It's pretty much fair to say that the Walt Disney animated movie musical isn't what it used to be, but, according to the early rave reviews, Frozen just might join the classics like The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Cinderella littering the Disney vault.
Though The Princess and the Frog and Tangled certainly have their fans, the modern heyday of Disney's animated movie musicals is still linked to the films of the late 80s and early 90s like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. On paper, Frozen does seem like a return to form. The tale of two sisters (voiced by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel) and a kingdom covered in ice is loosely based on a Hans Christian Andersen story like The Little Mermaid was, and is a full-fledged musical with a Broadway pedigree. But having all the credentials does not necessarily yield the magic that Frozen apparently brings. How did Frozen master the formula?
It has the soul of a Broadway musical
Part of what revitalized the lagging Disney brand in the late 80s was the employment of wonderful New York songwriters Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. Here, Disney also turns to emerging Broadway talent, husband and wife team Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the latter of whom was one of the people behind both Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon. In fact, Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter writes that you can "practically see the Broadway musical" Frozen will become. Pointing out one exception, Alonso Duralde at The Wrap explains that the "the tunes are terrific — moving, stirring, funny and catchy." One number, a Menzel show-stopper called "Let It Go," even inspired mid-screening applause, according to Drew Taylor at The Playlist.