The Snow Queen covered the world in ice. Only Master Vegard stands in her way, whose mirrors reflect not only appearances but also souls. One day the polar wind takes away Vegard and his wife Una, but they hide their children Gerda and Kai. Years later, the Snow Queen's servile troll Orm (who can shapeshift into a black weasel) locates Kai, who is deemed Vegard's successor, at an orphanage. After a tangle between both siblings and Orm, Kai is abducted by the polar wind to the Snow Queen's palace. Gerda embarks on a journey with Orm and her pet white weasel Luta across the icy lands to rescue her brother.
They first enter a garden dome run by a pretty lady who seems nice, but her true intentions are to drug and enslave Gerda to grow flowers. Orm and Luta catch wind of the scheme and thwart it, but the lady sends out her carnivorous plant named Ivy, but the trio make their escape. Meanwhile, in the ice palace, Kai arrives and the Snow Queen leads him to her throne room. The Queen's mirror, after examining Kai, reveals that Master Vegard has two heirs. Kai tries to hide the truth, but the Snow Queen reads it in his heart and sees Kai's painting of her.
Gerda, Orm and Luta stumble into Imana's caves, the birthplace of trolls. Orm briefs about how the trolls' age of peace was tainted by the Snow Queen and turned their clans to fight each other, until only Orm survived, and the souls of the trolls remained trapped in the lake Gow. Orm is contacted by the Ice Queen with orders to bring Gerda to her. Orm helps Gerda and Luta cross the evil lake Gow and she avoids its curse.
Outside the cave, the trio encounter a king on a royal hunt. The king tries to hunt Orm (in weasel form) and Luta, but he bumps into a tree. The trio are escorted to the king's castle. The king has had a trouble in which his children have literally half-shares in his property after the Snow Queen split the castle in half and Queen Anself was lost. The king takes Gerda as his prisoner, until she shows compassion for her brother. Gerda saves the king and his children from a fire they started in protest. As a reward the trio are given a sleigh for their travel.
The trio are captured by pirates and taken to their ship, but Gerda is able to persuade them to let them continue their quest, and the captain's daughter gives them a reindeer for the journey. Meanwhile, in the Snow Queen's ice palace, Kai is frozen by the Snow Queen. Gerda meets the Lady of Lapland in the Lady's tent, who recounts the Snow Queen's origin. As a girl, Irma, who had a gift of magic, was ostracised and went to Imana's caves where her ill wish upon the people, granted by the lake Gow, turned her into the Snow Queen. The Lady of Lapland grants the trio a snow boat and sends them to the Snow Queen.
Orm tries to make Gerda change her mind, but Gerda is determined to save her brother. Inside the ice palace, Gerda finds her brother frozen, then confronts the Snow Queen. Orm turns down his reward to be free and beseeches the queen to spare Gerda. Since the queen will not listen to reason, Orm ceases to serve her. The Queen summons ice trolls and giants, but Orm transforms into a polar bear to defeat the monsters and allow Gerda to reach the throne room. Both Orm and Luta are cornered by the polar wind.
Gerda is able to find the queen's mirror. The Snow Queen almost freezes her heart but, guided by the spirits of her family, she regains hope and retaliates with the magic mirror. The Snow Queen's curse is finally broken, Irma is transformed back and Gerda banishes the evil curse from returning. Irma revives Kai, Orm turns back into a troll and wakes up and eternal winter has finally ended. With that Gerda, Kai, Orm, Irma and Luta all set off home. And Gerda and Orm finally accept each other as best friends.
The Snow Queen completed production on 22 October 2012. This coincided with the anniversary date of 22 October 1957, the day The Snow Queen by Lev Atamanov was released. Original songs were written and composed by Mark Willott. The official soundtrack was heard in trailers 1 and 3. A Russian music video for the film was made and performed by Nyusha called "This New Year." A track performed by Brainstorm called "Shine Clear" became the theme song in the animated movie The Snow Queen, which premiered on 31 December 2012. Their song got translated into English titled Flashlight, which premiered internationally. The first trailer was released on 27 June 2011, the second trailer on 3 February 2012, the third trailer on 27 February 2012, and the fourth and official trailer on 25 October 2012. The Russian promotional trailer was released on 7 December 2012. The official poster was presented on October 2012. The first four U.S. trailers for The Snow Queen was released in the last week of August 2013 on Vimeo. The official U.S. trailer was released on Deadline.com and YouTube.
The Snow Queen was first presented for international buyers at the AFM (American Film Market) in November 2011. Olga Sinelshchikova, Business Development Director, explained, "At the AFM, we received very positive feedback from buyers from over 20 territories, including USA, Canada, Germany, Italy, South Korea and China, among others. Due to this fact, we decided to produce a version for international distribution, so this past January we successfully completed the English dubbing with Los Angeles-based production company Verité Films. The dubbing was recorded at Salami Studios with established, veteran animation actors – Cindy Robinson, Doug Erholtz, Kirk Thornton and Wendy Lee – who have more than 200 animated projects in their portfolio. The Snow Queen is now more than ever an international project. We are convinced that this kind of story as well as the stereoscopic 3D technologies have high commercial potential and will attract an extensive audience not only in Russia but worldwide. So we expect to close first deals for this project at the EFM."
Its next presentation was again at the AFM. The AFM screening, which took place on 1 November at 9 am at the AMC Theater on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California, was the first time that buyers got a chance to see the complete film.
Just before the New Year, The Snow Queen has been released for the world distribution. The film was produced at Voronezh animation studio, but at a Hollywood scale. In 3D for $7 million with 1,000 special effects. "We have been working at it for three years. The story is classic, although there are new heroes," Dmitry Kchrustaliov reports in a new way about the old tale.
The Snow Queen returned to the EFM for a 2013 presentation at the Berlin International Film Festival. At EFM, it received massive appraisals from Brazil, South Korea, Israel, Indonesia, and the Middle East for distribution. Rights to Wizart have gone to CCS Media for South Korea, MT Entertainment for Indonesia, PlayArte for Brazil, Film House for Israel, Shooting Stars for the Middle East, Big Sales for Baltic States and Aurora Distribution for the Ukraine.
On 15 April 2013, The Snow Queen on Facebook has confirmed that it will be presented at the Marché du Film in Cannes from 15–26 May 2013. On 25 April 2013, Cartoon Brew has announced that it will be presented at the 2013 Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June 2013. On 22 May 2013 at the Cannes Film Festival, it is confirmed that Vertical Entertainment will provide the U.S. distribution for The Snow Queen. Plus, it received more international distribution from Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Serbia. It competed at the IX International Animated Films Festival in Varna, Bulgaria. It was presented at their next festival in Denmark called the Buster Copenhagen International Film Festival for Children & Youth, from 5–15 September 2013. It will present at the Asia Pacific Film Festival in late November 2013. On 18 September 2013, it was announced that it will present their next festival at the Gijón International Film Festival in Spain.
In Latvia, it was released on 27 December 2012. In Estonia, it was released on 4 January 2013. In Korea, it was released on 7 February 2013. In Kuwait, it was released on 14 February 2013. In Brazil and Lithuania, it was released on 22 February 2013. In Israel, it was released on 7 March 2013. In Indonesia, it was released on 13 March 2013. In United Arab Emirates, it was released on 28 March 2013 under Warner Bros. In Turkey, it was released on 5 April 2013 under UIP. In Lebanon, it was released on 2 May 2013 under Joe Chacra. In the Netherlands, it will be released on 9 October 2013. In France, it was released this fall of 2013 under Universal Studios. In Poland, it will be released on 26 December 2013. On 15 September 2013, it was confirmed that The Snow Queen will be released in U.S. theaters stateside on 11 October 2013.
The Snow Queen, which was successfully launched in the domestic and international release last year, was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Real 3D Blu-ray in Russia. Released by "Misteriya Zvuka" it was released on 31 January 2013. In a deluxe edition of the DVD, it contains both 2D and 3D with 3D glasses attached. It was released on VOD on Thursday, 10 October 2013. The film was released on DVD in the United States on 28 January 2014.
The Snow Queen received 85% of positive reviews from critics, adults, and their children in Russia. In the United States, it received mixed reviews. JM Willis reviewed that he liked the characters in The Snow Queen, but could not understand why the Snow Queen would fulfill her purpose without a definite reason as well as other plot contrivances. He gave the movie a "B−." Examiner gave it a "D" and criticized that, "A Russian animated version of “The Snow Queen,” which releases to limited theaters on Oct. 11, looks like it belongs with the “Hoodwinked!” films. That’s not meant to be a compliment. The animation looks incredibly cheap and ugly, and it doesn’t help that the film is filled with repeated and unfunny jokes." Another from The Village Voice which said, "A Russian animated adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, Snow Queen proves both visually cruddy and narratively muddled."
Bleeding Cool summarized the film's strengths and weaknesses with "Seeing as the budget was only around $7 million, this trailer for an animated version of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen looks surprisingly well-detailed and nicely lit. The character design is fair too, if rather derivative, but the animation is, shall we say, variable. And the voice work? Shocking."
Mike McGranaghan for The Aisle Seat commented that "there's nothing inherently wrong with Snow Queen. It's a pleasant enough movie with some nice visuals... That said, the problem faced by the movie is that, while it's not bad, it's also simply not good enough." In particular the review took issue with the plot structure stating "the story is kind of disjointed... These moments feel more like a set of ideas than an actual plot, however. Never are they substantially integrated into the main idea of the movie", concluding finally that "Compared to [big name American animated films], Snow Queen is an also-ran."
As well as the plot, others took issue with the film's character development: "My biggest complaint about the film is that it's rather stiff and simply doesn't flow well. I don't mean the pacing, in that regard it's just fine... but aside from brief moments it just doesn't come alive. Gerda doesn't grow as a character or seem to come to a better understanding of the world around her, Kai isn't exactly in a position to change, and I actually liked the snow queen's part of the story until they shoehorn in a moral at the last minute... But they didn't and now it makes the characters feel even more two-dimensional than they already did. Gerda doesn't know Kai long enough to make her quest understandable and every other character she meets is on screen so briefly that it feels more like a set of passing encounters instead of the meaningful meetings you find in fairy tales."
Many reviewers also drew comparisons between it and the soon after released Walt Disney Animation Studios feature Frozen, with one commentator for Indiewire remarking "The cold war with Russia is back - but this time it's over our Frozen flick versus their Frozen flick." Cartoon Brew commented that the film was more authentic to Hans Christian Andersen's original story than Disney's version, as well as referring to the original 1957 Soviet version; even so other reviewers described its similarities to the original fable as merely in terms of framework rather than substance. The Guardian concluded on the film and its sequel that "both films, rather obviously, are rather in the shadow cast by Frozen, but this is cheerful enough, with a wacky troll, a sinister ice queen, and feisty girl-hero named Gerda. There’s a frenetic, eye-popping quality to the visuals that forestalls the kind of emotional engagement Disney can offer, but there is some entertainment to be had here."
Other reviewers instead focused more on its foreign nature to Western audiences, with one commenting "Since the film was written by a Russian, originally voice acted by Russians, and based on a folk tale from Denmark, a country with strong historic ties to Russia, it’s safe to say that the film is about as un-American as you can get within the terms of modern animation. You won’t find characters bursting into song every two minutes and although there is the obligatory In fact, in places it’s quite scary and dark."
Jennie Kermode for Eye for Film complimented the film's appropriateness for children, remarking that the film's "esoteric scenarios may not make much sense to adults but they're conveyed with a sincerity that kids will find appealing. They're all very child centered and well paced. Threats seem credible without being too scary for sensitive kids and the humour is well balanced. Though the villain isn't particularly charismatic, her backstory goes some way towards justifying this and making her interesting in other ways."
The English dubbing was also criticized and might have influenced the humour and reception of the characters in the film, with The Hollywood Reporter remarking that: "Dubbed with American voices sporting a variety of jarring accents, the film features the sort of broad, vulgar humor—it’s not long before the first fart joke—presumably intended to amuse undiscriminating small fry. Unfortunately, none of the characters,--whether human, fantastical, or anthropomorphically animal—prove remotely engaging.".
On 6 January 2013, The Snow Queen flopped at the Russian box office which made only $5.16 million in the first week. But on 31 January 2013, it was considered a box office success as it had drawn 1.3 million viewers. It grossed $7,580,435 at the Russian box office. On 1 February 2013, it grossed $8.8 million. On 11 February 2013 in Korea, it grossed $525,000 and took fifth place at the box office. On 15 February 2013 in Korea, it grossed $1.5 million at the box office. As of today, The Snow Queen made $14 million total at the box office. The profit was half the budget they have spent.
The Snow Queen won the award for "Best Animated Picture" in the "Reflection" festival. It won a Grand Prix at the National Festival of Visual Arts in New Jersey and best animated feature in the 2012 Festival of Animated Films in Sudale. It won the Grand Prix at the Moscow Film Festival for best Animated Feature Film.
After Wizart's success for The Snow Queen at the AFM, they have confirmed to produce a theatrical sequel titled The Snow Queen 2: The Snow King The sequel tells about how Kai and Gerda help Orm the troll save his people from the curse of the titular villain. The voice cast for Snow Queen 2 included Sean Bean as General Arrog, Sharlto Copley, as troll Orm, Bella Thorne as Gerda and Isabelle Fuhrman as Alfida. It grossed $11 million at the box office.
A third installment, titled The Snow Queen 3: Fire and Ice, was released on December 29, 2016.