Disney, Reviews

[REVIEW] ‘Olaf’s Frozen Adventure’ is Heartwarming Continuation of Frozen Franchise

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Elsa and Anna in Olaf's Frozen Adventure

Disney and Pixar have stirred up quite a buzz recently with the release of the widely acclaimed Coco from Pixar Animation Studios, and the accompanying featurette Olaf’s Frozen Adventure by Walt Disney Animation Studios. But while the former has been universally praised, the latter has been met with disdain, and apparently enough complaints that Mashable reports the short film will be removed from all screenings of Coco starting this Friday, December 8.

Some of the complaints that seemingly spurred this decision included the short film’s length (21 minutes as opposed to the more typical 5-7 minute short film), audience confusion as to whether they had stumbled into the wrong theater, and belief that putting Olaf in front of Coco suggested Disney did not have a lot of faith in its latest Pixar masterpiece. Read more about the controversy here.

But presentation method aside, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure deserves to be reviewed for its actual content and what it was initially intended to be – a short holiday special that continues the adventures of the Frozen cast.

"Let the Holidays Begin" (Olaf's Frozen Adventure)

As the story starts out, Olaf is bustling with excitement for the first holiday celebration held in Arendelle since the gates were opened at the end of the original film. Anna and Elsa share in this excitement until they ring the Yule Bell, signifying the official start of the holiday season. At that point, all the gathered citizens rush off to their own traditional holiday celebrations, leaving the girls alone with a desolate banquet hall.

Anna asks Elsa if they have any family traditions, since they apparently haven’t celebrated the holiday ever since the girls were separated after Anna’s near-death accident with Elsa’s powers. But Elsa doesn’t remember any, and blames herself for their lack of a holiday tradition.

Cue Olaf to the rescue! Olaf’s Frozen Adventure follows the main tenet of a short film (theatrical or otherwise) very well – the audience quickly learns the problem, and a character – in this case Olaf – sets out to solve it. Olaf’s solution to the girls’ lack of a holiday tradition is to round up Kristoff’s reindeer pal Sven and ride around Arendelle, going door to door and asking families what their holiday traditions are.

Olaf going door to door in Olaf's Frozen Adventure

The story is relatively simple and predictable, but it has heart that goes beyond the merchandise that Disney undoubtedly intended this film to sell.

First off, I find Olaf to be continually funny, with one-liners and physical antics that elicited laughs from the majority of the theatergoers at the showing I attended. He’s the embodiment of an eternal child, and his naivety that comes off as sarcasm is nothing short of precious. The short had just enough Olaf balanced out with Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, and other supporting characters to prevent it from becoming talking snowman overload.

But the strong bond between Anna and Elsa is where the real heart of the Frozen story lies, and that continues here. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure continues the trend first started in 2015’s short Frozen Fever in which Elsa feels she needs to compensate her younger sister for all the things Anna missed in the years they were apart. The guilt of robbing Anna of a holiday tradition drives Elsa away from the would-be party, and it’s sad to see her continue to beat herself up over things long passed. After a sweet little discovery that I won’t spoil, the girls realize that in way they were still always in each other’s thoughts, and it’s like “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” all over again, except this time the tears are more bittersweet.

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure introduces four brand-new songs to the Frozen canon: “Ring in the Season,” the introductory tune sung by Anna and Elsa; “The Ballad of Flemmingrad,” a short humorous piece about troll lore sung by Kristoff; “That Time of Year,” sung by Olaf as he goes door to door throughout Arendelle; and the closing song “When We’re Together,” sung by Elsa.

"When We're Together" (Olaf's Frozen Adventure)

As a huge fan of the original Frozen soundtrack, I found these songs to be pleasant but not entirely memorable. Perhaps it’s partially because the songs in Olaf’s Frozen Adventure were not penned by the original’s songwriting duo of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, but instead by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson. Or maybe it’s because what are essentially enough songs for a feature length film are crammed into a mere 21 minutes, and there’s not enough time for each to shine. Whatever the reason, the songs are cute, but they’re miles and miles away from the magic of “Let It Go” or “For the First Time in Forever.”

The animation and visuals are as impressive as ever, especially details like the fur on Elsa’s coat or the swish of her glistening, snowflake-covered cape. Even though Olaf’s Frozen Adventure was initially conceptualized as a TV special, the graphics could have had me fooled.

Ultimately, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is a well-plotted continuation of the Frozen story for fans, and a cute little Christmas special for the uninitiated. Nothing in the Frozen franchise may ever top the record-setting original, but this featurette does a good job capturing the same spirit of the characters and slowly transitioning Anna and Elsa from their years in isolation to being a family again.

If you’re looking to catch up with Olaf, Anna, and Elsa before the holidays, however, you have until this Thursday, December 7, to do so, since the short will no longer be playing in theaters starting on Friday. As of now there is no official word on whether or when we will be seeing a DVD/Blu-ray release, or see the short aired on television.

Did you see Olaf’s Frozen Adventure in front of Coco? What did you think of the short, and do you think your opinion was colored by the way Disney chose to present it?

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Amber

Amber is an imaginative storyteller and visual artist whose greatest ambition is to tell meaningful stories that resonate with people. Since she was young, Amber has enjoyed escaping to faraway worlds through animation, and has continued to follow animation into adulthood because of its limitless storytelling possibilities. Picking favorites is nearly impossible, but Amber would say her top animated films include The Little Mermaid, The Incredibles, The Emperor’s New Groove, and Frozen. She graduated with a B.A. in Interactive Media/Graphic Design and a minor in Journalism, and is currently working as an advertising designer. When she’s not at her day job, Amber can be found working on digital illustrations and photo edits, drafting a new fiction story, or crafting a new cosplay. Send her a tweet at @amber_ld.

  • aquapyro

    While in the last Frozen article, I posted that Frozen’s overexposure is starting to hurt more than help. I thought the short was fine.

    However, I have one big problem. Olaf. Yes I know he is supposed to be the sidekick and yeah, but I hate him. It also seems that his dialogue has gotten worse. Making it seem he talks down to 4 year olds in each new thing he shows up in.

  • Rachel Wagner

    Thank you so much for writing this. I really enjoyed the short also and feel the attacks have been very unfair

    • Amber Dvorak

      No problem! 😊 I agree – you can’t blame the short itself for the way Disney chose to present it.

      • Manuel Orozco

        Good thing I chose to wait until tonight to watch this short on ABC. I ended up seeing Coco last weekend without it.

    • Manuel Orozco

      I just got done watching the special on ABC. Despite Olaf being given star billing which I actually didn’t mind, I found it on par with the original movie. I broke into brief fanboy applause when Elsa created the tree during the final song.

  • Juuchan17

    Luckily, I was able to see this over the weekend, and I knew it would be predictable, song-filled, and clearly another way to milk that Frozen cash cow once more… but I honestly enjoyed it more as world-building for the sisters and their kingdom (queendom?) and hopefully a set-up for the upcoming sequel. Plus, the return of the original cast and the same high-quality animation should at least give the Frozen featurette some props; it’s very rare that a property by Disney gets basically its main cast to reprise their roles for continuations (looking at you, Lion King/Guard), so though I’m not a huge Frozen fan, I can be admirable of this (given that I’ve seen my share of Disney’s hit-and-miss sequels).

    Though I’m not a fan of Olaf, he shines here, being funny and downright genuine in his actions. I found myself laughing a lot and going “awww” at the ending, so it made me feel really good inside before going into the beautiful feels-puncher that is “Coco”. Also, both “Olaf” & “Coco” have a strong focus on family, so that warrants something to note. Very cleverly played, Disney.

    I hate to say that I’m actually sad that the featurette is going away a couple weeks before Christmas, as it probably would’ve been BETTER and more effective to at least have the Christmas holiday showings of “Coco” still with “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” prior… but that’s just me suggesting.

    • Amber Dvorak

      I agree – if we had an entirely different cast or lower-quality animation, I know my review would have been different. As it was, this was a really authentic continuation of the Frozen story.
      I didn’t think about both Olaf and Coco sharing the theme of family – good point! It seems like people are calling out the short for being too different from the feature presentation, so that’s a nice point to bring up.
      And I agree about keeping the short with Coco for Christmas. But now that it’s airing on ABC, I guess that point is moot…

  • Linda Olson

    It was a welcome surprise to see before coco. I’d love to get a DVD of it, as our family is based in Scandinavian traditions.

  • Manuel Orozco

    It’s been a while since I have been in the Frozen craze. I wanted to wait until this short stops playing with Coco and watch it on ABC instead if they are still plans. But it is wonderful to hear that Anna and Elsa are continuing to reconnect. I’ve now only listened to Ribg in the Season, That Time Of Year and When We’re Together. The three songs aren’t lame at all. Some of us knew from the beginning a family reunion wasn’t going to be easy. Even if the bad luck and deception the two royal sisters went through in the original wasn’t all I personally thought it would be. But whether I saw this short or not, I already know that the reconnecting process might soon be over. An the real road to happily ever after for Anna’s family New and old will begin. As for me, my return to Arendelle will have to wait a while longer.

    • Amber Dvorak

      I know part of the reason I wasn’t thrilled with the songs is because I am so head over heels in love with the songs from the original, so I couldn’t help but compare them in the back of my mind. And yes, it was just announced that ABC will be airing the special after all!

      • Manuel Orozco

        Been a while since I heard the songs from the original too. Except Let It Go that is since I saw Idina Menzel’s Disneyland 60th anniversary performance on YouTube. And yes I will tuning in on Thursday

  • What’s crazy to us is all the hubbub surrounding Olaf’s being removed from theaters. It is not “at the demand of customers” or “complaints”. It was simply stated when the short was first announced that it would only be in theaters for a “limited time engagement alongside Coco”. Of course Disney is directing theaters to remove it – that’s what they said they’d do…people are just adding to the story what they think they want to hear (i.e., adding drama).They removed it in theaters in Mexico within the same time frame as well. No surprises, no drama, just part of the marketing plan from the beginning.

    • Angelo Thomas

      I don’t buy that it was always intended to be a two week engagement. Limited, sure, but why wouldn’t they keep it through Christmas? It is a holiday themed short. Disney wouldn’t have promoted it so much or bothered making so much merchandise for a short that would only play for two weeks and then disappear.

      • Manuel Orozco

        I bet why it was for two weeks has something to do with the original plans to air on ABC. Probably scrapped for the time being.

        • Well, in case anyone hasn’t seen – exactly as Disney said, they will be airing the Olaf’s Frozen Adventure on ABC in the coming week! So, there we have it – always part of the plan and not complaint driven!

          • Manuel Orozco

            I’ll be looking forward to watching it. I am so in need of a reunion with the girls since it was four years ago today I saw Frozen at the El Capitan with my dad. Thought it was best for me to stay out of the Frozen craze for a while until now. But I am going to be cautious on the Broadway version and big screen sequel.

      • Don’t take our word for it, there’s an article written on Entertainment Weekly that quotes a Disney Rep noting their tactics were always intended to make it a short run. As Manuel said below, the intent was a limited engagement in theaters to get people in the seats (as a marketing play) and then air it on TV. Whether it airs on TV now is the mystery. I’m not linking to the article here so the comment doesn’t get flagged, but I’ll reply with a second reply in case it works that way.

        • Manuel Orozco

          Thank you for mentioning me

    • In that case, it just happens to be a coincidence.

    • Amber Dvorak

      I agree with Angelo – two weeks was not the “limited engagement” that I had anticipated, partially because it’s a holiday-centric film and I just assumed it would play through Christmas. Granted, I could be wrong here. It would be hilarious if all these claims that the short is being removed because of people’s “complaints” were completely false.

  • Mack

    Glad to see the short getting more positive reviews. I do think people are being too hard on the songs though. “Let It Go” was lightning in a bottle. I’d say “When We’re Together” is almost as good as “For the First Time in Forever.”

    • Manuel Orozco

      I think When We’re Together is better

    • Amber Dvorak

      You’re probably right. The songs from the original Frozen set the bar unfairly high for anything that follows it.

  • I agree with your analysis. I found Olaf’s Frozen
    Adventure to be mostly enjoyable. I surprisingly
    laughed at most of the jokes. The animation was
    fine and it was also heartwarming. However, the
    songs were bland and there were way too many
    of them for a 22 minute short. Overall, I thought
    that this was pretty good. It’s not great, but good.

    • Manuel Orozco

      Just out of curiosity, what did you think of the main feature Coco? In case I decide to go see it this weekend

      • Cried nearly 4 times watching this. I wouldn’t put
        Coco in the same league as Inside Out or the
        Toy Story films, but this movie was easily Pixar’s
        best since Inside Out. While there were a few
        pacing issues and the characters were not as
        memorable as other Pixar movies, the story was
        amazing. It’s full of twists, it’s deep, a bit darker
        than usual, and original. Also, the animation was
        spectacular. The best I’ve seen from them. In the
        end, its their best film since Inside Out and one of
        Pixar’s better movies. So yeah, I’d recommend it.

        • Manuel Orozco

          Just wanting to know. I am not expecting a great movie like Cars 3 was but simply enjoyable is better than an absolute disappointment.

          • Oh, Coco is a lot better than Cars 3. You’ll like it.

          • Manuel Orozco

            I won’t count on it but I will like Coco period. Because over 20 years later Pixar never ceases to amaze me.

  • So happy to have a more happier take on this short, I personally love this short and admit it does have some flaws that you mention perfectly here! It is made for more die hard Frozen fans sure but still really warmed my heart for Olaf and just the connection with Elsa and Anna a little too! 🙂