How ‘Frozen’ Became This Year’s Surprise Holiday B.O. Present

The Story of Frozen: Making a

Disney toon about to surpass domestic total of studio's 2010 pic "Tangled"

The Cinderella story of this year’s holiday box office is … go figure, Disney’s newest princess movie, “Frozen.”

Yet, despite the surprise success of its 2010 predecessor princess pic, “Tangled,” which grossed nearly $600 million worldwide, the path to B.O. glory for the Mouse’s latest fairy-tale treatment was nowhere near a slam dunk.

SEE ALSO: Disney’s Princesses: From Snow White to ‘Frozen’

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

For its first “Frozen” spot, Disney essentially 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.

Still, word-of-mouth has been stellar for the toon as evidenced by its leggy 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 Bros. 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.

The B.O. limits for “Frozen” are lofty since Christmas is a highly lucrative time.

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

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  1. Our family went nuts over “Frozen!” We went there thinking “The Snow Queen” would be ruined by that stupid snowman character, but we love Idina Menzel in the clip of her song “Let It Go.” This movie is thoroughly entertaining and I loved everything about it, even the snowman. “The Hobbit #2,” on the other hand, was a HUGE disappointment. Too much action, 3D impossible scenes and not enough story. This Hobbit lover hated it

  2. Hank says:

    The movie was a complete mess, thematically. It’s hard to even tell who the main character is. But it’s also one of the WORST musicals ever. The songs are pedantic, bland, and witless–about as far away from a decent Broadway score as one could imagine. The film would have been far superior without these songs, which continually stop the movie in it’s tracks. Not remotely as good as Tangled.

    • Bob says:

      Methinks Hank got a lump of coal for Christmas … either that, or he was involved with 47 Ronin. Wah!

    • Nick says:

      You have no clue what a musical is! I have a feeling you wrote the bad review just to P___ off readers. If so keep it to yourself. Stupid is still legal.. Not sure why?

    • david says:

      you do realize that the music from ‘frozen’ was co-written by robert lopez, the best musical tony and grammy award winner for ‘book of mormon”. while i believe some of the songs were little pedestrian, there were a few that were lived up to it’s songwriting pedigree and were broadway quality. so with that being said, ‘frozen’ was hardly the WORST musical ever and will most likely win the oscar for best song and musical score.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It is hardly a “surprise.” Disney animated movies are reliable at getting families in theaters, especially at this time of year. Problem is the film is just another generic modern Disney movie like “Tangled” with generic music, characters, etc. (“The Wind Rises” is a better animated film.) Disney has become like Wal-Mart or McDonalds in their field. Anyone who thinks these films are on the same level as the Disney masterpieces, or even on the same level as the films during their 90s resurgence, is a relativist who can not see the forest for the trees.

    • wink says:

      Wow Anonymous…talk about ignorant. I really doubt you even saw the movie. While I agree that “Frozen” isn’t on the same level as past Disney classics, it still holds its own because it dared to go into new territories that’s never been seen before in Disney animation. Duel princesses who discover themselves and grow without the help of male heroes is a very strong message to teach young girls of today. For the life of me, I honestly don’t know how you missed that, no matter how simplistic the message was conveyed. As a 50 year old male, I may not enjoy todays contemporary music, but I’d like to think I’m wise enough to know society changes and so do it’s movie going and musical tastes and therefore keeps an open mind. Just because Frozen’s songs weren’t composed by Menken and Asher or the Sherman Brothers doesn’t mean they are inferior. You may not like them and that’s your right, but to call others who enjoyed the movie and songs “ignorant” and “uneducated” makes me question your maturity and intellect.

    • Bill says:

      “Frozen” isn’t on the same level as those classics; in some ways it’s better.

      The story is more complex and the songs simply incredible.

      Far from pap, both this and “Tangled” are Disney classics for a new generation that do not suffer in comparison to either “The Little Mermaid” or “Beauty and the Beast.”

      • Bill says:

        Uh, wow, nice attack.

      • Anonymous says:

        Unfortunately, Bill, you are too ignorant to know you are ignorant. Lol. And these message boards do not give one enough room for real communication either and therefore education, so you will probably continue to perpetuate the decline of society without even knowing it. I will just say that anyone with two ears and a heart (that has not been commoditized) knows the music in these films are totally forgettable and there is nothing “complex” about them whatsoever. Nor do these films have the balls to teach young people real life lessons by turning them into donkey-slaves or killing off their mothers as in Bambi. Good luck and happy holidays.

  4. Gretchen says:

    Here’s a heads up for you word of mouth people. Especially for the young boys who go to see this movie. Be sure to sit through the credits to see the final scene with the “ice monster”. Most people don’t wait for the credits to end and missing an important character scene and a perfect Disney ending.

  5. wink says:

    it’s funny that people criticize the marketing of ‘frozen’…when the true fact is the studio knew exactly what it was doing when it released the intial trailers. if they had first marketed the film as a princess musical, little boys would have avoided the movie in droves and cost disney millions in it’s opening weekend. they already knew they had a great movie so subsequent positive word of mouth was a given. the studio maximized revenue by sucking in boys with the guy-centric trailers.

  6. Matt says:

    Frozen’s marketing was awful. I had no interest in seeing it. I took a chance with a group of friends and I found it throughly entertaining. Disney was missing something from the sell. Thankfully word of mouth was positive.

  7. Ivan says:

    If only they put as much effort into actually creating an entertaining film that kids/adults want to see.

  8. Jones says:

    Every insider I talked to (I would never call myself an insider) predicted about 250 million domestically – i don´t think anybody at Disney is really surprised (of course they have to act surprised in interviews…). Still, the campaign was horrible. If you have wonderful movies like Tangled or Frozen, you simply cannot end up behind flicks like Despicable me 2 – if you do, the marketing has failed, period.

  9. Bill says:

    Simply put, “Frozen” is stellar filmmaking.

    Wonderful story, great characters, absolutely incredible music and singers (how can you ever go wrong with Idina Menzel, and who knew Kristin Bell had such a wonderful singing voice?) and a great message and you not only have box office gold but a new Disney classic.

    The mouse house also will make untold millions in home video sales for decades to come.

    That shows what can be done when you take the time to do it RIGHT and with LOVE.

    Having John Lasseter in charge at Disney Animation doesn’t hurt at all, either. :-)

    • Sean C. says:

      and who knew Kristin Bell had such a wonderful singing voice?

      People who’d seen her on stage, or in Reefer Madness.

      • Bill says:

        True, but those numbers are tiny compared to those who know her mainly from films like Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

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