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December 31, 2013 5:20 PM   Subscribe

Disney's FROZEN: How one simple suggestion broke the ice on the Snow Queen's decades-long story problem
posted by crossoverman (145 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
404. :(
posted by tilde at 5:21 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dead link
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:21 PM on December 31, 2013


Correct link?
posted by Artw at 5:22 PM on December 31, 2013


Man that social media crap on the side is irritating. You can close it, but you have to hover to see where.
posted by Artw at 5:23 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Replaced the link.]
posted by cortex at 5:26 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Part 1 of a series.
posted by Ardiril at 5:36 PM on December 31, 2013


It's certainly very interesting to read about the story development process, since as they note it's a very tough story to start with and TBH I think they largely threw everything out and built something like an origin story for an X-Men character.

As for the final film, I liked it but I didn't really love it - it was no Tangled or Princess and the Frog, for sure. The kiddo enjoyed it immensely though.
posted by Artw at 5:43 PM on December 31, 2013


I loved that this movie was about love between sisters, and also I would like to own all of the clothes from it, and maybe now rosemaling will become fashionably trendy for everyday clothes (a girl can dream).

Also the twist with Hans was WAY HARSH for a Disney movie ... the whole story is pretty subversive of the "rescue the princess" trope, but the Hans subplot was especially surprising.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:45 PM on December 31, 2013 [14 favorites]


It's clear that the main obstacle to coming up with a plot for so long isn't Anderson's story, but the pathetic paucity of these men's imaginations. Until they can wrestle it into one of a few narrow tropes they can envision for a female character, it goes nowhere.
posted by Miko at 5:47 PM on December 31, 2013 [37 favorites]


Ah.

I'm certainly happy how it turned out; considering the differences one can spot between Disney films and Pixar films, this one certainly had me wondering.

Tangled was a good start at a semi princessy but not so much fully CG animated movie (Was The Princess and the Frog flat or CG?) without heading straight for "Hi, here's a Princess TM Movie". Brave was awesome on its own (until Disney put the dolls on a diet, c'mon, really?) but I was surprisingly happy with Frozen and its nuking of traditional tropey plotty things.
posted by tilde at 5:47 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


AFAIK The Princess and the Frog was the last cel animation Disney movie - maybe even the very last?
posted by Artw at 5:51 PM on December 31, 2013


I was genuinely surprised Frozen got away with basically subverting every Disney princess movie that had come before and so nonchalantly. Like "Oh by the way, the guys have nothing to do with it and it's stupid to marry a guy you don't even know, geez" and I was like "WHAT?!"
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:52 PM on December 31, 2013 [14 favorites]


Not tropey?? Did I miss something, or is Frozen not simply good-girl/bad-girl fighting for the affection of a guy? [Edit: to be clear, I haven't seen it yet, and am going off what I've read incidentally.]
posted by chomarui at 5:52 PM on December 31, 2013


Er, no? Anna stereotypically falls in love with Hans, but everyone thinks she's being foolish, and she IS, since he's evil. She does start over again with Kristoff, but that's clearly going to go more slowly. The "true love" moment is between the sisters. And Elsa never has any love interest at all.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:58 PM on December 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


The whole movie? The whole thing, seriously. One of the major messages of the movie is "Don't marry some dude you just met because he could be a crazy murderer, dummy, you know better."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:58 PM on December 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


SPOILERS!
posted by Artw at 5:59 PM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, chomauri, I'm not going to say it's the trope-smashing-est movie of all time, but it is definitely not what you described.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:00 PM on December 31, 2013


I plan to read this article, but I just want to say after spending two weeks with the 6 and 7 year old nieces playing the Frozen soundtrack and singing at the top of their lungs non-stop I need a new ice pick since the previous one broke trying to get the songs out of my head.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:03 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


A piece on the sister summit.
posted by Ardiril at 6:03 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do not care for the talk-song mode of musical, it must be said.
posted by Artw at 6:04 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey, RobotVoodooPower, do you wanna build a snowman?
posted by Chrysostom at 6:04 PM on December 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


Edit:

[Note, please do not use the edit feature to add content to your existing comment or respond to other posters. It's for typos; everything else, just post a followup comment.]
posted by cortex at 6:07 PM on December 31, 2013


This movie resonated with me on so many levels and I will be cosplaying as Elsa come Comic-Con season even though I am a brunette with black as coal eyebrows.

It wasn't perfect (in fact parts of it are somewhat flimsy) but it's a step in the right direction. (So it's a bit of a fixer upper...)
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:08 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought the songs were the major weakness of the movie. The opening number was fine I guess, Let It Go was great, everything else was just kind of there and rarely had any reason to exist. Also it would have been nice if Hans had just been selfish instead of EVIL, but eh, kids' movie.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:09 PM on December 31, 2013


"if Hans had just been selfish" - Not even a kid would have believed that.
posted by Ardiril at 6:12 PM on December 31, 2013


I do not care for the talk-song mode of musical, it must be said.

I grew up on Disney musical movies and I hated every second of them. I loved Frozen however, and maybe it's because I like broadway plays in their current incarnation. I told a friend how surprised I was to see the Frozen cast wasn't all superstar voices and they told me it was because they were all famous on Broadway. So it seems like another smart thing about Frozen is that if you're going to do a musical, involve people at the cutting edge of Broadway theater instead of hoping Brad Pitt is a good singer.
posted by mathowie at 6:16 PM on December 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, Idina Menzel is an amazing singer, and I was glad to see Disney really use her talents after basically wasting them in Enchanted.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:30 PM on December 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


The only musical number that simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny is the Fixer Upper song with the trolls which really only serves to create some vague romantic tension between Kristoff and Anna and as a light-hearted break in an otherwise pretty tense period of the movie.

Technically Olaf could probably be removed as well even though he's kinda a fun character but removing Olaf and the trolls would probably make it extremely dark.

I really like the meta-discourse that is developing around Elsa being the first lesbian princess (no male love interest at all, the let it go ballad which carries all sorts of subtext beyond the surface read). I loved Tangled from the standpoint that it brought some modern storytelling techniques to a retelling of a classic fairy tale but Frozen steps it up to a whole new level.

I'm looking forward towards seeing what they'll do with Giants since it's pretty clear that with the massive success of Frozen we'll be getting more CGI fairy tales despite Lassiter wanting to steer clear of them.
posted by vuron at 6:40 PM on December 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Technically Olaf could probably be removed as well

YOU TAKE THAT BACK RIGHT THIS SECOND.
posted by shiu mai baby at 6:52 PM on December 31, 2013 [13 favorites]


I really enjoyed the movie, though I wanted more Elsa (and more Idina Menzel singing). And I saw it with my sister -- I tend towards introverted and she tends towards jumping into relationships with really shitty guys (by "tend towards" I mean, of course, that we both are extremely like this) and that was just an added bit of fun.
posted by jeather at 7:12 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went to the loo during fixer-upper.
posted by Artw at 7:12 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


the whole story is pretty subversive of the "rescue the princess" trope, but the Hans subplot was especially surprising.

The best thing about Frozen is that it retroactively turns the weakest song in the movie, "Love Is An Open Door," into one of the best. Because only when Hans reveals his true intentions do you understand that "Love Is An Open Door" isn't the love song. It's the villain song. Hans even basically sings his plan in it!

I've been searching my whole life to find my own place
and maybe it's the party talking, or the chocolate fondue,
but with you, I've found my place


And then he just spends the rest of the song agreeing with Anna and kissing her ass.

(Well actually the best thing about Frozen is still "Let It Go" but this is pretty good too.)
posted by mightygodking at 7:50 PM on December 31, 2013 [14 favorites]


Olaf was vastly vastly better than the trailers made him out to be which was pretty much the standard annoying anthropomorphic sidekick. I was halfway expecting jar jar binks so was pleasantly surprised by how they actually handled him as a character.

I was just saying that technically he just isn't that critical as a character within the story and his song while fun isn't nearly as awesome as some of the others. I would've kinda like Kristoff to get a song for example.

It's basically that given the typical short length of a feature animated film the screen time given to Olaf could've possibly gone towards rounding out Elsa or Anna even more which might've made it even more awesome.
posted by vuron at 7:53 PM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are a lot of great bits from the Andersen story they could have kept without spoiling their premise (gotta be careful with those babies and bathwater), and it was a bit trying-too-hard-to-be-hip-and-slangy, which will make it dated by the time our grandchildren are old enough for it, but it's a nice movie overall.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:55 PM on December 31, 2013


That's actually a really cool reading of Love is an Open Door MGK, he's a perfect sociopath, hell he might not even be a bad ruler, he just knows that in order to keep his standard of living high he needs to marry into a royal family and Anna as a sheltered princess starved for any sort of human connection is the perfect victim.

It's perfect for deconstructing the whole love at first sight trope that is so common in Disney movies and it does it in a much more subtle way than Beauty and the Beast deals with the concept that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover.

But as a father with a young daughter having disney princess movies (really can't get away from them) that deconstruct the idea that your prince is just waiting around the corner to rescue you (both Anna and Elsa have a ton of narrative agency) is really awesome because let's be honest storybook romances simply aren't in the cards for most people and it's cool that Disney is actually deconstructing their own tropes.
posted by vuron at 8:02 PM on December 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


chomarui: "Not tropey?? Did I miss something, or is Frozen not simply good-girl/bad-girl fighting for the affection of a guy? [Edit: to be clear, I haven't seen it yet, and am going off what I've read incidentally.]"

Yeah, both girls are good and in difficult circumstances, and the "love story" is between the two sisters. The redeeming power of love that saves the day isn't romantic, it's sororal. Princely guy #1 turns out to be a complete sociopath, and nerdy guy #2 has possibilities but Anna decides to get to know him better. It's not actually totally clear what the evil in the movie is -- complete sociopath prince, and also aggressive capitalism in the form of the nasty trader guy?

Artw: "I went to the loo during fixer-upper."

Me too!

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:33 PM on December 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


"The Snow Queen is a terrible bitch," Ruggels says. "When her suitors try to melt her heart, the Snow Queen freezes them."
"Each one should be a phony, but different," Eisner says of the suitors.
"Then along comes a regular guy," Ruggels continues.
"This is perfect!" Eisner exclaims. "I'm afraid to hear more."
"The regular guy goes up there, he's not that great, but he's a good person. He starts to unfreeze her ... she melts."
"It's great," Eisner says. "Finally. We've had twenty meetings on this."


I've assigned my crack team of misogynists to write this female lead, why do they keep fucking it up?
posted by benzenedream at 9:20 PM on December 31, 2013 [36 favorites]


It's not actually totally clear what the evil in the movie is -- complete sociopath prince, and also aggressive capitalism in the form of the nasty trader guy?

This is one of the things I like best about the flick: its treatment of villainy. Most of the story is about rescuing Elsa, but it's not about rescuing her from a villain, it's about rescuing her from becoming a villain.
posted by baf at 9:52 PM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


YOU TAKE THAT BACK RIGHT THIS SECOND.

You hesitated.
posted by zarq at 9:57 PM on December 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


I felt that Hans got off way too easy though. In an old Disney film he would have fallen to his death (Gaston, Wicked Queen), gotten killed in the final battle (Scar, Ursula, Radcliffe), or some other cursed punishment (Jafar). Instead he gets extradited BACK to his own kingdom for probably a long, drawn out trial that will end with an acquittal.
posted by FJT at 10:06 PM on December 31, 2013


I went to the loo during fixer-upper.

Disney princes are often 'dreamy' rebels who rescue the princess from... something. The Beast becomes a handsome prince and rescues Belle from Gaston. Flynn saves Rapunzel from imprisonment by Mother Gothel, and brings her home to her parents. Aladdin saves Jasmine from a life with the evil Jafar. Eric saves Ariel from Ursula. Etc.

Frozen's theme: "The Heroine Saves Herself."

There's an Olaf line towards the end of the movie, "Some people are worth melting for." The entire film examines what love is and what it means to love someone. Love at first sight. True love. Familial love. Rejection. Sacrifice. The fixer upper song is an important part of that theme, and the movie would have been thinner without it. It's lighthearted, yes. But it presents Kristoff's flaws and good qualities to the trolls' perspective. Why do they love him? It also shows him and Anna rejecting a ridiculously quick, convenient romantic setup/marriage. Something that set off the events in the movie in the first place. Worth noting as well that Olaf himself doesn't quite understand true love. Which is played for laughs in the fireplace scene, but also a bit of a deconstruction of the concept.

Loved Frozen. My daughter has seen it three times now in the theater.
posted by zarq at 10:24 PM on December 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


Crazy credit at the end of the movie:

"The views and opinions expressed by Kristoff in the film that all men eat their own boogers are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The Walt Disney Company or the filmmakers. Neither The Walt Disney Company nor the filmmakers make any representation of the accuracy of any such views and opinions."

It shows up right after the list of production babies. :)
posted by zarq at 10:27 PM on December 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


And then the snowmonster gets to express hir true self!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:33 PM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Incidentally, the French version of Let It Go says, instead of "the cold never bothered me anyhow", "the cold is the price I pay for freedom", which is a different nuance.

If you all skipped the fixer upper song, you missed the part where the lyrics say, out loud, in a Disney film, "we're not saying you can change him".
posted by jeather at 10:50 PM on December 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


> "Olaf was vastly vastly better than the trailers made him out to be ..."

The trailers turned me off so much I basically had zero interest in seeing this movie. Apparently, it is not, after all, about an incredibly annoying animate snowman and his reindeer pal. I might actually go see it sometime now, but it does make me wonder who on earth was being targeted with those trailers. Is "come see this dumb movie ... psych! now that you're in the theater, it turns out it's actually a completely different, much better movie than we'd led you to believe!" considered to be a winning sales tactic now?
posted by kyrademon at 10:51 PM on December 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's not actually totally clear what the evil in the movie is --

The evil early on is very much the idea that Elsa has been asked to suppress her true nature. It means she never learns to control it. It isolates her from her sister. And, in true Disney fashion, the people who forced her to go against her true nature - her parents - are swiftly killed.

I'm not sure if the character of Elsa can be determined to be gay based solely on her not having any attachment to a male character (lesbians aren't defined by the absense of boys), but there is a queer subtext here: asking her to repress her true nature is bad for her and for the people around her.

Apparently, it is not, after all, about an incredibly annoying animate snowman and his reindeer pal. I might actually go see it sometime now, but it does make me wonder who on earth was being targeted with those trailers

The trailers are pretty entirely unrepresentative of the actual film. You have to be told the film is a musical; the trailers don't give away that information at all. And the US trailers play up the comedy characters, where the Japanese trailers play up the dark(-ish) fairytale aspects. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. With singing. Some great, great singing.
posted by crossoverman at 10:55 PM on December 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


Disney marketing completely dropped the ball on Frozen frankly, fortunately there has been a complete lack of family friendly entertainment this winter (Saving Mr Banks is aimed at an older audience and Walking with Dinosaurs is the epitome of meh) and word of mouth has basically driven Frozen to inexpected box office success.

Seriously short of doing a trailer with the inception THOOOM I can't imagine a worse way to get people into their theater.

But a lot of movie execs still don't seem to understand the market power of the female audience particularly the preteen female audience and aim primarily for the 13 year old boy demographic. Hopefully Frozen will clue them into the idea that a female driven plot with female main characters can be successful from a theatrical and merchandising perspective. At a minimum I hope Disney thinks that it can possibly succeed with more TV and Movies with a female driven plot line.
posted by vuron at 10:59 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a podcast interview with the writers here.
posted by dobbs at 11:11 PM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the lesbian subtext for Elsa largely stems from the lyrics of Let it Go which basically scream make this into a coming out anthem. Elsa has been forced to conceal her identity for the majority of her life hiding behind a veneer of control imposed from without and within but is secretly consumed with doubt, fear and anger. When she can no longer conceal her nature (remember she was born this way it's not a curse) she embraces her nature even if means abandoning her past and people's expectations of her. She is powerful and confident in herself and remains that way until she is confronted by Anna who wants her to go back to what she was.

It seems like a pretty powerful metaphor and like many powerful metaphors isn't going to beat you over the head with it. Also it's ambiguous enough that you can come up with possible alternative explanations concerning other forms of prejudice (X-men are famous for being a stand-in for all sorts of real world prejudice and this has much lighter shades of that).

I think it's a powerful way of viewing the narrative that gives additional pathos to a character. Maybe some people would prefer for Elsa to be more explicitly defined (I've read blogs suggesting that Disney should've been more daring) but I actually think that from a narrative perspective the ambiguity and lack of a romantic subplot for Elsa is a good storytelling choice.
posted by vuron at 11:13 PM on December 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


The trailers are so misleading we went with our two boys. Who, in the end kind of only really liked Olaf and the snow monster. What we couldn't stop marveling at was how aggressively stylized the female characters faces were. The crazy enormous eyes and non-anatomical bodies were distracting, especially since the men all had mostly 'regular' -ish features. But we don't see lots of movies aimed at girls, so maybe it is unremarkable but for both of us it was weird.
That it was sister love was great, though. Enormous eyed, tiny waisted sister love.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:47 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Agreed, the eyes were distracting.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:52 PM on December 31, 2013


Metafilter: (to be clear, I haven't seen it yet, and am going off what I've read incidentally)
posted by Sebmojo at 11:54 PM on December 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


I couldn't concentrate on that movie once I started wondering where the snowman got his eyes. I think the girl and the reindeer guy gave him the carrot nose and he found some sticks on the ground for arms, but his eyes looked like the reindeer's did, and he just sort of shows up with them already installed. Where did he get the eyes.
posted by jameaterblues at 12:18 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


At least they didn't go ahead and call it "Hans Christian Andersen's classic The Snow Queen"
posted by Segundus at 1:09 AM on January 1


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "I thought the songs were the major weakness of the movie. The opening number was fine I guess, Let It Go was great, everything else was just kind of there and rarely had any reason to exist. Also it would have been nice if Hans had just been selfish instead of EVIL, but eh, kids' movie."

I actually remarked to my partner that I was happy we didn't get an evil doom villain for once. He did a sort of choking double take at me for that, but I explained: the thing is, Hans wasn't some malevolently evil magical dude with creepy powers and horrible habits and minions. He was a bad guy, he tried to kill Anna, which makes him regular evil. Not Disney movie evil. Instead, as mentioned, the movie is about helping Elsa not take the dark path (...is that you Mistress Weatherwax?) so Hans' evilness is mundane. And sadly a reasonable lesson to learn about charming men.

And weirdly enough, since I loathe most musicals, I sincerely enjoyed the songs in Frozen.

The three of us loved it, and so did the family we saw it with. My partner cried a little at the end as well, so all round it was great.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:26 AM on January 1 [3 favorites]


the men all had mostly 'regular' -ish features

Just saw the trailer, in which the male characters are ridiculously handsome "frat-boy face + do-you-lift?-football-build + stereotypical-bro-attitude" attractive. They are physically flawless specimens of young men of age. Without more context, I would even argue this level of hypersexual/hypergender portrayal is not a very socially healthy image.

I'm just going to have to see the film.
posted by polymodus at 2:29 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]


I think the lesbian subtext for Elsa largely stems from the lyrics of Let it Go which basically scream make this into a coming out anthem.

And, I guess, the lack of male love interest for Else does allow more easily for a queer reading of her character - which is important for a young queer female audience. Male characters are often allowed stories where love interests play no part, so it's always refreshing when female characters are allowed the same.
posted by crossoverman at 2:47 AM on January 1 [3 favorites]


The trailers are so misleading we went with our two boys.

And that is what I really hate about Disney that no amount of progression of tropes can help with: if the audience still perceives the movie as "for boys" or "for girls," how progressive is it really?
posted by Miko at 8:13 AM on January 1 [6 favorites]


Disney marketing completely dropped the ball on Frozen frankly

IMO they've been doing a terrible job of marketing their animated features since the 1990's. I think they're so afraid of a flop they'd rather have a good movie that makes most of its money on the second weekend WOM, home video, and long-term merch than look silly for getting excited about a bad one.

The only two 21st-century Disney (not Pixar) features I even heard more than a cursory mention of before release were The Princess and the Frog and Tangled. And, that's only because there was some "newsy" or market innovation angle to them that made other people write about them, not because Disney did a lot of promotion. (The Princess and the Frog - adding a Black Princess™ to the Disney Princess™ Marketing Pantheon; Tangled - trying to downplay the "girl movie" angle by leaving the heroine's name out of the title, and the use of 3D CGI animation.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:15 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


And that is what I really hate about Disney that no amount of progression of tropes can help with: if the audience still perceives the movie as "for boys" or "for girls," how progressive is it really?

It's kind of an ourobouros/chicken-and-egg thing, innit? I'm not entirely sure which side it starts on, but parents demand gendered products, companies make products that are even more gendered, which increases the demand, parents buy into what companies are selling, and the cycle continues.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:19 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


I tend to think it's the same kind of manufactured demand that comes from most product marketing - it's ultimately based on exploiting parental anxiety, and I think it's far more driven by the marketing and sales side than by an emergence of inherent demand for gender polarization on the part of parents. It's been steadily increasing since the '50s, and though there is a chicken-and-egg aspect to it that makes ultimate causes hard to decipher, I feel the bulk of the responsibility lies with people who have spent their full-time careers, spent billions and developed much sophisticated science finding ways to target products to the people who are willing to buy them for children.
posted by Miko at 8:27 AM on January 1 [3 favorites]


And that is what I really hate about Disney that no amount of progression of tropes can help with: if the audience still perceives the movie as "for boys" or "for girls," how progressive is it really?

Like it or not, my daughter loved it and all the boys around her were bored to tears and complaining.
posted by bradth27 at 8:28 AM on January 1


At least they didn't go ahead and call it "Hans Christian Andersen's classic The Snow Queen"

It can have a perfectly fine separate existence, TBH.
posted by Artw at 8:30 AM on January 1


Like it or not, my daughter loved it and all the boys around her were bored to tears and complaining.

I don't like it, but I don't blame mother nature for it. This scenario is a product of a lot of intersecting systems. Ultimately, my point is that it can't really be good storytelling if this was the result.
posted by Miko at 9:21 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]


Well, I guess that or that the boys have so deeply internalized the idea that narratives featuring women cannot possibly be interesting that they can't identify another way to behave. Or both.
posted by Miko at 9:23 AM on January 1 [9 favorites]


The kiddos we brought (2 girls, 1 boy ridiculously overconcerned about not liking girl stuff) all enjoyed it, so there's that.
posted by Artw at 9:27 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]


My theatre had about 2:1 girl:boy (and about equal numbers of adult men and women), and I didn't hear any sort of grumbling or I'm bored, and I caught boys singing the song too when it was over. I'm not convinced that this is a movie that's a failure for boys in general, though some boys will just not like the movie because no piece of media is for everyone and other boys won't because eww girls. (I suspect that in a group of boys you're going to get a lot more of the latter, because shared dislike is a way to bond.)

I strongly doubt that Disney is aiming to make movies that only girls will like -- that's why they are changing movie titles to avoid being princessy, why the Amusing Animal Sidekick (or Snownimal Sidekick) is almost always male (Princess and the Frog: Louis the alligator, Ray the fly; Tangled: Pascal the chamelon and Maximus the horse, neither of whom even speak but are given male pronouns; Frozen: Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer). Maybe they're failing, and maybe it's because their stories aren't good enough, but maybe it's because the culture around the movies says Girls like This and Boys like That and no sharing.

I don't by any means think Disney is a bastion of perfection on this axis (it's clear that they're terrible with race), but I think they're very explicitly trying to make their movies with female protagonists appealing to boys as well as girls.
posted by jeather at 9:35 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


I was pretty happy with "Frozen" when I saw it. So much upending of tropes! I would like it even more if I hadn't read this article and the depressing revelation that it took Disney execs 70 years to be OK with the trope-upending in the first place.
posted by schroedinger at 9:51 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Geeze, schroedinger, who opened your cat box?



I kid, I kid it was just a great opening. And I agree with your comment.



I saw it with the family, and the boys liked it as much as the girls. The boys wanted to (and saw it again) but the girls demurred. Both sexes sing along with the sound track.

And I want an Olaf doll.
posted by tilde at 10:23 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


You know which aisle the toys are ending up on though.
posted by Artw at 10:35 AM on January 1


I saw it with a grandson and granddaughter and both loved it. In fact, this was their second viewing. Three other grandsons have been singing the soundtrack all week.
posted by tamitang at 10:37 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Tangential to Frozen, but fans of Andersen's Snow Queen might want to look into "Queen of the Night," a beautifully haunting Gene Wolfe story about love (filial), abuse (sexual), heartbreak (spiritual) and being at the whims of others who hold complete power over us (magical and allegorical). The plot is similar, except that the Gerda character is a weak and ineffectual shade. It's in the thematically linked collection, Strange Travelers.
posted by byanyothername at 11:05 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


the depressing revelation that it took Disney execs 70 years to be OK with the trope-upending in the first place.

We needed a lot of those 70 years for Disney to really build the tropes up super solidly.
posted by jeather at 11:19 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Somewhere, either on the radio or in the New York Times, I learned that the marketing purposely geared the ads to be more gender neutral in an attempt to attract boy viewers. They princesses were down-played and the male - snowman interactions were highlighted.
posted by bluespark25 at 11:24 AM on January 1


Saw it this weekend together with a buddy (both forty something males), and we both enjoyed it, though I am probably the more enthusiastic. I have been very happy with the recent princess™ movies (Brave, Tangled, and Princess and the Frog) from Pixar/Disney, and Disney really outdid themselves on this one. Apart from the great story line (Danish I might be, but I actually preferred this version to the Anderson story), I thought the songs worked well, with Fixer Upper being the weakest musically though I can see that the song is necessary in the narrative.

It is however far and away the funniest Disney movie I have seen in a long time. The Norwegian shop keeper was genius, as were many of the other Scandinavian nods throughout the movie.

Last, but not least it was beautiful. Set design, character design, and animation wise just nigh perfect.
posted by bouvin at 11:25 AM on January 1 [5 favorites]


The poster is just a big snowflake...
posted by Artw at 11:26 AM on January 1


(Danish I might be, but I actually preferred this version to the Anderson story)

You'll want every step Ariel takes not to hurt her like knives next.
posted by Artw at 11:27 AM on January 1


You'll want every step Ariel takes not to hurt her like knives next.

Indeed, I've always thought H.C. Andersen was kind of a dick to the mermaid. Especially the ending.
posted by bouvin at 11:32 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


I actually saw Frozen yesterday for the first time. I thought it was going to be really stupid (that snowman) but then I was hearing all these really great things, and damn is "Let It Go" super catchy.

One thing I've heard from a couple of different sources is that each Disney movie is trying to correct some past issue- so starting with Ariel and Belle who both demonstrate way more agency and personal desires than previously, Princess and the Frog gave us diversity, Tangled was sort of the first princess movie that isn't really a princess movie, and Frozen is sort of the next progression- which is taking the Princess movie and really making it about the relationship between two women.

I find this article interesting because while I never read the original story, I've heard a lot of people sort of praising it for this awesome feminist story that involved a lot of female characters (I think Kay was the only head male character) and this is the first article I read that was saying the original story not really great movie material.
posted by KernalM at 11:42 AM on January 1


I'm with bouvin.

The story was fine. But the humor was *great*, and the art direction was really brilliant.

However, the faces of main characters are starting to all look the same to me. I'm sure there's a good reason for it, but I really do hope we get something OTHER than giant spheroids with giant eyeballs soon. (I'm looking at you, Pixar, Disney, Blue Sky, Dreamworks, etc, etc...) You could drop a still of any human character from any big budget CG animation feature since The Incredibles into any other CG animation and it'd look like it belonged.
posted by DigDoug at 11:44 AM on January 1 [3 favorites]


"First assume a perfectly spherical character..."
posted by happyroach at 11:58 AM on January 1 [6 favorites]


"First assume a perfectly spherical character tie in toy ..." ftfy
posted by tilde at 12:19 PM on January 1


DigDoug Showing off some nurb cred here ... those Antz heads were terrifying. Antz was the first fully CG movie that we didn't buy - and we were (still are) huge CG animation fiends.

Frozen represents (well, when released) our first non-Pixar CG movie buy in a long, long, long time, outside of MegaMind.
posted by tilde at 12:24 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


PS: How big a surprise was "Get a Horse" before Frozen? I mean, seriously. Really awesome stuff. And worth making sure you see the 3D showing.

PPS: Megamind had my favorite mispronunciation evar! melancholy. (mel - an - KAL - ee)
posted by DigDoug at 1:47 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


We needed a lot of those 70 years for Disney to really build the tropes up super solidly.

Indeed, and the fact Frozen completely upends the premise of The Snow Queen is reason enough for execs to not see the snow forest for the snow trees.

But what's fascinating to me in this discussion about "boys movies" and "girls movies" is - when in the last 70 years did boys stop liking Disney movies? Or has it taken all of that time to squeeze their interest out of them? (Man, those kids must be old by now ;)

With Disney's big renaissance in the early 90s with the Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast or the Lion King, nobody was worried that boys wouldn't like to see Ariel's story or Belle's story. Has it only been in the last decade that Disney has decided to directly market girls movies and boys movies?

Or has the audience become too aware that they want their boys to avoid princess movies?

Or is Pixar - the bastion of male-led animated movies - to blame?
posted by crossoverman at 3:08 PM on January 1


It's all John Lasseter.
posted by Artw at 3:12 PM on January 1


Or is Pixar - the bastion of male-led animated movies - to blame?

Uh, Brave? Or do you mean male executives?
posted by bouvin at 3:15 PM on January 1


Uh, Brave? Or do you mean male executives?

Sorry, I should have said almost all male-led. But still, Brave is only one out of fourteen and my point still stands - almost two decades of Pixar getting bigger and bigger with male leads, the fight to even get Brave made and all of a sudden boys don't wanna watch Disney anymore.
posted by crossoverman at 3:25 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Disney branded animations have never been particularly aimed at boys, what with all the princesses and all - there's speculation that a lot of their recent acquisitions have been driven by that.
posted by Artw at 3:54 PM on January 1


It's all John Lasseter.

Or as I like to call him: Our Lord and Savior of animation who got fired from Disney in 1987 for our sins. His second coming to Disney has introduced humanity to a new golden age of animation.
posted by Talez at 4:08 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


Or as I like to call him: Our Lord and Savior of animation who got fired from Disney in 1987 for our sins. His second coming to Disney has introduced humanity to a new golden age of animation.

Amen!

(I guess he made Cars 2 to prove he is but a mortal after all...).
posted by bouvin at 4:34 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


Its apparently great in some technical level that's largely there for his appreciation - superior ray tracing or some such.
posted by Artw at 4:40 PM on January 1


(also through the roof toy sales.)
posted by Artw at 4:42 PM on January 1


Like it or not, my daughter loved it and all the boys around her were bored to tears and complaining.


I saw it (with my mother over Thanksgiving weekend, we didn't have any kids with us). The theater was filled with kids, boys and girls alike. The entire crowd was silent during the film except laughing at the laughing parts. It seemed like the boys liked it too. One boy near me seemed totally rapt.

It's not a truth universally acknowledged that boys just can't handle "girl things."

Also, I can't imagine where the poster upthread saw that it was a movie about "two girls fighting over a boy" because even if you slept through 90% of the movie you wouldn't get that message. Nothing like that happens at all.
posted by sweetkid at 5:19 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


Its apparently great in some technical level that's largely there for his appreciation - superior ray tracing or some such.

Ray tracing and open water effects like foam spray.

Frozen has its own technical challenges involving particle simulation of snow packs and also the sheer amount of bullshit involved in rendering that many transparent and reflective layers on top of each other. During the raising of Elsa's castle some of the frames were taking as much as 30 hours to render.
posted by Talez at 6:00 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


I hadn't thought about a Queer reading. Because I am quite literally a crazy person, I saw Frozen through a disability lens, specifically mental illness. Elsa, from childhood, has these behaviors that can make her really creative and fun to be around, but they can also make her lose control and be dangerous. (Obviously the ice is metaphor) So her parents get embarrassed. They tell her not to let it show, not to lose control, and Elsa becomes totally shut away. She is either alone in the dark or afraid of losing control and hurting someone. When she finally takes a step outside and does lose emotional control (confronting Hans at the party) she can't reel it in. She tips completely over into ice-mania and storms off, leaving her sister to deal with the fallout. It's funny to me that Let It Go is being viewed as an anthem, because I saw it as a total manic fuck-you kind of song. Like "you can't tell me not to make snow flurries because now I'm going to make the biggest fucking ice storms ever and then collapse into a frozen sobbing heap at 2 am."
I thought the way she tried to both protect and protect herself from Anna was consistent with my little fan fiction.
Anyway, I loved it, and I will take what I can get as far as Bipolar princesses go. Up til now I only had Carrie Fisher.
posted by Biblio at 6:09 PM on January 1 [23 favorites]


See? x-Mem style universal metaphor.
posted by Artw at 6:13 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


It drives me crazy when everyone starts up on stuff like "Elsa has no love interest so she's queer" and "Merida doesn't like any of those boys so she's gay." For fuck's sake, Elsa has waaaaaaaay enough problems to deal with without boys on top of that* and Merida's not into boys at all at the moment, or at least not those lame ones. I know everyone is desperate for Disney to start having lesbians, but can't it be okay for a girl to not have a male love interest without us assuming she's gay? Can't she just not be interested in chasing penis or vagina at the moment of her story and be focusing on other shit like being an ice pariah or a girl who just wants to shoot her arrow and fling her hair around? Unless she's giving a hot girl the side-eye, a lack of dudes doesn't mean she prefers the ladies by default. Jury's still out.

In short: asexuality for all! Or at least, not focusing on chasing after nookie in a Disney kids' movie!

Biblio, yes, I read "Let It Go" in the same kind of way. There are many ways to "come out of the closet about who you are" these days without it being about who you want to nail, anyway.

* though I will admit that when Kristoff said he wanted to go into Elsa's ice palace and that "ice is my life," I thought, hey, is he going to be Elsa's love interest rather than Anna's? I actually don't think that would have been a bad move either.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:34 PM on January 1 [9 favorites]


Your favorite Disney movie sucks. Especially if it's this one.
posted by bradth27 at 7:46 PM on January 1


Can't she just not be interested in chasing penis or vagina at the moment of her story and be focusing on other shit like being an ice pariah or a girl who just wants to shoot her arrow and fling her hair around?

Yeah, isn't Elsa only like 18 in the story? I know it's supposed to be from some other time when people got married really young, but it's not crazy that she's just like, not thinking about dating right now, what with the whole parents dying/estranged sister/new queen resonsibilities/ice powers stuff. I can see how a guy might not fit into that.
posted by sweetkid at 7:50 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


In short: asexuality for all! Or at least, not focusing on chasing after nookie in a Disney kids' movie!

Well, you're about 75 years too late to stop that.

Nobody said we need textual lesbians in Disney films - but, WHY NOT? But beyond that, as a metaphor for being queer, Elsa's "born that way" ice sculpting works perfectly fine. And as I said above, it's great when we don't saddle female characters with being defined by boys (Elsa and Merida, for two of not many examples) because A) women are fully functioning capable human beings that don't require men and B) it allows for a queer reading for queer girls in the audience.
posted by crossoverman at 7:51 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


I think the beauty of how Elsa was handled is that she's still obviously a work in progress. Whether she's gay or straight or asexual in many ways doesn't matter but it's cool that you can look at it from the perspective of a person forced to hide what she truly is (sexuality, disability, etc) for fear of being outcast from society. Being able to come to grips with yourself and saying that you aren't afraid to be yourself is an inspiring message. If anyone who has ever felt like an outsider afraid to be themselves can see a little of themselves in Elsa then I think that this was an enormously successful narrative.

The major problem I see with Frozen movie forward is that Tangled already set the bar pretty high but Frozen brought in a level of narrative complexity that will be exceedingly difficult for Disney to match going forward. Already their Pixar movies are struggling to capture any sort of magic (Brave was good but Planes was complete crap like most of the Cars franchise). With dreamworks cranking out endless animated schlock (although I actually like the how to train you dragon movie) it's going to be hard to meet both quality and profitability demands. However I will be interested in seeing how they handle the task.
posted by vuron at 8:05 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Planes notably went out without the Pixar banner, though Lasseter still produced.
posted by Artw at 9:18 PM on January 1


It wasn't just a matter of Planes not carrying the Pixar brand; Planes is not a Pixar film at all. The creative work was done in Burbank by Disney Toon Studios, which is most known for direct to video fare like the Tinkerbell films. John Lasseter no doubt had his hand in it, but in general Pixar had no hand in the creative work.

Pixar does its own films of course, as does Disney Animation (Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen). Although they all carry the weight Disney brand, the three animation studios work mostly independently, although they commonly trade technology and ideas.
posted by captainawesome at 11:33 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]


Heh. The Tinkerbell films are surprisingly good, and star one of the evil exes from Scott Pilgrim.
posted by Artw at 11:40 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


One thing that, curiously, hasn't been mentioned as another reason for the success is the Absolutely Stunning art direction, visual effects and 3D. I had zero interest in seeing a modern Disney movie until being blown away by a teaser trailer in an IMAX 3D theatre. I remember thinking that it was too bad that such technical virtuosity was going to get Mickey-moused away on what appeared to be some generic princess movie. But, seeing it on a whim in sprite of the terrible promotion, it was not only just as visually impressive as the teaser implied, but the story was quite good as well.
posted by young_son at 3:54 AM on January 2


I thought Frozen was good... It could have been better, but it was certainly good. A lot of similarities with Brave, focusing on the familial relationships over romantic ones, which I think is a very nice direction to move in for children's stories.

"Let it Go" is a masterpiece. That whole sequence - amazing song, amazing singing, amazing animation. The rest of the songs, well, some are catchy and cute enough, Frozen Heart and Vuelie were each lovely but didn't fit in with the rest of the music at all.

I really wish Idina had gotten another song. And what about Jonathan Groff (Kristoff)?
posted by Gordafarin at 5:54 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Heh. The Tinkerbell films are surprisingly good, and star one of the evil exes from Scott Pilgrim.

HER?
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:36 AM on January 2


She had a sexy phase.
posted by Artw at 7:20 AM on January 2


I thought all the songs were pretty bad, but Let It Go was the least bad. Singing was amazing though, definitely.
posted by sweetkid at 7:28 AM on January 2


I thought most of the songs were averagely cute, but "Let it Go" was awesome. I was in the theater like, YOU GO GIRL. HELL YES. Such a surprise!
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:28 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


When I heard an ad for "Disney's Frozen" I thought it was a giant-meta-in-joke about a certain urban myth.

Then I thought it was only good form to check out the article before making that gag.

This is supposed to be a version of The Snow Queen?

What the fuck?

"Look at me, I'm a Hollywood scriptwriter. I'm an artist. My job is to take exotic plants and hack them about mercilessly until they look a bit like roses. People like roses. We can sell a lot of flowers that look like roses. Orchids not so much."

Fuck.
posted by Grangousier at 9:41 AM on January 2


To be fair, it's not like it was advertised, titled or in any way promoted as such. It began life as The Snow Queen something like twenty years ago and now there's just an "inspired by" note in the credits.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:43 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


When I heard an ad for "Disney's Frozen" I thought it was a giant-meta-in-joke about a certain urban myth.

/movie where H. C. Anderson is reanimated and brought down to the cryogenic vault to be brought around to liking Frozen by Disney's decapitated head.
posted by Artw at 9:50 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


FEEL-GOOD STORY OF THE YEAR
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:53 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: " It began life as The Snow Queen something like twenty years ago and now there's just an "inspired by" note in the credits."

Well, that and some of the character's names sorta sound like Hans Christian Andersen when placed together: Hans. Kristoff. Anna. Sven.
posted by zarq at 10:22 AM on January 2 [17 favorites]


For what it's worth, Hans Christian Andersen was bisexual and may have died a virgin, having continuously (purposely?) fallen in love with unattainable people.

The 1952 family movie musical "Hans Christian Andersen" had a semi-fictionalized version of his life where he fell in love with an unattainable person, a vain ballerina. But it also had such a homoerotic subtext between Andersen (played by Danny Kaye) and his young protege/admirer (played by Farley Granger) that I actually remember puzzling over it as a naive nine-year-old. (Or it could have been the gaydar set off by Kaye and Granger, neither of whom was hetero.)

And of course the original ending of the Little Mermaid revealed that her love was unattainable too.

Point being, the subtext of "Frozen" isn't totally out of left field.

Also, a guy I follow on Twitter made the point that Elsa's story is, basically, a variation on the Dark Phoenix saga of X-Men lore. And I think that's why a lot of little boys are identifying with Elsa, more than you think they'd feel about a princess: because she's powerful. She's basically the first Disney Princess who's a superhero (and nearly a super-villain, to boot).

Finally, as much as I like the movie, I will forever be referring to "Let It Go" as "Defying Gravity -- On Ice!" And that would have been so even had Idina Menzel not been the one singing it.
posted by Asparagirl at 7:15 PM on January 2 [7 favorites]


My grandmother gave me a beautiful gilt-bound set of Hans Christian Andersen when I was a child, and all I can say is, nobody should be surprised these stories are hard to adapt for a modern audience. I can't think of any cultural products ostensibly for children that are more darkly psychological, deeply disturbing, and morally unhinging than his works are. They are so full of problematics and genuinely scary, Othery depictions of the universe. They are not happy stories, not classic fairy tales; they are even weirder and more unsettling than Grimm's. I think the surprising thing is that people can still somehow mine them for plot ideas - not that they are going to take a hell of a lot of reworking to become palatable as present-day entertainment for young people.
posted by Miko at 8:01 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]


When he made his Martian sand-palace Doc Manhattan should have given himself a sparkly new dress as well.
posted by Artw at 8:46 AM on January 3 [5 favorites]


He definitely should have.
posted by Gordafarin at 11:44 AM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Next up: an animated musical version of Andersen's "The Little Match Girl" story, set in the simmering class warfare tensions of modern-day San Francisco. Key songs include "You Should Have Learned to Code, Waif", "Light It Up", and "Disrupt My Heart".

(The story's ending will be revised to give her a more appropriate "exit", or at least an aqui-hire.)
posted by Asparagirl at 1:19 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Just saw it. Liked it a lot.

Thanks, Metafilter!
posted by kyrademon at 1:57 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Frozen’s “Let It Go” Gets a New Dose of Honesty and Profanity
posted by Artw at 5:07 PM on January 5


OMG that hurt my ears, Artw. Not because of the profanity.
posted by sweetkid at 5:16 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


That was stupid.
posted by zarq at 8:33 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


"Look at me, I'm a Hollywood scriptwriter. I'm an artist. My job is to take exotic plants and hack them about mercilessly until they look a bit like roses. People like roses. We can sell a lot of flowers that look like roses. Orchids not so much."


You're going to be REALLY pissed off when you watch "Forbidden Planet".
posted by happyroach at 11:32 PM on January 5


I used to think maybe parents had a more limited part in strict gender role enforcement in consumerism, until I started regularly visiting Disney travel forums and reading some of the sexist questions there from parents.

“Why are there no restaurants for boys in park/land A?”
“Why are there no restaurants for girls in park/land B?”
“Why are there no rides for boys in park/land X?”
“Why are there no rides for girls in park/land Y?”
“What’s a good itinerary for my teenage boys?”
“What can I do with my girls while Dad and the boys do pirates?”
“What can I do with my boys while Mom and the girls do princesses?”
“Why are there no souvenirs for boys in park/land X?”
“Why are there no souvenirs for girls in park/land X?”
“Will my boys be bored to tears at the Hoop-de-Doo Revue?”
“Will my girls be bored to tears at the Spirit of Aloha?”
“What will my four-year-old boy like in park/land Y?”
“What will my seven-year-old girl like in park/land X?”
“Why aren’t there any character meals I can take both my boys and my girls to?”
“Which restaurants/dinner shows/character meals are ‘must-do’s with girls?”
“Which restaurants/dinner shows/character meals are ‘must-do’s with boys?”
“Why is park/land X designed only for boys?”
“Why is park/land X designed only for girls?”

(Never, ever ANY mention of the children’s individual tastes, interests, likes, dislikes, favorite movies or characters, activity levels, stamina or endurance, etc. Even their own parents had the idea that the only relevant information was their gender and perhaps age group.)

And this is all stuff that I, as a second-wave feminist who spent my early childhood in a home where it was dearly hoped I would become a tomboy, found to be mostly either gender-neutral or gender-inclusive. Even attractions that might seem geared toward one gender on the face of things went out of their way to be inclusive once you got inside – even the performers at the princess meet-and-greets buster their butts to make conversation and put the entire family at ease, no matter what the age, sex, and gender of each member. They would have made amazing geishas. I’ll never forget Ariel finding a way to talk race cars with the eight-year-old boy ahead of us in without breaking character.

And then there was my coworker, who Flipped. The. Shit. Out. because when her son was transitioning from a crib to a youth bed, he wanted one with Dora the Explorer on it. From her reaction, you’d have thought he’d asked for one with Hitler strangling kittens on it. Someone tried to remind her that he had a father and older brother around the house as strong male role models, so it wouldn’t hurt him to have some female ones, too, but she wasn’t hearing it. Mind you, this was the same woman who literally prayed she wouldn’t have a girl, because “boys are just easier.”
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:46 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


I wonder if some of that is also via requests by their own children, that you're not necessarily seeing?

I took my kids (they're 5) to Legoland at the Discovery Center in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. My son had a blast. He loves Legos. My daughter loved the short 4d movies and was excited to go into the princess room. She's very into princesses.

Legoland's princess room is three tables filled with "girl colored" bricks (mostly pink, purple and white) and a karaoke machine. Six feet away, my son was building race cars. My daughter has no interest in race cars, but left the princess area after two minutes, pronouncing it "boring." She had been talking about it since we told her we were going, and read the kids a list of the activities they could do while they were there two months earlier.

Took both kids into the store at the end, and that's where things got really frustrating.

My daughter: "I want a girl superhero."
We walk to the superhero section. I say, "Sure. We'll see if they have Wonder Woman."
No Wonder Woman. They have Iron Man, Superman, Spiderman and Batman galore. No female superheroes. I didn't even see a female Batman villain.
"Sorry honey, they don't have any."
My daughter: "OK, well there are girls in Star Wars, right?"
"Sure. There's Princess Leia and...."
"I want a Princess Leia toy. She's a princess."
So we go to the Star Wars section. Not one female Star Wars character. No Princess Leia. No Queen Amidala. No female jedi, like Ahsoka Tanno. Nothin'. Star Wars: Clone Wars ran for five seasons, but there's no Ahsoka toy.
"Sorry honey, they don't have any girl Star Wars characters."
We went to Chima. We went to Hero Factory. No girl characters. She didn't even want to look at Lego City. Finally, we wound up at Lego Friends. Lego Friends is Lego's line for girls. It contains lego sets of women who do things. A musician. A doctor. Etc. They're little platforms on which you can position objects. You don't actually build things in Lego Friends. There's no complexity, even in some of the more expensive sets. Everything you do with them feels two dimensional: a bunch of prefab furniture to be placed in a given environment. Why did we go to that section last? Because she already has two little Lego Friends sets and has an opinion on them.
"I don't want that. It's boring."
"Why is it boring?"
"[My brother's] legos turn into planes. They're hard to build. It takes him a long time to build them and then he can have battles. I don't like Lego Friends. They don't do anything and you can't build stuff with them."

My son is obsessed with Lego Hero Factory. You build jets and heroes and fight with them. The instruction booklets are thick. There's a storyline. There's complexity to what you create, with hinges and other simple tools. Various parts are interchangeable. They're cool. He got a couple of characters from the store.

We bought her a giant Lego Friends sticker and coloring book. She hasn't touched it. And I'm sorry, but that sucks. She didn't get what she wanted because the Lego company thinks that girls should play with their toys a certain way, and perhaps they believe girls won't enjoy creating complex sets.

I get what you're saying, The Underpants Monster. But I wish they had worked harder at actual gender-inclusivity.
posted by zarq at 10:26 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Clone Wars stuff without Ahsoka Tano is an abomination.
posted by Artw at 11:30 AM on January 6


I wonder if some of that is also via requests by their own children, that you're not necessarily seeing?

Even if it is, it's not as though the children have been brought up in a Skinner box. They have been in receipt of so much marketing and social conditioning already, even by the age of 3 or 4. The sad part is that Disney chooses to amplify that and push the audience out into polarizing gender-identified sectors, rather than, as wished in the most recent comments, aim for more inclusivity and shared experience.
posted by Miko at 11:33 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I wonder if some of that is also via requests by their own children, that you're not necessarily seeing?

I suppose that's possible, but these parents were seeking advice without including that information in their questions. They weren't saying, "My daughter likes to see things with female characters doing X, Y, and Z; can you recommend where to find that?" They were saying nothing more than, "My daughter is a girl. Where are girl things and why are boy things there instead?"

I tried several times to engage the mother asking, “What’s a good itinerary for my teenage boys?” I asked her about their interests, what kind of rides they liked at other parks, what they liked to do, whether they were into sports and what kinds, did they like movies or music, all kinds of questions. All she replied was, "They're just typical teenage boys. They like what typical teenage boys like," and refused to elaborate. That was the most egregious example of stonewalling, but a lot of parents did the same thing when asked for more detail.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:46 AM on January 6


Miko: " Even if it is, it's not as though the children have been brought up in a Skinner box. They have been in receipt of so much marketing and social conditioning already, even by the age of 3 or 4. The sad part is that Disney chooses to amplify that and push the audience out into polarizing gender-identified sectors, rather than, as wished in the most recent comments, aim for more inclusivity and shared experience."

Yes, but to throw in another data point, I'm not really seeing that gender separation manifest in my kids with regard to Frozen, and I am seeing them enjoy the shared experience. I didn't see it with Tangled, either. Or Brave. My kids loved Tangled and Frozen. They thought Brave was a bit scary but liked it a lot. Maximus was their favorite Tangled character. They sing nearly all the songs from Tangled and Frozen, Ye gods, they're gonna stop soon, right?, love most of the characters, etc.

I WOULD like to see Disney be more inclusive and promote less of a stereotyped gender separation. But their most recent three movies have not been as polarizing or gender stereotyped as they were in prior years. From my kids' reactions alone I can see an improvement.

Now is this because they're only five? Possibly. Lots of other factors could be involved, too. But even when a kid knows what they like and asks for what they like, that might not come across when a parent makes a complaint to a large company.
posted by zarq at 11:47 AM on January 6


TL: DR - Disney produces pink things with sparkles on them and blue things with skulls on them. But it's parents and other kids saying, "Boys, this pink thing with the sparkles will degrade you if you touch it; Girls, this blue thing with the skull will ensure you only have friends of the opposite gender if you embrace it."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:51 AM on January 6


Ahsoka & Leia
posted by 0 at 11:56 AM on January 6


It's amazing how kids pick up the gender thing even if they go to schools with anti-bias curriculums and don't watch commercial TV and what-not - basically as soon as they are in contact with other kids it's over.
posted by Artw at 12:56 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


The Underpants Monster: " I suppose that's possible, but these parents were seeking advice without including that information in their questions. They weren't saying, "My daughter likes to see things with female characters doing X, Y, and Z; can you recommend where to find that?" They were saying nothing more than, "My daughter is a girl. Where are girl things and why are boy things there instead?"

I tried several times to engage the mother asking, “What’s a good itinerary for my teenage boys?” I asked her about their interests, what kind of rides they liked at other parks, what they liked to do, whether they were into sports and what kinds, did they like movies or music, all kinds of questions. All she replied was, "They're just typical teenage boys. They like what typical teenage boys like," and refused to elaborate. That was the most egregious example of stonewalling, but a lot of parents did the same thing when asked for more detail."

*head desk* You're right. It sounds like the parents are reinforcing it. That sucks. :(

0: "Ahsoka & Leia"

Arrrrgh. So if they exist, why the hell aren't they being sold at the damned official store? I must have looked at dozens of lego boxes looking for female characters and came up empty. :(
posted by zarq at 1:02 PM on January 6


You're going to be REALLY pissed off when you watch "Forbidden Planet".

Forbidden Planet's a really good example, actually. A lot of the pleasure in watching it, if you know The Tempest at all, is drawing out the parallels, of which there are a number.

What annoyed me was the way that movies scripts are written, where everything has to be drawn into what's actually quite a narrow band of acceptable subject matter. That was true in the 1950s, too, of course, though I don't think Forbidden Planet is an example of it.
posted by Grangousier at 1:24 PM on January 6


TL: DR - Disney produces pink things with sparkles on them and blue things with skulls on them. But it's parents and other kids saying, "Boys, this pink thing with the sparkles will degrade you if you touch it; Girls, this blue thing with the skull will ensure you only have friends of the opposite gender if you embrace it."

Totally true, and I would amend that to say "parents and other kids and Disney." They aren't a passive participant. I don't have kids but I see Disney's marketing all around me. I'm glad they're making strides, but their imagery - which kids as young as 2 can easily process - tells you which product you're supposed to like.

Toys She'll Love - Make Them Part of Her World
Complete His Universe - One Toy at a Time


Gad, even the word choice. Love and inclusion for girls. The universe and completion for boys...
posted by Miko at 1:38 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


There's an Ahsoka in this set.

What Star Wars minifigs are in circulation as part of sets will depend on what sets are in circulation, and they like to change that up. It used to be the magnet sets could be separated from their bases by dissolving the glue and prying them off, and that was a hacky way of getting them - looks like they've moved the point of attachment to the back though, so I don't know how easy it would be to make Leia, Luke and Boba Fett into regular minifigs.

Keychains are harder still - you have to saw off the end of a little metal rod.
posted by Artw at 1:48 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Artw: "There's an Ahsoka in this set. "

Thank you! I'll order it for her. They have a Millennium Falcon that looks incredible and includes a Leia, but I'm not spending $140 for it. Thanks for the advice about the magnets, too. I might order one and try to take it apart.

There's a Wonder Woman that isn't a keychain in this set. But tbh the idea of giving her a toy that shows Wonder Woman helpless and needing to be rescued by Superman doesn't thrill me.
posted by zarq at 2:19 PM on January 6


Yeah, there's a couple of Leia's in a couple of sets, but they are mostly pretty spendy. Hoth Leia in this set is probably the cheapest.

There's sites out there that will sell you the individual minifigs for $15-$20 of course, but that seems like scalping.
posted by Artw at 2:28 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


There's a Wonder Woman that isn't a keychain in this set. But tbh the idea of giving her a toy that shows Wonder Woman helpless and needing to be rescued by Superman doesn't thrill me.

That's a pretty great set. Hey, she's getting in their with the lasso to fighting Lex while Supes is all depowered or whatevs.
posted by Artw at 2:31 PM on January 6


zarq: "Finally, we wound up at Lego Friends. Lego Friends is Lego's line for girls. It contains lego sets of women who do things. A musician. A doctor. Etc. They're little platforms on which you can position objects. You don't actually build things in Lego Friends. There's no complexity, even in some of the more expensive sets. Everything you do with them feels two dimensional: a bunch of prefab furniture to be placed in a given environment. Why did we go to that section last? Because she already has two little Lego Friends sets and has an opinion on them.
"I don't want that. It's boring."
"Why is it boring?"
"[My brother's] legos turn into planes. They're hard to build. It takes him a long time to build them and then he can have battles. I don't like Lego Friends. They don't do anything and you can't build stuff with them."


Hate to say it, but what the hell sets are you looking at? Even the wee little puppy and dog ones you buy in foil packets in the checkout have a bunch of building inherent in them. Yeah, you're building the dog's house, or the parrot's birdhouse, but it is building and it isn't duplo. Is it as complex as the sets for older boys? God no, but I wouldn't expect it to be since the stuff I'm buying is the intro (4-6 year olds I think) sets. Still a shit-tonne of fiddly little bits and joints and precarious roofing sections on bloody stupid little pylons.

And no, they aren't combat compatible, mostly (Emma does dual-wield katanas) but the bigger and more complex sets are indeed bigger and more complex. Our perception of a task is as gendered as the marketing and lego did fuck it up at first, but the sets we're buying at the moment are no different between the Friends line and equivalent non-Friends stuff. And lego is what you do with it, right? The plane is just as mono-use as a quadbike, but one is pink and purple and obviously 'girly' and thus subject to all the judgement girl-oriented gear gets.

It is shit that they aren't compatible with the rest of lego, minifig-wise. Some helmets and stuff fit but Olivia doesn't get to wear pants unless we swap her arse for Emma's. We can't swap between the regular minifigs and the girls.

I get it, I really do, but I'm also apparently a Lego Friends evangelist.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:26 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


LEGO Friends – a father-daughter review

They seem like pretty neat sets apart from the dumb minifigs, TBH. I'd say the same of the princess line as well.
posted by Artw at 9:03 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


6 Reasons Disney’s Frozen Is Perfect for Broadway
posted by Artw at 3:31 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


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