Frozen is not only a return to form for Disney animation, the usual Disney tropes have been modernized and subverted to create a fresh story that honors the films Frozen is indebted to, while avoiding being a mere retread. As to be expected, there are songs, dresses, anthropomorphised comic relief, and gorgeously rendered locations. All have been executed on a level that pushes and stretches the form in new directions, much as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King did 20 years ago.
Elsa and Anna's dresses have been designed to echo classic Disney princesses, while retaining a look and feel unique and true to Frozen's world. The lighting is breathtaking and gorgeously rendered. What truly impresses is the subtle uses of light throughout the film. As Elsa and Kristoff ride through the forest at night, the diffused lighting and soft shadows playing across the trees as the sled rushes along create movement so smooth and evocative, it's doubtful audiences will ever realize how much work must have gone into that scene. The look of Disney's previous film Tangled was also inspired by classical paintings. It's in Frozen that it appears the animators were finally given free rein to not just draw ideas from various art movements, but to use those techniques to bring the world of Arendelle vividly to life.
In Elsa and Anna, we have two fully realized female characters whose love for each other drives the story. While there are villainous characters and romance, the heart of this movie is the relationship of these two sisters. Where other films may have opted to escalate the climactic confrontation into a tour-de-force action sequence, Frozen's is rooted in Elsa and Anna's journey together. It's personal, emotionally rewarding and earned by a sure script, voice acting and direction.
A true testament to this film is that my 10-year-old cousin loves the film so much, he's seen the film three times and he owns the soundtrack. It doesn't matter to him that the lead characters are two young women.
With Tangled also demonstrating Disney's new found drive to reinvent the Princess film for modern audiences, I'm curious to see what else the Mouse House brings to the screens if they continue challenging themselves artistically, and not be ensnared by their own legacy.