It's Disney princess time!
The Mouse House's 53rd animated feature focuses on two princess sisters in the enchanted kingdom of Arendelle. When their parents die in a shipwreck, older sibling Elsa (Idina Menzel) is crowned Queen, but her icy powers accidentally trap the land in eternal winter.
Accused of sorcery (grab your torches and pitchforks!), Elsa flees to a fortress of frozen solitude, while younger sis Anna (Kristen Bell) braves Snowmaggedon-like conditions to find her. During her epic journey, plucky Anna teams up with mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his loyal reindeer, and a buck-toothed snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad).
Can these new friends reverse the wintry curse before it's too late? Duh, it's Disney. Let's break the ice with five Frozen facts:
A Fabled History: Frozen is inspired by Hans Christian Anderson's classic The Snow Queen, about a young girl who saves her friend from a magic mirror and wicked snow spirit. Disney tried for over a decade to adapt the fairy tale, first as a stage musical and then an animated film. But the studio shelved the projects, partly because the original story is fairly dark and doesn't translate easily into a feature. The breakthrough came when they decided to make the protagonists sisters, one being a more human version of the Snow Queen.
Doing Their Homework: Research was crucial to the preproduction process. Since the animators reside in Southern California, they went to Wyoming to experience what it's like to trudge through deep snow. The lighting team traveled to the Ice Hotel in Quebec, Canada to study how light reflects and refracts in snow and ice. Lastly, the production designer and art direction team visited Norway to get inspiration for the look of the film. The Norwegian influence is evident in Arendelle's vistas, architecture, and clothing designs.
The Great Snow-White Way: Frozen showcases the talents of several Broadway alums. Idina Menzel, who never met a power ballad she didn't love, appeared in Rent and won a Tony for her witchy turn in Wicked. Josh Gad costarred in The Book of Mormon, and that musical's co-creator, Robert Lopez (also of Avenue Q), teamed with his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, to write the film's eight original songs. You can just bet Disney will turn Frozen into a Broadway spectacle (with subsequent tours) in the near future.
Widening the Horizons: Though not as strong as Tangled, Frozen features stunning visuals and makes great use of 3D. It's the first Disney animated feature to be filmed in ultra-widescreen since The Black Cauldron in 1985. (And the last one before that was Sleeping Beauty in 1959.) In another welcome move, Jennifer Lee, who co-wrote Frozen and last year's Wreck-It Ralph, is the first woman to direct a Disney animated feature. She shares the reins with veteran animator Chris Buck, whose credits include Tarzan and Surf's Up.
Get a Short! Frozen is preceded by the short film Get a Horse!, which uses a hybrid of old and new animation techniques. The black-and-white portion features Mickey Mouse, Minnie, and other vintage characters, who then burst through the screen in color, à la Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (which was a nod to Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr.). Produced in 18 months, Horse was conceived and directed by Lauren MacMullan, the first woman to solo direct a Disney animated film. More female empowerment!