Those who have seen Disney-Pixar’s latest cinematic spectacle, Coco have likely also seen the 21-minute Frozen featurette ahead of the film titled Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. The Frozen short was originally developed with the intention of airing the featurette on Disney’s television subsidiary, ABC-Television, but at the D23 Expo this summer, John Lassetter took to the stage to announce that the 21-minute Olaf short would instead be debuting before Coco. It was a surprising move likely done in order to increase ticket sales for Coco, but it’s something that should have paid off better for Disney, considering just how popular Frozen continues to be. However, the short has been receiving a large amount of backlash from movie-goers and theater owners, for its unusual length.
The most interesting element about this entire Olaf debacle is that Olaf’s Frozen Adventure isn’t actually bad. It’s actually quite charming and innocent fun that Frozen fans will definitely love. At the time of this writing, Olaf has received three Annie Award nominations, including Best Animated Special Production, Animated Effects, and Best Music. What underlies the issue behind this situation is where the featurette was released. Seeing as how Olaf was initially developed for television, one could tell the thematic moments in which the pacing of the story changes, where the commercial breaks were intended to be. Of course, the short runs 21-minutes, the length of a standard TV episode, the same as previous Disney holiday specials, Toy Story of Terror and The Toy Story That Time Forgot. It was also shot in a separate aspect ratio at 1.78:1, the standard ratio for Broadcast television, taking place on only half of the screen that would soon show Coco.
What went wrong is that Disney didn’t make a bad holiday feature, but placing it before a theatrical feature film was viewed as a betrayal by many audience members, due to the length it would take until Coco will finally start. Olaf would have been better suited had it headed to TV as intended, and likely would have been received far kinder. That’s because watching a program on television is free, and therefore quality content such as this have a stronger impact on leaving a positive feeling with viewers as Disney continues to build excitement for Frozen 2. Ultimately, it’s commercialism, but it’s a charming entertaining feature that many would likely cherish this holiday season. While Disney’s intentions were likely great (like now being able to view this gorgeous special on the big screen), one can only sympathize with the frustration of most moviegoers, especially when going to a movie scheduled for a certain time,and then having to wait forty minutes of commercialism until Coco would finally begin.
What’s also important here is that Pixar is a strong enough brand in of itself, and can sustain audiences based on their strong brand image alone. It’s now clear that Frozen fans were not what made Coco a smash-hit, it’s the brilliance and beauty of Pixar’s latest film, and the enthusiasm surrounding it. Essentially, audiences showed up for what Pixar does best, and that is creating phenomenal original movies.
It’s clear that debuting Olaf’s Frozen Adventure in theaters did not go the way that Disney expected, but that shouldn’t be a misstep for the franchise. This short likely does not have the opportunity of debuting on Disney’s television networks this season, but should likely earn its place in subsequent holiday seasons. For Frozen fans, it’s a delightful, yet imperfect short that should expand on the franchise, and those who disliked Frozen in 2013 probably won’t find much to care for in this featurette either. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure certainly earns an odd place in Disney history, but now that doesn’t mean that it should not continue to delight fans several years to come.
It’s tough to tell if this film will ever make its way to a home release yet or if it will sit in “the Disney Vault” for some time, but if there’s one thing we hope, it is that the film can soon be viewed in the format it was intended for. The ultimate lesson here is that different elements of the company work best in different formats, and often those storytelling techniques are usually not interchangeable, and not even a powerhouse like Frozen can change that fact. Hopefully, by the time the next holiday season rolls around, we can celebrate each film for their own achievements and what makes each of them unique. Until then, you can catch Olaf’s Frozen Adventure for the last time in theaters before December 8th.
Coco is now playing nationwide along, preceded by Olaf’s Frozen Adventure until December 8th.