I often hear jokes from parents about kids watching frozen for the 50th time, 550th time, 1550th time. And of course the toys:
On Tuesday, Walt Disney shattered Wall Street’s expectations for its first quarter, led by seemingly inexhaustible demand for all things Frozen.
So kids like the movie. And it’s good. But it’s not just good and in my view kids aren’t just watching it. You see, it’s both fun and complex. Complexity rewards rewatching enough that you might say kids are actually studying the thing.
If it was live action, I’d say that the acting is extremely good, particularly the sisters’. But what’s the animation equivalent? Characterization? The characterization is good. Watch the initial meeting scene between Hans and Anna. Very subtle, very quick. These complex characters have complex motivations which makes for complex plots.
None of this is easy to pull off. Wikipedia has an excellent section on the development of all this complexity. It’s not surprising that it was a painfully iterative process. No such thing as great writing, as they say, only great rewriting.
Ultimately this complexity is manifested in plot twists, which brings me to my point: do plot twists ruin older movies? Consider that a plot twist relies on an implicit understanding for what is ‘supposed’ to happen. Supposed to happen according to cultural precedent (ie in older movies). We know an act of true love is a hero kissing the princess because we all know Sleeping Beauty and maybe a thousand other stories that have used that device. But here instead we get that idea toyed with.
But kids don’t know that. Will they never enjoy Sleeping Beauty because of its one dimensional plot after a few thousand iterations of frozen?
I say yes. The cultural canon is littered with stories whose elements are so deeply incorporated into our culture that we cannot appreciate their genius. People who drone on about the merits of older works of art are just trying to signal sophistication. How boring.
Next question: is this progress? Is there an aggregate effect on a culture of leaving behind older, less sophisticated memes? Are our kids smarter because Frozen is smarter than Sleeping Beauty?