Is Frozen the Only Modern Disney Movie that Matters?


I don’t know about you but where I live Frozen, almost 3 years after it came out, is still inescapable. If you go into any store, you’re bound to run into some Frozen merchandise. Not only that but there always seem to be families (and sometimes childless adults) that seem to have some sort of Frozen thing with them (like a backpack or something).

Yet you can’t really say the same thing about other modern Disney films like Tangled, Wreck-it Ralph, or Big Hero 6. Yet, it kinda makes sense because, while those movies were hits, they didn’t gross over a billion dollars.

But there’s also Zootopia, which made a billion dollars, and…it’s pretty much been treated the same way those three were. It has not had even close to the same marketing push that Frozen has, despite grossing only about a million less. You can still see Anna and Elsa everywhere but, even though it grossed a billion dollars, there are literally people who’ve never even heard of Zootopia. That would never happen with Frozen unless the person you were talking to came out of a coma they’d been in since, oh, 2012.

However, what I find odd is Disney used to pretty much push all of their popular animated flicks on us. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, a movie they didn’t even have faith in at first, were all marketed equally as aggressively as each other. In the 90’s, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing some sort of product for these movies or hearing a song from these movies. Yet now Disney, when it comes to its animated films, has pretty much focused all of its attention on Frozen and they are barely doing anything with their other animated films (maybe a spin-off show or a short here and there). Why do you think this is though?

Well, I think it has to do with Disney’s recent successes. Back in the 90’s, while they definitely had other ways of making money, their animated films were the most popular things they were doing, especially under their name.

In the 2010’s though? That’s not the case, as they not only have their animation division but they own Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and so many more companies! As a result of those companies successes’, especially Marvel’s, they don’t really need to rely on their animation division as much. That also being said, their animation division is still popular and still making them a lot of money, so their not really going to abandon it. Plus, they are Disney! They can’t abandon animation, it’s practically synonymous with them!

However, because they don’t really need to rely so much on their animation division as much as they used to, why not focus most of their attention, when promoting their recent animated Disney flicks, on the most successful Disney film of the era? And, to boot, why not focus it on probably the most typical Disney film of the 5? I mean, let’s be honest, Wreck-it Ralph and Big Hero 6 aren’t exactly what you think of when you think of a stereotypical Disney film. Frozen on the other hand? It’s about a princess, which makes it instantly marketable for Disney! Yes, Tangled was also about a princess but what makes it easier for them to choose Frozen is that Frozen made a billion dollars and Tangled did not.

That being said, while they obviously aren’t going to give the same attention to Wreck-it Ralph, Tangled, or Big Hero 6, why aren’t they giving the same amount of attention to Zootopia? I think the problem there is marketability. Yes, it made almost as much as Frozen did but, except for The Lion King, Disney’s princess films have always been more marketable than their talking animal films. You never see as many Baloo dolls at the Disney Store as you do Belle dolls, for instance.

Not only that, but when it comes to marketability, I think it’s fallen under the same problem Inside Out did with Pixar. Yes, both were popular but the other big movie for them that came out this decade, namely Finding Dory for Pixar, ended up being even bigger successes because both Zootopia and Inside Out really tried to talk about social issues, which probably made them somewhat less appealing, at least when it comes to making people want to buy their toys, while Frozen and Finding Dory were more just trying to be fun movies. Sure, there were a couple pro-feminist or pro-disability messages in those movies but they definitely weren’t so much at the forefront as the anti-racism and “how psychology affects people” messages in Zootopia and Inside Out were.

As a result, people, or at least children, probably were more likely to buy stuff from Frozen and Dory because they were, moreso, just fun movies rather than message movies like Zootopia and Inside Out were. It also probably helped that, unlike Zootopia and Inside Out, they pretty much had been part of a brand that was already very popular, as Frozen was part of the Disney Princess Brand and Finding Dory was a sequel to Finding Nemo.

Back to the main question, however, is Frozen the only modern animated Disney film that Disney cares about? And the answer to that is pretty much. While they certainly do other things with their other animated films, in fact Tangled is getting a TV show, they certainly haven’t marketed their other animated films quite as aggressively as they have with Frozen. And that’s because they don’t really need to anymore, seeing as they own so many successful properties that they can focus on those properties as well and not rely so much on promoting their animated films. As a result, anything not named Frozen is kinda left in the dust, no matter how successful it is.


Posted on October 12, 2016, in Movies and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. Frozen haters are a bit of a pet peeve of mine. This comes from hanging out at a lot of Disney World fan sites where adults with no kids (or no girls anyway) complained constantly that Disney was “forcing Frozen down their throats”. I frequently found myself defending the popularity of Frozen.

    Three years later, I would say that Frozen mania has died down. But the movie is undeniably still popular. When the sequel comes out, I’m sure it will get another boost, but I doubt we will ever see anything like that initial rush of popularity.

    That’s what I think you (and others) are missing. This isn’t Disney favoring Frozen over other properties. When the movie was first released, their was a shortage of Frozen merchandise. They couldn’t keep the stuff on the shelves. Homemade Elsa dresses were selling at huge mark-ups online because you couldn’t buy the things in store. It took about a year for most people to be able to find Anna and Elsa dolls. There were waiting lists at the Disney Store.

    When Frozen was released, Disney had low expectations. They tried to hide the fact that it was a princess story. The initial marketing focused on Olaf and ignored Anna and Elsa because Disney was worried about whether or not boys would come to a movie with female protagonists. They were taken by surprise as much as anyone when it became the highest-grossing animated feature of all times.

    You’re comparing the movie’s box office totals against other movies that also performed well. But this isn’t about Frozen’s gross. This is about merch sales. For example, Cars sells a lot more merchandise than other movies that outperformed it at the box office. So not surprisingly, you see a lot more Cars stuff on the shelves. The reason you see Frozen everywhere three years after the movie was released is that the stuff sells. Big Hero 6 and Wreck It Ralph toys ended up in the clearance bins.

    That’s really what this is all about. Consumers vote with their wallets. They demand more Frozen, so that’s what Disney focuses on. If there was a run on Zootopia toys, you can bet Disney would increase supply to keep up with demand.


    • I actually don’t hate Frozen. I don’t even really care that there’s so much Frozen stuff still available, I just find it a bit odd that other, successful movies that Disney has made this decade are kinda getting lost in the dust and I kinda had a theory why.

      That being said, a lot of what you said is definitely true.


      • I didn’t mean to imply you were a Frozen hater. That was actually meant as a disclaimer that I can have a knee-jerk defensiveness where the subject is concerned because I have fought the battle over Frozen many times before.

        While I think it can come across that Disney is neglecting its other movies, I think there are reasons why. What we’re really talking about at this point is merchandise. And plain and simple, Frozen merchandise still sells. No one gives to flips about Wreck It Ralph. At least not until the sequel comes out.


      • Just out of curiosity, though, have those people who’ve been complaining about too much Frozen stuff also said stuff along the lines of “where’s all the Big Hero 6/Zootopia/Tangled stuff” like I was wondering about?


        • In the Disney World fan community, they are more concerned with classic movies like Daffy said. There are a lot of people out there who want more Alice in Wonderland or Disney villains in the parks. People have their own pet movie that they advocate for. You will find people who pick relatively obscure movies like Hercules or even Atlantis. There’s some love out there for Big Hero Six and Inside Out. A lot of people think those movies could be worked into Epcot.

          One of the common themes is that Frozen haters think Disney caters too much to the princess crowd, so they aren’t calling for more Tangled. This is where they really start getting on my nerves. Admittedly, the Fantasyland expansion project monopolized Disney’s attention in Orlando for several years and it dealt with some properties that feature princesses (Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid), but based on that a lot of very vocal complainers got up in arms that Disney was only concerned with appealing to little girls. There’s a few problems with that argument.

          First and foremost, none of those movies are exclusively made for one gender and/or age group. The Snow White ride featured the seven dwarfs over the title character and Gaston and the Beast were as prominent in the new Beauty and the Beast attractions as Belle was. While I have criticisms of the project being too modest, it wasn’t like Disney created a princess dress-up party and refused to invite the boys.

          Secondly, from the very beginning, Disney parks have skewed towards traditionally male interests. Walt picked themes that appealed to him. Disney World is filled with pirates, cowboys, space men and dinosaurs. Boys aren’t going to have any trouble finding something that excites them just because Disney added a few princess attractions to the mix.

          They also had a tendency to overstate their case. Frozen may feel like it’s everywhere you look, but really there’s only one Frozen ride. There’s also a show and a meet and greet and a float in a parade. Characters from Frozen show up in shows that feature a lot of other characters and there’s a lot of merchandise or Olaf cupcakes in the bakery. That kind of stuff. But aside from the merch, it’s pretty easy to avoid Frozen if you really want to.

          By comparison, Nemo has an entire pavilion at Epcot, a show at Animal Kingdom and themed hotel rooms at the Art of Animation resort. The Lion King has a show at Animal Kingdom, a movie in Epcot, is featured in Mickey’s Philharmagic at the Magic Kingdom and themed hotel rooms at Art of Animation. So other movies have as book of a footprint as Frozen does.

          As for princesses, even with the addition of New Fantasyland, there really aren’t that many princess themed attractions. Ariel has a ride, a show and Art of Animation rooms. Belle has two shows. Cinderella has a castle. Princesses are featured in the parade and have meet and greets at all the parks. There are some expensive restaurants where the princesses will come to your table and take a picture. But really, princess fans were being under-served by Disney World for years. The Fantasyland expansion was just course correcting.

          Now that Star Wars land has been announced (which is what the fanbois really wanted) the Frozen complaints have died down. But really, it was a lot of whining over nothing.


        • Well, after the last Burton Alice film bombed, I don’t suppose many people wanted to buy any Alice in Wonderland related merchandise at all. That probably has affected sales and made Disney not want to put more Alice in the theme parks (though I could be wrong about that)


        • There’s a definite distinction between the Disney Alice and the Burton Alice. But the demand for more Alice in the parks goes back years and years.


        • ^I was mostly kidding


    • Of course, the question now is, considering all these movies were beloved and made lots of money at the box office, why do kids only want to buy Frozen stuff? That might be an interesting market research project for someone


      • Well, kids don’t care about box office grosses obviously.

        Some movies lend themselves better to toys than others. Boys like toy cars, so Cars is big. Girls like sparkly dresses and snowmen.


        • That’s true. I guess the only thing is, you’d think, considering at least half of these movies’ box office grosses stemmed from kids loving these movies and wanting to see them in droves or seeing them over and over again, you’d think at least half of the kids who saw the movie would want to buy toys based off of that movie. But who knows why they didn’t, oh, want to buy a Baymax doll after seeing Big Hero 6?


        • I will say this, though. Despite all that’s been said, at least Frozen isn’t The Minions. Now if there’s a franchise that annoys me for how inescapable it is, it’s that! At least the characters in Frozen aren’t annoying…meanwhile, I’ve never even seen a Despicable Me movie and The Minions are already getting on my nerves just by how unavoidable they are and how annoying their shtick is!


        • Wait till you have kids (I’m assuming you don’t, so forgive me if I’m wrong). Trust me when I say there are far worse things than Minions! 😉


        • I don’t but I have nephews and they LOVE The Minions! Not gonna lie, their kind of the reason I’m not fond of them the first place…


        • It’s different when they are yours.


        • I can definitely see that being true. Back on topic, though, I just realized it’s not really this phenomena doesn’t just stretch to Disney’s more recent animated films but it also stretches to their other properties. For example, Avengers has a lot of merchandise but Guardians of the Galaxy, which has a sequel and a ride coming out next year and was one of the highest grossing movies of the year, only has about 23 items on the Disney Store (I just looked it up). It seems that kids would rather play with Captain America and Hulk than they would with Star Lord and Rocket Raccoon. But it’s probably for the same reason-even if Guardians is almost as beloved as Avengers, and, as you can tell, it’s at least successful enough that they aren’t really ignoring it that much, their’s more demand for Avengers toys than there is for Guardians toys. Probably the same deal with Inside Out and Cars/Toy Story/Nemo.


    • I have never understood Frozen’s popularity. I don’t hate it, but it wasn’t any different than Tangled to my eyes. Zootopia was amazing. Funny, a good mystery, and a crazy progressive message. Big Hero 6 was a trainwreck. I was ready to love that movie. But outside of Bayomax, I couldn’t stand it. The ending was even worse: Why be a doctor and help people when you can punch guys instead?! Wreck it Ralph was also a letdown. It wasn’t bad, but for a movie with such promise, it mostly squandered the premise with overly familiar stuff in a video game setting.


      • I haven’t seen Zootopia yet. The kids weren’t interested. Once you have kids, you don’t tend to seek out family movies when you don’t have to. I have The Good Dinosaur on my DVR, but I haven’t watched it because if the kids don’t make me, why should I? Having said that, I plan to check out Zootopia when it plays on Starz.

        I like Tangled about equally with Frozen. Tangled might hold up better on multiple viewings, but I put them on roughly even footing. But I can definitely understand why young girls had a stronger reaction to Frozen than they did to Tangled. Elsa is an incredibly empowering character which is not something they get to see a lot.

        I thought Big Hero 6 was decent although I could have done without another “main character dies Disney fake-out”. That and the death early on got it labeled “too sad” in our house. I thought Wreck It Ralph was fun, but I went in with low expectations. It definitely wasn’t breaking any new ground.

        Truthfully, there hasn’t been an animated feature that wowed me in a while with the exception of Frozen. Since I have kids, I end up seeing a lot of them. (This year, I have seen Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets.) They all take on a same-samey quality after a while. Even Pixar movies, which used to be the exception, are starting to feel overly familiar these days.

        Then you get something like Inside Out which admittedly stepped outside the box. But when you see it with your kids and it makes them cry, you can’t really enjoy the movie’s sophistication. Suddenly, Minions starts to sound more appealing.


        • I will actually say that, of the Disney movies I have seen lately, Big Hero 6 was my favorite, though that’s mostly because I just liked the themes about loss, letting go, and how death can affect people. Movies with psychological themes tend to appeal to me (that’s also why Inside Out is my favorite Pixar flick).


        • Have you seen WINNIE THE POOH from 2011? It’s wonderful. Watch that and ZOOTOPIA soon and report back.


        • I forgot all about Winnie the Pooh. It pretty much seems to be The Rescuers Down Under of the 2010’s-the one Disney film of the era that wasn’t successful at the box office but it has it’s fans


        • I have not, but I gotta say there aren’t a lot of Pooh fans in our house. My wife calls him “the fat, greedy bear”. I think my potential for enjoying a Winnie the Pooh movie is capped somewhere around “watchable”.


        • I agree that Winnie the Pooh was great.

          The Good Dinosaur was good, not great. It was a refreshing change of pace from the usual hyper-kinetic kids film as it was more of a pokey Western. The story was slapdash, though. I enjoyed it.

          Inside Out was amazing and got better on repeat viewings for me.

          I don’t have kids so I still enjoy kid’s flicks. I would also love to see more parents starting their kids on Miyazaki. I know many a parent with kids who are loyal fans of Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and others. Those especially have even more artistic merit and different storytelling.


        • Oh great! More Winnie the Pooh recommendations! 😉

          I’m not sure how my kids would respond to Miyazaki. Josie, my oldest, doesn’t really have a lot of patience for movies in general. She’ll put something on and leave the room before the credits are done playing. Kara’s a “maybe”. She’s extremely sensitive. Lots of stuff falls into the “too scary” or “too sad” buckets. Or both. To my surprise, she’s been really into Roald Dahl books lately, so you just never know.


  2. It’s also about that song. That song did so much for the popularity of that movie. Within weeks of the movie’s release there were seemingly thousands of online videos of kids singing that song. I actually preferred TANGLED. I think it’s a better movie, and I’ve seen it more times than I’ve seen FROZEN. I’ve only seen FROZEN once despite owning the Blu-ray. However, I can’t remember any of the songs from TANGLED without seeing the movie.


    • The song (Let It Go) is a huge part of the movie’s appeal. It’s helped by other catchy tunes. When we left the theater after Frozen, the soundtrack was stuck in our heads. We didn’t do that with Tangled, which I also liked and which has a lot of nice songs. But I had to hear them a few times to get to know them.

      If the question is: Why is Frozen so popular, the songs are a big part of it. But I think the most important thing was that Elsa was basically a super hero/princess. Boys are used to practically every movie they see being a power fantasy, but girls don’t get to see characters of their own gender really cut loose all that often. Elsa had super powers, sparkly dresses and an ice palace. Girls understandably went nuts for her, but no one saw that coming before the movie was released.


  3. you mention the Disney renaissance movies enjoying similar levels of marketing, but I think that is a different situation. When The Little Mermaid hit, it was the first really big animated smash for Disney for quite some time…then Beauty and the Beast was also a hit and was nominated for Best Picture…then Aladdin was big and had a huge hit song…and then Lion King was bigger than any of them at the box office. It all built and although Lion King was the biggest box office hit, all of these movies had strong claims to fame and fan bases. And they were all seen as this amazing Disney comeback. They were all sort of part of the same thing. That was a question of the history of the company. The resurgence of Disney’s animated films over the last several years is more of a general trend, with Frozen standing out as a true cultural event. As Lebeau says, Disney themselves were unprepared for its popularity.

    Having just been to Disney World at the beginning of this month I can report that the other recent movies are represented in little ways around the parks, just not with the gusto that Frozen is. Frozen has a sing-along show…Tangled has bathrooms themed after it. Frozen has a new ride in the Norway pavilion in Epcot…Wreck-it Ralph gets a sequence in the Boo to You parade. Frozen is featured at just about every opportunity in any new entertainment…Brave has a specially themed meet & greet. If you keep your eyes open you will absolutely see these other movies featured in the parks, but you’d have to be blind not to notice Frozen. That’s just how it is. The kids who love Judy Hopps can see her in dance party. Both Tangled and Brave have floats in the excellent daytime parade. There are pieces of merchandise for fans of all of these movies…but Frozen sells the most so it gets the most shelf space.

    I’d personally love to see more stuff focused on Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland, but nobody’s asking me.


    • I’m glad you brought up the Disney Renaissance because it reminded me of a thought I had while reading. Everyone forgets that Beauty and the Beast did not follow The Little Mermaid directly. In between, they released the forgotten sequel, The Rescuers Down Under. So even during the Renaissance, not all Disney movies were received in equal measures.


      • Rescuers Down Under is actually extremely important in the history of animation because it was a leap forward in the use of computers to create bolder, more striking “camera” motion in animated sequences.

        I don’t personally see why a movie has to be a humongous hit in order to find a place in the parks. As long as it’s not a bomb or otherwise toxic, if they’ve got a great idea for an attraction they should go forward with it. Most people only know about Mr Toad because they’ve been to Disneyland, and yet it continues to be as popular there as just about any other Fantasyland dark ride they’ve got. Sleeping Beauty was a financial disaster despite being reasonably popular, but iconography from that movie continues to be used in the parks over and over. The same can be said for Fantasia. Peter Pan wasn’t super huge at the box office, but boy is its attraction a mainstay of the two U.S. castle parks. The quality of the attraction should be the main concern. A good one will help make an averagely-performing movie a sentimental favorite.


        • I remember seeing RDU in the theaters and being quite impressed with the animation. Then it was gone and no one seemed to acknowledge it ever existed.

          I’m inclined to agree with you about the theme parks. That’s probably a whole other discussion we could have. Back in the Eisner days, there was a certain amount of hype that accompanied the release of any Disney animated feature. The Iger regime is a lot more restrained. They wait to see if a movie is a massive hit. Even with Frozen, they were very slow to react. Then they just started vomiting Frozen everywhere. But even that was after several months of hours-long lines for the Frozen M&G. The characters from Inside Out didn’t even show up in the parks right away. Eisner would have had a special parade.


    • I actually haven’t been to Disney World in a while but that’s interesting to know.


  4. I wonder how long Walt Disney has been turning in his grave what started out a great man creating good decent wholesome family entertainment that you didn’t have to worry if your children or watching it or not if it said Disney it ok. No worries about the children watching not if it not if it was by Walt Disney!! The man had morals and that is how he ran his company. you would be so ashamed to see what it has become.


  5. I agree with robbushblog, however I think the whole album is catchy. Reindeer are better than people is a hoot and gets stuck in my head all day long (and yes, I’m an adult – a parent of a daughter who is obsessed with Frozen!). Olaf is great comic relief as well lol.


    • Ehh, the songs are alright. Honestly, I found Frozen as a whole to be a bit forgettable, besides some memorable scenes here and there


      • Lol Kevthewriter, I wish I could have had it “forgettable”, if my daughter didn’t have it on repeat for her playlist, I probably would have forgotten it too. Add in the Elsa dresses, and the singing dolls….I’m worried those tunes are embedded in my brain forever lol.


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