Thursday, March 12, 2015
The Storm Rages On: 'Frozen 2' Confirmed
Disney has held their annual shareholder meeting... And yes, the sequel that seemed so inevitable is actually happening...
It's real. It's a go. It's in development right now. Bob Iger and John Lasseter confirmed it, director Jennifer Lee confirmed it on her twitter...
Mixed feelings. Mixed feelings all around.
First off... I didn't want a Frozen sequel. Up until it was made official, I said "no" to one. Now it's happening, so all I can say is... "Let's wait and see." It's the same attitude I have towards Toy Story 4.
To me, Frozen is a decent, sometimes very good film. I am happy that it made $1.2 billion. I really am, but I'm happy for Walt Disney Animation Studios more so than the film itself. The studio needed a hit of this caliber in years, even though Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph were big hits on the order of a good number of the 90s Disney films.
However, I feel that Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6 are more deserving of sequels. A Wreck-It Ralph sequel is being written as of April 2014, according to Henry Jackman, the first film's composer. According to Genesis Rodriguez, the voice of Honey Lemon in Big Hero 6, there have been rumblings of a Big Hero 6 sequel. Both stories arguably lend themselves to sequels, and I'm sure they'll eventually get to them.
Frozen 2? This is clearly being made just because the film was a huge hit. It's not the 1990s anymore, when Disney wouldn't do theatrical sequels to their classics. I currently doubt that there's passion behind the sequel, and that it's corporate Disney cattle-prodding. But I could end up being wrong in a way...
I mean, sequels are usually made because of the green paper. Any studio would be insane not to make a sequel to the world's fifth highest-grossing film of all-time. Or any film that makes that much, except if it's based on a historic tragedy like the sinking of the Titanic. Let's face it, most art... Most films are made for green paper. If you're an artist, you'd want to make money off of your work, right? On the Emeryville side of things, Toy Story 2 was literally forced on Pixar and they made lemonade out of lemons, but Pixar wanted to do a Toy Story 3 long before their relationship with Disney soured. Pixar continued to emphasize that they'd only do sequels if they had the right idea.
It's been reported that Pixar had some ideas for sequels prior to the acquisition in 2006. Toy Story 3 was certainly being thought about as far back as 2002 (from what I've gathered), and they supposedly wanted to revisit the world of Monsters, Inc. in film form. Toy Story 2 was the root of many disagreements between Disney suits and Pixar, and whether it counted as part of the contract or not. Pixar continued to do originals, that way they avoided another fiasco like that. But Michael Eisner was out in 2005, Bob Iger came in, patched things up, Pixar was now free to do whatever. They were now able to make their Toy Story 3. They came up with an excellent idea for it, were truly confident in it, and made it. Everyone loved it, no shock. It's one of the rare "3" movies that's considered on par with the first two. That was done because they had the passion, the passion equaled or outweighed the quest for money. If anything, corporate Disney was more interested in that. Toy Story 4? Well I can't say. It seems Pixar is all for it, but at the same time I get the sense that Disney pushed them to do it. Or were going to one day if not now.
But Pixar can make sequels now because they really can, more so than they could before the merger. Monsters University and Finding Dory are legal issue stuff, those had to be made due to Disney's Circle 7 studio getting very far in development of their Pixar-less sequels. Pixar had to overwrite those. Cars 2 and Cars 3 are Disney cattle-prodding, The Incredibles 2 is something they want to make. Toy Story 4? Not sure yet. Gotta wait till the film comes out, ya know? All I know is this, Toy Story 4 began development in summer 2012, two years after the release of part tres. It was announced last November, nearly 4 1/2 years after the third one came out. And it's reportedly not going to be a continuation of the main trilogy. They didn't just whip it up right after the third one came out.
Walt Disney Animation Studios' sequel basket is not very full. Walt disliked the idea of making sequels to his animated films, very few of his live-action films got sequels. "You can't top pigs with pigs." After Walt died, the studio hung onto the tradition for the animated films, multiple live-action sequels were made though. The Rescuers Down Under was their first true animated sequel, and it was their 29th feature. Prior to that, you had some films that seemed kind of sequel-ish. Some may argue that The Three Caballeros is a sequel to Saludos Amigos given that they are package features that explore Latin America. Make Mine Music and Melody Time have segments set to songs, similar to Fantasia having segments set to classical music.
Talking about the lack of Disney Animation sequels post-Rescuers Down Under is a bit complicated, because there's the whole issue with the direct-to-video sequels. Rescuers Down Under, released in 1990, was not the hit that Disney wanted it to be, so the studio put the kibosh on theatrical sequels produced in-house. But the search for money was still on. The Little Mermaid got a TV series in 1992, Aladdin was to get one in 1994. After a couple episodes of the Aladdin TV series were cobbled together into a 66-minute movie, well, you know what happened next... The compilation/DTV sequel - The Return of Jafar - was one of the top selling videos of 1994.
So while sequels would be done cheaply for video only and arguably halfheartedly (no offense to any fans or anyone who wrote/conceived the DTV sequels), Disney continued making new non-sequel films. Fantasia 2000 was an exception, for Roy Disney was a huge advocate of it and it technically wasn't supposed to be a sequel in a traditional sense. Walt had intended to re-release Fantasia every once in a while with some sequences taken out and newly-created ones put in, had it been a hit back when it was first released. The problem was, Fantasia never turned a dime on any of its re-releases. It only made it back on the first re-release after Walt's passing. So Fantasia 2000 is really an updated Fantasia. The only segment from the first that remains is The Sorcerer's Apprentice. More segments from the original were intended to be in the film, but were cut for time constraints.
Then there's Winnie the Pooh. I've heard rumors about why it was concocted in the first place, something about it being a rights grab or something? Prior to the 2011 film, Disney's last Pooh-related film was the DTV flick Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie, which came out in 2005. There was also a TV show released between the two. Whatever the reason the film was made, it was made at Walt Disney Animation Studios and can be considered a sequel. It doesn't continue a major story, for the first film was really just a package feature. The three stories that make up that 1977 release - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh - were released separately from 1966 to 1974. Walt realized that the stories couldn't be adapted into a feature, so he decided to produce a featurette instead. That was Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, which came out months before his death.
Walt may have intended to make a Winnie the Pooh feature film, but he made a short instead. Another short was made and released after his death, and then another. Disney then decided to string them together in the mid-70s, and made bank off it. My guess is that they did this because the wait between new films was quite long. There's no big plot in the film because of this, no major overarching story. It's just the days of the lives of Pooh and the gang. Winnie the Pooh is basically more days of the lives of the gang.
Anyways, enough "past sequels" talk, let's focus on the now! Like Edna Mode would do!
John Lasseter put the kibosh on direct-to-video sequels to Disney animated classics (he couldn't stop Tinker Bell, but that's really more of a spin-off that could be considered non-canon) when he came to Disney in 2006. So what did this mean for future productions? Would a future Disney Animation film get a full-blown theatrical sequel if there was any interest in making one?
Well, Disney scored their first blockbuster-sized hit in the Lasseter era with Tangled, which grossed $590 million worldwide. Bolt and The Princess and the Frog before it were just modest successes, Meet The Robinsons lost money. Even though the film was a perfectly self-contained story, there were rumblings of a sequel, but they ultimately made a short instead. No sequel was made, regardless of the amount of money the film made. Frozen, being a CG princess fairy tale with songs with a similar look, functioned as the Tangled sequel for audiences.
Wreck-It Ralph also did very well, grossing $471 million. Like Tangled, it is also very self-contained, but it's set in a world that suggests that sequels could be made. Rich Moore, the director, said that he wanted to do a sequel. Outside of that, all we've heard about the Ralph sequel was that it was being "written" back in early 2014. We've heard nothing about it ever since, you'd think Disney would've mentioned it at their 2014 shareholder meeting or the one that just took place! They didn't hesitate to announce Pixar sequels The Incredibles 2 and Cars 3 at the 2014 shareholder conference, and those weren't "Frozen big". They could very well have announced a Wreck-It Ralph sequel.
Frozen getting a sequel makes one wonder: Had Disney not canceled WDAS-produced sequels in the early 1990s and opted for DTV sequels, would they have made theatrical sequels to the likes of Aladdin and The Lion King? A question for the ages!
Now... As for the sequel itself...
Well it's nice to know that Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee are returning to direct it.
I'm not the biggest fan of Frozen. I honestly think it's the weakest film made during the Lasseter era, but it's not bad or mediocre. There are flashes of brilliance in it, I love most of the first act, some of the songs are wonderful, and it is very entertaining as a whole. As a film I think it's not all that great, and that its story perhaps needed a rewrite or two in order to come together as a whole. Dirty little secret, it was a rushed and troubled production. Buck pitched his take on the Snow Queen story in early 2008, but then the plug got pulled on it in 2009. When it was halted, it was reportedly in bad shape as well. Then development resumed in 2011, and it was already pegged for fall 2013. It perhaps needed more time to come together. A major rewrite was done just mere months before it was released, and from different accounts I've heard, Disney wasn't too confident in it and the studio was ready to just get it off their chests.
Fortunately for them, everyone loved it, it was huge, and became a phenomenon. Yes, figures the current Disney feature I like the least becomes the biggest...
A sequel could perhaps improve upon the original's flaws. One problem I had with the film was that it sped through many sections. Again, a byproduct of a troubled production. Anna and Kristoff's snowy journey to find Elsa was way too short, and that section of the film could've been a way to develop Anna and Kristoff as characters. In no time they find Olaf, then they find Elsa, only for Elsa to accidentally curse Anna, and now it's "Back to Arendelle! Gotta do something about this!" Then comes a villain that they have to fight. It felt too busy as a whole after its first act, and it certainly didn't feel like it was 108 minutes long! A sequel could work if it's less rushed, less busy, and adds to characters like Anna, Kristoff, and even Elsa. Also, it could add more to Arendelle and the world around it.
Though one thing is probably for certain, they most likely won't eliminate the more juvenile humor that I had a problem with. Ya know, songs about "tinkling in the woods" and yellow snow jokes? How about throwing comic relief into scenes where it does not really belong? For instance, Anna hesitating to knock on the door of Elsa's ice palace... Did we really need Olaf humorously questioning why Anna wasn't knocking? This was obviously a very emotional thing for Anna, and it should be for the audience. Why ruin that? That's just one instance of many, but this is a problem that also plagued a lot of the 90s Disney films. (A highly unpopular opinion, but...) Also, no tone-shattering songs like 'Fixer Upper', please. 'In Summer' is fine as a funny song, and it fits the story.
Also, I would love for the sequel to eliminate the subversive stuff that felt like it came out of a Shrek movie. When I hear John Lasseter - a man I obviously admire, if you've been here before - insinuate that the older Disney princesses were helpless damsels in distress who were dependent on men to save them, I cringe. Isn't he supposed to know that those things are just things people who don't watch/pay attention to Disney movies think? Yes, on a side note, Frozen isn't the super-progressive princess movie everybody thinks it is.
If they don't do away with those kinds of things, I'll certainly criticize... But if the story is an improvement over the last film's story, it won't hinder things too, too much. If it's a story that's worth telling, a story that moves me, I'll dig it. The first film is out, the characters are established enough, and now they have room to breathe for the sequel. They aren't tasked with re-imagining the story of the Snow Queen now, this is their own original story and they have more opportunities this time. The sequel does not have a release date, they said that it has not been determined. It probably won't be determined for a long time.
And I say... Good!
Frozen, when it re-entered development in 2011 at the studio, was immediately slapped with a fall 2013 deadline. Disney Animation wanted a film out in 2013, because they probably knew that the in-development Big Hero 6 wouldn't be ready until 2014 at the earliest. Zootopia and Moana obviously weren't going to be ready that early, either. But why couldn't they sit that year out like Pixar did with The Good Dinosaur? For all the ribbing Pixar gets for their recent films, they at least pushed that film back and left 2014 Pixar-less all for the sake of getting the story right and turning out a good quality film. Disney Animation didn't do that for Frozen, and no one bats an eye.
Well I do.
On the other hand, Disney didn't announce Big Hero 6's ultimate release date right away, ditto Zootopia and Moana's. Lesson-learning, perhaps? I think so. They waited till they were ready, and I feel Big Hero 6 is superior to Frozen in terms of story structure and character development. Doesn't feel as rushed. Zootopia opens in spring 2016, it was pitched in early 2011, so it had five years to brew. Moana was also pitched in early 2011, so that film had 5 1/2 years to brew.
The earliest Frozen 2 can come out is 2018, be it March 9th or November 21st. Giants is aiming for one of those two 2018 dates that Disney Animation staked out nearly two years ago.
If it came out in, say, March 2018, it would've had nearly 4 1/2 years to come together - assuming that the film began development right after the release of Frozen in November 2013. A November 2018 release would be better for Frozen 2, giving it a full five years to come together. Honestly, I'd rather see two originals come out in 2018. Frozen 2 could come out in 2020 and I wouldn't flinch.
But you know Disney is going to want this thing out sooner than later, they're going to want to quench the thirsts of millions of fans around the world. The cruel jerk in me snarls "Ehhh heck with them, they can wait!", but corporate Disney doesn't share my beliefs.
Unless Walt Disney Animation Studios' current slate sees a dramatic change in terms of release dates, I think Frozen will be one of those 2018 releases.
The current slate looks like this...
Zootopia - March 4, 2016
Moana - November 23, 2016
Untitled - March 9, 2018
Untitled - November 21, 2018
Giants, according to a recent article by Kenosha News (Kenosha is director Nathan Greno's hometown), will be released "sometime in 2018". Dean Wellins is directing a feature of his own, but I have no idea whether it's that sci-fi one he wanted to a couple years back or a brand new project. There are other projects in development as well, ones we're not supposed to know about. Technically, Giants is supposed to be kind of a secret.
For now, I can see Giants and Frozen 2 filling those slots, in no order exact order. Both are very fall/holiday season event-sized pictures (being massive fairy tale musicals), and again, Disney would want to get Frozen 2 out sooner than later. Strike while the iron is hot! Or cold...
It's possible that Frozen 2's plot can be spring or summer-themed, rather than snow or winter-themed, so maybe it could be the spring release. But who knows, who knows. It's in development, that's all we're going to know for a little while.
In the mean time, I'll treat this like Toy Story 4. I don't really want it, but it could be good. I'll wait for the reviews.
For those who are already assuming that Walt Disney Animation Studios' golden age is ending, don't. One film is not going to derail things. Frozen 2 is Frozen 2, we're still getting cool originals like Zootopia, Moana, Giants, Dean Wellins' movie, and several others. We have no idea what else is in development there, because they want to be secretive. Sequels aren't the mark of creative bankruptcy, unless that's all the company/studio is doing.
Maybe sometimes the filmmakers and creators *gasp* WANT to explore the worlds they have created and revisit their characters. Might as well have told George Lucas and everyone behind The Empire Strikes Back that making a sequel to Star Wars was a bad creative decision.
Anti-sequel sentiment is not without its reasons. Lots of sequels suck or are unnecessary, concocted to make money first and foremost. We have no idea how Walt Disney Animation Studios will handle Frozen 2. If it was greenlit solely for monetary reasons with no shred of a "we wanted to continue the story" mindset, then that certainly sucks... But that doesn't mean the film itself can't be good. Toy Story 2 was forced on Pixar, forced on Pixar by Disney. Look what happened in the end...
So let's not dismiss it already, or assume that the future is bleak for Walt Disney Animation Studios'. The fact that people are already doing the latter makes my head spin! If the film turns out to be good, I want all you naysayers to get that oven ready for the epic amount of crow you'll eat. If it's not very good, I'll warm up my oven for massive amounts of crow.
We don't know anything. Let's wait and see before we make any judgment whatsoever. Walt Disney Animation Studios did quite well with Winnie the Pooh, staying true to the charm of the classic short subjects. With Frozen 2, they are not tasked to keep the warmth of something from the Walt era, but something from their era. They're continuing something they made in the first place. At the same time, let's not assume it'll automatically be great. It can go either way, like most films really...