This is a very belated post. A few years ago, Disney released an animated movie called Frozen. My husband and I took our kids to the theater. The tunes were catchy, the visual effects were stunning, and when the end credits rolled, my husband and I looked at each other and we said in unison – no joke – “Tangled was way better.” But I didn’t understand it. Why I didn’t love it? There was a talking snowman, magic, and the power of love conquered all. I didn’t hate it, but something was bothering me. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then came the Blu-ray and I got to watch it a second time. It was obvious. The beginning and ending have noting to do with the other.
Think about stories like a race track. In the 400 meter and 4×4, the start and finish line is the same, and so should stories beginnings and endings mirror each other.
Stories begin with a character or characters who are faced with a conflict that create a theme. So…
protagonist + conflict = theme
To complete both the story arc and character arc, conflicts must be conquered with the theme. So, the formula would be something like…
character’s conflict + theme resolve = good story
Whether you liked Frozen or not, those who understand plot structure, character arcs, and themes can see that there are major problems with the story, but let’s just focus on its beginning and ending. Disney was trying to tell a story about how familial love can heal individuals, even nations. Not a bad theme until they botched it. Let me show you the dysfunction that is the beginning and ending of Frozen, but first, a story that works.
- Opens with Eugene narrating the story of a girl named Rapunzel
- Rapunzel and her mother are saved by the magic in the golden flower
- The kingdom celebrates Rapunzel’s birth with lantern ceremony
- Rapunzel is stolen away from her family
- The hair keeps Mother Gothel’s youth
- Mother Gothel hides them in tower for protection
- Mother Gothel loves the magical hair more than Rapunzel (shows this by brushing it)
- Rapunzel & Eugene attend the lantern ceremony. Mother Gothel’s plotting thwarts their kiss
- Eugene loves Rapunzel more than her magical hair (shows this by cutting it to save her life)
- With the hair’s power gone, Mother Gothel loses her youth
- Mother Gothel falls from the tower to her death
- Rapunzel saves Eugene and her dream to be with him with the magic that still resides in her
- Rapunzel is reunited with her family
- Ends with Eugene narrating their happily ever after
Notice how all the beginning’s conflicts and themes work together and how they’re mimicked and resolved in the ending. More importantly, notice how the Beginning #1 and Ending #7 are like the bread in a sandwich, opening and closing the story with a mirrored effect.
conflict taken from parents, raised by Mother Gothel who uses her for her hair, hides her from world
theme family love & following your dreams
character’s conflict Rapunzel is trapped by Mother Gothel
theme resolve Rapunzel is freed, Eugene is saved, and Mother Gothel defeated (all because of the power within her) & and she’s returned to her real family
good story they lived happily ever after
Now let’s tackle Frozen.
- Opens with men cutting ice. Shows Kristoff and Sven cutting ice as well.
- Anna begs to play with Elsa and the frozen magic
- Elsa accidentally hurts Anna with her power
- Troll removes Anna’s memory of Elsa’s power to save her life
- Parents seclude Elsa to protect Anna as well as Elsa’s secret power
- Anna begs to play with Elsa several times over the years, but is rejected
- Their parents die
- Anna begs Elsa to let her into her life now that it’s just to two of them
- Elsa feels trapped by and fearful of her powers
- Hans (non-foreshadowed villain) leaves Anna to freeze to death so he can kill Elsa, leaving him as king
- Kristoff sees the brewing storm and turns back to save Anna
- Anna sees Kristoff’s approach and battles the storm for the true love’s kiss(?) he can give her
- Instead, Anna sacrifices herself to save Elsa from Hans(?), turning to solid ice(?).
- Anna’s sacrifice, an act of true love, saves herself(?)
- Elsa can now see that she can control her powers with love
- Anna punches Hans and sends him back to his own kingdom
- Anna gives Kristoff a new sleigh(?). They kiss(?).
- Ends with Elsa and Anna ice skating outside the castle
Umm? Where’s all the color. Even the color that’s there is mostly ify. The only things that truly resolve are Elsa conquering fear with love to control her powers and the relationship between the two sisters being healed. The rest is there for fluff and convenience, adding nothing to the story or its themes. The Beginning #1 and the Ending #9 do not relate and there are many elements that aren’t dealt with at all.
The formulas weren’t followed.
conflict misses Elsa
theme sisterly love
character’s conflict Ana is dying
theme resolve sacrifices self to save Elsa
Well, the conflict didn’t match the beginning with missing her sister. Anna nearly died as a child but that small conflict was resolved right then and there. So, not a real threat. And the theme, well, Ana was never unwilling to sacrifice for her sister. There’s no character arc.
I don’t hate Frozen. Had Disney taken their time, they could have remained true to their themes and still create a great story. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of problems with its plot, and the damage is done. The best part is I can use it as a learning tool – how not to write a story. Lesson learned.
However, if you are wanting more reasons why Frozen’s plot sucks, you can check out these: