Immersed in Blu-ray: Frozen

Disney’s Oscar-winning, global phenomenon goes Blu from Disney Home Ent. and looks and sounds reference quality.

The Frozen juggernaut (third all-time at the box office with $1 billion) continues with the home entertainment release. In fact, I enjoyed the exquisite production design of  Mike Giaimo even more without the 3-D dimming.

Frozen provides further proof that we’re experiencing a new Disney renaissance under John Lasseter: it’s the Oscar frontrunner and the studio’s best since Beauty and the Beast. If Wreck-It Ralph seemed thematically subversive while still leveraging the hand-drawn legacy to guide the CG, then Frozen takes it even further. It’s the most feminist take yet on the musical princess fairy tale.

This is not about romantic love: it’s about the bond between two sisters based on love vs. fear, and the innovative snowy weather system is a secondary character along with the glorious songs by the husband and wife team of Robert Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Somewhere Howard Ashman must be smiling.

“I remember giving Mike an early treatment when I asked him to come on to the movie and he responded that it was a big movie,” recalls director Chris Buck. “I said, yes, there’s a lot of snow. And he said, ‘ No, this is a big movie!’ But it still didn’t dawn on me until a year ago. Not just the look but the themes and the story.”

It was hard enough adapting Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen (which even eluded Walt Disney), let alone dealing with such an overwhelming villain. Indeed, the story wasn’t working until Buck and screenwriter Jennifer Lee turned Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) into sisters, one funny and fearless, the other cold and distant. And when the production moved up a year, it made sense to elevate Lee to director, which further enhanced the feminine point of view in exploring and repairing the sibling rift.

Even so, it didn’t all come together until they had “Let It Go,” Elsa’s triumphant coming out in which she finally embraces her hidden talent in a flurry of artistic reverie. The bravura sequence also captures the joyful spirit of Andersen’s ode to imagination and the importance of remaining children at heart.

In many ways, Frozen juggernaut can best be summed up by “Let It Go.” It’s a sublime combination of Menzel’s memorable performance as Elsa — her liberating coming out to embrace her magic; a stirring song by the Oscar-winning husband and wife team; and gorgeous animation in which very real-looking ice becomes her artistic expression.

When Lee came on to the project and was elevated to co-director alongside the veteran Buck, the change of emphasis with the sister story between Anna and Elsa required a lot of tweaking, and the “Let It Go” scene was so strong that it necessitated rewriting the rest of the movie to support it.

“As they started working on it visually, we brought on director Dean Wellins, who’s a great board artist, to work with us,” Lee recalls. “It was six weeks before we turned it into layout. John Lasseter even worked in layout with us. ‘Let It Go’ was key and one of the things it let us do besides setting Elsa aside as the villain, was to look at the artistry of her magic. And we started finding a shape language for her magic based on her emotions. There’s the [smooth] language when she’s being artistic and there’s the [jagged] language when she’s scared.”

Bonus features include the brilliant Get A Horse! Mickey Mouse hybrid short by Lauren MacMullan, a making of featurette, a look inside the journey to bring The Snow Queen to the screen, and deleted scenes.

Meanwhile, Frozen will be spotlighted at FMX 2014 (April 22-25 in Stuttgart, Germany). Look and lighting supe Mohit Kallianpur will discuss this important visual component.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Blu-ray, Clips, Home Entertainment, Movies, Oscar, previs, Production Design, Shorts, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production

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