Frozen – Destined to be this holiday’s biggest hit

Frozen – Destined to be this holiday’s biggest hit

The holidays are here!  And with that first chilly frost comes the first wonderful family film of the season: Frozen, Disney’s animated twist on the classic fairy taleThe Snow Queen.

We were lucky enough to see an early screening of the film, and sit down with the stars and creators including Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Chris Beck and Jennifer Lee, and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.

You can tell when films are made with love, and the passion behind Frozen was so apparent from the joy and excitement in the way every person involved spoke about the making of the film.

While loosely based on The Snow Queen, the team behind Frozen focused the film on the relationship between the two sisters, fearless optimist Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) and Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter.  Anna sets off on an epic journey to find her sister—teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer Sven – and reuniting with a magical, goofy snowman named Olaf along the way.

One of the things that makes Frozen different from your typical princess film is Anna, Kristen Bell’s character who is anything but a prim and proper princess, and more of, well, Kristin Bell in all her goofy, fabulous real-ness.

With Kristen Bell

In our roundtable with her she talked about ad-libbing and how they incorporated her awkward and unexpected choices into the character, even small things like how Anna would wake up:

“…when she woke up, like, the first time you see Anna as an adult when she woke up it just said she wakes up…then they pressed record and I started doing it and I was, like, coughing and snorting, which is what I do when I wake up. And then I was like had some of my hair in my mouth…Which if you’re a girl you know. Your hair is probably in your mouth and,then when she falls back asleep I always do that ’cause I hit snooze like six times. I’m up two hours before I have to get out of bed ’cause I love hitting snooze. And so I wanted her to sit up and fall asleep and then pretend like she wasn’t and all these things they just kept letting me add.”

From the art directors that were sent to Norway and Canada to study the way snow and ice move and reflect light, to the Lopez team crafting Broadway caliber songs with wit and melodies you don’t hear very often in original musicals, to the powerhouse extraordinary voice of Idina Menzel (trust us, you will be singing “Let it Go,” her signature number in the film, for days after seeing the film), to the truly wonderful true love twist, Frozen delivers a film experience that is different from what you expect.

Idina Menzel (center)

When Kristen Anderson-Lopez talked about writing “Letting Go”, it was apparent that this song changed the actual direction of the character of  Elsa and how the concept of a villain in Frozen would be different:

“…once we captured what you would feel like if you had held onto this secret and then you went up to go up a mountain and let go of everything you know but it also meant letting go,letting go of all the holding back you’ve been doing for so many years and becoming your true self. Once we captured that moment and that truth about Elsa there was no way she could ever really be a villain”

And, if that song doesn’t win the Oscar I can’t imagine what would!

So, bundle up the family and head to the theater to see Frozen this weekend.  It’s the perfect film to celebrate being together – and a great soundtrack to stick in the stocking (or under the Menorah!).

Even our tween reviewers loved it (and yes, they have “Let it Go” on autorepeat on their iPods, it’s seriously addictive).

Find out more!

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FROZEN opens in theaters everywhere on November 27th!

The Bittersweet Inevitability of Growing Up – A Weekend Spent with Peter Pan and Toy Story 3

my daughter and her beloved monkey

My daughters finished 2nd grade and now at 8 years old they have declared themselves to be “tweens.”  I personally thought the whole tween thing was for ages 10-12, the real prepubescent years with middle school and all those horrors.  But no, Time Out Kids had an entire tween issue and right there on the cover it said ages 8-12 and if it’s in print, especially full color giant sized print, my daughters take it as gospel.  They will go to sleep away camp for one week this summer, for the first time.  Next year they will be in 3rd grade, starting standardized testing and being a part of the “upper” grades.  Whether I truly think of them as tweens or not doesn’t really matter, the sad truth is they are growing up and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

As if this weren’t already weighing on my mind we spent a weekend taking in two great shows that hammered in the nostalgic, heart wrenching reality of childhood’s inevitable demise.  On Saturday night we went to the Papermill Playhouse’s production of Peter Pan and on Sunday watched Disney’s Toy Story 3 in IMAX 3D.    Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan – the boy who refused to grow up and gave up a chance at a real family and real love as a result.  Like all good stories Peter Pan changes as the reader ages.  When I was in 4th grade I played Peter Pan in a school performance.  On the most basic level the musical is wonderful, full of witty and rich songs, colorful characters and perfectly drawn characters.  But when you’re a child the sad character at the end is really Wendy who got old and is now a boring old mom who watches her daughter fly away for an amazing adventure in Neverland.  Seeing the play as an adult I just felt bad for Peter at the mercy of his petulant, immature ego and constantly looking for new lost boys to follow him and new little girls to play mother to his pretend father.  (The other thing that was glaringly apparent seeing the play as an adult is that both Peter and Captain Hook are perhaps two of the biggest narcissists that ever walked the stage.  But that’s a an examination about manhood vs. boyhood that deserves its own post, or Master’s thesis!)

I watched my daughters intently during Peter Pan.  They were completely entranced.  The flying of course is always spectacular and as I said the execution of the show from cast, to choreography to direction was flawless.  But at the end both of my daughters couldn’t understand why Peter would go back to Neverland rather than stay with the Darlings and have a real family.  To them Neverland didn’t seem like a fantasy come true – it seemed like a place with kids who needed someone to take care of them.  I never thought of it that way, after all the entire conceit of Neverland is that never growing old is the ultimate wish, but it’s more of a wish of an adult looking back than of a child looking forward.

Toy Story 3 was another matter.  While the mother’s quiet dismay at sending her son Andy off to college plays in at the every end of the film it is Andy himself who has to make the brutally conscious choice to give up the symbol of his childhood, Woody the cowboy, and leave childhood behind for real.  While of course I cried like every adult I’ve spoken to who saw Toy Story 3, my daughters cried even more.  Now, one of my daughters always cries at movies when they get the least bit sad or sentimental and always has.  It’s one of the reasons she hated going to the movies.  She does not like having her emotions manipulated.  But, she gave into it this time and just sort of went with it instead of being scared by it.  For my daughters the thought of giving up their beloved stuffed Monkey or blanket was horrifying.  They could not fathom how Andy could give up his most prized toy friend to another child.  And because the movie was so beautifully done you could see that Andy couldn’t quite deal with this decision either.  It’s one thing to make that inevitable march towards adulthood because that is where the thread of time is pulling you, and another thing entirely to make a wide-awake decision to abandon a cherished part of your younger self.

As a mom I am constantly torn between wanting my daughters to mature and take on more responsibility – pour your own cereal and milk into a bowl for god’s sake! – and then wanting it all to slow down and be thankful that they still want to crawl into our bed in the morning and cuddle.  They also seem to be struggling with wanting to remain in that fuzzy babyish realm of childhood and move forward into the adolescent world of making their own decisions, keeping secrets and taking on new responsibilities.   Spending a weekend with Peter Pan and Toy Story 3 made it abundantly clear to them and me that while growing up cannot be avoided it’s not something any of us need to rush.  And yes, my daughter already told me her stuffed monkey will be going to college with her.  I don’t doubt it.