Frozen: Charming, Commercial Fairy Tale

Disney’s newest princess movie, the aptly titled animation “Frozen,” is both a critical and commercial hit.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” Frozen” is a charming animated fairy tale that, among many distinctions, is the first Disney animation to be co-helmed by a female.

There is plenty of humor, action, adventure, magic, and memorable characters to impress young viewers (both boys and girls) and their parents.

The tale, very much in the tradition of the studio’s cherished animations, is simple enough. Fearless optimist Anna sets off on an epic journey—teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven—to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter.

Encountering mystical trolls and a snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.

Yet, despite the surprise success of its 2010 predecessor princess pic, “Tangled,” which grossed nearly $600 million worldwide, the path to success for  Disney’s latest fairy-tale was a challenge.

“Frozen,” which so far has amassed more than $344 million worldwide and counting, features one of the most rewarding marketing campaigns of the year that successfully sold young boys on a story about two princesses, without ignoring its core audience of young girls.

For its first “Frozen” spot, Disney released a standalone short featuring the film’s main sidekick characters: Olaf, the enchanted snowman, and Sven, the reindeer.

Though elements from that promotion ultimately were incorporated into the feature film, the first-look trailer not only helped lay the ground work for the film with young boys, it also kick-started an important merchandising campaign centered on the Olaf character.

Disney’s official U.S. trailer featuring actual footage from the film similarly skirted around the princess plot, while the international trailer was sold as a much darker tale.

It was a risky move by Disney to sell a much fluffier version of “Frozen.” The studio chanced alienating audiences after they actually saw the film, which actually is a much deeper and richer experience than its promotions suggest — though one that young children may not wholly appreciate.

Word-of-mouth has been stellar for the toon as evidenced by its box office performance. In its fourth weekend of wide release, “Frozen” fell just 13%, which was enough to eclipse Sony’s “American Hustle” in its first nationwide outing.

While “Frozen” is not the only holiday family film — Fox just bowed “Walking With Dinosaurs,” which “Frozen” crushed — it is the most obvious. Even Warner is trying to capitalize on the underserved family market with “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” though that film is not as suitable for parents with young children.

Domestically, “Frozen” is about to surpass the $200 million Stateside total of “Tangled,” and the holiday picture has significant room to grow internationally. “Frozen” has yet to bow in places like Australia, Brazil, China and Japan.