The unthinkable seems to have happened: Disney might be sick of Frozen.
This weekend, Walt Disney World celebrated its 45th anniversary. The Orlando resort hosted a day of special events in Magic Kingdom, its original park, which opened on October 1, 1971. Much smaller in scale than Disneyland’s recent 60th anniversary Diamond Celebration, WDW’s 45th was, for the most part, a one-day affair: commemorative merchandise, birthday cupcakes, and a ceremony at Cinderella Castle featuring the resort president and 45 Disney characters.
While short, the ceremony offered what was likely a once-in-a-lifetime (or, at least, first-time-ever) opportunity for many guests to see so many Disney characters in one place. Sure, there are routine productions like parades that happen every day and feature dozens of characters, but those are spread out among several floats. Here was the chance to not only see 45 characters in one frame, but to see a selection that was hand-chosen to represent 45 years worth of Disney’s Florida legacy. As the castle gates opened, it was like a storybook erupted: All at once, and rather unexpectedly (or at least if you were like me and expected the characters to arrive later in the ceremony), famous Disney friends flooded the stage. It was a moment you see on commercials and telecasts endlessly and wonder if they ever actually happen in person. It turns out they do, and the joy it evoked in the gathered crowd was a wonderful thing to experience. The weight of what these characters and this place meant to everyone present was evident. Mickey, Minnie, Peter Pan, Belle, Buzz Lightyear, Rapunzel… they were all here. Or were they? It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that I stopped in my tracks and realized… could it be? I retrieved the media I shot from the ceremony to verify my suspicion. Yes, it was true. Anna and Elsa were not on that stage.
Before dissecting the matter further (“You can’t sit with us!”), let’s be clear: Perhaps this is an observation that doesn’t need dissecting at all. On the one hand, this was essentially a one-time, eight-minute presentation to mark a slight milestone in a string of other much more important Disney anniversaries that have been and are to come. So what if Anna and Elsa weren’t included with the other characters? No big deal. Yet on the other hand, if we are to consider what their exclusion means from a macro view, which I think we should, it foreshadows something quite curious.
Here’s the thing: If you’re choosing 45 characters to be on that stage, aren’t you going to choose the ones whose legacies mean the most to guests? Aren’t you going to choose the most prominent characters from the multi-generational library of Disney friends? Whether you like Frozen or not, there is no denying it fits that criteria and then some, easily being the biggest Disney phenomenon in decades. With that in mind, Anna and Elsa would surely be on the stage with the other characters – and yet they weren’t.
It suggests a puzzling question: Is Disney tired of Frozen? The thought almost reads incomprehensible. Is that possible? Is that allowed?
Surely at this point, thanks to synergy upon synergy three years after the film’s initial release, many adults have expressed their disdain for Disney’s continual (successful) use of the Frozen story through extensions such as theme park attractions and television projects, to name a few. A portion of the public may be burnt out, but is Disney?
Maybe. Granted, you could pose a number of plausible counterarguments. 1.) Perhaps the criteria for selection in the 45th anniversary ceremony wasn’t based on importance to the Disney legacy, but importance to the Walt Disney World legacy or even the Magic Kingdom legacy. (This would ring true for most characters included. It would explain the inclusion of some questionable choices, such as Gaston, the Country Bears, and Mike Wazowski, because they have attractions within the park. However, it doesn’t hold up for the likes of, say, Nick Wilde or Princess Aurora, who have minimal presence in the park but were still in the ceremony.) 2.) Perhaps there was a certain allotment for each “type” of character. For example, 10 princesses, 5 obscure, etc… as a means of diversifying the group and appealing to different types of fans. (This does make sense. As much as I loved seeing the Country Bears, there’s no question that they have less relevance today than Anna and Elsa. It wouldn’t be that Disney favored the Country Bears over Anna and Elsa, it would be that there was simply no room left in the princess allotment and cuts had to be made somewhere.) This last proposal is the most realistic and possibly refutes this entire post: 3.) There were plenty of other classic characters who were also excluded from the 45th anniversary ceremony. Pinocchio wasn’t there. Mary Poppins wasn’t there. Winnie the Pooh wasn’t there. Rafiki wasn’t there. Does that mean Disney no longer values these characters or the stories they inhabit? Of course not. Is there subtext behind their exclusion? Probably (I hope) not. 45 years means 45 characters, and with a company as vast as Disney, that means not everyone makes it.
Let’s be real. It could have boiled down to one single Cast Member and his or her personal preferences for which characters were included. That’s a very real possibility. Even still, if you have to delete someone, why would you exclude the faces of your biggest powerhouse film in years? It all circles back to that question: Is Disney tired of Frozen? Long term, will Frozen be treated like a passing fad rather than a rooted, established Disney classic?
It’s important here to define who exactly “Disney” is. “Disney” in the sense of The Walt Disney Company is certainly not tired of Frozen, with the promise of a full sequel and Christmas television special currently in production at Walt Disney Animation Studios (and, subsequently, all the attached media that go along with new projects’ releases). In that framework, Disney has locked itself (and the public) in for more Frozen exposure for at least another four years, depending on when the sequel releases and how long its imprint lasts. But the dismissal of Anna and Elsa from the 45th festivities can, I think, hint at something more. Whether it was a strategic decision made from a higher-up or just a simple selection made without any big-picture thought, it still represents someone who has some form of leadership within Disney not feeling that Frozen should be featured. That is the point here. Disney (or some part of it) is aware of the saturation point of this franchise. Will the Frozen sequel bring a new wave of frosty publicity? Of course. Disney has to sell tickets. However, with the low tolerance that many people have for Frozen in mind, it will be curious to see how buck wild or reserved the campaign becomes. Regardless of whom, someone at the top is tired of it already. It’s going to be quite a fascinating few years if that mindset trickles into other, much bigger decisions than choosing characters for an anniversary ceremony. Stay tuned to this one.
Valid analysis or just a fluke? What do you think of this Frozen conundrum?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes