Frozen is Disney at its best
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Disney's 53rd animated adventure is also it's finest in almost two decades.
Not since the animation studio's renaissance quartet of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King has the Mouse House produced such a potent mix of thrilling adventure, tear-inducing emotion, memorable characters and toe-tapping tunes.
Like Mermaid, co-directors Chris Buck (Tarzan) and Jennifer Lee's (a Wreck It Ralph-writer) animated adventure is inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.
However, The Snow Queen's septuplet of stories has been replaced by something far less complicated but strangely and compellingly less black and white.
In Disney's hands it becomes a Shakespearian tale of two sisters. Inseparable playmates, Ana (voiced as an adult by Veronica Mars' Kristen Bell) and big sister Elsa (Idina Menzel) are also heirs to the throne of Arendelle.
But Elsa is special, possessing not only regal powers but also a magical one - the ability to conjure up snow and ice.
Unfortunately near tragedy strikes when a moment's inattention causes Ana to be struck in the head by an Elsa blast of cold.
Only their parents quick thinking and some troll intervention saves her life, but at the cost of her memory.
Chastened by the experience, Elsa withdraws from society and her sister, even though Ana can't understand why their relations have become frosty, something compounded by the unexpected death of both their parents (presented in a beautifully Up-rivalling underplayed scene).
Then comes the day when everything seemingly has to change - when Elsa comes of age and is to be crowned as queen.
At first, everything goes swimmingly, but when Ana becomes smitten by the visiting Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) and a whirlwind marriage is proposed, Elsa flies into a rage, flees into the mountains and plunges the kingdom into permanent winter.
While there are certainly elements of Lion King (humiliation and exile), Beauty (a kooky and less than poised heroine who sings that she doesn't ''know if I'm elated or gassy but I'm somewhere in that zone'') and Tangled (a not exactly princely hero and his more charismatic steed) in Frozen's storyline (there's also an argument that this is Carrie for pre-teens), it feels fresh and original and incredibly for a Disney Princess film, capable of more than a few surprises in its narrative.
Like the semi-live action Enchanted and Tangled, this isn't afraid to mess with the usual fairytale conventions and for once it's the boys who are left on the sidelines when the going gets tough.
That said while the girls are the heart and soul of Frozen, the real heart and scenes stealer is a Snowman conjured up by Elsa's magic.
Voiced by the seemingly ubiquitous Josh Gad (Jobs, The Internship, Thanks for Sharing), the warm-hug loving Olaf (he clearly has a death wish) is an endlessly quotable, optimistic joy to rival Robin Williams' genie.
''Winter's a good time to sit close and cuddle, but put me in summer and I'll be a... happy snowman,'' he sings in In Summer, one of nine songs written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (2011's Winnie the Pooh) that punctuate the film (in traditional Disney style they dominate the first half before the action really kicks in).
Others to impress include the uplifting For the First Time in Forever (despite its similarity to Tangled's I See the Light) and power-ballad Let It Go.
Animation looks crisp and smooth with the 3D used to good but not spectacular effect in conjunction with all the wild weather on show. However, what really stands out about these ice-escapades are a sense of unfamiliarity and real excitement generated in a kids movie free from techno-villains, voice-overs and pop-culture references.
Plus, you get a fabulous old school-meets-new-school Mickey Mouse cartoon (complete with old Walt himself providing vocals) Get a Horse as an appertiser for a perfect school holiday treat.
In the end, I can only echo the words of my three-year-old boy who succinctly broadcasted his feelings about Frozen at its conclusion: ''I love that movie.''
Sneak previews of Frozen will take place in select cinemas from December 20 to 22 and Christmas Eve before the film opens nationwide on Boxing Day
- © Fairfax NZ News