In the Frozen movie, the only way to break Elsa's spell on Anna is by an act of true love, not necessarily romantic love. When Ana is left to die by Hans, it was Olaf who entered the room where she were, came close to Ana, starts a fire, and tried to comfort and help her. He was risking his own life just to be by her side. He even closed the window where the cold wind he needed was getting into the room. I don't think Olaf was unaware he was risking his life because Ana told him he was melting. He even said he won't leave Ana alone.

Why isn't this act of pure kindness considered an "act of love" powerful enough to break Elsa's spell?

  • Because the act of true love didn't directly involve Elsa, the one source of the spell. – cde Mar 20 '16 at 3:55
  • @cde but a love kiss between Ana and Kristoff wouldn't involve Elsa. – Broken_Window Mar 20 '16 at 4:06
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    It's magic. They assumed the kiss was needed. Obviously they were wrong. – cde Mar 20 '16 at 4:22
  • @cde they were surely wrong! after re-re-thinking this, I'm surprised about how naive they were! – Broken_Window Mar 20 '16 at 4:25
  • 'He was risking his own life just to be by her side.' Was he? I don't think Olaf knew it. – BCLC May 24 at 19:12
up vote 18 down vote accepted

According to Mark Henn, lead animator on Frozen, Olaf's love isn't true love, but rather a "naïve, childlike love and affection".

Henn: Oh, well, there are a lot of things. It's not always very obvious in the stories, but I think whether it's obvious or not, I think one of the aspects is the whole notion of the different types of love that are demonstrated, are portrayed in the film. You have a variety of types of love shown from Olaf, very naïve, childlike love and affection, to Anna's very reactionary, very seemingly true love, but it's a bit shallow when she meets Hans.

As such, his love isn't the right kind of love to break such a serious curse.


This is backed up in a conversation with the producers

If Elsa could still create Olaf, maybe the loving sister she once knew is still there. He represents a child-like innocent love and animators gave him toddler-like qualities (outstretched arms and the way he moves) to enhance the theme.

A conversation with the Directors

“In ‘Let It Go,’ the first thing she does is the last thing they did, in terms of the last time she was happy,” Lee said. “Like, they built this snowman, not magical, but together—and that was her happiest moment with Anna. And then everything went bad. So when she starts ‘Let It Go,’ she goes right back to the last moment she was happy. And it was Olaf. So to us, he’s imbued with the magic of innocent love, of love that’s pure, that’s undamaged and unhurt by life.

An interview with the film's Producer

That song gave us the theme of the movie, which was 'love versus fear,' where Elsa is ruled by fear, and Anna is positive and believes in everyone, believes in herself and doesn't let anything get in her way... We ended up rewriting that entire movie so that every character would reflect that theme. So Olaf represents innocent love, Hans represents that love at first sight, there's true love's kiss, and Kristoff represents that love that develops over time once you get to know someone.

And with the best will in the world, Olaf isn't a family member, at least according to the Directors

Jenn: It all leads to the greatest of all [love] which is family. We liked having the parallel stories that combine at the end, because I think that's sort of what it all ends up being.

  • This answer and the one from @Eric made me realize that Olaf is like the imaginary friends we make when we are little children: loyal, innocent, joyful and caring. In fact he was the "special toy" of little Anna and Elsa; so, by instinct, he was inclined to care for Anna because he represents a child's "ideal friend". In conclusion, true love can only comes from a real being, not an idealistic one. – Broken_Window Mar 20 '16 at 19:49
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    @Broken_Window - He comes close when he's in the room with Anna, but then immediately backs off. - "Some people are worth melting for....but may not just right this second". He's not capable of sacrificial love, giving himself. – user7812 Mar 20 '16 at 20:00
  • It is unclear if Olaf knew that melting will lead him to die. Being the representation of innocent childish love, it is possible that he didn't know about the real implications of losing his own life. – Broken_Window Mar 20 '16 at 20:21

I don't know of any cannon answer either. My interpretation was the "act of true love" needed to be performed by Anna or possibly Elsa. We know an action by Anna can break the spell because that is demonstrated in the movie. We also know that Elsa can use love to melt all the ice from the storm she created, so she probably can melt the ice she placed (inadvertently) in Anna's heart.

It is clear from the movie that Olaf's love1 wasn't the key to breaking the spell. Whether this is because only Anna and possibly Elsa could break the spell in unclear. Furthermore, it seems like Olaf is incapable of expressing anything but love and joy. If he is only able to express these emotions then it is possible that his actions aren't considered true because he doesn't have the ability to do anything else.

Out of universe

It seems clear to me the whole "kiss the prince/male lead" was a poking fun at and unraveling the common trope where the damsel in distress is rescued by kissing the male lead. Several Disney princess movies follow this trope (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and The Little Mermaid are prime examples). In many ways Frozen is a movie that features and promotes female empowerment. Due to the female empowerment themes in the movie I think it is clear that the central conflict must be resolved by a female.

As an aside, if my daughter is going to be enamored with a Disney princess movie I'm glad it is Frozen due to the female empowerment subtext.


1: Originally I classified Olaf's love as "true platonic love." Richard's answer makes a great point that Olaf's love isn't deep platonic love. I could never imagine Olaf telling a hard truth to Anna like Kristoff did when he was trying to convince her that she wasn't in love with Hans. Olaf does love Anna to the full limit that he can, but he is too childlike to have a deep love.

  • I have to confess that the first time I watched Frozen I was dissapointed because of the overall predictable argument. But after a second watch, I realized how deep this movie is in terms of emotions. Animators made an awesome work at expressing emotions, because characters use not only face expressions, they use their entire body to express their feelings. Elsa is an awesome character, watching her singing "Let it Go" is a total delight, I could actually feel how strong she is. And from the female empowering point of view, it is a great movie too, – Broken_Window Mar 20 '16 at 19:59

I don't know that there is any canon answer. A few possible explanations could include:

  • Olaf seemed to be vaguely aware his safety was somehow threatened by his staying to help Anna. However I wouldn't say he knew that if he stayed he'd melt and die. His actions therefore might not qualify as an act of true love, simply because he may not have been fully aware of what was going on or what he was doing. It was definitely an act of kindness and selflessness though.
  • Anna on the other hand is fully aware that stepping between Elsa and Hans will almost certainly end her life, thus clearly qualifying as an act of true love.
  • Olaf was created by Elsa's magic in the first place. Perhaps something created by her magic can't break a curse from the same source. We simply don't know a lot about what Olaf really is and what level of consciousness and free will he does or does not possess.
  • Good points. But the second one involve risking Anna's life, while a true love kiss (the original act of love considered able to break the spell) doesn't involve anyone risking his/her life. – Broken_Window Mar 20 '16 at 4:09
  • @Broken_Window I never said risking one's life is the only act of true love, rather that is is an act of true love. :) I would even argue that it's more of an act of true love to die for someone than to simply kiss them, lol. :) – RedCaio Mar 20 '16 at 4:14
  • you're right, risking one's life is, in fact, the ultimate act of true love On the other hand, the scene with Anna and Olaf near the fireplace is way more powerful than a kiss: she got a friend that will be there for her no matter what could happen (even if he didn't know if he would die). That sounds like true love to me :D – Broken_Window Mar 20 '16 at 4:23
  • @Broken_Window What evidence do you have that true love's kiss would actually work? – Yakk Mar 20 '16 at 15:06
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    @Yakk - The directors were quite clear that true love's kiss wouldn't have been effective; "I grew up on Disney films; My favorite was cinderella [and] it always will be, I guess, in a way. That romantic notion of true love is a part of that legacy and a part of life, but I think we kind of wanted to get a little more connected to how it really goes down often in real life. We wanted to say that it's 2013…that this naîve love isn't really what happens". - neontommy.com/news/2013/11/… – user7812 Mar 20 '16 at 15:29

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