What we can learn from Frozen's messy storytelling



Hi there!


Before I begin, let me state that I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings. I always feel a little odd when writing analysis posts because everyone, in the end, has a right to their own opinion and if you like Frozen, then, well, fantastic!


For years now, I have been concealing my feelings (that was a Frozen reference, by the way) toward this wildly beloved Disney movie. There are so many sharp plot points that stuck out to me like a sore thumb, and besides the beautiful animations and decent soundtrack, the film didn't have much to offer. Other than the mess, of course.


I am a Disney fanatic. I've been to Disney World with my family nearly every year, bouncing off the walls and still nervous to meet Mickey. I grew up on Hercules and Mulan and Cinderella and so forth. When I went to see Frozen in theaters, thrilled to see a new Disney princess movie, I was so disappointed. Heck, I'm Norwegian, and I still didn't enjoy it.


If you're already upset with me, just hang in there. I have quite a lot to unpack for you. I thought that this would be a good post to discuss everything wrong with Frozen that you may have overlooked, then share what we can learn from its mistakes. That way I'm not just letting my aggravation go and moving on--I'm offering real solutions.


So go ahead and settle in with some cocoa, and let's tare this movie apart!





Everything wrong with Frozen


The King and Queen's horrible parenting skills


When Elsa's parents are told that Elsa's powers are dangerous (Shouldn't they have already known this, though?), they decide to lock her away in her room and hide her from everyone she loves. While there are glimpses of Elsa with her parents growing up, there is never a scene of her parents helping her manage her abilities. (Spoiler: If Elsa's mom had powers, which we learn about in the second movie, why didn't she help her?) Elsa is now traumatized after not only having been isolated from the outside world, dealing with the loss of her terrible parents, but also from being told, by the so-called wise trolls, that she is dangerous. Rather than offering solutions, they frighten her, and Elsa is then locked away for many years.


This leaves us with so many questions. Why didn't the King and Queen visit the trolls sooner, when they first saw the powers? Why were Anna and Elsa in the same room growing up if Elsa had these powers, and why weren't there any knights making sure the girls weren't playing with ice late into the night? Did the parents know about them doing this? Why not train Elsa to use her powers, rather than hide her away?


The last question is the one that irks me the most. Why not leave Elsa with the trolls to learn about her powers? Why not hire a sorcerer or even a nanny to help Elsa? (Why did the Queen not step in to help if she herself had powers?)


Also, they lock Anna away for no reason at all. Anna doesn't have powers. Anna no longer knows her sister has powers. So why... is she... locked away? These parents were the worst! Now both of their daughters are socially awkward and probably depressed. Definitely traumatized from childhood isolation.


They never train Elsa to be a Queen, either. At least, we never see it, which, to me, means it didn't happen. How is that even going to work? Great job, King and Queen!


No one was running the kingdom when the King and Queen died


When the parents died, no one was running the kingdom. Or, at least we didn't see anyone running the kingdom. Where is the second-in-command who looks over everything when the King and Queen are away? Why did they leave in the first place, with their superpower child at the castle!? In the second movie, we learn that they were traveling to find something to help Elsa. Which, with Elsa's mom having powers already, doesn't make a lot of sense. Besides, we're sticking to the first movie. Any major plot holes that aren't even spoken about until the next movie are still giant plot holes to me. A movie should be able to be looked at individually, without the help of a second film. Elsa should have been brought on the ship with her parents as they search for help.


It would have made sense for the King and Queen to leave someone in charge after their death, too, so that Elsa wouldn't become Queen. Or, turn leadership directly to Anna. Regardless of her ice powers, Elsa still became Queen. If the parents kept Elsa locked away and hidden from the outside world, it doesn't make sense for her to become Queen. They would have probably wanted Anna instead.


Also, what kind of kingdom is this? Does the Queen or the King rule? Shouldn't Elsa be the one to be married right away, not Anna? Shouldn't Han be going after Elsa, not Anna? In a painting, the King is coronated, so why does leadership even go to Elsa as a woman? Why not a prince from another kingdom?


Arendale is an unorganized kingdom, that's for certain.


What even are Elsa's powers?


At the beginning of the movie, Elsa could perfectly craft hills and piles of snow for Anna to jump on, as well as make a snowman, all from her ideas and fantastic ice, or snow, abilities.


Then, after she is told her powers are dangerous, she no longer can control them. When she touches objects, they freeze. When she's mad, she explodes and hurts people.


When she runs away, she creates a perfect ice bridge, an astounding ice castle, nearly kills two guys with her precise aim, turns the entire land into a winter wonderland, and gives snow literal consciousness by creating both Olaf and a snow monster to defend her castle. Somehow, she learned how to do all of this while alone, or her powers are just... insane.


There is never a clear limit to her powers, and are they snow, or ice? She uses both. And her powers certainly aren't water, which we learn in the second movie as well. Can she control them, or not? I'm not one to write fantasy, but I do know that magic needs limits and rules, and Elsa was given neither, except for accidentally hurting her sister twice and freezing the land. Which, while are consequences, are outlandish and incredibly overpowered.


What are Elsa's gloves, too? If they restrain her power, why not just wear a bodysuit all the time? Sounds horrible, I know, but it'd work better than being locked away for the duration of her childhood.


Han


I'm not sure why Han was there. I really don't. The story would have worked fine, if not better, without him present. The twist popped up from nowhere (Did anyone else see that genuine smirk he gave Anna in the beginning?) and there was no real reason for his evilness besides wanting to be King I suppose. He could have just married Elsa instead and became King? Who. Knows.


Where is the second-in-command? According to Google, the second-in-command should be the deputy commander. Maybe I'm going crazy, but I feel like there should be someone else in charge, not just the sisters. Someone should have been watching the kingdom when Anna left to get Elsa, not some random prince from a random kingdom.


Kristoff and his backstory


I enjoy Kristoff. He's goofy, and Sven is adorable. But, he doesn't really serve a purpose and is a big distraction in the hunt to save Elsa. For a movie that centers around the sister-duo, I don't think a romance or even another character, was particularly necessary.


Also, Kristoff's backstory is strange, confusing, and leaves way too many questions. He was left behind by the ice-miners and picked up by Trolls because... why? No one really knows. And somehow, he's better at communicating than Anna and isn't insane.


When researching his backstory, I've come to discover Kristoff's parents were reindeer herders and died when Kristoff was young, which led to Kristoff and Sven relying on each other and joining the ice-miners. Which makes sense, although I wish we would've gotten that backstory. We never saw it, so it remained a prominent mystery and distracted me from the story.


Man, all of these characters are messed up. Even Sven, who is also an orphan! They couldn't have made any normal characters?


"Let it go"


"Let it go" is a decent song that ruined the entire movie going forward. Oh yes, I went there. It changed the direction of the story by making you no longer feel bad for Elsa and rather making you feel proud of her, which shouldn't have been established until the end. Elsa doesn't need saving, because she says so in her song, and now the journey to find her doesn't seem important. She's the Queen of Isolation. She's all good now.


The song is only there for the money. I know that sounds harsh, but it's true. The original plot of Frozen was entirely different until they added this song, which changed the direction of the movie, so they had to follow that new direction without changing or adapting the first half of the movie. Elsa was the original villain, not Han, but by adding this song, she could no longer be the villain. This song is a money-making machine that destroyed Frozen.


The song also teaches kids and all viewers that it's okay to run away from your problems and conceal it, hiding away in the mountains in a cold ice castle. Woo-hoo! So proud of you, Elsa! Running away from people who love you! Of course, she learns later that running from her problems is not the answer, and the song is supposed to symbolize her mental health, but gosh, she's a terrible Queen and a super rude sister. This song, for me, made Elsa unlikeable.


Because Elsa is happy being on her own, the journey to save her isn't relevant, so they have to add a new plot so that Anna can continue the journey onward with Kristoff, who somehow knows exactly how to get to where Elsa is.


So, what new, clever problem do they add?


Elsa froze Arendale


Adding this as a key issue turns the focus away on the sister-duo. Anna no longer wants to save her sister to be with her sister, but save her sister because she froze the land and Anna's cold. When Anna shows up to save Elsa, her reason for bringing Elsa back to Arendale is because she wants Elsa to fix it. No wonder Elsa doesn't want to go back--I'd be mad, too!


Elsa freezing the world makes no sense. When rewatching the music video, "Let it go", the mountains are already covered in snow. We never see Elsa turning the world into a winter wonderland, not while running away and not while chilling out in her new home. This plot point is random and goes unresolved. Without it, the relationship between the sisters would be stronger and the story would be less messy. Anna should want to save her sister because she loves her sister. This plot point takes away from the importance.


Perhaps Elsa freezing the land is symbolism. When you let your feelings go, you hurt those around you. Which, takes away from the overall message. Letting go of your emotions should be seen as freeing, not putting the pain onto others.


Anna left the kingdom with Han


WHY!?


See, this is what I mean. Where is the second-in-command? Where is the deputy commander? Is that even a thing? Anna and Elsa are pretty much alone with the kingdom, and them being so traumatized and not trained rulers leads to a big mess. Who even allowed Anna to leave the kingdom? No one even fought her to stay. What about her guests? Are they just going to chill out while the Queen and Princess are just off on an adventure? Cool.


Also, because Anna and Elsa never had a relationship, Anna shouldn't be the one running after her sister. She left the kingdom in danger and doesn't even know her sister anymore. Let her sister be free, and send the knights instead. That doesn't make for a sweet children's movie, but it makes more sense from a psychological standpoint.


Love is the answer


Love being the answer and the cure for Anna's frozen heart, in the end, is cute and sweet and makes for a happy ending, but it doesn't make a lot of sense in Elsa's case. She had been isolated from her sister for a long time, which not to say love is no longer there, but they definitely need some rebuilding in that area. Also, Elsa is obviously undergoing a lot of darkness and depth from her childhood trauma, and to say that love is the answer and end it on that note seems a bit too lighthearted. There is much more to be done to heal that past. I doubt Elsa even knows what real love is, honestly, since she never got it from her parents. (You could argue that they did, as seen in the second movie, but because we never saw it in the first movie, my point stands firm, aha.)


The entire kingdom, too, decided they accepted Elsa when she returned, even though she froze the land and nearly killed everyone at a party. I suppose she is the Queen, but still. They accepted Anna, too, who abandoned them. What amazing rulers.





What we can learn from the mess


Ah, wow, that was a lot of ranting! My apologies! Now, let's move onto what we can take away from this movie so we're ending on a more positive note.


Don't stuff too much into one story


Frozen is a great example of a story that wanted to do too much and therefore, ruined it for me. With Han, Kristoff, Olaf, Sven, that old mean guy... there were too many side characters who all had individual desires and dreams. These characters took away from the main focus of the story. When Anna and Elsa came together in the end, it was less about them and more about the fact that the world was no longer frozen, Han got his punishment, Kristoff found love for Anna, and Olaf was alive again.


Including a main character, a side character, and a handful of minor characters to your story is perfectly fine, but with a story as wild as Frozen, it was a little too much to process.


Intertwine mental health into the character's growth


While we do see Elsa's growth through her hair symbolism and her songs, her depth and pain isn't brought up much and is often grazed over. With how she was raised, she shouldn't be able to form well-thought sentences or have smart reasonings. She should have ran away the moment her parents died because when that occurred she then had absolutely no one to support her since her parents were the only ones who knew about her powers. Then, she creates her ice castle and develops into a villain. BAM! Better story.


She is frightened of herself and reacts harshly, but those issues are resolved through love, something Elsa knows nothing about. Because Elsa was never offered love, she cannot connect to love. What she needs is someone who understands her and accepts her for who she is. Someone who looks at her as a friend, not a danger. She is never told this. She is never truly accepted or forgiven, therefore she cannot fully heal.


It would have been wiser to craft Elsa into a villain and send out Anna to help her, and they come together not through love, but when realizing they underwent the same horrible childhood.


We see Anna's mental health with her eagerness to get married and settle down. However, isolation in children results in an inability to form connections with others and almost frightens them away entirely from social interaction. Her excitedness to see people doesn't connect as well as we may think.


When writing characters having undergone traumatic experiences, be sure to do well-established research and intertwine their issues throughout their life. While people eventually heal from trauma, those events continue to impact lives far into a person's adult life.


Give powers and abilities limits


When giving powers to your characters, be sure to give them limits. Don't make them invincible, because not only does that make them unrelatable by stripping away the humanity of them, but it sets up for a messy plot in the future. With no established limits early on, it'll be nearly impossible to set them in the future.


Also, there should always be a training scene. When Elsa perfectly crafted a castle and a bridge, it was too insane to fully believe. We never saw her train for this, so watching it made it feel unreal. Also, that doesn't look like "letting go" to me, Elsa. That looks like incredible craftmanship with ice, which, if you look closely, there's no ice around, just snow. Is it snow, or ice!?


Stick to one main plot and possibly a side plot


In my post, 3 ways to evoke emotion in your writing | make your writing memorable!, I discuss the importance of having a well-established side plot to allow the main plot to slow-burn off to the side.


Frozen had a total of 5 plots. Yes, 5! We have Han sneaking his way into the kingdom, Elsa battling with her trauma and healing from her past, Arendelle in deep, deep, deep, deep snow, Anna's engagement to Han and her sudden connection to Kristoff, and the relationship between Anna and Elsa and their "love".


I just thought of something and must interrupt my thoughts! Han tells Anna, "If only there was someone who loved you," and this sets up for a good resolution with Elsa, however, Elsa giving the love to Anna wouldn't bring her back to life because Elsa doesn't really feel love for Anna and rather is latching onto her because she realizes she doesn't want to be alone in this. Anna gives her some love in return but immediately returns to Kristoff. Having Anna return to Kristoff and share her love with him takes away from the love with her sister. Kristoff shouldn't have been an established character in the first movie. Instead, Anna should have seen the dark side of Han, realized how boy-crazy she was, and sent her full love to Elsa, never leaving her side, strengthing them as a sister-duo.


Okay, anyway. Frozen would have been stronger if it stuck to one plot and had one side plot, this being Elsa and Anna healing through their trauma at the same time, in different ways, unknowingly, and either Han interfering, or Elsa taking out her revenge by purposely freezing Arendale. What a strong story that now sounds!


If romance isn't necessary, don't add it


As I mentioned above, adding Kristoff created a distraction in the movie. The sisters should rely on each other at this time, not run off to a boy. While Kristoff adds an interesting dynamic, he's not necessary. Even Han's character and evilness tugs on the movie and shifts the focus. Without Han, Anna would probably be a darker character, her trauma shining through, and rather have a man to return to, she's all alone, making her journey to save Elsa that much more intense.


Really, this movie didn't even need a villain. Not every story needs a romance and a villain.


I love romance and person-to-person conflict in stories, but if it takes away from the plot, don't add it. If anything distracts from the plot so much that the plot is hard to find, as in Frozen, don't add it.

Whew! At last, my irritation for Frozen is out in the open, and it feels wonderful! If you don't agree with what I had to say and are still a die-hard Frozen fan, I suppose I didn't do my job right... just kidding! Enjoying Frozen is perfectly okay, and honestly, I'm a little jealous. As a proud Norwegian, I wish I had liked it, haha!

I personally think that, as writers or simply consumers, it's important to ask questions and notice the plot holes so that we can turn to our own creations with more knowledge than before. Asking questions and finding our own solutions is one of the best ways to grow and become great artists!

I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know what you thought about it, and if you agreed, or disagreed! Also, if there's any other form of media you'd like to me go over, be sure to message me!


Have a wonderful day, and I'll catch you on Sunday!

Probably writing,

Brittney



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