Frozen was the biggest movie that the animation division of Disney had seen in a very long time. Between the fact that the film put a major twist on the princess tropes that Disney themselves had helped to create, and the fact that the movie had that song you couldn’t escape, Frozen was absolutely everywhere. While Disney Animation frequently avoids making theatrical sequels to their animated movies, it was obvious that if an exception was going to be made, Frozen would be it, and after rumours implied that one was probably happening, it was eventually confirmed to be on its way.
“Let It Go,” the warble heard around the world, wasn’t just the signature song from “Frozen.” It was an anthem (“Here I stand!”) for the mighty, mighty girl power that helped push Disney into industry dominance. The company’s supremacy is often pinned on its highest profile franchises: Lucasfilm, Marvel and Pixar, which have historically featured male-driven stories. But Disney has also heavily profited from a sparkly pink world of adventure and aspirational uplift for spirited girls and women who “dream big,” to borrow a motto from its princess franchise.
Frozen’s formula cleverly matched the expansive dreams and deep anxieties experienced by children with Broadway-style belters (powered by actual Broadway stars Menzel and Groff). The rage-inducing loneliness that accompanies Elsa’s power or her non-magical sister Anna’s primal fears for her family’s safety are not obstacles to overcome but incorporated into the storytelling. Here, the idea is developed further, with Elsa and Anna (Kristen Bell) vowing to undo the damage done by generations past, thoughtfully touching on the timely themes of colonialism and the climate crisis. Indeed, Anna’s moving solo The Next Right Thing advocates for taking the first small step towards change even when the future is uncertain.
Let us get the downside out of the way. Frozen 2 is about a journey into the unknown, but nothing that it puts on the screen feels quite as mystifying as some of the elements in the precursor did. Whatever is truly striking and startling about the follow-up has more to do with surface-level wizardry – the animation is mind-blowingly outstanding – than with any inherent potential of the storyline to catch the audience unaware.
Frozen 2 flashes the expected thematic signpost of sibling bonding, but goes off at a tangent occasionally to explore the repercussions of acts of overreach committed by the powerful. The film does the latter without the lightness of a fairy tale, opting instead for a more direct indictment of territorial aggrandisement that the mighty seek in their bid to tame those that believe in living in communion with nature.The animation is again spectacular – the forest is gorgeously tangible, stone giants seem to have been hewn out of the mountain, the display of Elsa’s powers is thrilling, and the comic relief remains endearingly offbeat – notably the toothy, goofy Olaf, who literally deconstructs his body, adjusting his very existence while regurgitating pointless facts (the choicest: “Turtles breathe through their butts”).
It is a reminder of how remarkable the Toy Story series was in sustaining its quality, indeed building on it, over four films. Frozen set a high bar, admittedly, but in comparison its sequel leaves one just a little cold.
Overall: Because the first movie generated such a bracing gust of enthusiasm, Frozen 2 will inevitably be nitpicked and judged against those lofty standards. Still, there’s plenty to enjoy for those willing to chill out, and yes, let the past go.