I finally saw Frozen last week. Somehow I managed to avoid spoilers, detailed critiques (I’d file them away to read once I’d seen the movie), or even — believe it or not — hearing “Let it Go” before I had a chance to watch the scene and get the full context.

It was a lot of fun, very energetic, and I liked the music. For a lot of reasons, I couldn’t help but think of Tangled, and found myself tracking down both soundtracks.

Frozen Songs

I’m not sure which was a bigger surprise: That Kristen Bell can actually hold her own opposite Idina Menzel, or that one of the songwriters of Avenue Q won an Oscar for a Disney movie. Seriously: I’d forgotten the composers’ names, and I was trying to place the style while watching. Somewhere in the first half hour, something reminded me of Avenue Q, and I thought, “Nah, couldn’t be” and moved on. Now, I can’t unhear similarities.

After listening to the songs from both Tangled and Frozen a lot over the past week, I feel like Alan Menken’s score from Tangled is better overall, and more consistent, but the song list is very sparse and very reprise-heavy. Frozen is much more uneven, but the stand-outs are great, and much more catchy.

I’m going to be weird for a moment and say that the most perfect song in the movie is “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” It captures Anna’s determination and optimism in the face of the sisters’ disintegrating relationship and their lonely circumstances, and there’s not a moment of awkwardness in the whole thing (except where it’s intentionally adorable).

“For the First time in Forever” and “Let it Go” are 90% fantastic. The former has a few clunker moments, and the latter IMO could have done with just one more pass-through on the lyrics. I love the way the performance in the movie starts out buttoned-up, then releases all that tension from the opening verse, and then turns into an anthem of self-discovery. And on second viewing, the links between the two songs add an interesting layer.

The other songs are serviceable, but nothing really stands out.

Tangled Music

Going back to Tangled, “When Will My Life Begin?” and “Mother Knows Best” are solid, and “I See the Light” is a beautiful mix of a madrigal sound on the verses with a more modern, sweeping chorus. The music is gorgeous, including the score (which is also fun to listen to for echoes of other Menken Disney scores), but the lyrics don’t have quite the same zing that the better lyrics in Frozen do (though they’re considerably better than the low points).

Still, I found myself compelled to learn the lyrics to “I See the Light,” partly to have something more complete running through my head, and partly for the lullaby value. (I do have a three-year-old, after all.)

Update: One Year Later….

A year later, a lot of the songs from both movies have grown on me. I’ve come to appreciate the lyrics in Tangled more, particularly the wordplay in “I’ve Got a Dream” (though the tune is basically “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”), the exaggeration in “Mother Knows Best” and the dissonance in “When Will My Life Begin.” And while I still think Tangled has a better score overall than Frozen, I can hear how well it’s constructed now. A lot of the tracks bring to mind the scenes immediately on hearing them, and everything is connected musically.

“I See the Light” did, in fact, become one of my go-to lullaby songs last year. After a while I started to regret it, when he began singing shrilly off-key fragments of songs in nonsense syllables at the top of his lungs all day, but thankfully he’s since cut down on frequency, learned to sing on-key and control his volume, learned more than just two lines of each song and started actually singing words. When he wants to. He still drops into the other mode of “singing” from time to time, but it’s not constant anymore.

The caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland is totally a Vorlon.

He’s always asking “Who are you?”, has a short temper, speaks cryptically, and when he offers help, he won’t explain it. He relies on an alternate atmosphere supply. And in the Disney version, he even sheds his external skin and reveals himself as a winged being.

I don’t think he was ever named, but I think I should call him Kosh.

This weekend we went out to see The Prestige, which was quite good. The next theater over was running The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D, and we figured, what the heck? After the first movie, we got tickets for another.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my favorite movies, but for some reason the 3D release didn’t really interest me when I first heard about it. It felt too gimmicky, like when they project a regular movie on an IMAX screen even though the movie itself isn’t really made for that format.

I got a little more interested when I read an article about how they did it. ILM essentially re-did the entire movie as a computer-animated film, matching each frame exactly, then shifted the virtual camera over a bit. One eye gets the original film, and the other eye gets the CGI copy.

I was astonished at how seamlessly they matched. I couldn’t remember which eye got the original, and I honestly couldn’t tell. Most CGI-animated films have a cartoony, sort of vinyl look to them, which would not blend at all, but ILM is used to matching their CGI to photographed actors and sets, which I suppose makes them the ideal animation studio for this sort of thing. It had to be the most effective reformatting of a film that I’ve ever seen—compare it to colorizing movies, or the Star Wars special editions (which were done by the same effects house, but with older technology)—because it didn’t detract (or distract) from what was there in the first place.

Of course, it wasn’t long before I stopped looking at the technical merits and just settled into watching the movie.

Having re-watched it, I’m now very interested to see what director Henry Selick does with the movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book, Coraline