Ah, “Frozen.” The biggest animated film of the century, the bane of parents everywhere. Just when you finally get “Let It Go” out of your head, Disney is getting ready to flood pop culture with double the Olaf. In its annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, after months of speculation, the Walt Disney Company formally announced that a sequel to its 2013 Academy Award-winning record-breaking hit “Frozen” is indeed in the works.
Greenlighting a sequel to the film would seem like a no-brainer to most. “Frozen” was the most popular film of 2013, taking in a record-breaking $1.3 billion worldwide. Its soundtrack, according to “Billboard,” was the biggest album of 2014 in America, selling over 3.4 million copies and racking up 13 weeks at number one, undoubtedly aided by the success of “Let It Go.” The home release of the film sold over 3 million copies on its first day. A Broadway musical is now in the works, aiming at a 2017 opening, as is a theme park attraction at Walt Disney World. Merchandise for the film hit $1 billion in sales just in the United States within a year of the film’s release, driving Disney to a record $7.6 billion profit for 2014. Not to mention literally every girl under the age of 15 was either Anna or Elsa last Halloween. At this point, Disney is basically printing money with its exploding “Frozen” franchise.
A feature-length, theatrically released animation sequel is highly unusual for Disney, however. Only one animated film has been followed by a feature-length sequel produced by the conglomerate’s flagship animation studio, Walt Disney Animation Studios. Disney’s 1977’s “The Rescuers” was followed up by “The Rescuers Down Under” a sub-par film that was released right in between “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast,” in 1990.
You may now be thinking back to other sequels Disney has produced. “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Cinderella,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Mulan,” “Tarzan,” “Peter Pan,” “The Jungle Book” and “Bambi” all had sequels or prequels, which were almost all mediocre or tragic. All of those films were made and produced by DisneyToon Studios, a subsidiary of Walt Disney Animations created in 1990 specifically for direct-to-video sequels of Disney’s animated classics. “Return to Neverland” and “The Jungle Book 2” did see theatrical releases in 2002 and 2003 respectively, but they were independent of the mainline, prestigious animation studio. Ironically, DisneyToon stopped producing these sequels in 2008 when John Lasseter, Pixar Studios’ founder, took over the entire animation department of Disney. He felt that the sequels tarnished the legacy of the Disney classics, and DisneyToon now makes movies about Tinker Bell. Lasseter must have changed his mind about Disney sequels, as he’s the one who greenlit the sequel to “Frozen.”
Despite the immense success of “Frozen,” I am very much opposed to Disney making a sequel. And that’s not because I dislike the original. I love “Frozen.” I literally have a “Frozen” poster hanging in my dorm room. I listened to that soundtrack non-stop for the entirety of the previous winter. But making a sequel is still a bad idea. For decades, one of Disney’s strengths has been the breadth of its animation portfolio. The lack of sequels allowed for Disney to make multiple amazing films adapted from different, original stories. No other film or animation studio can boast of producing the likes of “Pinocchio,” “Lady and the Tramp” and “The Lion King.”
Disney has never rested on its laurels – it pushed the boundaries of animation from the very beginning. Rather than making a follow-up to the runaway success of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” Disney opted to put the company into bankruptcy by making “Pinocchio.” And today, “Pinocchio” is considered the greatest animated film of all time. Walt Disney was so committed to producing top-of-the-line animated films that he risked the studio’s financial stability multiple times. Without that desire to make truly great films, we would not have “Pinocchio” or “Fantasia” or “Sleeping Beauty.” Producing a “Frozen” sequel would be a major break in that Disney tradition of innovation.
Look at Pixar. From “Toy Story” to “Up,” it produced an awe-inspiring number of original sequels, loved by the publics and the critics. Then they fell into the sequel spiral and have produced one disappointing film after the other. Even their recent original films have suffered in quality. DreamWorks, the bastion of unnecessary animated sequels, I won’t even bother with, as they’ve produced five decent films at best. Seriously, who asked for “Kung Fu Panda 3”? Disney has always risen above all of the other animation studios, a major factor in this being that they did not just push out half-baked sequels to make money.
Instead of producing “Frozen 2,” the directors should instead adapt a different fairy tale, one that opens up even more people to representation. There are so many fairy tales that have yet to receive the golden touch from Disney. Playing it safe should never be the Disney way, and “Frozen 2” is that dangerous first precedent.