Friday, January 24, 2014

Frozen: Disney in a Post-Christian World

Disney's latest animation Frozen is a great example of how post-Christian America really is.

Parents build fear into the girl. Love drives out fear for a believer. Legalistic parents often drive their children to rebel. Rebellion has dire consequences. Rebellion is sin. The wages of sin is death--to self, soul, casualties and in the end the cosmos.

Hans Christian Andersen

Four Loves

Goodwyn: Without giving too much away, what does the movie say about love?

Henn: Well, it says a lot of things about love. It's hard to boil it down to one particular sentence, because you see different types and different levels of love that are culturally prevalent throughout. You've got the very shallow instant gratification kind of love that Anna feels. You've got the element of sacrifice. You've got the innocent childlike love that Olaf brings to the film. So it really paints a very broad picture of different aspects of love and maybe what's true love versus what's really kind of a pretend or a false love. It appeals on a lot of different levels.

Goodwyn: The evolution of female characters in Disney animated features from Cinderella up until now is clear. What does Frozen say to young girls?

Henn: Part of the big evolution in terms of the role of our leading ladies and our princesses, for lack of a better term, have "undergone" is that early on a lot of times the girls tended to be more reactionary to things that would happen to them. They needed somebody to come alongside and save the day, so to speak. And that may have been true years ago, but nowadays, the stories are a little more complicated. The characters are more proactive. It's not things necessarily happening to them alone, but it's their decisions, their wants and dreams and desires that propel them forward, that propel the story. They make decisions and there are consequences good and bad that move the story along. That's been a big jump in the way we've told our stories and the types of stories that we've told, starting with The Little Mermaid, which was kind of the prototype of that new type of story, or new type or heroine where she's making decisions. The world isn't just happening to her and she's just like, "Oh, help! Somebody help me!" She's saying, "I'm not happy with this and I'm going to do something about it." Then she's going to deal with the consequences good and bad of those decisions. That's probably been the biggest swing that I've seen over the course of our films.

Mulan is another great example of that. Her story is she's making a decision because she loves her family. She loves her father so much, but she makes this decision to essentially defy him to protect him. So, those are very deep dilemmas, and very real for some people. We all, boys and girls, men and women, we all have to face those kind of decisions. So I think that kind of storytelling, it's just enriching the films that we're doing these days.

For young girls today, I hope that they look at them as the same way little girls and little boys looked at the characters from the past, as good, positive role models with decisions. There may be consequences good and bad, but that there's a strength there. There's a desire to follow your dreams and follow your heart. Again, you may have to suffer consequences good and bad depending on what those decisions are, but those are very applicable types of role models for kids today, and particularly young girls.

Goodwyn: What in Frozen do you think will appeal to Christians?

Henn: Oh, well, there are a lot of things. It's not always very obvious in the stories, but I think whether it's obvious or not, I think one of the aspects is the whole notion of the different types of love that are demonstrated, are portrayed in the film. You have a variety of types of love shown from Olaf, very naïve, childlike love and affection, to Anna's very reactionary, very seemingly true love, but it's a bit shallow when she meets Hans.

Christian families can use [Frozen] to talk to their kids ultimately [about] honest, sacrificial love. We all understand that. The love of Christ is sacrificing His life because He loved us so much. God so loved the world through Christ. That's sacrificial love. Those are elements that, while not so blatantly, "here's a Christian message", but they're there. For Christian families in particular, they can just peel back the layers a little bit and then be willing to, as parents, talk to their kids and just have conversations about that.

Those things are always prevalent in our films, more in some and less in others. But certainly love is a big part of that, and trust, and the risks involved with love, and within a family structure, and all those things can be talked about.