Believe Care Invest: Frozen

Why it might be hard to identify with Anna
  • She has no skills. She’s very naïve. She doesn’t know how to take care of herself.
  • Right away, as a small child, Anna is brimming with unique personality. She says, “The sky’s awake, so I’m awake!” with mock-theatricality.
  • It’s a simple trick, but it usually works, Anna’s a klutz (She wrecks the cake) She’s very human (“Don’t know if I’m elated or gassy, but I’m somewhere in that zone.”) She wakes up looking like a mess. (We then skip over the scene where she presumably orders her servants to fix her hair.)
  • Right away, Anna is almost killed, then her memories are taken from her, but we don’t really identify with those, because they’re not universal. But then her older sister shuts her out and won’t play with her anymore, and that’s a far more universal emotion many of us can identify with.  Then, of course, her parents die, because it’s Disney. We also feel for her when she embarrasses herself with Hans: “you’re gorgeous—Wait, what?”
  • We don’t invest in Anna very much. We adore her, we empathize with her failings, but she doesn’t seem like someone who we can trust to solve this problem. Her only secret weapon is love. When she trudges off into the snow after her sister, we believe that she would do it, because we know how much she loves her sister, but we’re also saying, “Her? She’s our hero? She’s not up to this.” Luckily she quickly finds allies.
Five Es
  • Eat: “I wanna stuff some chocolate in my face!”
  • Exercise: Little Anna plays energetically with sister. Older Anna rides her bike around the house.
  • Economic Activity: We begin with men engaged in the hard work of buying and selling ice, and we’ll soon meet a grown up ice dealer. Even the queen must deal with trade agreements.
  • Enjoy: Anna very much enjoys playing with her sister.
  • Emulate: Anna plays with dolls and emulates women in paintings
Rise above
  • Well, when we talked about this on the blog, I defined it as “rising above mundane circumstances”, and Anna does that, though she never really endangers her job.
High five a black guy
  • No

Frozen: The Archive

I had a lot to say about this movie...

Storyteller’s Rulebook: Villains Can Create Fake “I Understand You” Moments

Well, folks I thought we were all done with Frozen, but I got an interesting comment on the original checklist post and I thought it deserved its own post. Jane says:
  • I feel like one major problem with Frozen is that Hans and Anna actually have way better ‘I understand you’ moments than Kristoff and Anna do. They both connect over feeling ignored by their siblings, and their song is full of lines where they intuitively understand one another's way of looking at things (‘Jinx!’ ‘Jinx again!’). Every time they talk about finishing each other's sandwiches, I think, Maybe those two crazy kids can work it out.
I would go further to point out that Hans even “understands” the expectations Anna had before she ever met him: “I suddenly see him standing there, a beautiful stranger tall and fair…Then we laugh and talk all evening, which is totally bizarre, nothing like the life I’ve lived so far…”

Then she meets Hans and, as Jane says, they seem to be in total synchronicity. The filmmakers know that we’re primed to respond to “I understand you” moments, so they pile them on here, not just tricking Anna into falling for Hans, but tricking the audience, too. (“Aha, they understand each other’s childhood insecurities, and in movies that means we’ve found the real love interest.”)

But of course it’s all a lie. Hans is a psychopath, and he’s “mirroring” Anna: reflecting back to her magnified, fake versions of her own thoughts and feelings. He’s “reading” her to find out what she wants, deep down, and then instantly transforming himself into her ideal, in order to steal her throne.

The Frozen filmmakers are playing chess while we’re playing checkers. They understand our narrative expectations better than we do, and they’re masterfully manipulating us, just as Hans manipulates Anna. They know that we and she both crave “I understand you” moments, and they’re warning us against too-easy storytelling choices just as surely as they’re warning girls against psychopathic guys.

It’s interesting that there’s no one moment that we revisit in retrospect and say, “Aha, that was the clue that he was evil!” Even when we know the twist, the foreshadowing is almost invisible. But it’s there. In their duet, Anna is talking about love, but Hans is saying “I’ve been searching my whole life to find my own place,” which turns out to have a different meaning: He’s been looking for a throne to steal.

When we watch the movie for the first time, it all seems real, and we’re happy for Anna, but we’re also a little deflated: It was too easy, so there’s a suspicion in the back of our minds that maybe this isn’t really the one.

As we said before, Elsa’s love is hard, closed-door love and Hans’s “love” is easy, open-door love, and the movie is making it clear (eventually) that easy love is usually a bad thing.

And this is true in real love and real life: If it comes too easy, it’s probably fake. I noticed this when pitching screenplays: When I walked out of the meeting saying, “That could not have gone better!”, then it was always a pass. They would puff me up, tell me exactly what I wanted to hear, and then whisk me out the door so that they never had to see me again. When a meeting actually went well, it was grueling, as they picked at and poked and prodded my work, trying to figure out why they kinda maybe liked it. When you’re pitching, you want tough closed-door-open-a-crack love, not easy open-door love, which means you’re being blown off.

In movies, life, and love, if someone really understands you, then they’re not going to tell you everything you want to hear.

Rulebook Casefile: The Big Crash in Frozen

In my notes service, this is a note I give all the time. The heroes begin “Act 2” with a goal, and then they reach that goal far too many pages later, just in time to begin the climax in “Act 3”. But one reason I’ve never been a fan of the “Three-Act Structure” is that it ignores the real turning point, which should usually be the midpoint.

If your heroes commit to a big goal at the ¼ point of your story, they should reach that goal at the midway point, fully assuming that their challenge is now over, only to find that the easy way has culminated in a disaster. Either they fail spectacularly, or they find that achieving their goal has only made things worse.

In Frozen, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf reach Elsa’s palace, only to get kicked out and mortally injured, which sends them off on another quest, temporarily forgetting their quest to get Elsa to shut down eternal winter. Here’s that Scriptnotes podcast again:
  • John August: So, one of the most surprising things that happens next is Anna gets to Elsa, which you sort of think of the quest of the movie, well eventually they’re going to get there and it will all be resolved by then. But at the midpoint of the movie —
  • Jennifer Lee: That’s a good point, yeah.
  • John: They actually get there and they have the conservation and The First Time in Forever and then like things seem like they’re going to be okay.
  • Aline Brosh-McKenna: God, another great tip for writers which is you can just go and do it.
  • John: Don’t delay it. Actually just start it. And it surprises you because you’re not expecting, you know, you establish a journey. So, like, oh, the journey is to get there. And like, oh, but we’re here. And so what else can happen? Well, she can shot in the heart with it and Elsa can refuse to change and shut them out and build an abominable snowman and sort of become more monstrous herself.
This can be a painful note to get, because it forces you to restructure your whole story, compressing your “Act 2” down to half as many pages, then adding a midpoint disaster and a second, harder quest before the climax is reached, but audiences demand this. They don’t want you to park it in cruise control for the middle of the story. They know how long your story is, but they don’t want your characters to know it. Your characters should be shocked to discover that their story is only half over after the big crash.

Straying from the Party Line: Anna’s Unusual Moments of Humanity in Frozen

At what point do we decide that we love Anna in Frozen? It’s not the first shot, waking her sister up to make her make a snowman, where she’s cute, but kind of annoying, and it’s certain not the next scene, where Anna causes her own injury by leaping around recklessly. And yet, by the end of the next song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”, we love her.

So what’s the moment during that song? Well, I think it’s split. Usually, when we have a “moment of humanity”, it’s an appealing moment: a moment where the hero is funny, or kind, or appealingly odd, or out-of-character in a cheer-for sort of way, or comically vain.  Other times, it’s a little unique-but-universal moment, where the hero does something we’ve all done but never seen onscreen before, but even here, it’s usually a moment we find amusing, such as the ones listed in the linked post.

Eventually, we’ll be given lots of reasons to love Anna, but I think that the first moment we love her is unusual: it’s a sad unique-but-universal moment. In the first scene, we see that 5-year-old Anna could push her older sister around and cajole her into making snowmen even when Elsa didn’t want to. After Elsa gets locked up, Anna keeps asking Elsa to make snowmen, but Elsa won’t come out. Then Anna says something totally heartbreaking: “Do you want to build a snowman? [no answer] It doesn’t have to be a snowman... [no answer] Okay, bye…”

You don’t have to have an older sibling to see how universal this moment is. And what makes it so heartbreaking is that Anna is used to having the upper hand. In the past, it had to be a snowman and she would brook no opposition, but now she bends on that before she breaks (It doesn’t have to be a snowman) and it’s that bending that really breaks my heart.

But there are dangers with beginning with a sad moment. Let’s return one last time to that Scriptnotes podcast, where they discuss the fact that the song was too depressing this early in the movie:
  • Jennifer Lee: And then how she would throw herself over furniture and that her friends are these portraits. All of that setup is what made us be able to save the song because we were all like “I want to kill myself” by the end of that song because it was so like —
  • Aline Brosh McKenna: So you made it less sad by making her sort of an imp.
  • Jennifer: Yes. And saying this is the girl that you’re going to go on the journey with. These are things about her that you can laugh in her loneliness, I mean, and that’s very Anna. But that was the hardest, I mean, a lot of songs came and went, but that one was the one we all believed in and couldn’t make work for the longest time. And it was because it was so much. It had to do so much.
So they leavened this moment with some more traditional moments of humanity in the song, where Anna humorously interacts with the paintings in the palace. It’s dangerous to start with a downbeat unique-but-universal moment, no matter how compelling it is, because, as Lee says, we have to want to go on a journey with this character.

Postscript: Universal-But-Not-Unique Moments

Before we move on, let’s look at some later attempts to add additional moments of humanity that land a little awkwardly. After that song ends, we see Anna wake up in the morning looking with terrible hair, only to find out that it’s inauguration day and prance through the palace singing a new song. In that song, she clumsily breaks stuff and she feels the urge to stuff some chocolate in her face.

These moments are all fine, but you could call them universal-but-not-unique moments. They work fine for kids, but the adults who are also watching the movie have seen them in a dozen romantic comedies. They’re likable enough, but they take us out of the movie, because they’re overly familiar, and they feel manipulative. They remind us of other stories, instead of real life, so these are the sorts of moments you should not fall back on. Find universal moments that are more unique, so we are startled by the reality of your characters, instead of thinking “Oh, they’re trying to get me to like her.”

Rulebook Casefile: Obstacle vs. Conflict in Frozen

Jennifer Lee is credited as the sole writer of Frozen, but that’s only because the WGA (Writer’s Guild of America) contract doesn’t cover animated movies. Lee didn’t get involved in the writing process until the project had already been in development for years, so according to WGA rules, there would at least have been a separate “Story by” credit, and she probably would have had to share screenplay credit as well. She’s certainly been forthcoming about what a collaborative process it was.

Lee first became involved when she was co-writing Wreck-It Ralph and she was invited to screenings of the animatics for Frozen as it developed, just to give notes along with many others, and they liked her notes enough to hand the whole project over to her. One reason they needed a rewrite is that they had just decided on a big change. Let’s return to that Scriptnotes podcast interview:
  • Jennifer Lee: What was so weird for us with the — not weird, but it was a nice surprise was that with the — everyone we worked with, none of us can remember who said it. We were all in the room together. We all remember being together, and we keep saying you said, no you said it, said the “what if they were sisters?” And I remember that moment so distinctively because that was like when the film mattered all of a sudden to me. I could not see this movie before it at all. I actually was very —
  • Aline Brosh-McKenna: They were not sisters at all?
  • Jennifer: No, they weren’t sisters until about maybe one screening before I came on is when they tried the sisters. But the first screening I saw they weren’t related in any way. And part of why —
  • Aline: What were they?
  • Jennifer: Part of why Idina was not cast yet is it was more of — Elsa was more of like a Bette Midler kind of character. She was that more iconic older Snow Queen. And they were not related or connected in any way. And it was making them sisters was the first breakthrough I think.
  • Aline: Wow.
  • Jennifer: But what I loved was everyone suddenly could feel it. They could feel the film. Even if you don’t have a sibling, but just understanding that kind of — what you go through with your family is something you don’t go through with anyone, or rarely go through for anyone else.
What they had discovered was the difference between obstacle and conflict. An obstacle is anything that’s hard to do, but a conflict is anything that’s hard to want to do. Defeating a snow queen is hard to do, defeating your sister is hard to want to do. That makes all the difference in getting your story to come alive.

Rulebook Casefile: Sacrificing Plot in Favor of Empathy and Motivation in Frozen

Yesterday, we talked about how smart it was not to explain the origin of Elsa’s powers in Frozen, but where it really gets interesting is the thing they did have to awkwardly explain, right after that, and why they had to do it.

After the troll heals young Anna, he spends some time delicately explaining that he’s now going to remove Anna’s memory of her sister’s powers, but replace those memories with fake memories that are just as fun, so that she’ll still remember he sister fondly. Here’s more from that Scriptnotes interview with writer Jennifer Lee:
  • John August: So, one of the biggest narrative asks you make of the audience is that these memories are taken out, and so Anna remembers the joy she used to have with her sister but not that her sister has powers....
  • Jennifer Lee: I think every now and then we have to make these decisions where just have to do what you have to do. … I was frustrated about dealing with the fact that I wanted to Anna to… — If the girls can’t remember, if Anna can’t remember the joy they had together, then there’s no reason to root for the relationship because it doesn’t mean anything. But, we have to — if she remembers that her sister has powers people felt that she seemed selfish anytime she did anything for herself or stood up to her sister later… it was the best thing just to get us through, was sometimes you just have to do what you have to do but just make a real point of it and the audience will go with it.
  • Aline Brosh-McKenna: Just do it. And also what I think people do is sometimes when they reach a narrative thing where there is a big buy they add a lot of corollary details. You just state it. That’s the way it is. She can remember this and not that. Let’s keep going.
  • Jennifer: And let’s keep going. And that was the best advice just because even if it wasn’t — and I’m never going to think it’s perfect because I’m always going to personally bump on it — everything else went where it needed to go.
  • Aline: Works completely.
  • John: It was a necessary thing to do. And I think you couldn’t have done three of those in a row. We would have lost faith in you and the movie, but you got one and you used it really, really well.
  • Jennifer: That’s what they said. “Here’s your wild card. Go. We’ll buy it.”
And it is the biggest “ask” in the movie: A really weird moment that doesn’t really make any sense, which we just have to speedbump over. But it speaks to what I’ve always said about empathy, motivation and plot. If Anna remembers Elsa’s powers, then we have an empathy problem, because she should be more understanding of what her sister is going through. If Anna, on the other hand, doesn’t remember anything, then we have a motivation problem, because why would she devote so much time to relationship that she thinks never existed?

To fill the empathy hole, they had to dig a motivation hole, and then they filled the motivation hole by digging a plot hole, and then they had to leave it there. It’s an odd and awkward bump in the plot, but it was necessary to maintain the character’s empathy and motivation, so it was totally worth it.

Storyteller’s Rulebook: Just Say “Because of Course It Does”

Every genre has certain gimmes, and that’s great, so you need to accept those gimmes gracefully, and not fight back against them. I mentioned this before when discussing the Daredevil Netflix show:
  • But I felt like the show’s biggest mistake came when DD finally graduated to a real superhero costume at the end and they felt the need to explain that it was simply necessary body-armor...with horns, for some reason. Ugh. Please don’t pretend that this is logical. Ultimately, there’s only one good reason to wear a superhero costume: Because of course you would. That’s it. Either you live in a world where costumed heroes make sense, or you don’t. But [don’t] try to make it make sense in our world.
The showrunners said, “No thanks, we don’t want your genre gimme, we want to get there from scratch,” but they didn’t succeed.

Frozen smartly accepts its genre gimmes. One thing that kept coming up in the notes process was “Where do her powers come from?” and so they kept coming up with explanations, but ultimately they just said the right thing: She has these powers because of course she does. Here’s screenwriter Jennifer Lee on the Scriptnotes Podcast:
  • Jennifer Lee: it was an exhausting process coming to the simplicity of her powers. At times we had a narration by a troll…we had this whole explanation like when Saturn is in this alignment with such-and-such on the thousandth year a child will be born and blah, blah, blah. And then —
  • John August: Ultimately you almost throw it away with one line. So, the line is just like, “Was she born with the powers or was she cursed?. And it’s born with it and that’s the last piece of it.
  • Aline Brosh-McKenna: It’s so great.
  • Jennifer: And that’s it. But I think part of what it was is if anything about us felt like it was like, “Oh, god, like okay, we have to say this,” then we didn’t want to say it. And then also we found the more you explained the more questions you had about magic and the rules. It was like, argh. You know?
You just have to say, “This is the kind of world in which the bizarre thing happens,” without trying to hold the audience’s hand and lead them there. In this case, Lee basically said, “Hey, it’s a fairy tale, this is a gimme, so let’s take it,” and that worked just fine. Never be afraid to say, “Because of course it would.” Cash in your genre gimmes wherever you can.

(But wait, right after that line, there’s another aspect of the magic that they do have to explain, and it’s awkward, but it’s ultimately the right thing, so let’s get to that tomorrow…)

Straying from the Party Line: Anna’s Two Longstanding Problems in Frozen

Usually, it goes like this:
  • Our hero has one longstanding social problem, made clear by the first few scenes.
  • Then the story presents an intimidating opportunity to fix that problem.
  • Then our hero commits to pursuing that opportunity and the story begins by the ¼ point.
In Frozen, the story really begins when Anna sets off into the wilderness to rescue Elsa, but that seems to violate this pattern. She’s spent most of the movie before that searching for romantic love. She sings her “I Want” song, “For the First Time in Forever”, about her desire to find love, then flirts with Hans before and after the coronation, launching into the song “Love is an Open Door”.

But then she has her blow-up with Elsa and immediately drops everything to follow Elsa into the mountains, seemingly forgetting all about Hans. He even offers to come with, but she says no thanks. It seems that she’s abandoning her big opportunity, rather than pursuing it.

But is she actually ditching her longstanding social problem? Well, she’s ditching one of them, but if we look back, she’s had another this whole time, because she actually has two “I Want” song back to back in the opening minutes of the movie. Before “For the First Time in Forever”, she sang “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”, in which she wanted her sister’s love.

So she has two contrasting “I Want” songs, and when events force her to choose between those wants she chooses familial love (find her sister) over the search for romantic love (enjoy her new relationship with Hans). This, of course, foreshadows the end of the movie, in which she’ll make a similar choice (this time choosing saving Elsa over kissing Kristoff to end her curse), seemingly at the cost of her life, and saving everyone as a result.

(Okay, I’ve seen this movie 20 times with my daughter, but I swear I just figured out that “Love is an Open Door” is a direct rebuke to Elsa’s closed door, so now the split is not just between familial and romantic love, it’s between hard closed-door love and easy open-door love.  The conclusion is that both are scary, but you should be especially wary of easy open-door love.)

The Ultimate Story Checklist: Frozen

Young Anna enjoys her sister Elsa’s magical ice-powers, but after Elsa hits Anna in the head, Elsa closes up the castle and goes into hiding. Years later, as Elsa reluctantly becomes queen, Anna gets a chance to leave the castle and meets Hans, a handsome prince. They quickly decide to get married, but Elsa refuses her blessing. In the ensuing fight, Elsa’s ice-powers go out of control and she flees into the mountains. Anna pursues her and joins with ice-merchant Kristoff and brought-to-life snowman Olaf to find Elsa, who sends them all away, striking Anna’s heart in the process. Hans tracks down Elsa and imprisons her. Anna is told by trolls that she’ll die without an act of true love. She goes to kiss Hans, but he tries to kill her instead. Elsa escapes and Anna almost dies to save her from Hans, and that’s the act of true love that saves them both.
PART #1: CONCEPT 18/19
The Pitch: Does this concept excite everyone who hears about it?
Is the one sentence description uniquely appealing?
 A princess must save the world from her sister’s out-of-control ice powers.
Does the concept contain an intriguing ironic contradiction?
Having to stop (and maybe kill) the person you most love.
Is this a story anyone can identify with, projected onto a bigger canvas, with higher stakes?
It’s a very believable difficult sibling relationship
Story Fundamentals: Will this concept generate a strong story?
Is the concept simple enough to spend more time on character than plot?
Not really, there’s a ton of plot, and many of the plot turns are somewhat awkward.
Is there one character that the audience will choose to be their “hero”?
Anna, though it does a good job of also allowing it to be Elsa’s story in secondary way.
Does the story follow the progress of the hero’s problem, not the hero’s daily life? 
Does the story present a unique relationship?
A princess and an ice merchant must team up to stop another princess.
Is at least one actual human being opposed to what the hero is doing?
Hans.  The movie would have been much weaker if not-really-bad Elsa was the only antagonist.
Does this challenge represent the hero’s greatest hope and/or greatest fear and/or an ironic answer to the hero’s question?
Greatest hope: She finally gets to be around her sister, in a very ironic way.
Does something inside the hero have a particularly volatile reaction to the challenge?
She finds love, betrayal, etc. 
Does this challenge become something that is the not just hard for the hero to do (an obstacle) but hard for the hero to want to do (a conflict)?
It’s hard to fight your sister.
In the end, is the hero the only one who can solve the problem?
Yes, only her love for her sister is strong enough to break the curse.
Does the hero permanently transform the situation and vice versa?
Yes and yes.
The Hook: Will this be marketable and generate word of mouth?
Does the story satisfy the basic human urges that get people to buy and recommend this genre?
Yes, it’s got great songs, a fun upbeat tone, etc.
Does this story show us at least one image we haven’t seen before (that can be used to promote the final product)?
The ice palace, the fractals, etc.
Is there at least one “Holy Crap!” scene (to create word of mouth)?
The Hans reveal.  
Does the story contain a surprise that is not obvious from the beginning?
Hans is evil.
Is the story marketable without revealing the surprise?
Yes.  It’s actually really concerting to see the promotional materials in which Hans is smiling as part of the gang.
Is the conflict compelling and ironic both before and after the surprise?
Believe: Do we recognize the hero as a human being?
Does the hero have a moment of humanity early on? (A funny, or kind, or oddball, or out-of-character, or comically vain, or unique-but-universal “I thought I was the only one who did that!” moment?)
She has many, but no one big one.  I would say it’s the unique-but-universal emotion of being shut out by someone who used to let you call the shots, and saying “It doesn’t have to be a snowman”  I’ll talk more about this soon.
Is the hero defined by ongoing actions and attitudes, not by backstory?
Does the hero have a well-defined public identity?
The people’s princess.
Does the surface characterization ironically contrast with a hidden interior self?
She’s tortured by her relationship by her sister and her suppressed sexuality.
Does the hero have a consistent metaphor family (drawn from his or her job, background, or developmental state)?
Adolescenece: “It’ll be totally strange.” “For the first time in forever”
Does the hero have a default personality trait?
Sunny, awkward
Does the hero have a default argument tactic?
Naïve insistence
Is the hero’s primary motivation for tackling this challenge strong, simple, and revealed early on?
Yes: save her sister.
Care: Do we feel for the hero?
Does the hero start out with a shortsighted or wrongheaded philosophy (or accept a false piece of advice early on)?
”What if I meet the one?...I know it all ends tomorrrow, so it has to be today.”
Does the hero have a false or shortsighted goal in the first half?
Just ask Elsa to turn her powers off.
Does the hero have an open fear or anxiety about his or her future, as well as a hidden, private fear?
Open: never get married, never bond with sister. Hidden: Have to hurt sister.
Is the hero physically and emotionally vulnerable?
She is damaged physically and emotionally in the opening minutes.
Does the hero have at least one untenable great flaw we empathize with? (but…)
Naivite, haplessness
Invest: Can we trust the hero to tackle this challenge?
…Is that great flaw (ironically) the natural flip-side of a great strength we admire?
Hope, pluck, positivity
Is the hero curious?
Is the hero generally resourceful?
Not tremendously, but she recruits allies that have the skills she needs.
Does the hero have rules he or she lives by (either stated or implied)?
 This’ll be easy, I need love quickly, I need Elsa.  (The first two turn out to be problematic, but not the third one.)
Is the hero surrounded by people who sorely lack his or her most valuable quality?
Everyone else (except Olaf) is far more cynical, and lacks the pure love that will save the day.
…And is the hero willing to let them know that, subtly or directly?
Sort of.  Like so many heroines, she is the master of the muttered aside.
Is the hero already doing something active when we first meet him or her?
She’s waking up her sister and then playing in the snow. We know Anna is the hero because it’s her waking Elsa up and not vice versa. 
Does the hero have (or claim) decision-making authority?
Yes, she’s a princess, and she’s in charge of the country once Elsa flees.
Does the hero use pre-established special skills from his or her past to solve problems (rather than doing what anybody would do)?
No.  She’s an everywoman with few skills.
PART #3: STRUCTURE (If the story is about the solving of a large problem) 17/21
1st Quarter: Is the challenge laid out in the first quarter?
When the story begins, is the hero becoming increasingly irritated about his or her longstanding social problem (while still in denial about an internal flaw)?
She can’t see her sister or leave her palace to find love.
Does this problem become undeniable due to a social humiliation at the beginning of the story?
On her first day outside, she has an embarassing encounter with a cute guy.
Does the hero discover an intimidating opportunity to fix the problem?
She then hits it off with him and decides to marry him right away.  The intimidating part is that her sister refuses her blessing.
Does the hero hesitate until the stakes are raised?
No, that’s her problem.
Does the hero commit to pursuing the opportunity by the end of the first quarter?
Sort of.  Elsa runs away and Anna goes after her.  Will this help her solve her own problem, or is it just selfless?  Presumably, with Elsa simply missing, Anna will be in no position to become queen herself and marry whom she wants, so it’s sort of solving her own problem. 
2nd Quarter: Does the hero try the easy way in the second quarter?
Does the hero’s pursuit of the opportunity quickly lead to an unforeseen conflict with another person?
She meets Kristoff, and tries to get him to help her, but he refuses, then pushes back after agreeing.
Does the hero try the easy way throughout the second quarter?
Yes, she’s just trying to find her sister and ask her to stop it.
Does the hero have a little fun and get excited about the possibility of success?
Yes, they meet Olaf and the three of them develop a fun rapport.
Does the easy way lead to a big crash around the midpoint, resulting in the loss of a safe space and/or sheltering relationship?
Elsa kicks them out and freezes her heart.
3rd Quarter: Does the hero try the hard way in the third quarter?
Does the hero try the hard way from this point on?
No, Anna becomes passive, than she tries another easy way (kissing Hans)
Does the hero find out who his or her real friends and real enemies are?
Yes, she realize that Hans is evil and she really loves Kristoff.
Do the stakes, pace, and motivation all escalate at this point?
Yes, she’s now dying, the winter is getting worse, Elsa might be killed, etc.
Does the hero learn from mistakes in a painful way?
Yes, her sister almost kills her, her fiance betrays her, etc.
Does a further setback lead to a spiritual crisis?
Yes, Hans betrays her.
4th Quarter: Does the challenge climax in the fourth quarter?
Does the hero adopt a corrected philosophy after the spiritual crisis?
It’s a line from before that now gets interpreted correctly: “An act of love of love will thaw a frozen heart.”
After that crisis, does the hero finally commit to pursuing a corrected goal, which still seems far away?
Get Kristoff to kiss her.
Before the final quarter of the story begins, (if not long before) has your hero switched to being proactive, instead of reactive?
Sort of.  Her goal of getting Kristoff to kiss her is still somewhat passive, and Olaf is leading her around.  She really only become proactive at the last, crucial second.
Despite these proactive steps, is the timeline unexpectedly moved up, forcing the hero to improvise for the finale?
Yes, Elsa escapes, chased by Hans, forcing Anna to act.
Do all strands of the story and most of the characters come together for the climactic confrontation?
Yes. Everybody is there except the trolls and the Duke of Weselton.
Does the hero’s inner struggle climax shortly after (or possible at the same time as) his or her outer struggle?
At the same time.
Is there an epilogue/ aftermath/ denouement in which the challenge is finally resolved (or succumbed to), and we see how much the hero has changed (possibly through reversible behavior)
She’s happy in love, able to live outside the castle, and reconciled with her sister.
PART #4: SCENEWORK 16/20 Anna confront Elsa in her ice palace
The Set-Up: Does this scene begin with the essential elements it needs?
Were tense and/or hopeful (and usually false) expectations for this interaction established beforehand?
Anna is clearly naïve in her expectation of how this will go.  Elsa has made it clear she wants no more of anyone.
Does the scene eliminate small talk and repeated beats by cutting out the beginning (or possibly even the middle)?
No, it begins at the beginning.
Is this an intimidating setting that keeps characters active?
Yes, it’s an ice palace in which Anna can’t even stand up straight, and Elsa can summon creatures to defend herself.
Is one of the scene partners not planning to have this conversation (and quite possibly has something better to do)?
Elsa: “You should probably go.”
Is there at least one non-plot element complicating the scene?
Does the scene establish its own mini-ticking-clock (if only through subconscious anticipation)?
Elsa’s curse is getting worse.
The Conflict: Do the conflicts play out in a lively manner?
Does this scene both advance the plot and reveal character through emotional reactions?
Does the audience have (or develop) a rooting interest in this scene (which may sometimes shift)?
We can root for both, but we’re more on Anna’s side.
Are two agendas genuinely clashing (rather than merely two personalities)?
Elsa wants to stay, Anna wants her to come home.
Does the scene have both a surface conflict and a suppressed conflict (one of which is the primary conflict in this scene)?
Surface: Come home, Suppresed: Why did you abandon me?
Is the suppressed conflict (which may or may not come to the surface) implied through subtext (and/or called out by the other character)?
Elsa stabs Anna’s heart.
Are the characters cagy (or in denial) about their own feelings?
No, they’re pretty open about it. 
Do characters use verbal tricks and traps to get what they want, not just direct confrontation?
No, it’s just direct confrontation.
Is there re-blocking, including literal push and pull between the scene partners (often resulting in just one touch)?
They never directly touch, but Elsa creates a creature to pick Anna up and throw her out.
Are objects given or taken, representing larger values?
Elsa’s anger becomes a monster, if we want to count that as an object.
The Outcome: Does this scene change the story going forward?
As a result of this scene, does at least one of the scene partners end up doing something that he or she didn’t intend to do when the scene began?
Anna is sent away.
Does the outcome of the scene ironically reverse (and/or ironically fulfill) the original intention?
It’s not really ironic, she just fails.
Are previously-asked questions answered and new questions posed?
Anna and Elsa find out more about each other.
Does the scene cut out early, on a question (possibly to be answered instantly by the circumstances of the next scene)?
No, it ends with them being thrown out.
Is the audience left with a growing hope and/or fear for what might happen next? (Not just in the next scene, but generally)
We’re worried about that hit in the heart Anna took.
Empathetic: Is the dialogue true to human nature?
Does the writing demonstrate empathy for all of the characters?
Does each of the characters, including the hero, have a limited perspective?
Yes.  Kristoff has more perspective than Anna.
Do the characters consciously and unconsciously prioritize their own wants, rather than the wants of others?
Anna is fairly selfless in her concern for her sister, but their needs coincide enough that it’s not a problem.
Are the characters resistant to openly admitting their feelings (to others and even to themselves)?
The awkward scene where Anna and Elsa talk is excellent.  Neither can discuss everything between them.
Do the characters avoid saying things they wouldn’t say and doing things they wouldn’t do?
Do the characters interrupt each other often?
Specific: Is the dialogue specific to this world and each personality?
Does the dialogue capture the jargon and tradecraft of the profession and/or setting?
Not really.  It’s a fairly generic setting and the princess-ing is fairly generic as well.
Are there additional characters with distinct metaphor families, default personality traits, and default argument strategies from the hero’s?
MF: Elsa: Parent “Be the good girl you always have to be”, Kristoff: Mountain man “We leave at dawn”, Olaf: Childhood
PT: Elsa: Cold, Kristoff: Unimpressed, Olaf: Open-hearted
AS: Elsa: Brook no opposition, Kristoff: Quiz you to expose the flaws in your argument (What’s his last name?), Olaf: Help you figure it out for yourself.
Heightened: Is the dialogue more pointed and dynamic than real talk?
Is the dialogue more concise than real talk?
Does the dialogue have more personality than real talk?
Are there minimal commas in the dialogue (the lines are not prefaced with Yes, No, Well, Look, or the other character’s name)?
Do non-professor characters speak without dependent clauses, conditionals, or parallel construction?
Are the non-3-dimensional characters impartially polarized into head, heart and gut?
Partial polarization: Olaf: Heart/Gut, Kristoff: Head/Gut, Anna: Heart
Strategic: Are certain dialogue scenes withheld until necessary?
Does the hero have at least one big “I understand you” moment with a love interest or primary emotional partner?
When Kristoff points out to her that she barely knows Hans, and he clearly has her number.
Is exposition withheld until the hero and the audience are both demanding to know it?
No, it’s all dumped on us at the beginning, but they do a great job with it, interweaving it with a song.
Is there one gutpunch scene, where the subtext falls away and the characters really lay into each other?
When Anna confronts Elsa in the ice palace.
Part #6: Tone 9/10
Genre: Does the story tap into pre-established expectations?
Is the story limited to one genre (or multiple genres that are merged from the beginning?)
The fairy tale
Is the story limited to sub-genres that are compatible with each other, without mixing metaphors?
The princess-marriage plot  and the magical curse tale.
Does the ending satisfy most of the expectations of the genre, and defy a few others?
The curse is broken and everybody gets what’s coming to them, but the princess both end up unmarried.
Separate from the genre, is a consistent mood (goofy, grim, ‘fairy tale’, etc.) established early and maintained throughout?
A snarkier and more absurd version of the standard fairy tale
Framing: Does the story set, reset, upset and ultimately exceed its own expectations?
Is there a dramatic question posed early on, which will establish in the audience’s mind which moment will mark the end of the story?
The dramatic question changes a few times, until Anna gets hit in the heart and the dramatic question for the rest of the movie is, “Will she beat the curse?”
Does the story use framing devices to establish genre, mood and expectations?
The songs.
Are there characters whose situations prefigure various fates that might await the hero?
Not really.
Does foreshadowing create anticipation and suspense (and refocus the audience’s attention on what’s important)?
They set up at the beginning that getting hit in the heart will be the worst, so we fear that and know what it means when it happens.
Are reversible behaviors used to foreshadow and then confirm change?
The doors are closed, then they’re opened.
Is the dramatic question answered at the very end of the story?
All of the stories except the Kristoff story climax at the exact same moment as the curse is broken.
PART 7: THEME 12/14
Difficult: Is the meaning of the story derived from a fundamental moral dilemma?
Can the overall theme be stated in the form of an irreconcilable good vs. good (or evil vs. evil) dilemma?
Family vs. independence
Is a thematic question asked out loud (or clearly implied) in the first half, and left open?
”Why did you shut me out?”
Do the characters consistently have to choose between goods, or between evils, instead of choosing between good and evil?
 Get married without family’s blessing?  Sacrifice your safety to save your family member?  Live as a hermit if no one understands you?
Grounded: Do the stakes ring true to the world of the audience?
Does the story reflect the way the world works?
Very much so: Love at first sight is actually a terrible idea, and an invitation for pschopaths to take advantage of you.
Does the story have something authentic to say about this type of setting (Is it based more on observations of this type of setting than ideas about it)?
Not really.  There’s no commentary on life in contemporary Norway here.  It’s a fanciful fantasy kingdom.
Does the story include twinges of real life national pain?
The story is inherently critical or the pricessess-ification of girl-culture, ecouraging girls to see the problem with the traditional princess-love-story paradigm
Are these issues and the overall dilemma addressed in a way that avoids moral hypocrisy?
Do all of the actions have real consequences?
Subtle: Is the theme interwoven throughout so that it need not be discussed often?
Do many small details throughout subtly and/or ironically tie into the thematic dilemma?
There are lots of different types of families, including the merchant’s loving gay family, and Hans’s toxic relationship with his brothers. These are contrasted with orphan Kristoff and created-from-nothing Olaf.
Are one or more objects representing larger ideas exchanged throughout the story, growing in meaning each time?
Interestingly, not really. There is no amulet reprsenting the powers, for instance, and no wilting flower representing the out-of-control cold.  The closest thing is Anna’s hair, but that doesn’t really count.
Untidy: Is the dilemma ultimately irresolvable?
Does the ending tip towards one side of the thematic dilemma without resolving it entirely?
Family is better than independence, but both are important.
Does the story’s outcome ironically contrast with the initial goal?
Elsa’s powers are embraced.
In the end, is the plot not entirely tidy (some small plot threads left unresolved, some answers left vague)?
We never find out the source of the powers, etc.
Do the characters refuse (or fail) to synthesize the meaning of the story, forcing the audience to do that?
Yes. There’s not a lot of talk about what it all means. 
Final Score: 106 out of 122