Queen Elsa is one of two leading ladies in Disney’s very popular, 53rd animated film, Frozen.
Elsa possesses magical abilities – she is able to manipulate and create ice and snow, a power which gets her into trouble as the film progresses. She freezes her sister whilst playing as a child, and unintentionally sends her kingdom into an eternal winter on the evening of her coronation. Throughout the film, Elsa is seen to be struggling with her ability to control and conceal her powers, but is ultimately liberated from these fears.
Response to Elsa’s character has been overwhelmingly positive, with reviewers around the world praising her complexity, feminist characteristics and vulnerability. When the film opens, Elsa is a simplistic child princess of Arendelle - a fictional Scandinavian kingdom, and elder sister of Princess Anna. However, as the film progresses Elsa’s life becomes complicated, and we see her go on to become an orphan, a queen, a recluse and ultimately the saviour of the story.
Elsa: The Snow Queen
Elsa was first born into the imagination through Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote The Snow Queen and published it in his 1844 collection New Fairy Tales. Though the snow queen is not named in the literary tale, it is from this inspiration that the character of Elsa was brought to fruition.
As early as the 1930s, Disney had their sights set on bringing Elsa to the big screens, but struggles with getting her character right prevented the project from going ahead until filmmakers decided that the sibling relationship between The Snow Queen and Anna was the hook that would bring the production together.
The positive reception of Elsa has broken Disney – and film – records. She has been hailed worldwide for her multifaceted personality that is fluid and evolving throughout the film. Critics and feminists have praised the ice queen for breaking the Disney mould, and creating a positive new princess role model for girls. Everyone is obsessed with the ice goddess, and not many are keen to ‘Let it Go’.
2013 was a big year for Elsa;
- Nominated for Best Animated Female by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.
- Won all three awards out of three nominations at the Visual Effects Society Awards
- Her song ‘Let it Go’ won Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, the Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards, The Critics’ Choice Awards
- Nominations for a Golden Globe, Satellite Award, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award and Houston Film Critics Society Award.
In 2014 Elsa was ranked by Time Magazine as the most influential fictional character of the year.
From Villainous to Vivacious
Elsa was originally planned to be Disney’s newest theatrical villain similar to Maleficent, Cruella De Vil and Ursula. In the original tale, the snow queen is depicted as a ruthless, cold-hearted character with villainous intentions. Original concepts for Elsa’s character saw her as hostile and bitter, driven by jealousy towards Anna. It was the intention of the filmmakers that Elsa have one motivation throughout the film: to freeze Anna’s heart.
Upon hearing the villain’s song ‘Let it Go’, it was decided that the number was too positive, and perhaps her character had been misused and misrepresented. Filmmakers made an executive decision to change the plot of the film in order to present an Elsa that was multifaceted and misunderstood, and wrote a new villain in the form of Hans. The complexity of Elsa’s character as well as her relationship with Anna prompted Disney filmmakers to rewriter her character to become the vulnerable, misunderstood deuteroganist that she is in the film.
Elsa carries herself gracefully and with poise. She holds her cards close to her vest.
However, underneath the icy exterior, Elsa is complicated. Due to an incident as a child where she almost caused the death of her sister, Elsa has lived in fear and undoubtedly, with post-traumatic stress disorder. In order to protect the world and her younger sister from herself, she chooses, from childhood, to live in isolation.
Through this damaging behaviour, Elsa’s personality would be expected to change. Her reclusive lifestyle would most certainly result in anti-social behaviour, unusual self-reliance and depression. Her constant fear and adjustment to living alone contributes to the meltdown that she has at her coronation. It is interesting to note though, that on the night of her coronation, when given the chance to enjoy herself without restriction, she comes across as warm and playful. Once she is able to overcome her fears, her warm, light-hearted personality returns. At the end of the film we see Elsa ruling her kingdom with a smile, and using her powers for the enjoyment of the entire kingdom. In Frozen Fever Elsa is vibrant, fun and still wholeheartedly devoted to her sister.
Elsa’s fate is characterised by her cryokinetic and frigokinetic abilities – control over ice and snow. Most of these powers are released through her hands, a fact which prompted her to wear gloves with the theory that her powers would be bound by the coverings. This proved to be false, however, as we soon learn that her powers are largely controlled by her emotions. When she finds herself in a prison cell, she is able to freeze through her hand shackles, proving the hand coverings to be redundant.
If her powers are directed at a living person, the victim commences a slow transformation into an ice sculpture, eventually freezing to death. The only known cure is true love.
Her true personality is revealed most fully during her big musical number. During ‘Let it Go’,. In the isolation of the mountains she is able to fully reveal herself, and live free from her fears and restraints. The song serves as a pivotal moment for Elsa’s character development and allows her to let loose with her powers and be as creative as she likes without the risk of hurting anyone. Prior to the musical number, her hair is tight and her outfit is perfect. During the song she rids herself of her accessories, takes her hair down and creates her magical ice gown as a reflection of her freedom, exercising her ice magic as she sees fit.
With her powers, she can:
- Turn the castle ball room into a winter wonderland
- Create enchanted snowmen
- Create ice structures such as her ice palace, staircase and more
- Manifest blizzards
- Create snow clouds
- Freeze water
- Create snowgies by sneezing
- Change the color of Anna’s dress
- Create and manipulate the shape of ice sculptures
What truly characterises Elsa is her love for her sister Anna. It is this love which ultimately defines Elsa and frees her from the bondage that she believes her power has placed over her life. Elsa’s love for Anna is what saves Anna in the end, but it in turn saves Elsa also - Elsa is forced to face her fears and learn to control her powers.
So where else can we see this stunning creature? Your first point of call is the 2013 Disney film Frozen. This is where we learn about Elsa and all of her fantastical qualities. The sequel to the film, Frozen Fever hit the big screens in March this year with Elsa trying to organise a party while she is down with the flu. The effects of her sneezing made the short film a hit, and only the second ever Disney short follow-up film to take place (the first being Tangled Ever After).
Elsa also appeared as a recurring character in the fourth season of Disney’s hit television series Once Upon A Time. The introduction of Elsa’s storyline into the plot increased the show’s ratings by 31%, boosting it to the highest ratings in almost two years.
Elsa also makes meet-and-greet appearances at Disney parks across the world, including Anaheim, Florida, Honk Kong and Paris. In 2014, she became the most in demand character in the history of Disney parks, with the wait time to meet her exceeding two hours.
Elsa also features in the Disney California Adventure World of Color show, Disneyland Paris’ night time spectacular Disney Dreams and Disneyland pre-parades. A Frozen attraction is set to open in 2016 at the Florida park and Downtown Disney now features ‘Anna and Elsa’s Boutique’ – a store that stocks products inspired by Elsa and her sister.
Facts about Elsa
- Though Rapunzel was known for her long hair, Elsa’s character was actually animated with 15 times more hair than the Tangled While Rapunzel had 27,000 hairs, Elsa’s crowning over 400,000! This makes her the hairiest Disney princess to date
- She has freckles
- She is the only Disney princess who is not a teenager. At her coronation, she is in her twenties
- Elsa’s hair was originally dark, short and almost punk-rock styled
- Her castle changes colors according to her emotion, as does her body temperature
- Disney had to create new software in order to develop Elsa’s braid
- Elsa is only the second Disney princess ever to possess magical powers. The first was Rapunzel
- She is the second Disney princess to not receive a love interest. The first was Merida
- Elsa was originally voiced by Will and Grace’s Megan Mullally, before she was recast with Idina Menzel
- In The Snow Queen, the character is also powered by an army of giant snowman henchmen, but Elsa needed only one – Marshmallow
- Original villain design concepts for Elsa included an Amy Winehouse-esque character complete with blue/black hair and a malicious smile, but these were later canned in favour of the fair, curvaceous frame that Elsa sports in Frozen
- At the beginning of Frozen Fever, Elsa makes an ice sculpture of herself crying and hugging frozen Anna – a tribute to what happened at the end of Frozen.
If you love Elsa as much as we do, you may want to take a look at our range of beautiful Elsa figurines!