It’s a Disney recipe as old as time. Take a much-loved fairytale, add a princess looking for love, reduce the story’s unpalatably dark elements, chuck a couple of talking animals into the soup, season with some catchy singalongs, and bam – you’ve got yourself an animated classic.
The blueprint has had a chequered history over the years, but Disney are riding a new, confident wave at the moment, and Frozen is a new height.
This time, it’s the turn of The Snow Queen to be run through the Disney-fier. Little of Hans Christian Andersen’s bleak original makes it to this adaptation (which has been mooted by the studio in one form or another since the late 1930s).
Instead, it’s a largely winning blend of Disney old and new: an unabashedly crowd-pleasing musical of princesses and true love colliding with more contemporaneous themes of independence and femininity.
Interestingly, Anderson’s tale has been diluted to the extent that, at least until the conclusion, there is no significant ‘baddie’. The biggest conflict comes from within Elsa, a princess with powers over ice and snow.
After a lifetime of incarceration for her powers, she accidentally sends the quasi-Scandinavian town of Arendelle into an eternal winter.
But if Elsa is the film’s confused, screwed-up head, its heart and soul is in younger sister Anna (voiced with gusto by Kristen Bell). She’s recognisably well-rounded and immediately endearing: sassy but awkward, sunny but insecure, relentlessly positive but inescapably klutzy.
Peppy Broadway show tunes are sprinkled throughout, and while they might induce the odd wince among grown ups (‘Love Is An Open Door’ imparts few great truths on the mysteries of the human condition), the appeal is plain to see. Frozen’s likeability factor is too hard to resist.
There’s inevitably the usual guff about the transformative power of love. But with a neat twist on the old ‘only true love can break the spell’ concept, an age-old formula is neatly refreshed.
In fact, the zippy, engaging approach is enough to forgive a few infractions. The character design, for example, is hardly original – Barbie doll for the girls, boyband looks for the guys. But then Olaf the singing snowman bobs along, with a heart of gold and a brain of mush; your cynicism melts and your grin widens.
With a semi-sophisticated sense of 21st-century wit mingling with a bit of old-fashioned Disney charm, it’s nearly impossible not to be enchanted by Frozen. Walt himself would approve.