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Voicing the CinemaFilm Music and the Integrated Soundtrack$
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James Buhler and Hannah Lewis

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043000

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043000.001.0001

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Girls’ Voices, Boys’ Stories, and Self-Determination in Animated Films since 2012

Girls’ Voices, Boys’ Stories, and Self-Determination in Animated Films since 2012

(p.127) Chapter 7 Girls’ Voices, Boys’ Stories, and Self-Determination in Animated Films since 2012
Voicing the Cinema
Robynn J. Stilwell
University of Illinois Press

Since its first feature, Snow White (1937), Disney musical films have often centered on the coming-of-age experiences of young girls; however, the reliance on fairy tale models has often meant a highly conservative structure in which the girl “is won” rather than “wins.” The modern rebirth of the Disney musical with The Little Mermaid (1989) prefigures the 1990s rise of stories of girls’ finding their voices (both literal and metaphorical), often based on literary sources or true stories. In these films, music has a significant narrative role, since the “journey” is so often inward and therefore difficult to portray in image and action. Brave (2012) and Frozen (2013) build on traditional inward/spiraling “girl” storytelling tropes by doubling them with more external, linear “boy” trajectories. In both, two female characters orbit each other along their journeys. Brave is a sense-and-sensibility tale in which Merida already has a strong sense of self, and she and her mother learn from each other and bond (established with parallel songs at beginning and end). In Frozen (loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen), the elder of the two royal sisters was originally written as a villain; after the songwriters delivered “Let It Go,” they report that the producers’ response was that “Elsa could no longer be a villain.” The emotive power of the song had deformed the narrative and dominates the film’s reception. The younger Anna rescues Elsa to rescue their kingdom; however, the price is the symbolic palace of selfhood that Elsa constructs during the extended prolongation of the song’s bridge. “Let It Go” is also in a line of showtunes from “Nobody’s Side” from Chess to “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, all associated with singer Idina Menzel and sharing musical traits that suspend the tonic between the dominant and subdominant poles, blurring harmonic drive, and giving the voice particular agency. “Let It Go” is the simplest of these, sitting well in even untrained voices, making it particularly gratifying for the many young girls who sing along to the movie and, in astonishing numbers, on YouTube.

Keywords:   Brave, Frozen, Disney, film music, Idina Menzel

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