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Disney by numbers
on 20 April 2014
Art and commerce can be uneasy bedfellows and never more so than at Disney, whose desire to merchandise sometimes comes at the expense of quality. Although certainly not in Frozen's target demographic, I've always had an interest in animation and have kept an eye on the studio's product over the years.
I have to admit that I find it disappointing that such a bland entry into the canon has attracted so much acclaim. Is this now the benchmark for an exceptional Disney movie? It becomes quite obvious when watching Frozen that the whole experience has been designed by a committee of corporate box-tickers, whose aim is to maximise as many of the company's revenue streams as possible. New Disney Princess? Check. Cute comedy sidekick with spin-off potential? Yep. Plenty of songs so we can get it on Broadway? You got it.
The story (inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen) and its execution are inoffensive enough and there are many worse ways to pass the time. However, musicals are such an acquired taste that if you're going to have characters breaking into song every couple of scenes or so, then those songs must be pretty darned good. Here is Frozen's biggest sin and the absence of the late Howard Ashman is felt keenly. It was Ashman who - as lyricist together with composer Alan Menken - oversaw Disney's last 'golden age': The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Each of those films features a standout musical number that has endured: respectively "Under the Sea", "Be Our Guest" and "Friend Like Me".
Frozen's songwriting duo, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, don't seem to grasp that for a song to be memorable, it has to have a catchy melody and a clever, multi-syllabic rhyming scheme that continues the narrative. Alas, all too frequently, the characters just 'sing the script' in an arbitrary chord sequence with no attempt being made to turn each composition into something special.
Of course, the computer animation is top-notch and the Blu-ray looks stunning. The extras are scant and don't really add much. Although I did get the 3D version, a friend demanded a 2D viewing first and by the time it had finished we both agreed that once was enough.
To those of you who enjoyed it, then I completely respect your opinion but to my mind, Disney is capable of a lot better. The studio must question whether its purpose is to make money as a result of its films or instead to provide first-class entertainment that will lead naturally to financial reward.