Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

What is Disney up to with Frozen?

Disney is flogging its super double-princess musical in a fashion calculated to avoid scaring off boys.

Thu, Dec 5, 2013, 20:04


More precisely, what are the Disney marketing wonks up to with Frozen? If you have yet to read a review of the latest, very fine animation from that giant, you could very well be under the impression that it’s a zany comedy about a talking snowman and a clumsy reindeer. I suppose it is that, but only in the sense that King Lear is a film about a court jester. The posters (see above) for Frozen feature those characters front and centre. An early trailer – featuring Olaf the Snowman messing about on the ice — gave the distinct and (sorry) chilling impression that Disney was trying to emulate Fox’s success with the enormous, but largely terrible, Ice Age films. Later trailers work hard at playing down the songs.

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It may be an accident, but it looks as if the studios are trying to conceal two particular ¬†aspects of the Frozen experience: it concerns princesses; it is very much a musical. Even the choice of title has been bent to those objectives. A few years back, Disney’s excellent take on a classic princess story was, quite late in the day, retitled from Rapunzel to Tangled. The gossip had it that, by putting the prince in the poster, the team were selling the flick as a “dual-protagist” picture (despite this defying the formal definition of “protagonist”). Now, Disney’s long-cherished attempt to get Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen on screen finds itself journeying out under the title Frozen.

We can easily guess what all this is about. We are told that boys don’t like films about girls. ¬†We are further told that the little bastards don’t much take to full-on musicals. The company has an enviable tradition of great musical animations and terrific princess flicks. Would we be without Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid or Tangled? One hardly knows where to begin in listing great Disney musical numbers. Yet the firm seems a little frightened of its own gifts in this area.

Anyway, I suppose there’s no arguing with success. The strategy has definitely worked. Despite being up against the second week of behemoth The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Frozen took a massive $67 million on its opening weekend. By some measures, this is a record for a Walt Disney Animation Studios release. And the film deserves its success. It’s a cracker.

On another positive note, let me give a shout-out to the excellent short that precedes Frozen in cinemas. Get a Horse begins in the style of an ancient Mickey Mouse cartoon (voiced by Walt himself) and then integrates 3-D animation to tell a story that plays a little like an anarchic Purple Rose of Cairo. Enjoy the clip below and do make sure you are at your seats in time to catch the whole thing when (as you should) you see Frozen on the big screen.

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