To preface, I actually still haven't seen Frozen yet (our church was having a family movie night and showing it, and we were planning on going even though we would have been the only adults there without kids, but out of town family trumped that in our plans). But reactions to it have been everywhere-in the fairy tale blogging world, as well as all of my adult friends and students asking if I've seen it yet and saying I need to because it's so good and I'll love it.
First of all it kind of brings up the issue we had some really good discussion about in my post Fairy Tales Sell: the popularity of fairy tales and whether or not that's a good thing. There's two sides: on the one side, people are being exposed to fairy tales and thinking about them in new ways. With Frozen, it's especially exciting because "Snow Queen" is not a tale many people could converse about and now people are at least familiar with the idea that Hans Christian Andersen wrote such a tale.
However, in the specific case of Frozen, and with many other Disney and otherwise produced modern fairy tales, the stories being made are very different than the fairy tales they are based on. Which in itself is not a problem: all fairy tales have been evolving and changing-the Grimms and other fairy tale collectors did their own editing, as did Disney. Although in the case of Frozen I believe the writers went beyond "editing" and into "vaguely inspired by" territory...
Nora Stasio did an article for Enchanted Conversation a while back entitled The Aftermath of Frozen: Its Staggering Success and its Imminent Impact in which she discusses this very topic. I found this to be poignant: "Whenever a movie is as successful as this one was, there are always copycats. The worst of them try to rip off certain iconic elements of a famous work while generally lacking the heart and the overall cohesion of the original. Most of these rip-offs are low-budget productions, using gimmicks to increase sales, instead of striving for an excellent product."
This is definitely true, and highlights the danger in fairy tales becoming a formula for money. As reader Amy Willow pointed out in the comments to my previous post Fairy Tales Sell: " fairy tales being used to market products isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it re-packages them for different audiences and keeps them alive in the public eye. However, I think that it distracts from the original tales and creates a stereotypical fairy tale image, which forgets most of the traditional content of the stories and just uses common motifs associated with them. So whilst it make them popular it doesn't stay true to their nature."
(emphasis mine in both quotes)
When I first discovered the world of fairy tale fiction, via Robin McKinley's Beauty, I desperately searched for similar books. I devoured all the Robin McKinley I could find, and went to the library searching for "Beauty and the Beast" and similar books again and again. Then after I discovered sources like Surlalune I learned how much fairy tale fiction is out there-yet I'm not adamantly looking up each book anymore. Partly because there's just so many new books coming out it's kind of overwhelming, but in large part because the quality overall is lacking in most of the new books. I haven't really been able to match the emotional power I found when reading Beauty for the first time. Other authors are very good-I enjoyed Shannon Hale, Francesca Lia Block, Gail Carson Levine, and the anthologies put out by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, for example. But most of those actually came out when fairy tale fiction wasn't such a trend.
Before, if someone wrote a fairy tale inspired book, it was usually because they had a vision-to reinterpret the fairy tale in an original way. Now, authors are realizing that Harry Potter was widely successful, as were many other fairy tale and fantasy books, and as Stasio said in the article quoted above-they want a piece of that success. They turn to fairy tales not necessarily out of love, but to make a profit. Now that's obviously not true in every case, but it's probably so hard just to keep up with every fairy tale inspiration it's getting harder and harder to have an original idea.
Going back to "Frozen". Again, haven't seen it, so can't speak to its overall quality, but if you have a Disney music Pandora station, the songs will come on fairly regularly. I had heard so much about "Let it Go" and how great it is, but I heard it and thought, that's it? Apologies to anyone who absolutely loves this song, but with all the hype my expectations were higher. The song just lacks the character of most hit Disney songs. It's a rock song, but one with predictable chord progressions and a very basic drum beat. No fantastic orchestrations that build to a really exciting climax.
And I noticed, at least on Pandora-generally when playing a Disney song, the artist would be the composer. The Sherman brothers, Alan Menkin-people known for creating a variety of fun and upbeat songs as well as beautiful romantic ballads. Yet for "Let it Go" the artist is the singer, Demi Lovato. Has Disney music become more about a beautiful and already popular singer (among the preteen Disney channel watching crowd) than creating quality music for them to sing?
Anyway, Ink Gyspy of Once Upon a Blog just sent me this cover of Let it Go. She says, "There are SO MANY covers of Let It go out there it's a bit like drowning but this one made me think: "Why on earth didn't they have an ice/glass/crystal toned music base for the song in the movie?" I remember being quite jarred by the piano starting out in the middle of nowhere - it was just bizarre."
Which demonstrates what I had been thinking just yesterday about this song. This cover has character that shows creativity and sets a unique mood that matches the movie, whereas the original was just kind of predictable.
What do you think? Am I being too critical? I know I can be very picky when it comes to fiction, and music. Especially when something is built up for so long, my expectations are really high and they're likely to be disappointed (the reverse is true too-if something is widely criticized I'm usually like "it wasn't that bad!" Case in point: Indiana Jones 4). So have you noticed that fairy tale fiction/movies in general are lacking in quality? Does the danger of reinforcing bad stereotypes of fairy tales outweigh the positives of keeping fairy tales alive, and potentially inspiring a few people to look into their history?