Hans Christian Andersen, were he alive today, would recognise little of his story in Frozen. The original The Snow Queen concerns itself with two young children, Kai and Gerda. One day, Kai gets a shard from the Snow Queens mirror in his eye that causes him to change and become mean-spirited. He is taken away to the Snow Queens palace at the North Pole and Gerda must venture forth on a quest to rescue him. Most noticeably, the film changes the characters around entirely. There are no equivalents of Kai and Gerda and no magic mirror. The Snow Queen is substantially rewritten as the character of the older sister Elsa but she is more sympathetic than evil just someone with a freezing power that she has yet to control, whereas the fairytales Snow Queen controlled all of winter and was in league with The Devil. The Snow Queen has no sister in the fairytale, although Anna sort of goes on a journey that approximates Gerdas quest. In fact, the only other character that vaguely even approximates anybody in the story is that of the reindeer that accompanies her, although here it is not a talking animal. The Snow Queen has been filmed numerous times see other versions listed here such as The Snow Queen (1995) and Snow Queen (tv mini-series, 2002).
Frozen comes from Chris Buck, who previously co-directed Disneys Tarzan (1999) and Sonys Surfs Up (2007), and newcomer Jennifer Lee. Lee is an interesting choice in that her only prior credit had been as the co-writer of Disneys last animated feature Wreck-It Ralph (2012). Clearly mindful of the accusations levelled at Pixar in recent years that they had were an exclusive boys club that did not admit woman directors, not even featured any lead female characters, Jennifer Lee was sprung ahead of the queue to become a full director here despite her lack of experience. Certainly, the results worked far more harmoniously than with the strained effort that Pixar made to employ a womans touch on Brave (2012) that ended with Brenda Chapman quitting over creative differences and the film being a beast with two heads that just didnt work on screen.
For the most part, Frozen works nicely. The animation has a beautiful sweep that looks good in the 3D format, even includes some occasionally lovely images like where Elsa freezes the surface of a lake as she flees out across it. The characters end up being likeable. Anna is eventually a character whose emotional arcs as to who she can trust and her quest for familial conciliation works with a reasonable degree of strength and humour. There is the immensely endearing sidekick of the snowman Olaf who you want to instantly rush out and buy as a collectible figurine. It is a Disney film that you could say readily pushes all of the requisite buttons with an audience. It is also the first Disney film in more than a decade to feature songs, although most of these pass by amiably enough.
On the other hand, there is also a good deal of Frozen that feels like formula. The theme of sisterly conciliation never comes with a great deal of depth, while Annas romantic arc of falling for the wrong guy while failing to see the one right under her nose is a well tried and true one. Also the sidekicks seem more grafted on that anything else Olaf the snowman who dreams of revelling in the sun without knowing what it is steals much of the film but you also wonder why he is there, his presence never seems to organically grow out of the plot, rather feels as though someone in the story team made the executive decision that we need to boilerplate on a standard animation sidekick here. The same goes for the trolls they seem there as plot deus ex machina rather than exist as part of a world where the mythological sits alongside a Scandinavian kingdom. On the whole though, Frozen works amiably enough better than recent Disney fairytale princess efforts like Tangled (2010) and Brave, a couple rungs below The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Frog (2009), but never coming anywhere near the pantheon of their animated greats.
Frozen was hugely successful and became the highest-grossing animated film of all time.