Yes, I've been on a Snow Queen adaptation binge.
1. Yuki no Joō -
This is by far my favorite adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story. I dare say that of all of them, it contains his spirit the most. There are a number of episodes which can get downright depressing, yet right before the third act's closing, it all changes and you're left with a satisfied and happy feeling. It actually takes time to flesh out Gerda, Kay, and their families. Interestingly enough, despite being a Japanese anime, the art and character designs are meant to look more European. There was a period researcher to help keep things accurate and there is actual Danish writing in the anime. Because Gerda's journey wasn't nearly as detailed as this, the team went and adapted other Hans Christian Andersen tales (ex. The Red Shoes) into this to help stretch it out, creating a shared universe of a sort, but it actually works.
Yuki no Joō is by far one of the most beautiful anime I have ever seen and I would dare rank it as one of the greatest Japanese anime ever alongside Fullmetal Alchemist (OS) and Afro Samurai. It retains the religious aspects of the original story, which most adaptations drop. It even manages to pull off the whole "lovers" angle between Kai and Gerda effectively. Sadly, this never received an English dub, which is really odd considering that if anything should be dubbed into European language it's an animated Snow Queen adaptation, no? Even worse, you won't find it on DVD or Blu-ray anywhere in the US. If you want to watch it you have to find subbed episodes online. You can find the first 3-6 episodes on Youtube, or you can find all of them on KissAnime kissanime.ru/Anime/The-Snow-Qu… . Lastly, every episode was directed by Osamu Dezaki.
2. Snezhnaya koroleva -
The original Soviet film that inspired many Japanese animators, including Hayao Miyazaki. Despite lacking the religious aspects of the original story (which undoubtedly lead to succeeding adaptations to abandon them) it manages to remain quite faithful to the source material. It is brimming with influence from the Golden Age of Disney. Though a villain, the Snow Queen herself is still quite a mysterious entity, and is even so impressed by Gerda's courage that after Kai is freed from the influence of the mirror, she releases them. The mirror in this adaptation is one of the Snow Queen's own creation and she uses it to turn Kai a cold-hearted scoundrel by smashing it. The characters act much like their counterparts from the original story and their designs are quite charming.
3. Hallmark's The Snow Queen -
Bridget Fonda was well cast as the titular Snow Queen and the role was a great choice for her final role. In this story, Kai is fun-loving, charming lad who warmed up Gerda's icy heart, frozen from the loss of her mother. Then the Snow Queen's mirror is shattered and a piece flies in his eye, turning him into the cold-heart scoundrel who gets taken by the Snow Queen. Gerda sets out, although in this adaptation it's implied that she might have actually been driven to suicide at the loss of Kai. Furthermore, the Snow Queen is part of a quartet of sisters, the Sisters of the Seasons. The lore has the Devil as the one who made the mirror as a gift, but with the intention of corrupting the Snow Queen. She tried to take the mirror to Heaven, only to fail and require Kai to rearrange. Her sole minion is a polar bear who is actually her true love transformed. That part never gets explained though. As good as it is, there is one big flaw it has: it's too damn long. It's really weird Hallmark didn't turn this into a miniseries instead of a TV movie.
4. The Fairytaler: The Snow Queen -
A rather charming adaptation, though this one replaces the Devil with an evil hobgoblin that appears to be more like some kind of smoke spirit. It follows the tale very faithfully, though after aging to 13 years old, Kai and Gerda do not progress more. The animation is nicely done and the dubbing is good work. The Snow Queen this time around is one of the most unique versions. She appears to be more of a neutral force but in truth, she was using Kai to solve a puzzle that would help free her from a curse of her very own. Her design is one of favorites. Her true form resembles a faerie, so in this version she may have actually been a spirit of summer or spring all along. One of the more amusing things is the reindeer Bae claiming that his kind have more words for snow than the Inuit. An interesting detail is that it shows the mirror's influence all over the world, such as China.
5. Happily Ever After Fairy Tales For Every Child: The Snow Queen -
Narrated by Robert Guillaume. It's true, an Inuit adaptation of the Snow Queen exists, but despite being an adaptation it's actually more like a remake of the original Soviet film. The Snow Queen (voiced by Eartha Kitt) herself breaks the mirror and has the shards pierce Kai's eyes. She also This adaptation is also streamlined, so to speak. It removes the prince and princess so that after she sets off in the wide, wide world, she ends up meeting the bandits, but not before a raven (voiced by Doug E. Doug) gives her a ride. The Snow Queen's soldiers are defeated by Gerda's kind heart, but in a way that feels like a cop out. She somehow summons warriors of her own that defeat the Snow Queen's forces. One of the weirdest aspects of this adaptation is that the voice actors are mostly African-American, with Bronson Pinchot as the reindeer (rather than caribou for some reason) the only one who isn't. No Native American voice actors whatsoever. I will admit though, this has no doubt convinced me that another Inuit adaptation is possible, but the one we deserve. I can picture it as we speak.
6. Stories to Remember: The Snow Queen -
Narrated by Sigourney Weaver, it's a bit of an odd animated short but charming nonetheless, and pretty funny at times partly due to the animation. It's also one of the few, if not only, adaptations that actually have Kai and Gerda age into adults.
7. The Snow Queen (2005) -
Ever wondered what the 1976 BBC adaptation would be like if it had a bigger budget? Well this may be it. This adaptation uses state-of-the-art effects, though the crow (voiced by Patrick Stewart) isn't looking to impressive. Unlike the original story, this Snow Queen is a truly malevolent figure. This is also one of the few adaptations were Kai's eye actually bleeds from the mirror shard.
8. Lumikuningatar (1986) -
Ever heard of "so bad it's good?" Well this is like "so weird it's good." I'm not kidding, this is a true reimagining of The Snow Queen, but its weirdness has a certain charm to it that I like. That's why I rank it as #8. The Snow Queen is a villain, with awful hair, who wants Kai to use a black sword to free the power of a green stone so she can rule the world, or something. It never really explains its lore and it oddly enough starts with Kai and Gerda on the beach, without any parents. Their relationship is rather ambiguous leaving it unclear whether they are childhood sweethearts or like brother and sister. Gerda apparently studies ballerina.
At first it seems like this takes place in a then-contemporary setting but then Gerda gets on a boat being manipulated by the Garden Witch (whose actress appears to play multiple characters, but as far as looking into that has shown, she does not) and it turns into a fantasy. This Garden Witch is very malevolent and turns her unwanted "daughters" into wallflowers, as they call themselves. She's also quite stupid as she basically tells Gerda of her evil, her tin men minions end up accidentally shoot each other, allowing Gerda the chance to escape, and she dies by melting because Gerda left. Instead of crow servant, that kingdom has an oddly-dressed human servant. In fact, the whole fashion sense in this movie is rather odd. The bandits have a catchy song in this one, just like the original Soviet film. Magic buttons end up defeating the Snow Queen this time around and Gerda and Kai are back on the beach, in their swimwear, playing and laughing again. It's a very weird film. I would compare its tone to the dark fantasy film Return To Oz.
9. Faerie Tale Theatre Episode 17: The Snow Queen -
Narrated by Shelley Duvall (from The Shining). Despite being from the '80s, it reminds me of '90s daytime soap operas (going from what I've seen on Passions). Like a number of things from that period, it's quite silly at times, like when the Snow Queen's guards let Gerda in if she guesses right in a riddle. This Snow Queen is more heroic than others and keeps Kai for his own good. She is also a mentor to him. The Devil is replaced with a goblin who appears to be more like some sort of scientist, on a mini-lab in space. The sets on earth are very nice though, and despite most live-action adaptations ditching the description of the Snow Queen being made of ice, this one actually captured that detail quite nicely.
The Garden Witch is replaced with the Lady of Summer, who's basically the same except younger. The Robber Girl is still rowdy but she lets Gerda go all too easily. Unfortunately, the prince and princess, along with the Finn and Lap women, are gone, and the reindeer is made into a flying one. Yeah, it's pretty cheesy at times. Also, Gerda and Kai are children in the original story but here they are played by adults. It's unclear whether they're supposed to be children or not.
10. The Snow Queen (1976) -
A live-action/animated adaptation that relies on animation for its special effects and backgrounds and even has a few fully animated sequences, like the opening, and the roses are animated characters. The first thing to note is that this was made during the Dark Age of Animation, so the quality of the animation isn't particularly good to say the least. It's bad in a funny way sometimes, like when the adult actress playing the little robber girl pretends to be a little girl no older than Gerda. Interestingly enough, this Snow Queen is truly a morally ambiguous figure.
11. Frozen -
Oh, I've said plenty about this but I'll say more. After reading the original story, this film feels more like a spit in the face to the source material. Despite Ventureworld's adaptation being an abridged version, it's still more faithful to the source material. Gerda made a journey that was more perilous than Anna's and she met a wider variety of persons on it. Gone are the Finn and Lap woman, one of which has magic powers and therefore would have been an invaluable asset in Frozen. Gone is the Devil's mirror, whose shards caused an unfathomable amount of misery for the world. Gone are the bandits. The cool reindeer Bae is replaced by Sven, who acts more like a dog. Gone are the prince and princess of the kingdom that had crow servants. Gone is the Garden Witch that yearned for a child, and so kept Gerda. The trolls are rock-Smurfs in Frozen but in the Snow Queen they were hinted/confirmed (depends on the translation) to be denizens of Hell. Basing the setting off of Norway is a rather odd choice considering Gerda and Kai undoubtedly lived in Denmark. Gerda made it nearly to the North Pole and back home unscathed while Anna just went over some conveniently placed mountains and back. Gerda is much more of a badass than Anna. Elsa is a sorceress who was never taught crap about her powers; the Snow Queen is winter incarnate and a far more enchanting figure. Disney has the manpower and talent to actually improve upon the tale but that was a huge missed opportunity. At the very least it's technically competent.
12. Wizart Animation's The Snow Queen -
I admire an attempt to turn The Snow Queen into an epic, but this really should have gone to a better studio. The animation is pretty bad, as is to be expected with its budget. Ironically, the 2D-animated bits actually have more charm to them then the rest of this computer-animated film. The voice acting is pretty bad, save for Doug Erholtz as Orm, he's okay. One of its biggest problems with this movie is how the side plots go away as fast as they are introduced. There are also some crucial details that are never explained.
Gerda is revealed to have an affinity by the Garden Witch (voiced by Wendee Lee who sounds like she's doing a Candi Milo impression, amusingly enough), but before this can be explained the scene quickly turns into an action scene and Gerda and Orm the troll must escape from a ravenous plant. Gerda and Kai, who are brother and sister, had parents who made magic mirrors that can reveal a person's true self. Fair enough, as it does explain why the Snow Queen hates mirrors (she would have to admit to the wrong she's done if she ever looked at one besides the one in her castle), but she kidnapped and froze artists of all kinds including Kai.
After Gerda and Orm end up in a kingdom in the wide, wide world due to a struggle that involved Orm using a teleportation device, they learn that it's quite literally been divided into two by the prince and princess who refuse to agree on anything. A fire ends up breaking out before we can really learn anything and Gerda manages to save both the prince and princess with some ingenuity. The bandits in this adaptation are wannabe pirates, baffling enough, and as with most adaptations as you can see, the bandit girl's mother is made into a hottie instead of an ugly, bearded woman (not that I'm complaining ). They end up helping Gerda and Orm rather easily.
Wizart combined the Finn and Lap women into one character who provides much-needed exposition on the Snow Queen far too late into the movie. The Snow Queen was once a little girl named Irma who was bullied and decided to make a wish in the Lake of Gow, which is near/in troll territory. That wish turned into the Snow Queen. The curse is undone thanks to Gerda, but for some reason the Snow Queen reverts back to a little girl rather than a human adult. Ironically, she's similar to a tragic villain like Elsa from Frozen.
Gerda and Kai were poor in the original story, but this film goes the extra mile and makes them orphans that work in a sweatshop/orphanage, with Gerda's only friend being a ferret named Luta, until Orm befriends her. The acting isn't that great. Cindy Robinson herself voices the Snow Queen as if she were a generic evil witch, but at least the character design is good. Lastly, for some reason Wizart really loves slo-mo moments.
13. Children's Theatre: The Snow Queen -
The first thing to note about this adaptation is that the role of the Devil is taken by a great demon who created the mirror. However, this was utterly pointless as the Snow Queen is made the true villain, and she is a complete monster. She has a collection of frozen humans and intends to make Kai one of them. I get that this is from the Dark Age of Animation, but the quality is awful and the lip-sync is way off. The writing doesn't make up for the terrible animation, and what ultimately defeats the Snow Queen is praying. I kid you not. That wasn't even in the original tale.
14. Ventureworld's The Snow Queen -
Although it is certainly a thing to label adaptations of The Snow Queen as being better than Frozen, I have to disagree here. Whereas as Frozen is at least technically competent, this film's animation is quite poor at times, very low-budget from what I've seen. Replacing Kai and Gerda are brother and sister by blood, Tom and Ellie. This is basically an abridged version of The Snow Queen (with a sequel that's a very cartoony sequel). It appears to take place in a then-contemporary setting, until Ellie makes her journey to save Tom. The mirror belongs to the Snow Queen herself (voiced excellently by Helen Mirren) and her minions are trolls who don't have much of a choice. Too late into the movie does it decide to be a musical (the Garden Witch's song "Welcome To My World" is the first) and even Ellie's sparrow (voiced by a younger Hugh Laurie interestingly enough) friend gets a song, which is place too far into the movie to establish character (what it should be doing). It takes liberties, some of which are quite cartoony, with the story.
The Garden Witch is a malevolent old hag who wants to use Ellie in an Elixir of Life that will keep her forever young as seen here: The prince and princess are much the same, though Ellie gets a job at the castle far too easily. The bandits are literally bipedal rats, and the Robber Baron's daughter is a pudgy, repulsive rat girl with no redeeming qualities. Rather than a Finn and Lap woman there is but one Lap woman, and she teaches reindeer how to fly. The Snow Queen herself is a malevolent figure that would was gladly going to kill Tom to get the last piece of her mirror. Worst Snow Queen adaptation ever.
I suppose it would be fair to call this a WIP since I need to rewatch some of these.
- Watching: Coming To America