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.
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.
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.
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