2012 has been an interesting year for Disney. It has seen some very high highs (the record-smashing “The Avengers,” which recently eclipsed “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” to become the studio’s single most successful film of all time) and very low lows (“John Carter,” Andrew Stanton‘s sci-fi western, poisoned by bad publicity and even worse marketing, will cost the studio least $200 million). In truth, the studio only has a handful of true Disney films left on the horizon – a pair of animated treats (Pixar‘s “Brave,” which we liked but didn’t love; and Thanksgiving’s videogame-themed “Wreck-It Ralph,” a movie that we’ve been told is just phenomenal, even in super unfinished form) and a weird fantasy drama “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” which opens late this summer and looks like a total snooze (the rest of the movies Disney is releasing will be DreamWorks co-ops.) So it’s not such a stretch to imagine execs looking towards 2013, with the period western “Lone Ranger” and, now, a big animated movie that fits just outside (but still snuggled up next to) the Disney princess line.
Disney has set November 27th, 2013 as the release date for their new animated musical “Frozen,” based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” which will star Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel. According to the press release, the film takes place in a kingdom trapped in an eternal snowy winter (winter has come, huh?) and focuses on plucky Anna (Bell) who teams up with Kristoff (apparently as-yet-uncast), a “daring mountain man,” to find the Snow Queen (Menzel) and put an end to her reign of icy terror.
While the movie is described as an epic action adventure, with “Everest-like extremes, mystical creatures and magic at every turn,” it is, also, in the tradition of “Beauty & the Beast” and (more recently) “Tangled,” a big gay musical! Yes! Even more exciting is the fact that Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Broadway greats who contributed songs to last year’s sorely underrated “Winnie the Pooh” movie and the “Finding Nemo” stage show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park (Robert is also the co-creator of some Broadway show called “Book of Mormon“). Their inclusion also goes along nicely with the general Broadway-iness of “Frozen,” considering Menzel is a Broadway giant who won a tony for “Wicked” (yes, she was also in “Rent” and did a guest spot on “Glee“) and Bell has appeared in Broadway productions of “The Crucible” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”
What’s interesting about this announcement, too, besides the fact that they haven’t cast one of the main characters yet, is that just weeks ago the studio was referring to the film not as “Frozen” but as the slightly less harsh “Frosted.” The idea, of course, was to use an ambiguous verb, the same way “Rapunzel” became “Tangled” a few months before it was released and (in the eyes of Disney, at least) became a much more sizable hit. (We could very easily see the movie switching back to “Frosted,” maybe after a few more focus groups have a go.)
Whatever the movie ends up being called, we’re pretty excited. The film is being directed by Chris Buck, who co-directed 1999’s “Tarzan” for the studio (he also directed “Surf’s Up” for Sony Animation, during the languishing Disney years before Pixar bigwig John Lasseter came in and kicked ass), and is being produced by Lasseter and Peter Del Vecho, who has been a guiding force in the last few Disney animated films. Del Vecho worked on the last two traditionally animated features (“Winnie the Pooh” and the brilliant ragtime fairy tale “The Princess & the Frog“) so to see his name attached to a computer-animated film means that the traditionally animated department really is dead. Or at least in a very deep freeze.