Reviews of The Snow Queen (1957) and related work
- Document: “Snezhnaya Koroleva (The Snow Queen): A Film That Made Me Think Animation Was Worthy Work” (2007)
- Same source material: Frozen (2013)
The Snow Queen (1957)
Its influences on Japanese animation, and especially Miyazaki Hayao, are quite understandable. I especially like the bandit girl, but the film as a whole is somewhat sterile.
References here: “Recalling the Days of My Youth” (1998).
‣ “Snezhnaya Koroleva (The Snow Queen): A Film That Made Me Think Animation Was Worthy Work” (2007)
Miyazaki Hayao (interviewee).
Read in 2021.
Read in Turning Point.
Mainly a close reading of certain details in the film as evidence of a profound storytelling power that transcends logic, plot, and crappy animation.
Miyazaki has frequently mentioned the film elsewhere. This seems to be his most thorough discussion of it, and it’s worth reading to understand the wonderful, mythological dimension of his movies. Compare “Recalling the Days of My Youth” (1998) where he also talks about the movie, but concludes that it was working for the union at Toei, not seeing the film, that made him take his job seriously. I suppose it’s both.
Compare also “On Ponyo” (2006), where Miyazaki attributes Ponyo’s becoming half-human to “the dormant human genes” in her. Although it isn’t stated in those terms in the film itself, the reference is to a most worldly concept, adding both internal and external logic. As with the question of what exactly it was that pushed Miyazaki to raise his artistic ambitions ca. 1960, there is no contradiction between Ponyo being effectively divine and Ponyo having genes that influence her ontogeny and her thinking. One of the things that makes Miyazaki so truly brilliant is that, like Arthur C. Clarke, he usually pushes for scenes to work in both dimensions, while lazier creators settle for one.
References here: Turning Point: 1997–2008 (2008/2014).
‣ Frozen (2013)
Seen in 2015.
A witch is born. Her powers are obviously dangerous, very hard to control and religiously stigmatized, so her parents isolate her. She still accedes to the throne of quasi-Norway. The cat is out of the bag in a matter of hours.
Fantasy musical. Originally developed as an adaptation of, but ultimately almost completely disconnected from, Andersen’s The Snow Queen (1844). Another small step forward for mainline Disney musicals. The main innovation is the focus on familial love between two women, a brighter version of Tangled (2010) with men relegated to the sidelines. I also appreciate the almost total disavowal of Andersen’s Christianity as it might apply to Elsa’s powers. The humour is good: I often chuckled at little details. The genuinely dark parts are also good: The classicist death of the parents occurs almost on screen, and the main dramatic impetus has a suitably unclear internal source. This film would have been excellent if the musical element had been toned down or better integrated, if there had been less royalism, and if Hans had been neither face nor heel. The non-discovery of Elsa’s powers before she comes of age is terribly implausible, and her liberated appearance is that of a boring plastic bimbo, unfortunately the opposite of Rapunzel’s development in the preceding Disney princess feature.