SPOILER ALERT: This article discusses Disney’s Frozen in detail, including the film’s ending. Stop reading if you haven’t seen Frozen yet!
Once upon a time, a beautiful young princess set eyes on a handsome prince. Their connection is instant and they fall in love mid-song, as animated princes and princesses so often do. But wait, not so fast. A terrible villain rises, threatening to tear this perfect couple apart for eternity. It’s ok though. True love eventually prevails, sealed with a kiss and they live happily ever after. The end. Have you heard this one before? I’m sure we all have. And thankfully, that’s not the story Frozen set out to tell, which is one more reason to love what Disney is doing with the fairytale genre.
Disney’s Frozen seemed poised to follow the formula of many a classic story that came before it. So much so, in fact, that the movie actually borders on meta as young Anna (Kristen Bell) falls blindly in love with Hans (Santino Fontana). Their instant, undeniable chemistry leads Hans to propose to Anna post-duet, and she eagerly says yes, because why not? They’re so close, they’re already finishing each others’ sandwiches. It’s ideal. Maddeningly ideal, in fact. Oh, I don’t deny adoring many a fairytale that involves an easy romance and requires little more than true love’s kiss to save the day, but watching Frozen, it’s evident Disney is keen on staying the course in defying the tradition of fairytales, which frequently put damsels in distress and require a gallant hero to save them.
We could argue that Disney’s been taking a more modern approach to its princess stories for years now. Enchanted was practically a parody of Disney’s classic princess tales, occasionally poking fun at the innocent and flighty animated princesses and their eagerness to fall in love with the first dreamy prince to cross their path. The Princess and the Frog and Tangled resumed the more traditional format of storytelling, but portrayed more stronger female protagonists. So it’s not entirely out of the blue that we should see Frozen’s Anna demonstrating bravery and rising up to be her own hero. But in terms of romance, Frozen actually turns love at first sight into a regrettable mistake, by having Anna become instantly smitten with Hans — accepting his proposal without question and later, going as far as to actually rely on him to save her life — only to discover he’s a liar with ulterior motives.
Frozen isn’t entirely set up as a romance. From the beginning, it’s evident that Elsa and Anna’s relationship as sisters is at the heart of this story, as we see Elsa demonstrating her supernatural abilities with ice as a child, and then accidentally hurting her sister, which eventually divides the two girls for the duration of their childhood. Their fractured relationship sets the introduction, so it’s not entirely shocking to see the movie come back around to sisterhood at the end. But with Anna getting engaged to Hans after knowing him less than a day, and then spending the better part of the film at the side of Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), with whom she also forms a connection, romance is a key ingredient in this story.
At first, we’re made to assume this fairytale will follow at least part of the traditional formula involving damsel in distress and the man who comes to her rescue. In the case of Frozen, this was set up to happen after Elsa accidentally zaps Anna’s heart with a bolt of cold that will eventually freeze her to death. Only, the presumed twist in saving Anna is that it will be Kristoff who saves her with an act of true love, as opposed to Hans. We might’ve thought we were a step ahead of Kristoff and Anna in figuring that out as she raced to Hans for a life-saving kiss. But the movie got the jump on us there, as the act of true love wasn’t a kiss at all. Romance was really just one numerous entertaining accessories to the true heart of this story.