Let's talk about Frozen

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 27, 2019, 4:30 PM | comments: 0

I was a fan of 90's-ish Disney movies in college, because they were the right brand of sappy and teenage ideals, and also because I went to school in said 90's. Beauty and The BeastAladdin and The Lion King were quite a run for them, especially since everything after that was kind of forgettable. Lion King became especially impressive though after we got to hear all of the stuff that wasn't in the film, when they issued Rhythm of The Pridelands as a secondary soundtrack. It was all of the African stuff that for whatever reason was cut, and much of it was integrated into the stage musical, which was, I believe, ten times what the movie was (and definitely more than the dog-shit photo-realistic remake).

You can probably see where I'm going with this... the musical films are not stage shows, as there are different things that work for each medium. The Disney musical films are not musicals either in the way that La La Land is. This is all OK, but maybe I'm suggesting that Disney could push harder if it wanted to. I think Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the songwriters for all that is Frozen, know this.

The original Frozen seemed like a nearly flawless movie to me. I couldn't really find any fault with it at first, until the rumors about it becoming a stage musical started swirling about. That's when I realized, there's basically no singing in the second act. It also occurred to me that the songs were all pretty good, but not really a cohesive work. Again, not being critical as much as I'm comparing to the musicals that I love. When I started to think in that context, I started to believe that Tangled was probably the better musical. When they staged it as an abbreviated musical on the Disney Magic cruise ship, I wanted it to be longer!

Frozen opened on Broadway, following previews and a lot of workshopping and an out-of-town try-out, about two weeks before Diana and I were visiting New York, and while it seemed like a safe choice to see it, I really wanted to see something with the original cast. Like Lion King, it eclipsed the film in every way. It musically filled in the gaps, it was darker, and it carried those coherent themes throughout the show. Of course, it was critically neglected, because art snobs seem to diss anything with Disney's name on it, but it was really an achievement in performance and stagecraft. I loved it. I'm disappointed that the film isn't that.

My expectations then for Frozen 2 were not high beyond having a chance to see a movie as a family. The first review I read called it out for not having a "Let It Go," and it doesn't have one. That's a good thing, because my desire to hear those coherent themes carried throughout the movie were there. It even has those big "Broadway as fuck" ensemble moments, like "Some Things Never Change." There are only eight proper songs, which I do think is still appropriate for the film format. It has the basics for a great stage show.

As it turns out, Team Lopez wrote more than you'll find in the movie, or the non-deluxe version of the soundtrack for that matter. There's almost enough there for another show. One of them, "I Seek the Truth," is really, really good, and it's just Anderson-Lopez singing Elsa's part, and Patti Murin ("Anna" on Broadway) singing the part of Anna/Elsa's mom. That the outtakes are so good is not surprising. If you've heard "Hygge" from the Broadway show, with its naked kick line at Oaken's Trading Post (And Sauna), you know these are really talented writers. They did the short Finding Nemo: The Musical, still running at Animal Kingdom, too. I would love to see them do an original show. Pair them up with a good book writer, and I think you've got musical gold.

I guess where I'm going with this is that the music, the full body of music, is bigger than the films. What's neat this time is that instead of having some disposable pop star do a cover of one of the songs, they had Panic! At The Disco and Weezer do a couple of them, and they're really good.

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