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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.

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.

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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 Kay 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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 Kay, 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 Kay and which way they went.
  • Composite Character: The Snow Queen is the one to freeze Kay'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 Kay.
  • 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 Kay's heart and kidnapped him over a childish joke.
  • Does Not Like Shoes:
    • The Robber Girl spends her entire screen time barefoot.
    • As in the original story, Gerda throws her own red shoes into the river and goes barefoot until she reaches the palace.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • In the film's second English dub, released on VHS in the '80s, Gerda and Kay'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: Kay 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 Kay 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.
  • 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: Kay, after Gerda's tears melt the ice from his heart.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Kay tramples Gerda's dead roses after his Face–Heel Turn.
    • The Snow Queen kills a bird.
  • 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 Kay.
  • 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 Kay 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 kill them. They later wake up and run away.
  • 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.

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