Monday, November 17, 2014

The Aftermath of Frozen

It's been almost a year since Disney's "Frozen" release at the end of last November. Its popularity soared, and doesn't look like it's going away any time soon.

Elsa was a prominent choice for little girls' costumes this Halloween, and holiday commercials are using Frozen toys and products as a way to attract customers. With the unusual cold we've been having in the Midwest, someone on my Facebook feed joked about how maybe the fact that nearly every little girl wanted to dress up as Elsa had something to do with the unseasonal snow flurries.

Disney seems to be pushing the products so hard, both in the Parks and stores (the Christmas Parade is officially titled the "Disney Parks Frozen Christmas Celebration") that its been getting some backlash from frustrated customers. People are not only tired of seeing the merchandise everywhere, but very upset that the classic Norway ride, Maelstrom, in Disney World's Epcot is being replaced with a Frozen-themed ride.

 Yet people are still going in hoards to buy the merchandise, so much so that Disney stores has a limit of 1 Anna or Elsa costume per customer at their stores. I heard that costumes were being sold on Ebay for hundreds of dollars around Halloween (my good friend Christy went as Elsa in a homemade costume). I thought the three hour line to meet the Princess sisters at Disney World was bad in the spring, but their initial appearance in Epcot led to lines as long as 7 HOURS. I cannot imagine standing in line for that long to meet actors in costume. Many people don't even get seven hours of sleep a night...
Yep, Frozen on Ice is already happening

The fairy tale blogging world has already discussed the film and why it's so immensely popular. The rest of this post isn't really new thoughts, just review as we look back over the year. I think it boils down to two main factors:

1. Our culture was very ready for a fairy tale retelling that doesn't focus on love at first sight. Children's enthusiasm can only go so far without parents willing to support the movie and characters as well, spending money on the products and even waiting in line with their kids for hours and hours. We've been complaining about the fairy tale/Disney Princess stereotypes for so long. Could this be the beginning of truly altering the fairy tale formula in our modern interpretations?
Edmund Dulac, Illustrations for Andersen's "Snow Queen"

Having two strong female protagonists was also a strong point for a more feminist culture, but it's ironic because Andersen's original "Snow Queen" is, arguably, much MORE feminist. It's essentially the story of a young girl who goes on an adventure to rescue her male friend, a complete inversion of the classic heroic-male-rescues-damsel-in-distress, and she meets many strong female characters along the way of all ages who help her in her quest.

2. Girls like superpowers too. I think this point shouldn't be underestimated when looking at the success of the movie. I know many young girls who love Frozen, and Elsa is ALWAYS their favorite (with maybe one exception being a girl whose name is Anna). Superheroes with special powers are marketed pretty exclusively to boys, but girls like to pretend to have special abilities just as much. I can think of multiple young girls I know who are half convinced that any time it snows it's because of their spirited renditions of Let It Go, and Heidi Anne Heiner of Surlalune says its the same with her niece as well.

I've been surprised when stores like Walmart and Target still prominently feature Frozen, it's like no other kids movies were made this year. But for me, it was a childhood obsession with Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" that led to my ultimate desire to research fairy tales. Who knows-maybe in 10-20 years we'll see an increase in young women who start to look up the history of Snow Queen, their own favorite Disney movie's inspiration, who will through the film discover for themselves the wonderful, enchanting world of fairy tales? Here's hoping-


  1. My niece is also one who is still very in love with Frozen and was Elsa for Halloween. When something emotionally clicks for a child, they don't tire of it soon. And I definitely see the core roots of its popularity in that as you said Elsa has powers and girls like magical heroes of their own, she's not just a princess but the Queen, and the love story at the center is about sisters. That is very big for little girls.

    I don't know if you've been following the new OUAT season that is doing its own sequel to Frozen, but they've added their own Snow Queen and actually did a decent job on using the shattered mirror motif last night.

    On the love at first sight, that definitely seems to be a changing trend as is the definition of "love story" for fairy tales. Most notably recently I'm thinking of the three major mouse house girl-centric properties - Brave, Maleficent, Frozen - they are all relooking at that theme for girls which I like seeing.

    1. I haven't been following OUAT, but I'm actually really interested about the shattered mirror being used! Is that the first specifically non-Disney reference they've used?

      Yes, Disney is definitely changing the tides. I thought of Brave as more of a message against arranged marriage which is not necessarily that relevant to our society. But both Frozen and Maleficent have very interesting twists on the power of True Love's Kiss, as well as exploring different forms of love, which is WONDERFUL

  2. I agree with Anonymous. I love how the notion of "true love" (and "true love's kiss") was reinvented in these films to be non-romantic. Yes, there's a love story in Frozen, but the love that saves the day is familial, between mother (or mother surrogate) and daughter, or sisters.

    I do feel, however, that OUAT (the place where old Disney characters go to die) is sort of just cashing in on the ongoing Frozen obsession to wring a few more bucks out of the cash cow.

    1. Amen to the different forms of love being shown. Since I haven't been following OUAT I can't really say, but when I watched the first season, I got that same impression-"the place where old Disney characters go to die"-lol! However, the fact that OUAT got hold of Frozen characters proves that it's more than little girls who are super into Elsa, her popularity spans generations!

  3. I know people love it and I've heard all the reasons why people love it, but I still think it's average at best. But like I said last time it came up, it's probably because the comedic parts didn't work for me. For me, it was always the comedy in Disney movies that made me like them or not (Robin Williams's Genie in Aladdin was the king for me).

    1. Well for me at least, my impression of a movie has a lot to do with what I've already heard about it. Frozen was SO built up that even if you saw a good quality, decent Disney musical, many of us initially thought "really, that's what all the fuss was about?" Before I saw it, my expectations were kind of lowered by all the fairy tale bloggers that were criticizing it and the plot changes from the Andersen tale.

      And I completely agree that Aladdin is the funniest of all the Disney movies! Oh man I need to watch that again...

  4. I hope that attraction-at-first-sight-that-turns-into-love stories don't stop being made though because recently I've noticed that lots of recent romantic stories don't include a crush. It's almost like we're ashamed of it and don't want it in stories anymore because "it's not real love", but crushes are a part of life and a whole lot of teenage girls are having to deal with them without stories to help them get through it.

    1. You do bring up a really good point: attraction at first sight certainly DOES exist, and is a very motivating factor for many people. I think the problem is not that inital attraction exists, but when movies jump from the first meeting to marriage in too short a time span. It can also cause younger people to have too many expectations in a romance when they don't actually know the other person that well.

      But physical attraction is, and *should* be (within reason) something that each couple has. There are still shallow people out there who rule people out of the running because of narrow beauty standards, or without getting to know them, which is sad. But even my pastor says that physical attraction should be something you look for in a mate, right after someone who loves Jesus and someone who is a good friend! And I definitely was very attracted to Tony when I first met him...:)

      You could say that in Frozen, Anna's relationship with Hans was a crush, but turned into a crush-gone-wrong. But it is still possible for a crush to go right- and frankly I almost thought it was cheating to have Hans be so deceptive in a kids' movie. Usually they would provide hints that the audience can catch if a kid's villain is really evil, and seriously, there are usually SOME signs if someone is only out to use you. We don't want the opposite, which is people being afraid to trust others, because in the television formula, which contrasts the movie/book formula, basically all relationships are doomed, because they have to keep the audience interested.

      Aaaannnd that's my really long response to your comment :)

    2. That's really true too. Thanks for replying! (: