it comes completely out of nowhere and has no motivation or foreshadowing what so ever.

    • Steven Bowser

      It’s okay to keep it a secret, because that’s how a good twist is done. But there must be foreshadowing to point back to and say “see? he was evil ALL ALONG and you missed it”.
      Think of The Sixth Sense. In that film when the twist happens, they even cut to many of the foreshadowed moments that you were supposed to miss.
      In Frozen, the script doesn’t have anything showing that he was diobolical all along. He just suddenly turns evil at the last moment with no warning whatsoever, and there is no way for the audience to say “Oh, it all makes sense now!” or to watch the film a second time and see what they missed.
      Does that make sense? Even with a secret twist there still has to be SOME clues along the way.

    • Pennyjpie

      Except for the fact that the reason Hans was “hiding his objective” was because he wasn’t written as a villain until very late in production. I hate that everyone is dubbing him as the most subtle villian when in reality he was a cap in plot point…

    • Laura

      I agree with you. The sudden 180 degree was brilliantly executed and a talking point for many people well after the movie has been and gone.

  • otterhead
  • Merlin

    Interesting article. There’s stuff I agree with and stuff I don’t, but it’s interesting that the author thinks it was Elsa’s tears that thawed Anna’s heart, not Anna’s sacrifice (which she did out of true love for her sister). The movie has many problems in my opinion, and characte development, as the author notes, is among them. The thing with Anna is that she doesn’t really develop in the movie, which, by itself, could be fine, but usually when you focus on a character that doesn’t develop, his personality and actions leads the characters around him change. I don’t think any characters beside Elsa really develop, and her development is more plot convenience than character. (There are also movies that are about people’s attitude rather than character development, like The Big Lebowski). Anna could have been given a very interesting internal conflict. Elsa is stuck inside her own body, inside her room. Anna’s stuck between being both physically and emotionally shut away from her sister, and from the world around her, but she has more freedom than Elsa in their childhood years, as she can still go around the castle and do anything between that and the castle walls. Elsa’s too afraid. She has a conflict because she thinks supressing her powers as the same as controlling them, and Anna should have one because she’s stuck and doesn’t know why it has to be this way. Elsa has the burden of knowledge. The movie should have really been, in my opinion, about trying to see things from another person’s perspective, but that would have required a slightly different character interpretation than the one we get from the movie, one which is perhaps a bit more reminiscent of original ideas for their relationship (as seen in the deleted scene with the dresses). Anna would still be relatable and lovable, but due to her isolation rather self centered and craving affection where she can find it, like in some deleted songs*

    • edhooks

      Great notes, Merlin! RE Elsa’s tears, Anna DIED! She totally froze, became a solid block of ice. She ran out of options in life. Elsa was overcome with grief, embraced her frozen sister and wept. The ice melted, and Anna came back to life, returned from the dead.

      You know, the story on which “Frozen” was based is a religious thing. I haven’t read “The Snow Queen” lately, but it would not surprise me to discover a resurrection implication in there, too. I’ll have to go look. Thanks again for your excellent input here.

  • http://joeymasonart.com Joey Mason

    It’s really nice to see a nuts-and-bolts article here that goes in a little deeper than news or commentary. Would love to see more of these on CB in the future!

    The Hans thing gets kicked around a lot and I want to play devil’s advocate for a second because I got a completely different impression.

    The first time I saw Frozen, Hans’ turn was unexpected but still felt like it made sense, because I then remembered him in Act I coming out of nowhere and quickly pursuing Anna. (My wife said she had warning bells going off by the time he proposed)

    On second viewing, though, I made it a point to look for foreshadowing, and there really was IN A WAY- in “Love is an Open Door” he’s absolutely using Anna’s lines to figure out what she wants to hear. But what I started to see was kind of a character arc… what if Hans WASNT EVIL in the beginning and his motivations evolved– from first appearance he says and does what others want, and in the beginning it’s more innocuous, he just wants to marry well. A jerk but not a murderer. Then by act III this character, who has only a goal and no mind of his own, completely loses control in the chaos, and becomes the guy who’s willing to kill. He doesn’t have a moral compass because all he knew was self-servingly pleasing others.

    Maybe this could be clearer, and maybe it’s not the strongest theatrical approach, but it seems more in line with the final film. I think throughout the film they were trying to go for characters that were more nuanced and complex, and we just miss Hans’ internal story because we’re focused elsewhere. (Elsawhere? :) )

  • Liam Feld

    I will say Hans was underdone – but in the opposite direction.
    See, “Snow Queen’s” basic storytelling conceit is about a mirror – the mirror that withers whatever good thing is reflected in it?
    Jennifer Lee confirmed that Hans is supposed to be a mirror of all the characters. He has no identity for himself. He’s a blank. Over the course of the film, he reflects Anna’s awkwardness, then her goofiness, Elsa’s stalwartness, then Anna’s resolve, then the Archduke’s concern, then his Men’s and Elsa’s panic, then Elsa’s fear and encasement, then Anna’s feelings of not being worth herself, whenever they’re next to him. He’s CONSCIOUSLY PERFORMING to erase his personality, to agree with everyone. Only at the very end does he reveal sinister colors, and only in his FINAL SCENE (in the cell) do we see him alone – and he’s a broken, scared husk with no one to reflect. This could have been MUCH more clearly stated.
    For instance, have Anna have a ridiculous set of mood swings (it’s the most exciting day of her life, any one is plausible) and have him match her, emotion by emotion, with a half-second delay. It’ll look strange to the audience without setting up any warning flags – it’ll emphasize why he’s attractive to her, because who wouldn’t want a lover they never disagree with? Then the villain shock comes not out of left field, but center field.

    It’s a funny thing, but all the movies Disney makes in which the story was given a 180 halfway through production (Beauty and the Beast, The Emperor’s New Groove, Brave) all have the same faults. The pacing is sequence-by-sequence, the color design is monochromatic, the ending is limp-wristed, there’s a paucity of location (as in, the characters feel like they’re just returning to the same set again and again for no reason) and (most damaging in the case of Beast and Elsa) the most complicated and juicy characters, characters with multiple facets, aren’t given enough space in the story for us to see them clearly and make their emotional storyline credible. Elsa in particular – she’s said to have anxiety disorders, but we never see her anxious, only nervous, and “Let it Go” feels like she’s throwing away a problem we never saw her have.

    (The opposite of movies that take way too long to make – Pocahontas had the opposite problems, with smooth pacing, garish color contrasts, a punchy ending, ridiculous overlocation, and bland characters we stare at for too long. Funny, no? “Thief and the Cobbler,” when uncobbled, had flawless pacing, sumptuous color, an amazingly explosive ending sequence, a fuckton of locations, and simple, mute title characters who harmonize with everything. “Cinderella” made a virtue of all the characteristics of rushed films. It can be used for good or ill.)

    • disqus_OSXEQoQr4N

      That is very interesting except, during the scene where he first met Anna, as he watched her walk away he looked genuinely delighted to have met her. There are a million directions they could have gone with his expression there, and although it didn’t have to expressly reveal that Hans is a sociopath, the way the scene is now completely leads the audience to believe that he is not only good, but that he has feelings for Anna. He comes off as innocent, charming, and naive. This makes no sense for his character even with the mirror interpretation, because Anna wasn’t with him in that moment. He wasn’t around people at all in that moment, so there was no one for him to mirror.

  • Guest

    Regarding Hans, watch the fight scene in the ice castle very closely. He looks up at the chandler (a few frames) before he “stops” the guard shooting Elsa with the crossbow. He planned it but did it so no one would suspect it of him. He was a villain but hid it so he could get away with it. The public (and more importantly Anna, at the time) would think he was innocent. Isn’t getting away with the crime something a villain would do? So his evil side is in there but it is hidden. Yes he doesn’t voice it but if he did the twist wouldn’t have worked!
    He isn’t full on villain like Cruella De Vil for example, he is more discreet.
    And lastly a quote to back up my point.
    “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain” – Shakespeare

  • Todd DuBois

    This is an interesting analysis, but ultimately I disagree with the conclusion at the end. This is because some of the critiques here, it seems to me, overlook some aspects of what Frozen was going for. I’ll try to explain.

    The matter of Hans might be a good place to start. In another context this betrayal might be just bizarre, but Frozen is a movie that actively challenges some long-standing conventions even as it evokes the memory of beloved Disney tradition. To wit, Hans is a deliberate subversion of the cliche Prince Charming type of character and that whole idea of love at first sight. Every single time we see Hans it’s when he’s around Anna and putting on his act, resulting in a situation where the viewer basically perceives him through Anna’s eyes alone. That Hans’ betrayal shocks as something out of nowhere is **THE POINT**. Anna’s relationship with him *was* shallow, there really was no possible way Anna could have really known Hans in the way required for a genuine relationship (“true love”).

    Anna’s problem in Frozen is that she is the inverse of Elsa. By this I don’t mean her positive and quirky personality per se, but rather that she’s too love with love to have a mature understanding of it whereas Elsa is estranged from other people because of her anxieties and fears. Anna is emotional to a fault, Elsa believes she has no alternative to suppressing herself around other people – except to give up and be “alone and free” instead. Magic may fix things in the ending, sure, but the two princesses learn better because of their own experiences. Anna through Hans’ betrayal and the talk with Olaf, Elsa through Anna’s sacrifice and the crushing reality that running away to isolation not only didn’t protect anything but ultimately made things far worse.

    Speaking of which, I’m not sure I agree that the snow monster is a mistake. What basically happens here is that Elsa panics after Anna’s revelation and her own outburst and responds with a doomed attempt at following the self-defeating “conceal, don’t feel” creed again. I think it’s arguable that Elsa WAS trying to deal with it, in her way. But she was taught to go about it all wrong. It’s also not clear to me how Elsa could arrive at any kind of revelation about her obligations as Queen as long as she believes that her “curse” is the problem and something that makes it impossible for her to even attempt fulfilling them in the first place.

    Also, there is this issue: something quite a few people like about Frozen is that act of “true love” that salvages the situation is, for once, not romantic in nature but rather based on the bond between the two sisters instead – Anna’s love rescues Elsa from despair. If Frozen had no “snow monsters or psychopaths” involved and instead followed something closer to the original idea where the sisters are opponents, could this innovation and others have been credibly achieved?

    About Sven and the passage on “cross-species” animation: I agree 100% and wouldn’t be sad to just see this go away altogether. One HUGE offender on this is Tangled, where Maximus the horse not only showed human-type intelligence but also actually seemed to be *smarter* than some humans in the movie. Between that and the way he absurdly behaves more like a dog than a horse in places, I daresay it’s the weakest link in that movie. At least with Frozen, the issue is very subdued in comparison to that and elsewhere. One quip though – I don’t think it’s really true Sven is the factor that makes Kristoff go back. Kristoff’s departure is impeded by his companion, yes, but he returns at top speed once he sees the storm and comes to the conclusion with his own mind that Anna might be in danger.

    • edhooks

      A story, in my view, must stand on its own merits. I have read about how “Frozen” is intended to challenge Disney’s long-held traditions, a revisionist Snow White, etc. That’s cool if that’s what the creative team intended, but a story is a story. You have something to say, you draw a circle in the dirt and the tribe gathers around. There is no possibility that a random tribal member would know that “Hans is a deliberate subversion of the cliche Prince Charming” based upon the story as it is told. No comparison is suggested or even mentioned by the storyteller. That is a conclusion that has been promoted by Disney’s marketing department.

      • Todd DuBois

        There is more to it than subversion though, in my view. Your tribal member wouldn’t grok the context of Disney’s traditions, to be sure, but I also don’t need that context or even any past experience with fairy tales or fables at all to understand the points about Anna’s naivety in regard to “true love” and what it is to really know another person. FWIW, it seems to me that Disney made the lesson(s) especially vivid by choosing to do things the way that they did.

  • David Kang

    I have come to understand why I had to re-watch Frozen, the first time I came out of theaters, I was perplexed. I had no idea why Hans acted the way he did, and although it was a good movie, I didn’t feel satisfied coming out of theaters. Frozen makes you want to watch over again to understand the characters better.

  • Taco

    I wonder what someone like Mark Kennedy would make of your acting & story breakdown here Ed. Maybe the two of you need to do a podcast together some time.

    • edhooks

      Mark is an extremely talented writer. But he had his hand in “Emperor’s New Groove” and “Treasure Planet”, both of which have significant script issues.

  • waroftherobots

    I disagree that Hans did not have foreshadowing. There are a couple other points that other commenters mentioned (Hans motioning towards Arendelle saying he wants to find his own place and his mirroring of every character). The first sign to me, though, was his mentioning that he had 12 older brothers. Has there ever been a story where a prince with that many older brothers didn’t have a scheme to get power somehow?

  • gamerman12

    I’d say the reason why Elsa created the monster was because of her fear. She was afraid and didn’t know her power. She doesn’t learn how to really use it in intense situations except during when the Duke’s men are attacking her.

  • Toonio

    Some very valid points by Mr. Hooks. Hans and the rest of the deer under the headlights performances were a few of the many flaws in Frozen. But in a world where you can brainwash your costumers and squeeze every penny out of them. Who cares about structure, entertainment and such?

    Look at the truckloads of crappy content out there. People just don’t care anymore. They just want to be taken away of their day to day misery, sitting at a screen, while getting old, waiting to to die.

    Now the bright side of this is that Hades from Hercules won’t be the weakest, lamest and boring Disney villain ever anymore. Hans has overthrown him into oblivion.

    Guess Hercules crew can now rest well at night now that we have Frozen.

  • http://www.moviecappa.com/ Mike Caracappa

    You know, all of these things about Hans are really confusing for the audience. Everyone either brings up that the twist was a play on the convention of prince charming, or that Hans was a mirror for every other character. All of these things amount to the fact that the audience is having to come up with explanations that are outside of the actual story. In essence the filmmakers are making the audience write the film in their heads instead of the filmmakers themselves actually having something to say about the character. And I’m sorry, but I think that’s all wrong. It’s the audience’s job to be entertained hear what you have to say, not turn the movie into a game of Mad Libs where we have to fill everything in for a blank character.

    What’s got us all arguing about what Han’s motivations is that fact that we’re forced to make up excuses for bad/lazy writing. Hans may be a mirror for every character in the film, but that also means he’s a mirror for every audience member, who have to sit there wondering how he turns out to be a sociopath out of nowhere.

    Oh, and I also think this sums up most of Frozen’s problems pretty well: http://youtu.be/Zb5IH57SorQ

    • anon

      HA HA HA! YES! I’m so glad someone else finally posted this! Honest Trailers definitely hit the nail on the head, and the lyrics are fantastic- “Do you want some expositioooon? Some information through a soooong?”

  • George Comerci

    Two things:
    First off, it was NOT Elsa’s tears that melted Anna and brought her back. Anna’s act of true love was the thing that brought her back to life.
    Second, Fixer Upper DID serve a purpose. Well, at least in my eyes. You see, during Love is an Open Door, Hans and Anna are singing about their “love”. Which, in reality, is just Hans saying, “So you like this? I like this too!”. And Anna, being shut away in the castle all her life, with little to no friendships, thinks, “Wow! Someone who likes everything I do! And cares about me! It must be love!”. So, its perfect to her. Artificial, but perfect.
    In Fixer Upper, however, Kristoff is not trying to woo Anna in any way. It’s his family, the trolls, who, as you see in the musical number, are pushy, loud, and love to share all of Kristoff’s embarrassing secrets. But Anna finds out more about Kristoff than she ever knew about Hans, and starts to fall for him. Because, unlike Hans, this relationship is real, and in no way artificial.

    • edhooks

      How can you say, George, that Anna brought her own self back to life? Dead is dead is dead, right? You don’t die, remember you performed an act of true love while you were still alive and then reverse the process, living again. Death is a one-way street where I come from. In Pinocchio, the boys are dying when they turn into Jackasses, and none of them come back once the transformation is complete. Pinocchio’s transition was interrupted, which is the equivalent of saving him on his death-bed.

      • IJK

        Beast died, but Belle broke the spell and turned him back into a human AND brought him back to life.

        Really, he should have been dead after that. The spell was just turning him from a beast to a human, not bringing him back to life.

        In Tangled, Rapunzel’s powers are apparently able to cure death, not just diseases.

        It’s all about having a satisfying ending and much less about making magic logical or consistent.

  • Matteo Ceccotti

    I disagree with your agr…oh whatever. I mean I agree with the first guy. :P I liked that I was kept guessing about the character’s nature.

    • white vader

      But the point was that you WEREN’T kept guessing at all. You thought he was completely good and as the article states, his actions and reactions right up until they pulled a fast one on us had NOTHING to do with secretly being the bad guy, whether you KNOW it or not. This is completely different from “telegraphing” intentions. For most of the movie he IS a good guy. Then suddenly he’s a bad guy. Bad writing. You can’t go back through the movie and say “oh, look how clever he was to cover up his motives”, because he’s NOT acting that way. Not to put words in your mouth and I’m using the generic “you”, but no-one was guessing his motives at all. They cheated the audience.

      Loved most of the movie including the end, but hated that.

      • Matteo Ceccotti

        Ah! No worries about “putting words in my mouth”. I understand your point and find it well-explained. I’ll think about it some more (excellent excuse to re-watch the movie).

        • DJ

          Actually, there is a hint as to who Hans is as a character and I find it strange that a board full of animation enthusiasts haven’t mentioned or seem to know about it. When Hans and the duke’s men fight with Elsa in her fortress watch Hans. When the duke’s guard is about shoot Elsa with the arrow Hans reacts, if you watch his pupils he looks from the guard to the chandelier and then makes the guard fire the arrow at the chandelier instead. This is a great moment of Hans covering his tracks since he could act as though he tried to save Elsa (putting him in better standing with the Kingdom and Anna) but actually squashed her with a couple hundred pounds of ice instead. There may be more but this was one that I spotted immediately.

          • Tony

            Even after you watch the movie a 2nd or 3rd time, Hans still comes across as genuinely trying to save Elsa (which makes little sense given what we now know about him). You give a good explanation of how saving Elsa in that scene might’ve helped Hans achieve his secret goal, but Hans’ acting in that scene does little to suggest he was even aware of that. Like White Vader said above, Hans truly WAS a good guy for the first two acts of the movie, then the writers pull the rug from underneath us in the 3rd act ,

          • Laura

            Also earlier on I thought his threat to label someone as a traitor was a little harsh. It made me suspicious of him on my first viewing.

          • TheNamelessDoll .

            That is indeed one of the only moments that could be considered a foreshadowing of his true nature. BUT the action does not make any sense what so ever! The quick look up indicates that Hans planned and wanted to shoot down the chandelier, but it would most likely have KILLED Elsa (it’s a miracle she got away in time). But if he wanted to kill her, then why not just let the other men go in and kill her for him? He clearly saw them and knew what they were gonna do, so what not just let them? If he wanted to make it seem that he was on her side he could just have screamed “Nooo” or “Stop!” and everybody would have understood that he was on the queen’s side. There was no need for a crazy manoeuvre like that (and is he related to Legolas, because that shot was pretty damn impressive considering the circumstances and the fact that there has been no indication that he would have been a good shot).

  • Ranting Swede

    If you have a story about redemption of a villain, the villain will tend to have the larger character arc than the hero but the hero is usually the protagonist. See Return of the Jedi.

  • Kuraen

    A few evil Hans moments:
    When he hits Anna with his horse, he apologizes for that, “and every moment after.” He’s up to no good. :(

    In the song, “Love is an Open Door,” he says, “I’ve been searching all my life to find my own place.” and motions to Arendelle in the background. He’s starting to get more bold in voicing his intentions.

    When he is ‘saving’ Elsa in the ice castle, you can see his eyes raise up, as he seemingly aims for the chandelier to fall on Elsa.

    And even when he is endearing himself towards the villagers, it is just so they will accept him faster when he takes the thrown.

    But the fact that he tried to kill 2 people and take over a country and survived makes it seem like there is room for redemption in the sequel. He better have a really good reason for being bad. XD

  • Ranting Swede

    http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/f1/6f/57/f16f57226442860324824a1d965929e1.jpg Nope, Still don’t see it. In image 2 and 4, her boobs are still the same size.

    • Toonio

      You got it there, frames 2 and 4 Photoshop layers are your friend. Now if you don’t want to see it, to each their own.

      • Ranting Swede

        Yep. Agree to disagree. Cheers.

        • bencaldwellart

          i don’t know about boob size, but yeah she definitely put on a sultry hip swagger when she changed. it’s not very subtle.

          • Vitoria

            Her lipstick changes too, and also the eyeshadow I think, but the lipstick I’m sure about. I goes from pink to dark red.

          • Tony

            To me, that was part of her character development. She had a new self-confidence…”swagger” if you will, and it shows in the change in her walk.

  • Kazzer

    amazing breakdown! I might not agree with everything here, but this level of technical analysis is excellent, and I would love to see more of it on CB, as well as good dialogue about the craft, instead of the political value judgementas and sweeping amidi hate I normally encounter when I dare the scroll below an article.

  • http://twitter.com/AlixEcho AlixEcho

    I disagree with most of the points made here. But looking at the very first paragraph, this caught my attention:

    “My standard of measurement is the emotional impact a movie has on its audience and its elegance as a work of art.”

    I can understand having doubts about the latter, even if I disagree, but anyone who has followed the responses on the internet should be able to see that this film has genuinely struck a chord. This wasn’t a success engineered by a major studio — if anything, they took a major risk with their marketing campaign by choosing to rely on word-of-mouth and audience response (the only explanation for the lousy trailers) — but something that, for whatever reason, made an impact. What I’m finding frustrating with this article is that it doesn’t really shed any light on why this might be the case. If anything, it seems to catalogue various elements in order to describe why the film shouldn’t have worked.

    My main criticism, though, is in the idea of a “scene-by-scene analysis” as an approach, and the almost mechanical way of evaluating each scene according to “action,” “conflict” and “objective.” It’s an interesting tool for evaluation, but it seems reductive, making storytelling a purely functional endeavour. In fact, the author makes some interesting points, but by picking apart each scene in chronological order, it misses some of the other levels of the story, in particular, how they relate to the central theme of “fear vs. love”. For instance: the snow-monster paragraph. The author says:

    “The moment could have been one of the most powerful in the movie, calling for Elsa to weigh her values against commitment to her sister and her obligations as a queen.”

    Yes, it would have been a great scene in its own terms, but it wouldn’t have added much to the story’s central conflict. There is already a scene where Elsa has a brief moment of reflection, just prior to For the First Time in Forever (reprise), where she is tempted by Anna to return to Arendelle but is overcome by fear as she remembers what she did as a child. The point isn’t that she has commitments, the point is that she is physically unable to fulfil them. That entire sequence, from the moment Anna arrives to the moment she leaves, responds to and builds on that idea, along with the two sisters’ misunderstanding of the situation. It builds to its logical conclusion — Anna charging ahead optimistically without stopping to think (she likes fast, after all), and Elsa losing control as she tries to contain her growing agitation.

    But what about the snow-monster? I take the point that it might seem like an artifice, a convenient way of getting rid of Anna. In fact, it is, though one that is set up by the story by showing Elsa realise only a few moments earlier that she could do it. On the other hand, you also get an interesting symmetry with Olaf: the first snowman Elsa makes with her powers, in a moment of relief and confidence, is a happy representation of her lost childhood. Olaf promptly finds Anna and takes her to her sister. The second snowman Elsa makes, now in a moment of fear and agitation, is the monster, who promptly grabs Anna and chases her out of the ice palace.

    I originally wrote some more, addressing Hans, but I don’t want this too long. The main point I want to get to is that is valuable to take a step back to look at the wider picture, within the context of the a story’s aims. This film has, whether people believe it was justified or not, worked and marketing only goes so far. My own impression, which seems very different from many comments on here, is that the various elements work together very well, even though the film does, indeed, have many flaws in its construction.

  • Xaire

    I really disagree with your whole storytelling basic whatever. If you are gonna complain about a freaking “human-like thinking REINDEER”… Did you not even know you are watching a MAGICAL movie? I mean, it’s not just that it’s an animation perse, You got a talking snowman, who got no skull or bones. And yet you complain about a Reindeer thinking enigmatically? SERIOUSLY? I’ve read the whole article, and it feels like you are forcing everyone and yourself to find flaws where there is none, and Ironically speaking you talk about analyzing movies and critical views on the technicalities of the movie, but it feels like you didn’t even watched the movie enough to understand it. You just keep talking about theatrical this and that, at least know that it WAS NOT Elsa’s Tears that thawed Anna’s “FROZEN” state, but her OWN act of TRUE LOVE BY SACRIFICING HERSELF FOR HER SISTER.o_o

  • George

    Thanks for this article. I found the film very flawed, and I’m glad you pointed it out in such a structured way. Many will disagree because they consider this film a masterpiece, but I beg to differ.

  • Supersharp

    This is a interesting analysis and I agree with it, but I ultimately think that all of this ‘bad writing’ and ‘bad decisions’ make Frozen fresh (pun intended) and so are directly responsible of the film’s success.

    The fact that Hans had no foreshadowing can be technically a mistake, but personally I found it surprising in a good way. I like fiction tricking me -and I know it didn’t do it in the most elegant way, but still-. I didn’t know what to expect during the whole movie. Like, really, I stared thinking Elsa was going to fully become villain and die -it wasn’t gonna happen, but I thought of it-. It was the first time in forever that a Disney animated film was not mainly predictable to me.

    Frozen has as a kind of naive, yet creative and beautiful way of writing, plus it has a meaningful symbolism -doors locked, ice, regeneration, snowmen- that, yeah, are far from perfect, but still here we are all talking about it.

  • C. Rose

    Ed Hooks came to my university to deliver a talk on acting and animation. This was a fascinating read, and very good analysis of what worked and didn’t work in Frozen. :)

  • mikeluz

    Thank you for writing this piece. I agree with almost everything you have said here. I enjoyed a lot of elements of Frozen but felt that there were a lot of disconnected fragmented ideas in the story and after reading your analysis I really think you hit the nail on the head.

    I also agree with your sentiment that animators generally think that creating an illusion of life and “emotion” (meaning mood) is enough when it never really is. I am a very strong believer in fully understanding your character, their motivation, their obstacles and only then can your acting choices ring true. In the case of Frozen, I think these are story issues and would not fault the individual animators because, like you said, they can only work with what they were given, story-wise.

    I disagree with the implication that in Frank & Ollie’s day you could get away simply with creating the illusion of life. I suppose there is a bit of truth in that sentiment because at the time the novelty of animation was new, but the best scenes still hold up and there was obviously the kind of thoughtfulness being put into understanding a character and their motivation as you describe being necessary in your article. Pinocchio on stage for the first time with the Great Stromboli shows great thoughtfulness and intention and is not merely moving correctly and creating a “mood.” He is acting, and it’s a great sequence.

  • JK Riki

    Bravo. What a fantastic article.

  • adrian

    I dunno why? Maybe I was just guessing but I totally saw Hans was the bad guy and that the sisters were going to save each other. But of course the Hans acting was pretty bad, I agree with that.

    But my honest question is: do we really need the foreshadowing. And if we do, how much?

  • Steven Bowser

    I think it’s interesting that a lot of these points are things that most people won’t notice, but they all impact the film subliminally.
    Just watching the film, I did notice that Hand was underdeveloped, and I had a couple of other problems, but I never noticed the problems with the reindeer and the snow monster. But those things do subliminally effect the film, and we’ll never know how much better the film could be if those were done better.
    I’d be interested in what this guy thinks about some of my favorite films. :P

  • agreenster

    Hey guys, Adam Green here, co-head of animation on Get a Horse. Just wanted to pop in to say that other than one cycle in a scene that Eric and I shared together, there was no rotoscoping or (how you described it) “tracing ” the 2D with CG in Get a Horse. To claim such strips away the hard work and dedication the team went through to learn and emulate the 1928 style of animation , and execute it so well. Also, thinking some faceless executive is making the creative calls at Disney is misinformed. For Get a Horse, Lauren MacMullan was at the helm for every decision and addressed notes from John Lasseter, a filmmaker himself. There was a note early on to pull the characters into the CG world sooner, because we knew that there was a lot of entertainment to be had with the interplay between the two worlds, and we didn’t want to miss any opportunities within our given running time. It was always Lauren’s call.

  • Tony

    I agree with Ed. Foreshadowing isn’t about making the audience aware from the beginning. It just means that once the big reveal is made, it will give more context to the actions the character made prior to that event. It should elicit the audience to say “Ohhh, so that is why he was doing that. Explains a lot…”. Hans’ big reveal didn’t elicit that response from me very much, if at all.

  • ocelotish

    Hasn’t Pluto done this from (virtually) Day 1?

  • http://www.honeydewstudios.com Honeydew Studios

    Excellent analysis as always, Ed. Frozen is a great animated film, but there were definitely some shortcomings, as you’ve mentioned. The lack of foreshadowing in Hans’ character, and Anna’s lack of a character arc, were the most noticeable.

  • John A. C. Kelley

    Actually, what you are seeing is an optical illusion along with what Vitoria saw. When her dresses change the color lightens (causes more definition to curves and even more so as it contrasts more with the dark background) and her dress goes from hugging her neck to being low cut (causes boobs to look even bigger). Nothing changed other than her clothes; it just seemed to change because your eye tricked you.

  • Guest

    Most of these are pretty good, but apparently this guy has never heard of an unexpected plot twist?

    • Ferdinand Engländer

      Important thing about unexpected plot twists: they are always prepared. A good plot-twist is one outcome among many established as possible – the film-maker just distracted the audience from it. The build up and puzzle pieces have to be there, ideally the audience feels surprised but not overwhelmed. Take the twist where Anna saves Elsa and it comes out that this is meant with true love. It’s a twist but it was a possible right from the point where this rule was set.
      Hans could have at least appeared somehow weird and less honestly caring. Without any hint to more the twist is unbelievable, even comical.

      There is however one exception: Post modern storytelling. If you establish that your film constantly turns unforshadowed ways and its the style of your film right from the beginning on the twist could work. Frozen for sure didn’t do that and the few post modern elements were all called back in the end.

  • http://www.jeandenis.net/ Jean-Denis Haas

    She could have created something else that would keep them away, or create an ice prison. Clearly the snow monster has the capacity to hurt them when provoked. I see the point of her not fully in control of her powers and her fear creating this, but it’s a weird contrast to have “I don’t want to hurt you” and then cut to a chase sequence where Anna falls down and could get seriously hurt.

  • CascadeWvera1

    This has gotten too much. What you people trying to do? To tell people the TRUTH or something? I think that while some of the criticisms are valid, Frozen is suffering from “overexposure”.

  • Lithia

    I agree. Even Beauty and the Beast has problems in terms of character backgrounds.
    Ex: The Beast is a prince, so where are his parents? Is he the King of France? How to the villagers forget where a prince lives nearby?

  • shaunn

    Interesting article. I disagree with a lot of your points, but interesting nonetheless. I do agree about Hans, which seems to be your primary complaint. I don’t agree about taking the focus off of Elsa – as compelling as Elsa is, the decision to make the film focused on Anna doesn’t change the fact that the action is driven by Elsa and the main character development is hers. But to actually focus on her would be to have no movie. Watching her mope around all day in her ice palace would not have been very interesting. Someone pointed this out below: Elsa’s tears do not bring Anna back to life. Anna’s act of sacrifice does this; it is just a delayed effect.