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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

Hallmark Has an Epic Frozen-Style Holiday Movie That Nobody Talks About

This week's Your Nerd Side Show:

As audiences settle in for an early start to the holiday season with Hallmark movies, a forgotten Disney-style epic remains neglected. Embraced as a guilty pleasure and part of a growing list of holiday traditions, Hallmark movies are known for their unrealistic romances, beautiful set pieces, and various gimmicks. However, The Snow Queen is rarely acknowledged, representing one of the most ambitious and unique projects to come out of Hallmark. As Disney and Hallmark seem trapped in repetitive repertoire, it's the perfect time to revisit The Snow Queen and a short-lived legacy of Hallmark projects, now mostly forgotten.

Written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen was first published in 1844. A story of friendship, The Snow Queen focuses on Gerda, who ventures to confront the titular winter monarch and save her companion Kai, who became whisked away after being pierced by shards of a magical mirror. Having been retold and reimagined over the years, The Snow Queen remains one of Anderson's most adapted works alongside The Little Mermaid. However, long before Disney would once again popularize the beloved fairy tale with Disney's Frozen or a rumored live-action remake, in 2002, Hallmark broadcast The Snow Queen, a made-for-TV movie promising to breathe new life into this timeless story.

How The Snow Queen Became a Hallmark Holiday Movie Before Frozen

While various adaptations of The Snow Queen often take creative liberties or offer entirely new interpretations as Disney did, Hallmark's take surprisingly adhered closely to the source material. The narrative revolves around an enchanted mirror gifted by The Devil, a frosty Snow Queen (played by Bridget Fonda), and the quest to rescue Kai from her icy kiss. Yet, being a Hallmark production, it seamlessly integrated the recognizable elements of a charming holiday romance, a picturesque town, and the kind of Yuletide entertainment audiences tune in for.

One significant departure from the original tale was Hallmark's decision to alter the relationship dynamic between Gerda and Kai. Rather than childhood friends, they were portrayed as lovers, adding a layer of emotional depth to the story. With Gerda mourning her mother's loss and Kai assuming the role of the new bellhop at her father's hotel, the narrative unfolded into a budding winter romance reminiscent of Hallmark's beloved holiday classics. This change from Hans Christian Andersen's original story resonates with Hallmark's audience, drawn to the network for its colorful and over-the-top depictions of the holiday season, which already seem like modern fairy tales. While delving into the kind of Disney "princess" movies that the studio is known for, The Snow Queen perfectly works in the sort of small-town romances and drama that make up a majority of their holiday selections.

However, what Hallmark brought to this adaptation of The Snow Queen is the heartwarming feeling most people search for during the holidays and through their films. Despite its departure from the typical Hallmark formula, featuring heightened conflict, danger, and a genuine villain in the form of the titular frozen sorceress, the film crafts an unusually cozy experience. The love radiates through everything from the enchanting set pieces to the nurturing cast and even the rustic soundtrack by Daryl Bennett. At its heart, The Snow Queenbeautifully encapsulates the indelible Hallmark holiday movie magic — transporting viewers to idyllic realms of Winter whimsy and wishful thinking, leaving them with a longing smile by the end.

How The Snow Queen Makes for a Hallmark Epic

In the collective of Hallmark holiday movies, frequently characterized by self-aware tropes, including low-stakes, campy romances, picturesque towns, and encounters with potential Santa Clauses, angels, or vaguely supernatural entities, The Snow Queen boldly deviated from the typical films found in their Christmas catalogs. Hallmark, in 2002, showcased its capability to produce a more epic-scale adventure reminiscent of Disney while still retaining the essence of their iconic holiday spirit. With fantasy aplenty, dangers abound, and larger concerns than holiday hijinks, The Snow Queen leaves something more beneath the tree than just a warm fuzzy feeling.

Although many Hallmark films adhere to a familiar formula, The Snow Queen pushes their boundaries into the fantastical world of fairy tales akin to Disney's timeless adaptations. While some Hallmark movies may introduce guardian angels or even time travel, The Snow Queentakes it a step further with princes transformed into polar bears, talking reindeer, and alternate realms representing the seasons, reminiscent of Disney movies like Alice in Wonderland, Enchanted, and Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. These high-fantasy elements create a surreal and dreamlike experience, making for an incredible journey that stands out among standard stories of family festivities, holiday melancholy, and Santa Claus scenarios Hallmark is known for. In 2002, The Snow Queen demonstrated a level of creativity and ambition that seems missing in recent Hallmark holiday movies, prompting people to ponder how many more modern Christmas and Hanukkah tales their networks can produce before they all blur together.

The Snow Queen truly distinguishes itself through its darker tones and formidable Disney-style villains. While many films might introduce conflicts like a jilted ex-lover, an incompatible fiancee, or perhaps a Scrooge-like character, The Snow Queen delves into full-fledged villainy. Whether it's the overly nurturing Spring Witch, the sly Summer Princess, or the fearsome Autumn Robber, each antagonist prevents the film from falling into the mold of a standard romance film or road trip narrative, injecting magic and obstacles into Gerda's quest. Yet, amidst the diverse seasonal avatars, the talented Bridget Fonda steals the show as The Snow Queen, instilling the character with an ethereal eeriness and portraying a genuinely menacing figure as she manipulates Kai in her pursuit of absolute power. The film takes a daring leap beyond the typical romcoms and dramas of Hallmark's holiday classics, offering a narrative where love triumphs over more than a few Christmas inconveniences to conquer evil in a compelling epic that straddles the line between made-for-tv movie and a mini-series.

Why Hallmark Needs More Holiday Fantasy

In the world of cinema, when something becomes popular, it's easy to try to recreate what works, and when it comes to festive films, there will usually be less scrutiny since audiences don't demand more than a fix of holiday cheer. However, there comes a point where even the most popular genres and titans start to become stale, as is the case withd Hallmark's familiar festive fare, with flights of fancy made possible through a bit of holiday magic.

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