Love it or hate it, it should come as no surprise that Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee’s Frozen (2013) is getting a sequel. Confirmed on Kristen Bell’s (Anna) Twitter, this musical blockbuster yielded box office returns in excess of a billion dollars, and its sequel is all but guaranteed to earn a few billion more for Disney. There are no known details yet, but it’s safe to assume that the same billion-dollar formula will come into play once again (an earworm soundtrack and other merchandise).
How Many More Times Will I Say “Billion?”
A billion times more.
Disney has mastered the art of capturing lightning in a bottle ever since its feature-length debut, the Academy Awards-recognized Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (which was not just the first feature-length animated film for the studio, but also the first for cinema as a whole). Disney has a reputation for making magic happen, but it still can’t make lightning strike twice. Darrell Rooney and Lynne Southerland’s Mulan II (2004) (shockingly enough) earned a zero-percent rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and Bradley Raymond’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002) is a thing that actually exists.
I’ll admit, some Disney sequels are (very) guilty pleasures of mine. Growing up, I watched Darrell Rooney’s and Jeannine Roussel’s Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure (2001) more than I did the original, and Darrell Rooney’s The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1994) is somewhat watchable (Andy Dick, what are you doing here?). Notwithstanding, Disney sequels can do no right, just like their parent films can do no wrong – will Frozen II break the Disney sequel curse?
Does Darrell Rooney Direct Every Disney Sequel?
The curse is most likely rooted in the fact that Disney movies are almost scientifically designed to become beloved, and so a sequel never stands a chance against the original. As for Frozen, I’m not sure how it’ll go – it’s so good that its sequel will have a tough time competing, and the backlash against the first one is so fierce that people will be waiting for it to fail. The more popular something is, the greater the backlash.
I like Frozen, I really do. I think it was one of the best movies the year of its release, and one of Disney’s best this century (so far, at least); it was released at a time when I was battling the worst depressive cycle of my life, and Idina Menzel’s (in)famous performance of “Let It Go” was more uplifting to me at the time than most anything else (before it got shoved down my throat, that is). I do agree with the haters as far as that Frozen is overexposed.
Frozen is not Disney’s best film. It is not the next Lion King. Yes, it’s the most feminist thing (with its obligatory fairytale “act of true love” taking place platonically between two sisters) to come out of a media empire which traditionally represents its female characters as incomplete without men in their lives, but good intentions do not a great film make.
Not to say that Frozen isn’t great – it is – but, come on. Let’s not be too condescending with our praise here. I find it more disturbing than inspirational that our culture is so sexist that all it takes to create a feminist masterpiece is to portray women as human beings, even though they still have to fulfill traditional gender roles.
Elsa’s ice-powers-run-amok are a symptom of the “hysterical woman” – not at all unlike the lesson in Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976), which is that women on their periods are monsters, because women are already “emotional” and “unstable” enough to begin with. Anna is independent, for the most part, but, without the stereotypically “rugged,” “manly,” “salt-of-the-earth” Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), she wouldn’t have survived the second act of the film. Also, I’m still waiting on some LGBT love stories to come out of Disney.
I don’t want to nitpick the film too hard, because I do appreciate its gender politics, but how low is the bar that Frozen is the greatest thing since sliced bread, with its corny attempts for corporate Hollywood to appeal to this generation’s sense of humor (“That happened” and “That’s not a thing” are both cringe-worthy lines delivered by Kristoff)? Can’t it be “great” without being “the greatest?” Can’t we value it for what it is – high-quality kiddy fare – without turning it into something that it’s not, something more flawless than it really is?
Can’t we all just learn how to…
Let It Go?
You know what else is overexposed? That joke.