Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Keep Chugging: New 'Frozen' Featurette is Now a Theatrical Release

Well, you all knew it was coming...

Walt Disney Animation Studios is readying a new Frozen installment this year, because the sequel is over two years away.

Olaf's Frozen Adventure is the name of the short picture. There's a trailer out, and it's pegged for November 22nd...

In theaters... It's not an ABC special anymore. It's going to be attached to Pixar's Thanksgiving release, Coco.

A Walt Disney Animation Studios featurette playing before a Pixar film...

This is actually nothing new.

Does anyone remember when Disney Animation's Bolt came out? A few weeks into its run, they decided to spool the Pixar Cars Toon short Tokyo Mater before the main attraction. This was certainly unprecedented, and unusual considering that Disney Animation already had a new short film ready for release by the end of 2008 - the hard-to-find Glago's Guest. That Chris Williams-directed short was strangely omitted from the Disney Animation short film collection Blu-ray that came out nearly two years ago.

I honestly think Tokyo Mater was attached to Bolt because of how poorly Bolt was doing at the box office. While Bolt ended up having great legs, the reason it didn't big numbers was because of its low opening weekend gross, so it unfortunately didn't become a good-sized animated blockbuster. 2008 was when Cars really peaked as a merchandising monster, and that's also the year the Mater Tall Tales toons started coming out. They originally aired on the Disney Channel, and the Tokyo short was obviously beefed up a bit for theaters - productions values-wise it was pretty big for a short. If anything, what helped Bolt was the strong word-of-mouth and how surprisingly good it was. (The movie had pretty bad marketing.)

Anyways, Olaf's Frozen Adventure was originally meant to be an ABC special. The promotion to theatrical status is really no shock, because Disney sent a movie that was meant to be a straight-to-video release to the big screen. That movie was Planes, and its sequel was theatrically released as well. So it's also no shock that this new Frozen short is now a theatrical thing. Plus, Walt Disney Animation Studios sat this year out to accommodate Pixar, as they have two new features out this year: Cars 3 and Coco. Walt Disney Animation Studio's latest film - Moana - came out this past autumn, and their next movie - Ralph Breaks the Internet - is not out until Thanksgiving 2018. A two-year gap! Also unprecedented in a day and age where these studios usually get at least one movie out every calendar year!

Olaf's Frozen Adventure is unique in that it's a "featurette," rather than a roughly 6-minute short. It will be 21 minutes long. When is the last time an animated featurette appeared before a feature-length film? 1990. The Prince and the Pauper, a retelling of the classic story starring Mickey and the gang, was attached to the 77-minute sequel The Rescuers Down Under. Complete with a plug-the-concession-stand intermission that was 10 minutes long!

It also reminds me of the Toy Story 1 & 2 double feature re-release that happened in 2009. There was a lengthy intermission between both features as well, chock-full of trivia, stuff you saw on the bonus features, and even the Toy Story "treats" that aired on ABC around the time the movie came out on home video. A great three-hour theater experience that was!

Prior to The Rescuers Down Under, Disney regularly attached featurettes to feature-length films. The 1983 re-release of The Sword in the Stone had Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore attached ("Merry Old England and a Brand New Pooh!"), the Christmas 1983 re-release of The Rescuers was preceded by Mickey's Christmas Carol. Both shorts were main attractions, and the earlier Winnie the Pooh featurettes were as prominent as the features they were attached to...

Well, two of them, that is. No marketing materials for 1974's The Island at the Top of the World made any mention of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! That's probably because unlike the two above films, Island was more of an epic adventure than a screwy comedy. Anyways, for the most part, featurettes were a big deal for Disney back then, so it's a bit cool to see it make something of a comeback.

Does this indicate that Coco's length is rather scant? Maybe, maybe not. Length is not my concern, the pacing is. The Rescuers Down Under was a well-paced 77 minutes, though the idea of an animated feature being under 90 minutes long is kind of a novel concept nowadays. Ironically, I find a lot of 90-100 minute animated films made these days to be uneven in their pacing. Most of the time, I think they breeze by way too fast! Then I look at Walt Disney's early films, they mostly hover around the 75-minute mark (Dumbo is a little over an hour long!)... And they flow so nicely, but Walt was one of the rare masters of pace in animation. Pixar, for the most part, is very good with pacing as well. The original Toy Story is about 80 minutes long, and everyone agrees that the movie is near-perfection, so I'm not worried about Coco being a little shorter than usual... As long as it masterfully tells everything it needs to tell in that span of time without leaving anything out, I'll be fine.

Lastly, some may ask... Does this indicate that Disney overall is lacking confidence in Pixar's newest feature? I don't know, were they unconfident in the live-action Cinderella remake two years ago? That had Frozen Fever attached to it, and that little short was marketed as a main attraction as well. In some ways, the presence of the Frozen short seemed to drown out the movie in question. Hey, you could argue a lot of Cinderella's $67 million opening weekend gross came from Frozen Fever. If this will bring a boost to Coco's opening weekend grosses, that's fine, but I don't think this necessarily says that Disney's cautious of this one. The marketing campaign for it is already is doing what The Good Dinosaur's lame duck marketing campaign didn't do.

If anything, all I see now is Disney trying to get more coin out of Pixar's newest release. Slap a Frozen thing on it, more cash.

Anyways, what do I think of the trailer? It's cute enough, I guess. There's some fun moments sprinkled in here and there, looks like your typical Frozen thing: Silly Olaf stuff, a big song, probably something about Anna and Elsa's relationship, some stupid bits, the usual. "Frozen Fever," as I like to call it, is slowly wearing off for me. The hype for the movie initially turned me off (I still don't own it on Blu-ray), but little by little the movie's presence is less... Ermmm... Annoying?

Unlike some folk out there, I actually had issues with Frozen - the movie - since day one. I didn't turn against it because of the phenomenon that followed. After walking out of it on opening day, I felt it was a pleasant, at times stirring picture. The movie was a lot of great ideas and sequences in search of a cohesive whole. The script was inconsistent and very reminiscent of the 90s Disney films in some good ways and some bad ways. All that talk of it being so subversive and progressive, it being the greatest Disney animated film in the whole wide universe, and so on and so forth... What I saw was a rushed movie that probably would've been something to my liking if they had spent more time on it.

My hope is that Frozen 2 corrects the issues I had with the movie, as for the shorts and stuff like this? I can take them or leave them. It's good for Disney Animation, have some extra cash and support from a movie/franchise that keeps on giving. Me? I'm still waiting for a Wreck-It Ralph or Big Hero 6 short, but at least the former is getting a full-blown sequel next year.

What say you on Olaf's Frozen Adventure?

1 comment:

  1. One thing that will be interesting is how people will react to such a long featurette in theaters. Even when one of the 7-minutes shorts plays before a movie, there always seems to be at least one person who's kind of confused, like they think they stepped into the wrong movie. I can only imagine some unknowing people will be thinking that after sitting through several minutes of Frozen stuff.