Warming the Coldest Hearts

Disney’s Frozen is the year’s best family film

MPAA Rating, PG
USCCB Rating, A-I
Reel Rating:
(5 Reels out of 5)

[Spoiler alert! Key plot details follow.]

Only in a Disney film can a pair of Scandinavian royals from the 18th century doing the Robot during a love song be not only completely sane but also unbelievably charming. Frozen is a fantastic work of art that rivals the best animation ever produced. This film has it all: beautiful ice castles that shimmer in the sun, goofy songs that stick in your head, supporting characters worthy of older classics, and an ironically warm heart. To top off this film lover’s parfait, there is an important Christian message that will resonate with first Communicants and Vatican theologians alike.

The tale begins with two royal sisters, the younger Anna (Kristen Bell) and the first-born Elsa (Idina Menzel). Initially best of friends, their relationship is shattered when Elsa accidentally freezes part of Anna’s head with her cryokinetic abilities. For years afterward, Elsa refuses to have any contact with her sister. On the day of Elsa’s coronation, Anna becomes engaged to Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) having only met him that evening. Enraged, Elsa’s loses control, revealing her hidden talent in terrifying fashion before escaping to the mountains to reign in solitude. Anna enlists a local ice delivery man Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and a living snowman Olaf, to help her reach Elsa and bring peace to the land.

Elsa pushes her sister away, isolates herself in her room, and finally flees the kingdom because she feels she cannot control her abilities. Indeed, they seem to control her, making her constantly afraid and anxious. Safe in the mountain, she lets herself go and creates a magnificent ice castle, singing:

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

In a certain sense, this freedom does release Elsa from the psychological burden of repression. She no longer has to hide her ability and can create all the blizzards, ice shards, and snow monsters she wants. However, her unrestricted freedom causes even more pain than before as the kingdom is plunged into eternal winter. It will even bring the one person she truly loves to the precipice of death. Despite the family-oriented nature of the film, the allusions to sexuality are unmistakable. Young teenagers often fear their sexual impulses because it is strange, taboo, and seem to dominate their every thought. As people grow older, they often feel the only option is to indulge every impulse. This inevitability causes shame, pain, and terrible suffering.

When Anna is hurt early in the film, the king takes her to Grand Pabbie (CiarÁn Hinds), leader of the magical trolls, who heals Anna. Such pagan influences are common in fairy stories and children’s animation. Although this troubles some Christian parents, when used properly – such as by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien – it can be an important lesson. Pabbie tells the king he was able to heal Anna because it damaged her mind. Later, Anna is wounded second time but in her heart. When Kristoff takes her to Pabbie again, he tells him that only “an act of true love” can save her. In this case, paganism is a good analogy for technology, using the created materials of the Earth and human indignity to solve problems, but it can only go so far. Only true love can cure a frozen heart.

Kristoff, in time-tested Disney fashion, thinks a kiss from Anna’s prince fiancé will do the trick, but he is surprisingly wrong. The act of true love comes from Anna herself when she puts her own life in danger to save her sister. Love can be sexual, but the love of eros is not the only, or highest, form of love. Indeed, the highest love is the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of humanity. Jesus is the real deal, and it’s so refreshing to see this Christian message presented in such a beautiful way. Through this example, Elsa discovers that only when she uses her abilities in love is she able to tame them. Her talents thus become a blessing rather than a curse.

This soteriological analysis is important, but it’s also essential to point out another great quality of Frozen; this is film is so much fun! The story is fast-paced and full of energy, like a magical sleigh ride. All of the cold elements of snow, ice, and the northern lights come together to create a perfect atmosphere of a real life winter wonderland. Lastly, Olaf belts a hilarious song where he imagines himself “in summer”:

When life gets rough, I like to hold on to my dream 
Relaxing in the summer sun, just lettin’ off steam 
Oh the sky would be blue, and you guys’ll be there too 
When I finally do what frozen things do in summerrrrrrr.

Frozen represents the newest edition of the animated anthology that can only be called the New Disney Renaissance. In the late 90s, the buzz of Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King started to fade as Disney films declined in quality and importance. Suddenly in 2008, Bolt brought back that old Disney magic, and the company has been churning out hits every year since. All this can be attributed to the Pixar genius John Lassetter, who took over Walt Dinsey Animation Studios in 2007.

Lassesster said, “It’s not the technology that’s going to entertain audiences, it’s the story.” The best stories warm the coldest hearts because they are based on truths revealed and conveyed by the greatest story ever told. Frozen is a good way to tell children that the truest love is “setting aside your needs for the needs of others.” By the way, that’s not the Bible—it’s the talking snowman. Yes, this film is that good.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About Nick Olszyk 189 Articles
Nick Olszyk teaches theology at Marist Catholic High School in Eugene, Oregon. He was raised on bad science fiction movies, jelly beans, and TV shows that make fun of bad science fiction movies. Visit him online at his website, Catholic Cinema Crusade.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Toy Story 4 marred by artistic inconsistency and amoral confusion – Catholic World Report
  2. Winter Wonder-what-could-have-been-Land – Catholic World Report
  3. Winter Wonder-what-could-have-been-Land - Catholic Daily

Comments are closed.