When I first watched Disney’s “Frozen,” I felt a bit let down. For years I could never figure out why I liked it so much less than “Tangled” — one of my favorite Disney films. It wasn’t until recently when I was watching yet another film analysis video on YouTube that I realized my issue: Elsa isn’t a very good character, at least nowhere near as amazing as everyone makes her out to be. Hopefully “Frozen 2” can solve that.
Originally, from all the promotional material, I thought she was going to be my favorite in the story, but that turned out to be Anna. She’s such a well-rounded and developed character with a winning personality, it’s hard not to like her.
But everyone seems way too interested in focusing on Elsa.
While there is a lot of potential there for her development, none of it is used, leaving a character that just feels disappointing.
I want to like her.
She’s got cool powers, a unique backstory and a great set up. All the pieces were there for what could’ve been one the most amazing Disney princesses ever. How did it all end up falling so flat?
The first major problem is the extreme change her character took during the development of the film. In the original plans for the story, Elsa was supposed to be the villain, but after the creation of the song “Let it Go,” the creators decided to make her a protagonist instead.
This change was the beginning of her downfall. Now, there’s still plenty of good things about Elsa’s revised story and she certainly didn’t become a blank slate. However, it seems like once she wasn’t the villain the creators had a much harder time envisioning who her character was — outside of her wildly successful song.
Another serious issue is how well her character is set up with such minimal payoff. There’s a great build-up at the beginning of the movie for Elsa. It begins with the premise that she has strange ice powers that could be dangerous to those around her if she loses control. This danger causes her to shut herself up for years of her life, putting distance between herself and her sister.
When their parents die, the two sisters are left on their own; Elsa is thrust onto the queen’s throne and expected to run the kingdom. But when she is pushed too far, she lets her powers out and runs away, inadvertently leaving her kingdom in ruins in the process. At this point, it seems like the next step for Elsa’s character would be to work on all her anxieties and other mental health issues and save the kingdom. Sadly, this isn’t what happens.
In fact, when Anna and Kristoff come to save her, she seems much better left alone. Even when there is a short scene with her trying to wrestle with her powers it just ends with her being captured and taken back to Arendell against her will. Sure, in the end, she realizes — through Anna’s sacrifice — that love will end the winter.
But Elsa simply fixes everything and the ending feels unearned. Elsa didn’t do anything to learn this lesson. There isn’t a full character arc here but instead a character leap. She starts with these problems that she needs to work through and instead of doing that she just ends up kind of fixed at the end.
The creative team behind “Frozen 2” has its work cut out for them.
Because the original film didn’t end up developing Elsa that well, it leaves a lot of her character blank for the sequel. Based on the only trailers we have seen so far, there seems to be a lot more focus being put on Elsa’s development, possibly because her character became so popular after the release of “Frozen.”
It would certainly make sense narratively and financially. Anna was the main protagonist of the first film and since they are meant to be like two halves of the same whole, Elsa taking center stage in “Frozen 2” feels like the next logical step. Of course, since people seemed pretty attached to the character, particularly through “Let It Go,” it would also be fitting from a monetary stance. There is certainly a lot of ground for “Frozen 2” to cover when it comes to Elsa’s development as well.
Having struggled on and off with mental problems myself, I realize that most of the things Elsa has been struggling with aren’t easily fixed. Even with support from family and friends, overcoming mental health issues is never that easy in real life and it shouldn’t be shown as that easy in film.
At the end of the day, “Frozen” basically told kids that their struggles with mental health could be overcome quickly with just some love and support. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth — recovery is a long and messy process that often takes years. Seeing Elsa work through these things would be a really good thing for people to see. It would let them know that it’s okay when their problems aren’t instantly fixed.
Perhaps during “Frozen 2,” Elsa struggles with being open with Anna since she spent so long having to keep everything inside, and it could be hard for her to suddenly feel comfortable sharing her feelings. Or possibly she could still be afraid of hurting those around her, which could manifest in a lack of confidence in her abilities or even vivid night terrors. Overall, I think just making things a bit more difficult for Elsa could make some great improvement to her character and the story.
Even though it’s still a few months away I am quite excited for “Frozen 2.” The teaser was vague at best so I’m curious to see what kind of story this movie is going to tell. But I’m mostly interested to see if “Frozen 2” can make Elsa the great character she was meant to be. If that’s the case, then who knows: Maybe it will upset “Tangled” as my favorite.