The songs. The musical numbers. The progressive characters. Close to 20 weeks in theaters dominating the box office. A planned Broadway show. Even a few week run with a sing-along version.
What made this Disney film, that came out of nowhere, one of the biggest animated hits of all-time?
It doesn't hurt that a Disney film hasn't had catchy, Broadway quality songs since The Lion King. From Oscar winner Let it Go to the dance-worthy Love is an Open Door, the songs have become a sensation of their own. Not only has this movie ruled the movie box office but the music charts as well. The soundtrack has become a phenomenon thanks to lip-sync videos and parodies all over YouTube. The power that the song's music has brought brings Frozen to a different level compared to the typical sequel fare.
What makes these songs work so well, including the fact that Broadway veterans wrote them, is that they carry messages against the Disney mold. The songs move the characters from conforming for a man to liberating themselves from the constraints of their everyday lives. Look at Let it Go, where Elsa has just left Arendelle after her ice powers were revealed. She treks up the mountain trying to escape what just happened. But she finds that what happened is good and it has liberated her from the pressure that had been put on by her parents.
The song exemplifies her freedom from having to hide her powers and plays to a new voice for a female character in a Disney movie, something new for the brand.
A lot of discussion for the film has been about the plot that didn't constrain the female characters to chasing men the entire time, something Disney movies have always done in the past. Instead, Elsa's story is about accepting what others will think about her and her powers and Anna is chasing a better relationship with her sister and her story follows her breaking from the constraints of having to hide inside due to Elsa's powers.
While this is a big step for Disney, it is something that is happening in 2013, where other studios (see Studio Ghibli) has been doing for years. While that is a whole other discussion, it still gives a large audience (1 billion dollars worth) a platform to see female characters being more than just cogs for men.
It comes down to seeing women more closely associated with popular women like Jennifer Lawrence who speak their minds and are a little on the goofy side. Frozen created role models out of their two main female characters plus a strong supporting character out of Kristoff.
This may be a new trend for Disney that would be a nice change of pace or it could be a one-time deal. But the success that Frozen has brought should alert Disney that movies like this are what people want to watch and maybe give us more!
But still, why Frozen?
But does a strong story and catchy songs still warrant a billion dollars, box office dominance, and internet epidemic?
It doesn't warrant anything, especially for a company that has crafted great movies but with horrible role models in female characters? Ariel? Her whole goal was to get to land and be with a man. Sleeping Beauty? Her guy was literally named Prince Charming! Disney has clearly came a long way, including showing signs of progressive views with homosexual characters in this film, but that doesn't mean you should become a sensation.
So what made Frozen so big?
I think it lies in the originality. Animated movies have turned into a sequel game. The movies that surround Frozen on the all-time box office list are Despicable Me 2 and Toy Story 3. The original ideas from Pixar have dried out a little in the past few years, Disney's Animation Studios had begun to return with films like Wreck-It-Ralph before Frozen but nothing to this level, and every other studio was in the sequel game (see Shrek).
People liked these character because they were so different from what was out there in animation and they loved these songs because they were different. If you really want to peg Frozen for doing anything, it should be for breaking the mold and showing that Disney still had the power of originality within it, outside of the Pixar model.
Honestly, I don't want to see a Frozen sequel. While I'm sure they could find a way to travel back to Arendelle, I don't want to see it. I think this film did such a great job of giving us a good, original story in one film that making a second would stretch it and turn it into the rest of the stuff out there in animation.
If Frozen wants to be a juggernaut that makes a big impact, it should stop here. But knowing Disney, I should just listen to the movie's main song and take in the message.