Is 'Frozen' Disney's Next Great Franchise, or Next Forgotten Fad?
Disney's announcement that it will be closing its popular Aladdin musical at Disney California Adventure in favor of a new Frozen show elicited howls from many Disney fans
. Since Frozen (the movie) debuted in late 2013, Disney's added Frozen characters to World of Color, meet-and-greets, and multiple parades, opened Frozen sing-alongs at DCA and Disney's Hollywood Studios, and made Frozen the focus of months-long promotions at all of its resorts. And earlier this year, the company announced that it would convert Epcot's Norway pavilion to a Frozen theme.
For some fans, all this Frozen has given them a brain freeze.
But for all the complaints, plenty of other Disney fans are lining up to enjoy whatever Frozen attractions the company offers. Frozen has earned more than $1.2 billion dollars at the box office worldwide, making it the highest-grossing animated film of all time. Given that, Disney's emphasis on Frozen is just good business. The question is, though... will the demand for Frozen last?
Some perspective: Even though Frozen is now the highest-grossing animated film of all time, those numbers are skewed by the inflation of ticket prices over time. According to BoxOfficeMojo's analysis of domestic ticket sales, adjusted for inflation, Frozen isn't even close to the top spot, trailing Monsters, Inc., Toy Story 3, Aladdin, Lady and the Tramp, Finding Nemo, Bambi, Pinocchio, Shrek 2, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, Fantasia, The Lion King, 101 Dalmatians, and the all-time inflation-adjusted champion, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Those are all valuable franchises, worthy of long-term presence in top theme parks. But that list should suggest that putting Frozen all over its parks isn't a guarantee of long-term success for Disney. What's the wait like for the Shrek show at Universal these days? Or the Monsters Inc. show at Walt Disney World? Those were wildly popular animated franchises once, too.
Yes, Frozen characters Anna and Elsa have drawn waits of four hours and more for their meet-and-greet at the Magic Kingdom. But if you take a few moments to look at those queues of waiting fans, you'll see a definite trend. Almost all the families waiting to meet the Frozen queen and princess include early-elementary-aged girls. You just don't see as much gender and age diversity among Frozen fans as you do for other animated and entertainment franchises. Frozen has a huge audience not because it has wide appeal, but because it absolutely dominates within a narrow demographic.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing — plenty of franchises prosper with demographically-narrow fan bases. But it does make creating a decades-long demand for the franchise more difficult than it would be if the franchise appealed to a broader base. That's especially true for a franchise that appeals to a demographic that is notorious not just for dropping its favorites as it ages, but turning on them.
I've already heard from several people anecdotes about girls in fifth or sixth grades hurling savage insults at other girls who come to class wearing an Elsa T-shirt. Middle schoolers can be vicious toward classmates whom they perceive to be acting like "little" kids. A few children's franchises have managed to retain their fans across the middle school-divide (Harry Potter is the gold standard here), but most need to attract new, younger fans as their growing fans "age out" of the franchise.
That's the challenge for Disney with Frozen. If you want an example of a franchise that has done this beautifully for nearly 50 years, look at Sesame Street. And if you want the counter-example of a franchise that crashed and burned over the same challenge, look at Barney.
Not the future Disney wants for Frozen
For those who did not have kids around the turn of the century (it's still weird for me to type that in reference to the year 2000), Barney was huge back then, dominating kids' attention nearly as much as Frozen does now. And Barney appealed to both genders.
Obviously, Disney has resources at its disposal that the independent production company that ran Barney did not, including its own cable and television networks, film distribution channels, a radio network, publishing houses, and yes, theme parks. But even if Disney's new Frozen musical at DCA is a huge hit with critics and audiences, that alone won't do much to help Frozen endure. An excellent live show at Universal Studios Florida (and yes, it is a well-produced show, if you have not seen it) wasn't nearly enough to help that franchise become relevant to a new generation of fans.
Disney's clearly making bank on Frozen right now. But are its actions with Frozen in the parks reacting to the franchise's popularity, cashing in on a hot fad, or are they part of directing that franchise, to help ensure its popularity across future generations?
With so many fans turned off by the expansion of Frozen in the parks, it's clear that Disney has missed an opportunity to expand the franchise's appeal by making more fans feel welcomed within it. That's fueling concern that the Disney Parks are just riding this phenomenon, instead of helping to direct it. But even if the parks seem to be throwing Frozen all over the place, the rest of the Walt Disney Company has proven itself time and again to be able to recruit new generations of fans to replace the young ones who one day grow out of love for specific characters.
In other words, if Disney wants Frozen to be a franchise, and not a fad — and all of Disney is willing to do the work to make that happen — it will be.
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You're showing two different figures. One is worldwide, the other is domestic. In worldwide figures, it is ranked #8. This is clearly a very popular movie. Domestically, not so much, but what is the actual takeaway? Frozen is ranked #21 domestically (unadjusted) while a top 10 worldwide movie. It is ranked #103 domestically (adjusted for inflation).
Great feature Robert, I have these same questions in my head about the durability of the Frozen franchise.
Disney's movies have endured for generations, and their princess movies are especially good at this. I think the "Frozen-mania" will die down, but what does that really mean for the parks? Drop the character from a few parades, replace the stage show with whatever is new, and put whatever the popular character of the day is in the meet-and-greet.
I would like to point out that, if memory serves correct, The Lion King was just as overexposed as Frozen was and people still love it. In fact, many people consider it one of the greatest animated films of all time. Some even go as far as to call it one of the greatest movies of all time period! So I expect Frozen will still be relevant in a couple decades.
"Let's say the domestic Disney fans have a case, but Disney theme parks are for all visitors and this is about winning foreign visitors that love Frozen. This also makes the case for Avatar in Animal Kingdom."
Clearly, Disney needs some sort of Frozen themed attraction in their theme parks for the time being. And aside from re-theming Maelstrom (which is a much needed upgrade), doing a live show is probably much more economical and flexible than imagineering a whole new ride. For many years, the only Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, Lion King and Aladdin attractions at any park were live shows. Now that all the above mentioned movies (except Lion King) have actual ride/attractions, their live shows are winding down. Having a Frozen stage show will satisfy those guests interested in a Frozen themed attraction while Disney waits and sees if the popularity is long lasting. It also gives them the flexibility to replace it easily when Zootopia becomes the next Disney blockbuster.
I think the demographic is wider than you think. Frozen made $200 Million in Japan. This high figure was driven by 30 year old women. There are actually a lot of moms that like the movie which I think is partially driving the high merchandise sales. Many tween girls "hate" everyone and everything except (New Kids On the Block to One Direction) fill in the parenthesis with whatever boy band is popular this second. However, plenty of above 20 year old ladies I know loved Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, or Jasmine as a child and love them today. The 90s princesses did not have the intensity of popularity of Frozen, but it's hard to see how Anna and Elsa could fare worse in the long run popularity wise. Frozen has some men who appreciate it also. As Banksy said he - yes the guy who made Dismaland- "does not have an issue with Disney. I’m not a hipster, so I don’t think something is evil or vacuous because it’s popular. The Let It Go sequence in Frozen is brilliant cinema’
B Goodwin already said exactly what I was thinking. I never saw the Aladdin show, but by all accounts it was very good. That was due to the show itself, and I think not likely the underlying IP. If the Frozen show is as good as the Aladdin show, there's no reason it won't stay relevant as long as the Aladdin show has. So the only risk is that the production of the show isn't up to scratch.
I think we need to see how Frozen II goes to see if this gravy train keeps chugging.
Here's the thing about Frozen...it is big, but it is not as big as it is being made out to be. Disney is currently doing more with Frozen than they have ever done before with an untested franchise. The franchise currently has only one movie (with a second in development) and one short film, yet it is getting a ton of exposure in the parks including projects as large as a whole land. At the same time, Disney has neglected to develop anything else based on recent animated films, and this doesn't work so well with a franchise of limited appeal.
I can't talk for everyone else (unlike some) but I think the exploitation of the movie most of the time was cheap and to much.
Mr. Miles writes: "But if you take a few moments to look at those queues of waiting fans, you'll see a definite trend. Almost all the families waiting to meet the Frozen queen and princess include early-elementary-aged girls. "
Your numbers don't include merchandising.
This is exactly what I considered, and discussed eagerly to a somewhat interested spouse :)
All this still comes down to a guessing game.Only time will tell. Heck, even Disney originally underestimated the success of the movie. Not enough merchandise was available for sale and there was really no park presence. The decisions to put it in DHS were last minute and the first attractions were thrown together in a few quick weeks during summer of 2014. Frozen obviously exceeded the expectations of Disney management. But predicting movie and IP success has never been an exact science. The film & IP history is a vast boneyard of unexpected successes and failures. It's way too early in the ballgame to call this one.
i agree with most, Frozen does not have the sustaining power other might. And what with Lion King, Why is there not a link King land inside Animal (lion) KINGdom. theres a stage show, theater, MULTIPLE movies. i have seen it On Broadway, On stage, in the round etc.. it came out in 1994 and has had UNFOUNDED success, #1 musical of all time grossing 6.2 Billion and STILL on Broadway yet nothing. YOO DISNEY HELLOOO. I Am 50 and would still go to see a Lion King themed area. Frozen Um Not soo much
The quality of the sequel will determine this
People act as if Frozen is so over exploited, it will implode. I listened to "Under The Sea" and "Be My Guest" numerous times on my Disney cruise that I thought my head will explode, yet Disney has rewarded "The Little Mermaid" with two attractions at Disneyland Resort. You can hear "Under The Sea" at the new Mickey show at Disneyland and the Little Mermaid ride at California Adventure. "Beauty and The Beast" will further be exploited with a new movie starring Emma Watson.
Anon Mouse: exactly what I was thinking... Beauty and the Beast; Aladdin; Lion King, etc. were HUGE in the 90's but they still have a lot of power now... They are "timeless classics"... Obviously, there is a big focus on Frozen now because it is recent but I do strongly believe it will become a classic just like the others and occupy its own space...
On the Monsters Inc and Shrek comment:
A GREAT question was asked. But, if you take a step back and look at the data, it speaks to the launch of another WDCo franchise.
This really reminds me of the line from David Koenig: Everyone knows Disney is a business. They just don't like it when it acts that way.
The narrow demographic is the biggest problem. And they alienate the rest of us when they keep trying to shove this mediocre would-be franchise down our collective throats.
Lord, how short are our collective memories. Disney "overexposes" every property that proves to be a hit. Aladdin went from classic movie to lame direct-to-video titles to wretched TV cartoon and so on. That Pressler and Eisner were exploring Disney's cheap as hell theme park period is the only reason we didn't get Aladdin attractions. They do this with everything. Heck, Stitch, arguably the least classic "classic" is basically everywhere and he sucks.
Disney has such enormous market power that all it has to do is shove anything at least modetately successful down the throats of kids to be successful. Disney's Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast are all incredibly outdated stories that wouldn't stand up today without Disney's marketing machine. Frozen is far better than any of those films. In fact, so is Tangled, Brave, and Mulan. It's not like Disney is investing big theme park attractions into any of those films. Instead, Disney's marketing department has determined that the financially optimal solution is to force outdated films down our throats with new Little Mermaid and Snow White Attractions. It's Disney's fault that they market in such a gender specific way. It's not like there are any Flynn Rider or Kristoff merchsndise or meet and greets. Maleficent and Alice and Wonderland (Tim Burton) were successful movies, but it's not like you can see any traces of those reboots at the theme parks. Big Hero 6, the Incredibles, and Wreck-it Ralph feature main characters from both genders but you find most merchandise pushed on boys and very little traces of these incredibly successful movies at the theme parks.
Isn't the real problem that they're ignoring Big Hero 6 (which could easily have a Saturday morning cartoon show and spot in Tomorrowland) and Wreck-It Ralph (Could use a sequel and a place in Epcot or DHS)?
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