Disney’s Frozen has all of the signifiers of another tired princess retread. A gorgeous young woman sets off an epic quest that hinges on the pursuit of true love’s kiss. She’s joined by a cadre of wacky sidekicks – in this case, a gruff iceman, a friendly snowman and a terse reindeer. Along the way, she encounters unfamiliar creatures, battles the forces of evil and eventually (spoiler alert, though not really) saves the world and restores the kingdom to peace and prosperity. Oh, and true love’s kiss and stuff.
But look closely at the beating heart of Frozen, and you’ll find just enough intriguing subversions of the formula to justify a return to these tropes. Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) rarely fulfills the role of damsel in distress, especially once she’s gotten used to interacting with actual human beings after years secluded in a cavernous castle. The forces of evil aren’t misunderstood monsters hungry for power, but the internal confusions of a young woman struggling with powers she doesn’t fully understand. True love’s kiss comes in many forms, romance ultimately proving to be insufficient. And in the end, it’s not the valiant prince that saves the day, but the power of well-established familial connections.