In an edition called “Hollywood’s Greatest Untold Stories,” Entertainment Weekly recently revealed that Disney’s Frozen was originally supposed to have a completely different ending. Aside from the fact that Disney is currently en vogue (a fact about which I’m not complaining!), this really isn’t news. Most Disney animated movies went through tons of versions before settling on the final cut. (Aladdin, for example, was originally supposed to have a mom who disapproved of his wayward ways.) The thing that is interesting, though, about Entertainment Weekly’s article about Frozen is what it reveals about how transparent and intentional Disney’s feminist agenda has become.
A lot has changed since Disney released Snow White (the firsts of many princess movies) in 1937. It used to be that princesses (Disney or otherwise) were seen as role models, displaying behavior (such as kindness, gentleness, optimism, and knowledge about how to run a household) that little girls ought to aspire to. These days, Disney often bears the brunt of attacks from “feminist” critics who feel that these types of attributes are oppressive to women and that the princesses themselves are hopelessly anti-feminist. More specifically, the idea that princess movies tend to end with a wedding, and that, frequently, love plays a motivating role in the princess’ actions, is seen as unacceptable to many critics.
Whether you agree with this or not, in recent years it has become increasingly clear that Disney has been trying to cater to these critics. Princesses who rescue the prince, instead of waiting for the prince to rescue them (like Rapunzel from Tangled), or who choose not to get married at the end of the film (like Merida from Brave) are becoming the norm. And Frozen is another movie trying to shift the narrative.
When it came out in 2013, Frozen made headlines because, instead of being about romantic love, it was about the love between siblings. But, apparently, this wasn’t always the plan. The article in Entertainment Weekly reveals that, originally, Frozen’s central tension was going to revolve around romantic love.
According to the article, Elsa was going to be a queen who had frozen her own heart after being left at the altar, making it so she couldn’t feel love. But when Anna, the pure-hearted heroine, convinces Elsa to help save the kingdom from an avalanche, Elsa’s heart thaws, which allows her to love again.
Instead, they set out to make us think the movie was going to revolve around the traditional “true love’s kiss” as the solution to the problems posed in the plot, but then (gotcha!) have us realize that’s not the solution at all.
In the ending that made the final cut, Elsa and Anna are sisters and Elsa has accidentally frozen Anna’s heart. The only way to unfreeze it, say the magical trolls who seem to know these things, is through “an act of true love.” Which, according to the article, is when director Chris Buck started asking, “‘Does it always need to be true love’s kiss that solves that problem? Does it always have to be the man who comes in and rescues the female? Could it be something different?’”
Which got everybody very excited and they came up with the current ending. Anna, learning that only true love will save her, goes searching for her fiancé, Prince Hans, only to learn that he’s actually evil. Then she learns that Kristoff, her traveling companion, is in love with her. So she runs off to try to kiss him. But, on her way, she sees Hans about to kill Elsa and, even though she knows it’ll kill her, she steps in front of Hans just as she turns to ice. Hans’ attack is repelled and, because she acted out of “true love” for her sister, Anna is restored to her human form. And Elsa learns that the love she feels for her sister is the force that can help her control her ice powers. You can watch the scene here:
In and of itself, a there’s nothing wrong with a twist ending. And for many people, this twist was as good as it got. See! Disney was saying, “true love” doesn’t have to be about romance. It can be about sisters! Which is fine, and sweet, and everything. But the part about this recent revelation that’s a little off-putting is the fact that the filmmakers were actively looking for a way to ditch romantic love from the story. And they did. Successfully. So successfully, in fact, that the most recent Disney princess movie, Moana, features no love story at all.
Frozen came out four years ago, and little girls are still wandering around in frosty blue dresses belting out Let It Go, so Disney obviously did something right from a money-making standpoint. But would they still be as obsessed with Elsa if she’d had a love interest? Might they have loved her even more? We’ll never know.
What do you think about Disney’s shift away from romantic love? Head over to @DisneyPrincessAddict on Facebook to join the conversation.