You don’t really need to have kids to be well versed in all things Frozen by now. The 2013 film was such a big hit it became the biggest Disney kids movie of all time, celebrated by movie buffs around the globe.
But the film that spawned hit songs I just know you’re humming right now, along with countless bits of merch your kids probably do have lying around, not to mention the dress up options, has one rather exciting twist. The movie was inspired by none other than Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.
A Nod to Andersen In More Ways Than One
Frozen tells the story of two sisters who work tirelessly to save their kingdom through their love for each other. It’s also Disney’s largest budget animation to date. Not ones to “let it go,” we hear there’s even a sequel on the way.
But here’s something cool you might not know. There’s something in the names of several characters in the film that are a nod to Andersen himself. In fact, the names of four of the big characters are Hans, Kristoff, Ann, and Sven.
Do you see it now?
Who Is Hans Christian Andersen?
We like the sweet way Disney’s paid its respects to the well-known Danish poet. You might know Andersen as the author of the classic, The Little Mermaid or, going further back, Thumbelina.
The poet was born in Odense, Denmark in 1805. He penned many novels, plays, poems, and travelogues, yet it is his fairy tales embedded in Western culture that Andersen is best known for. Especially when it comes to the story of The Snow Queen.
What’s This About The Snow Queen?
Let’s delve a little deeper into Frozen’s connection with Andersen. I mentioned in the beginning that it’s adapted from The Snow Queen, which was one of Andersen’s best and longest pieces of work. First published in 1845, The Snow Queen is Andersen’s most highly acclaimed pieces and it’s so long it’s told in seven stories.
It all starts with a magic mirror that’s been created by the devil. The mirror/devil has the power to make people look at the ugly side of other people. In the devil’s attempt to take the mirror to heaven and create utter mayhem, it falls and shatters, sending shards of glass piercing into people’s hearts and filling them with nothing less than contempt. Dark stuff.
Years later, a little girl called Gerda and a little boy called Kai strike up a sweet friendship. Sadly, Kai’s heart is struck with a shard of glass and turns cold towards his buddy. One day, he’s lured away by the Snow Queen and goes missing.
Not knowing where he is, Gerda sets off to find him. Along the way, she finds out Kai has been captured by the Snow Queen and she picks up the pace to save him.
Are you seeing the similarities yet?
An Uncontrollable Power and Disneyfication
Unlike many of Andersen’s other tales, this story actually doesn’t have a tragic ending and the two friends come out tops.
Disney’s version is rather different. In Frozen, one sister has an uncontrollable power to create ice and snow. With her power, Elsa unintentionally harms Anna when they’re playing. Feeling awful about it all, Elsa chooses to isolate herself for fear of hurting anyone. Yet, Anna has no recollection of the incident.
With the help of the beloved Olaf, a snowman, Elsa sets off to find her sister.
A Simpler, Happier Story
The Disney version of Andersen’s classic started out as a pretty simple idea about the power of family. Directors say the aim was for the movie to be timeless, contemporary, and understandable. They wanted to focus on how fear often leads to a negative outlook, threatening relationships. And they’ve done this well. Just about every scene in the movie supports these ideas, and there’s no denying Elsa’s motives are fear-driven.
Andersen’s tale has long been of interest to Disney filmmakers. Even Walt himself was keen to capture the themes and sentiment of the story.
Today, Frozen plays with our expectation of how things are meant to play out in fairy tales. The Disney way has turned a classic, at times dark, tale into one that boldly takes on family roles and gender in that perfectly magical Disney way. They’ve done well.
Now on to the sequel.
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