Saturday, December 15, 2012

"Frozen" Disney Princess Movie 2013

On the topic of the first official concept art for Disney's 2013 computer-animated film Frozen:

The above images were released and met with a general disappointment for the character designs. The art is sure to be phenomenal (I mean just look at those ice-sculpture-things, wow) but many felt there was something lacking in the characters Anna and Kristoph.

I have included the rest of my post under the break. I tried not to have this post turn into a big discussion of "What Disney could have done." I am very interested in looking through original concept art of animated films, and I find it so interesting because the creators can literally create any appearance for a scenery or a person. It is always fascinating to see what could have been and what they officially decided upon.

Please read on for some thoughts on this Tangled lookalike, how it compares to the original Hans Christian Andersen story, fanart that potentially improves on the Frozen setting, and sketches from concept artists:

First of all, Anna's face looks very much like Disney's last princess, Tangled's Rapunzel:

Rapunzel: blonde, green-eyed, high cheekbones, rosy disposition.

It is as if they took Anna's facial structure and buggy big eyes straight from the fairies of the Tinkerbell series. Is it so much to ask for a little... diversity in facial structure?
The story's setting focuses on Scandinavian culture, and so I will concede that her very blonde look is fair enough. Nevertheless, Disney princesses have always had that thin-thin frame, and Anna is no different. But in a very cold environment where it would make sense to have a little more weight for warmth?

I can at least be consoled with the fact that the male lead's appearance is generally bulkier than past, typically-lean Disney princes. And I do like that his gruff personality shows through his body language and facial expressions. But how many times have we seen the cheery-girl paired with mister-serious?
That aside, I admire the change of pace from this original concept art for Kristoph:

Do I detect some Flynn Rider in that suave pose?

Still very lovely concept art, but I really enjoy it when Disney plays with different body types. Kristoph's bulkier appearance is more reminiscent of "Bastion," the original concept character for Rapunzel's love interest in Tangled:

Big, burly, and cuddly. In appearance, quite the atypical Disney prince.

Bastion's design was later scrapped in favor of Flynn Rider, pictured above.


The Hans Christian Andersen story (which Frozen is "loosely" based from) features two children who live in the same village, a little girl named Gerda and a boy named Kai. There is a lot of backstory with a troll and this mirror that breaks and when the shards get into you, you cannot see the beauty of the world. If you're interested for a quick summary of the full story, here is the wikipedia page:
When Kai gets a shard in his eye, he becomes angry and inconsolable. He is kidnapped by the Snow Queen and Gerda transverses to her castle to rescue her friend. Along the way, she meets a robber girl and the two form an alliance (I feel this is significant to mention because friendships between girls are so important in literature in fostering deeper connections and support that doesn't have to involve romance).

In Frozen, a curse is put on Anna by her estranged sister, the Snow Queen. Anna has to race against time to get to her sister's castle and break the curse. Kristoph, a "rugged, thrill-seeking outdoorsman" (how manly) joins her on this quest, along with Kristoph's one-antlered reindeer and a "hapless snowman."

Sigh. I'll list a few points that make me a little annoyed. A kickbutt girl saving the boy, why can't we have that? I'm all for a girl setting out to save herself, but it seems Frozen is setting up for Kristoph becoming Anna's guide. Why can't she manage on her own? I like the idea of travel companions, but I would like the female heroine to be competent and accomplished in something, so why not tracking or reading a map? Why does she need a body guard?
I am making a lot of assumptions from the concept art. But I feel it is easy to do when given her smiley face, admiring the (yes, gorgeous) scenery, while Kristoph marches on stoically, all business and no time for emotions.

(And on the subject of names: Gerda and Kai. Why can't we have a Princess named Gerda? The uncommon name isn't seen as "pretty," but I think that there's power in giving a girl a culturally traditional name, regardless of its popularity. And I rather like the more feminine-sounding "Kai" for a boy. Anna and Kristoph seem... gender complacent.)

That being said, I can see the film shaping up to be an enjoyable viewing experience. But it won't be significant. There will be a cute romance and funny dialogue and the characters will eventually learn something about themselves that they didn't know at the beginning of the story. The one-antlered reindeer will be a cute little misfit and the snowman will be amusing comic relief.

I hate to be skeptical about the film, but I can't help but wondering "what if...?" What if the girl had a little more meat on her bones? What if the story were constructed differently, with the girl as the adventurer? Why do I get the feeling that the "rugged mountain" will be the one leading her to reach her goal? Why does this feel like Tangled all over again?


I wish to digress a bit to explore this "what could have been."

I always love it when fans take a turn at character designing or reimagining films, using the opportunity to stretch their creativity and explore cool ideas within the fandom. 
In light of the less-than-satisfactory Frozen concept art release, tumblr user marydoodler tried her hand at a Snow Queen heroine in a Mongolian setting:

Not official art of the movie. But really, how cool would that be?

Disclaimer: The artist said she thought she had heard that the Frozen movie was being considered for a Mongolian setting. She was mistaken, and what she actually got confused with was an episode of Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child in which the "Snow Queen" story was reimagined with Inuit children. Here is the Wikipedia page for that series:
I feel this idea of reimagining fairy tales is an interesting subject for further discussion and research. (I wish I had heard of this earlier so I might've brought it up in class discussion!)


In any case, I am interested in seeing how they construct the Snow Queen's design and personality. (The Snow Queen is voiced by Idina Menzel who played Elphaba in the first Broadway run of Wicked, so I expect the musical component is going to be beautiful.)
From what I can tell of the descriptions of the Ice Queen's song "Let It Go" (which is performed when she leaves the kingdom and creates her own ice palace), I am anticipating a sympathetic villain with insecurities and inner demons of her own.
But I must say, the initial concept designs of her character look pretty cool. (hehe puns)

Above, initial concept art for the Ice Queen.

It may be too soon to tell. I eagerly await the reveal of more teaser art and plot information.

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