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Immersed in Movies: Pretty Females vs. the Bold Feminism of 'Frozen'

Features
by Bill Desowitz
November 1, 2013 2:12 PM
2 Comments
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"It helped having Jen as both writer and director and wanting to raise the level of performance, telling you what’s on the mind of the characters and what the subtext is. And we explore the right subtext without going too hyper-real."

In the case of Menzel (the star of Broadway's "Wicked"), DiSalvo even moderated "Inside the Actors Studio"-like sessions between her and the animators. They benefited greatly from observing her singing and breathing, the way she moves her diaphragm and her hips back, and the tension in her neck. It lends enormous power to the showstopping "Let It Go" performance (written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez), which also has to be considered the Oscar frontrunner for best original song.

It's a liberating moment for Elsa after being afraid of her magical power for creating snow and ice (the result of Disney's latest technical innovations). She flees her kingdom, embraces her inner self, and builds an Ice Palace from a single snowflake in a flurry of artistic triumph. And the exquisite animation blends in perfectly with the music and lyrics. The late Howard Ashman ("The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast") would be proud.

By contrast, Anna is fearless and unafraid to say what's on her mind, even if it's embarrassing and makes her seem goofy. Her awkward meet cute encounter with the handsome prince Hans (Santino Fontana) is the stuff of rom-com. It's a delight to see such vulnerability displayed with her eyes, brows, hands, and perky mouth under Rebecca Wilson Bresee's inspired supervision.

"My interest is in emotional truth," DiSalvo proclaims. "I want to make sure that the takes we have from the actors aren't super cleaned up. I want to hear lip smacks, I want to hear breaks, I want to hear the unique cadence. Even in the songs you hear their breaths. It's going for that familiar feeling you've had in your life. For me, it's a natural progression from 'Tangled.' We're learning new tools and we're good at this CG.

"I want to pick up where we left off in 'Frozen' on my next film. I want to use that breath, I want to use that subtext, that juicy screen test. What can we find? I want to use that as a starting point."

But the Disney animators have definitely turned a corner with Anna and Elsa, learning to hold back, wait, and let the emotion speak for itself, using just the right timing, gestures, and phrasing. It has nothing to do with being pretty and everything to do with their humanity.

2 Comments

  • Taylor | November 1, 2013 3:13 PMReply

    I definitely think there was an overreaction. That being said, it's very true in the history of Disney films that there's been a lot of sexism and racism. To hear an animator in 2013 describe how "hard" it is to make the female characters look "interesting" is kind of sad. I've noticed a lot of his more overtly sexist comments were taken out of this article in an attempt to dilute what he meant, but the truth is he was basically saying "If we want to make the girls pretty, they're not going to be unique." They were so worried about making the females attractive in a way that they weren't about the males. That's the problem. Apparently only attractive female characters are interesting.

  • Angela | November 3, 2013 11:24 PM

    I don't think any of the defenses of his comments I've heard make what he said sound any less sexist. The problem isn't just that they feel the need to make all their heroines pretty/appealing/attractive/whatever word you want to use; it's that they only think women can be attractive if they look one specific way (thin waist, big eyes, small nose, slender limbs, etc.) The quality of the movie itself, which obviously I haven't seen yet since it hasn't come out, is completely beside the point. It could be the best movie Disney's ever made, but that doesn't change the fact that their view of women is extremely problematic.

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