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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Frozen Blu-ray Review

After all of these years, it's really hard to believe that Disney has any magic left in the vault. Yet here's Frozen, the studio's 53rd animated film and most recent Oscar winner. (It just snagged awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.)

It's been a few years since Tangled, so Frozen is going to double your princess pleasure (and the studio's merchandising possibilities) with the story of Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), two orphaned sisters who spend most of their existence locked away from the rest of the world. Why so sheltered? Well, that could have something to do with Elsa's crazy ability to shoot snow and ice out of her fingertips.

These are powers that Elsa can't seem to control and they've proven to be dangerous in the past. However, a queen's got to get her crown on at some point and the gates need to be opened up for the coronation. This is exactly where all hell breaks loose and pretty much freezes over. Elsa's secret slips out and Anna falls in love with Prince Hans of The Southern Isles (Santino Fontana), the first guy she sees -- like, ever. Can you blame her? Those have been some very lonely years!

 Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) has some pretty chilly superpowers in Disney's "Frozen." Photo: © 2013 Disney.

The townspeople quickly deem Elsa to be a monster, so she goes into hiding on the North Mountain. Anna ventures out to get her with the help of mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), only to get struck in the heart by Elsa's chilly wrath. Hey, it was an accident, but there's no need to worry. An act of true love can save her, and maybe even surprise the audience. In the meantime, Hans tries to keep the town in order and Olaf the snowman (Josh Gad) starts talking -- like a lot.

Disney has taken some serious liberties (when don't they?) with Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen here. That said, you shouldn't write off Frozen as a Disney-fied way to introduce another pretty princess. First of all, it's actually the tale of two princesses, but these girls aren't exactly prancing around and singing "someday my prince will come." Frozen is filled with some strong characters, some hilarious characters, stunning animation, and tons of super-catchy songs. Enjoy.

The Picture

Frozen is beautiful to look at, all the way down to Princess Anna's bedhead. The 2.24:1 image carries on the great Disney tradition of being a demo-worthy Blu-ray. All of the detail is phenomenal, whether it's the "frozen fractals" of Elsa's castle, the lush grass, the rooftops, the various strands of hair, the shards of ice, Anna's freckles, the snow, and more. The colors are equally as impressive, especially the blues in the skies, the whites in the ice, the purple on Elsa's cape, and the wide color palette spread across the village of Erindale. Really, I could go on forever. Frozen is stunning, to say the least.

The Sound

I found Frozen to be more musical than most Disney films. Thankfully, it has a demo-worthy DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track to match the image and convey every single note of every song just perfectly. When Idina Menzel belts out "Let It Go," the sheer power of her voice comes through those surrounds and just consumes you. It's an emotional experience! However, it's not just the music that's awesome here, but all of the sound effects. Elsa's powers fire off throughout the soundfield and there are sounds of ice forming and cracking; it's all bold and pretty darn awesome from an audio standpoint. Then, there are little things, like cries from Anna, the wolves or her horse echoing in the surrounds, as well as the winds whipping. This wonderfully immersive track tops off a completely knockout AV experience.

The Extras
Frozen fans will probably be a bit chilly to the extras featured here. The "D'frosted" featurette is the lengthiest of the lot, with directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee talking up the inspiration with Disney costume designer Alice Estes Davis. It's interesting, but it's a whopping 7 minutes -- and that's the longest bit included here. Um, what? This is an Oscar winner, people!
The highlight is certainly "Get a Horse!" This Oscar nominated short is why this section gets 2.5 stars instead of just two. Maybe it should have started with an even lower score, but this little cartoon had my kid in full-on belly-laugh mode. Also, it's a great blend of old and new styles of animation, with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow battling with their old nemesis Peg-Leg Pete.

Otherwise, the four versions of "Let It Go" and the 3-minute musical short, "The Making of Frozen," which features Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad and Kristen Bell, have all been floating around the web for a while.

Final Thoughts

If you don't find yourself belting out a bit of "Let It Go" after this film, you may be more than just a little cold-hearted. Frozen isn't just the best animated film of the year, it's one of the best films of the year -- period. Don't let the disappointing selection of extras deter you from picking this one up. (Is Disney planning to double-dip with a "Diamond Edition" or something?) That said, the story, the image and the audio should have all of the magic you'll need.

Product Details
Voice Actors: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino FontanaDirectors: Chris Buck, Jennifer LeeAudio/Languages: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), DVS 2.0 (English)Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, SpanishAspect Ratio: 2.24:1Number of Discs: 2Rating: PGStudio: DisneyBlu-ray Disc Release Date: March 18, 2014Run Time: 102 minutesList Price: $35.99Extras: Original Theatrical Short: "Get a Horse!"The Making of FrozenD'frosted: Disney's Journey From Hans Christian Andersen to FrozenDeleted ScenesMusic Videos: "Let It Go (End Credit Version)" Demi Lovato (English)Martina Stoessel (Spanish)Martina Stoessel (Italian)Marsha Milan (Malaysian)Original Teaser TrailerSneak PeeksStandard-Def DVDDigital Copy

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