Disney may have left the princess behind for a while in its animated films, but it remains firmly in the world of the fairy tale with. Frozen, a new Disney animated film newly announced as targeted for November 2013, will draw its inspiration from the Hans Christian Andersen’s “Snow Queen.”
The new film will be loosely based on Andersen’s classic tale of loss and redemption. Focusing on a daring heroine (Anna) and a brave mountain man (Kristoff) who must set off to free their kingdom from an unending winter, the main remnant of Andersen’s tale seems to be the Snow Queen herself, who must be defeated to put an end to the icy spell.
In the studio’s classic tradition, Frozen will be a musical film, with songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Robert Lopez is a three time Tony Award winner with long-running Broadway hits like the Book of Mormon and Avenue Q on his resume. Lopez and his wife have already teamed up to write original songs for 2011’s Winnie the Pooh and a musical adaptation of Finding Nemo. Disney hopes that the pair, with their strong lyrical background and contemporary sensibility, will be able to bring a fresh musical style to the film and connect with a new generation of theater goers.
As traditional in Disney animation, Frozen will feature a celebrity voice cast. Anna, the heroine (still credited in some places as “Gerda,” the name of the heroine in Andersen’s original tale), will be voiced by Kristin Bell. Bell, perhaps best known for the show Veronica Mars, majored in musical theater and lends a professional, yet “hip” cachet to the film. Finishing out the Broadway pedigree of the film is Tony Award winner Idina Menzel, renowned for the role of Elphaba in Disney-sponsored musical Wicked. Menzel will reportedly join a legendary list of female Disney villains as the Snow Queen in the film.
Based on Frozen’s announced November 2013 release date, it seems that Disney has once again delayed the long beleaguered King of the Elves, a digital animation project that has been on and off of Disney’s planned film list since 2008, projected to arrive “Holiday 2013.” Frozen presents a more traditional tale set in a European-styled fantasy world with opportunities for monsters and adventure more in keeping with Disney’s classic fairy tale films. The studio may be more hesitant to gamble at the box office with King of the Elves, a quirky film set in America without a female heroine to court audiences of little girls (and their cash-bearing parents). Furthermore, Disney’s choice of Chris Buck, the director of Tarzan, to helm the film indicates that the company may emphasize the adventure of the frozen kingdom in an active attempt to engage boys as well.
Initial concept art for Frozen reveals a classic Disney-animation feel, and it seems ironic that Disney animation, which has faltered in recent years, partially eclipsed by Pixar, is returning to a Hans Christian Andersen tale. Perhaps Disney is hoping to rediscover the same magic that sparked its 1990s “renaissance” with The Little Mermaid, also loosely based on an Andersen classic. Andersen’s tales remain classic fairy tales, but only time will tell whether Disney’s Frozen can thaw its animation department and usher in a new era of Disney animated features.