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Animation / The Snow Queen (1957)

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The Snow Queen is a 1957 Soviet Animated Adaptation of The Snow Queen, produced by Soyuzmultfilm. An English-dubbed version, featuring the voices of Sandra Dee and Tommy Kirk, was released in the U.S. in 1959. It was dubbed again in 1985 and again in 1995. The film is now in the public domain and can be legally viewed here, along with being streamed on Tubi.

The story begins with Gerda's (Dee) grandmother telling her and Kai (Kirk) the legend of the Snow Queen. When the children make fun of her, she tells the splinters of her shattered mirror to go into the eyes and hearts of those who have offended her. Kai grows cold and distant from Gerda, and the Queen takes him away... and Gerda goes out to rescue him.

Hayao Miyazaki named The Snow Queen as one of his favorite films and one of his biggest influences to keep him in the animation industry.

Not to be confused with The Snow Queen (1977), The Snow Queen (1995), The Snow Queen (2005) anime, or The Snow Queen (2012).

The Snow Queen provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adults Are Useless: Subverted by the Lapps, but aside from that, what does Gerda's grandmother do when the snow queen attacks and blows the window open to cast the spell? Nothing. She sits in her chair and knits all the while. The guards that protect the princess and prince? Incompetent to the max. One of them is leaning on his weapon and asleep.
  • Adaptational Timespan Change: In the original story, Gerda's journey is implied to take place over years; she and Kai have both grown to adulthood by the time they reach home in the end. In the film, they stay children from beginning to end.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The Snow Queen was an ambiguous figure in the book; here she's an all-out villain.
  • Age Lift: The prince and princess are portrayed as children, when in Andersen's version they're old enough to marry.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: The film appears to be set in the 1820s, but the garden sorceress and the prince and princess wear clothes more fitting the 18th century.
  • Big Bad: The Snow Queen.
  • The Bully: Kai. Then again, he was possessed by the Snow Queen.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Kai when he's possessed by the Snow Queen.
  • Break the Haughty: The Robber Girl is deeply moved by Gerda's kind words and breaks down crying as she sets her animals free, realizing that she has been keeping them prisoner just as she kept Gerda prisoner.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: When the Snow Queen is abducting Kai, she pauses to use her powers to kill a bird, but leaves her chicks alive. The grown-up chicks later show up as pets of the Robber Girl, and they tell Gerda that the Snow Queen took Kai and which way they went.
  • Composite Character: The Snow Queen is the one to freeze Kai's heart and strike his eye, not the Devil and his mirror.
  • Culturally Sensitive Adaptation: The film, although generally faithful to the original, removes all the religious themes to conform to Soviet values. The Snow Queen, instead of the Devil, is made the owner of the magic mirror.
  • Determinator: Nothing stops Gerda for long in her quest to find Kai.
  • Disneyesque: The film has many visual similarities to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty (incomplete in 1957), especially the roundness, colored outlines and soft eyes of the children, and the smooth animation based on live action footage. The Snow Queen is similar in appearance to Maleficent and The Storyteller is an elderly goblin resembling Jiminy Cricket.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Snow Queen froze Kai's heart and kidnapped him over a childish joke.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Kai jokes that if he met the Queen, he would put her on a hot stove, and melt her. The Queen overhearing this flies into a rage, turning his heart against Gerda and abducting him later into the story.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • In the film's second English dub, released on VHS in the '80s, Gerda and Kai's names are changed to Yvette and John.
    • The Robber Girl's name varies according to the dub. In the original Russian, she is just the Robber Girl. In the 1959 dub, she is called Angel. In the 1985 dub, she is called Shee. In the 1995 dub, she is called Chicky.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Gerda leaves her coat, mittens, and boots at the Finn woman's house and rides through the blizzard in her summer dress.
  • Fat and Skinny: Respectively the prince and his sister the princess.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Kai when he is struck by the Snow Queen's mirror.
  • Graceful Loser: At the end of the movie, the Snow Queen calmly acknowledges that Gerda has won and allows her and Kai to leave without complaint.
  • Half-Identical Twins: The prince and princess.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Robber Girl releases all her pets, gives Gerda her reindeer, and later takes her home in the stolen coach.
  • Hot Witch: The Snow Queen.
  • Human Pet: The Robber Girl declares Gerda is her new pet and even puts a leash on her.
  • Ice Queen: The Snow Queen has a cold personality.
  • Jerkass Realization: Kai, after Gerda's tears melt the ice from his heart.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Kai tramples Gerda's dead roses after his Face–Heel Turn.
    • The Snow Queen kills a bird. With that being said, it's unclear whether the Snow Queen killed the bird on purpose or whether her sheer icy presence froze everything nearby (including vegetation and later the bird) because she had stopped in place for a moment while spreading snow.
  • The Kindness of Strangers:
    • A major theme of the film. Gerda constantly asks strangers to help her, and most of them oblige.
    • Implied with the Robber Girl's birds. The Snow Queen leads to the death of their mother while they were small, helpless chicks, yet by the time Gerda finds them in the care of the Robber Girl, they are healthy adults, indicating that someone, possibly the Robber Girl herself, raised them after their mother died.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The princess wears a fancy dress in a late 18th century style.
  • The Power of Friendship: Gerda's kindness convinces the robber girl to send her on her way to save Kai.
  • Pretty in Mink: As the prince and princess send Gerda off, she is wearing a red coat and hat each trimmed with ermine. The princess is also wearing a white ermine muff, and gives that to Gerda as well.
  • Really Was Born Yesterday: Gerda tries to ask a baby goat where Kai is. The goat replies that it does not know anything because it was literally born yesterday.
  • Related in the Adaptation:
    • The prince and princess are a couple in the original story, but here are aged down to children and portrayed as siblings. In the 1959 dub, he’s the princess’s ‘playmate’note  rather than a sibling.
    • The Lapp and Finn women become cousins.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Prince and Princess lend Gerda their coach, and give her lots of food and some warm clothes.
  • Sizeshifter: The Snow Queen is the size of a human for most of the story, but in her final scene, she is a giant.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • When the robbers seize the golden carriage, they merely beat up the drivers and attendants instead of killing them. They later wake up and run away.
    • In the original fairy tale, the talking crow is mentioned to be dead near the end of the story. He survives here and its shown at the end with the other characters.
  • There Was a Door: Gerda is not permitted to enter the palace because she’s barefoot, so the crows decide to sneak her in after dark - rather than just borrow her a pair of shoes to wear.