Disney’s non-Pixar-animated track record has been a bit spotty in recent years. The studio, who invented full-length feature animation for the masses, had a tremendous renaissance in the late 1980’s beginning with the Little Mermaid. Beauty and the Beast and Lion King (among others) followed – offering delicious, wonderfully told stories with equally beautiful songs. These films created a whole new catalog of “Disney classics” rivaling anything the studio had done before.
Midway through this renaissance came the juggernaut of a new brand of digital production. Hand drawn warmth and detail were now being rivaled by new technologies and people who knew how to harness them. Toy Story, produced by Steve Job’s Pixar and directed by visionary storyteller/animator John Lasseter, became one of the highest-grossing films of 1995. It was also given serious consideration for Best Picture. Suddenly there was a bonanza and competition for more adult minded digital animation giving rise to new franchises for other studios. Shrek practically made Dreamworks Animation.
With all these others entering the animation fray, quality took a bit of hit – even at Disney. What suffered most were the songs. Writing catchy pop melodies that tell a story is one of the hardest artistic things to do. Done well, it is box office gold that can lead to a trip straight to Broadway (evidence Lion King).
Frozen is a film that is pure magic. Emotionally gripping and buoyed by a simply fantastic set of songs by Broadway veteran Robert Lopez (Book of Mormon, Avenue Q) and his wife Kristen-Anderson-Lopez. Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s mostly dark “The Ice Queen” – the story takes the viewer to another world – different but instantly recognizable with the struggle for love and acceptance.
Kristen Bell is terrific – who knew she could sing so well. “Let it Go” should get the Oscar.
No doubt coming to Broadway as soon as possible.