There’s something about a Disney film that keeps me coming back for more. Maybe it’s the animation. Maybe it’s the musical numbers. Or maybe it’s the feeling of being a kid again, whether I watch classics from my childhood like The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, or the latest films like Toy Story or Tangled. Usually if it’s a Disney film, I’m bound to be swept away.
When I saw Disney’s newest film Frozen, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, I instantly fell in love with the animation and the story about two sisters, Princess Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Princess Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) of Arendelle. Elsa has the unique gift to turn everything around her into a winter wonderland. When a night of playing together at the castle accidentally freezes her younger sister Anna, Elsa is distraught and fearful of the powers she possesses.
The king and queen’s visit to the woodland troll Grand Pabbie heals Anna, but decides it’s best to wipe her memories of Elsa’s powers to protect her. The king and queen take measures to protect Anna and the kingdom from Elsa’s power until she learns to control them. This has the negative impact of shattering the close bond Elsa and Anna shared, while further isolating herself from getting too close to anyone. It becomes particularly lonely for both sisters when their parents die during a voyage out at sea.
Elsa has spent most of her life keeping a tight reign and distance from everyone to conceal her powers for the safety of Anna and the rest of the kingdom, until it eventually unravels in the summer of her coronation. In the heat of an argument between Elsa and Anna, Elsa loses control of her powers and finally reveals her long kept secret. Viewed as a monster and feeling like an outcast after this big reveal, Elsa flees to the snowy mountains with the intent to live out the rest of her days in isolation. But what Elsa doesn’t realize is in her panic and lost of control of her powers, she has unintentionally cast a neverending winter on Arendelle. This is where the real story begins, as Anna embarks on a quest to bring her sister back and to get her to put an end to the eternal winter she accidentally started.
There will be potential spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie and are planning to I suggest you stop reading now. Everyone who has ever watched a Disney film know the princess formula, where a leading lady eventually meets her Prince Charming. There’s a conflict thrown in which temporarily separates the would-be lovers, but eventually you know she’ll get her man and her happy ending.
Frozen leads you to believe that this won’t be any different on the surface. Anna meets a guy named Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) who she convinces, along with his reindeer Sven, to help her get to her sister. It becomes pretty obvious who Anna is meant to end up with after the first hellos between her and Kristoff has been exchanged. When Anna fails to convince Elsa to come back with her to Arendelle and Elsa uses her powers to scare off Anna into leaving her alone, Elsa unknowingly hits her younger sister with her powers and strikes Anna in the heart. Predictably, Anna only has a short amount of time to break the spell on her heart with an “act of true love” before she becomes a frozen ice sculpture forever.
Anna and the audience presume this act of true love has to come from the very well-known and overly done “true love’s kiss” from her beloved. We nearly get that towards the end of the film when Kristoff is running to reach Anna in enough time to break the spell. But when Anna notices Elsa is in danger, she uses the little time she has left to protect her sister from harm. Just as you’re about to think all is lost for Anna, it turns out the act of true love was really saving her older sister all along. Anna’s strong desire to sacrifice herself for her sister is the purest act of true love in all its form. The spell is broken, everyone is happy, and the typical Disney happy ending plays out until the credits roll, complete with “true love’s first kiss” between Anna and Kristoff.
The movie has done something remarkably different by showing audience members that there are other types of true love and not the one a guy and girl feel for each other. True love can be defined as the love you share with a family member, which in this case is the love felt between sisters. It’s a departure for Disney from the old formula we expect from their films, but it’s a welcome one. We all know how romantic love and being with the guy/girl of your dreams can be great if you have found that special someone, but the love of family is just as important.
Frozen redefines our view of true love by focusing the story around a sisterly love and bond. It’s possible to love a sister, a brother, a parent, or anyone with the purest of hearts imaginable. It’s just as strong and powerful to want to move mountains or do anything for that person. Why can’t true love come in the form of loving your family too?
Admittedly, maybe Disney has planted unrealistic expectations about finding your Prince Charming or Princess by giving us this idea that love is simple with showstopping songs and riding off on a horse into the distant sunset. Frozen changes things up from what we typically expect about a story on true love and takes us completely by surprise when the moment to get us to the happily ever after is the love a sister has for her sister and doing a selfless act to prove how much she loves her more than the handsome guy waiting in the wings for her. I much rather see more love stories like this one from a Disney film. Love comes in all forms and each are equally as magical as finally finding the person of your dreams.