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How 'Frozen' became a critical success

By Alex Sferrazza
On January 27, 2014

Everybody wants to build a snowman.
When "Frozen" first ran into theaters, the film was hardly a blip on anyone's radar. Despite being a new release from the prestigious Walt Disney Animation Studios, a comparatively minimal marketing campaign which attempted to pass the film off as a run-of-the-mill comedy starring a goofball snowman (rather than the grand Broadway-style musical starring a pair of princess sisters it is) made many barely award the title a passing glance.
Two months later, the film has proven to be Disney Animation's biggest success story in years and is widely considered to be the front-runner for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
Expanding upon the marketing model crafted for "Tangled," wherein the original title "Rapunzel" was replaced in an attempt to help draw a male audience to a fairy tale film, the motion picture that was to be known as "The Snow Queen" (based on the story by Hans Christen Anderson) was retitled "Frozen".
Despite the marketing moves being criticized by longtime fans, the deceptive campaign worked and the film opened at No. 2 at the box office behind "Catching Fire" with an impressive $67.4 million domestic haul, a studio record.
Although the marketing campaign got the initial audience into theaters, it is the film's brilliant execution and sheer excellence that has led to the extremely positive word-of-mouth, keeping audiences coming back for more.
Long after the film should have faded from the box office charts, the picture topped the domestic box office yet again on its 6th weekend of wide release - a feat not matched by any other film since 2009's "Avatar".
As of this writing, the animated spectacle is still going strong. The title has grossed over $810 million at the worldwide box office, surpassing the $768.6 million take earned by previous studio record holder "The Lion King" in its initial theatrical run. "Frozen" has still yet to open in China and Japan, two of the largest foreign markets in the world. As impossible as it seems, "Frozen" could very well turn out to be yet another billion dollar blockbuster for Disney, which also released "Iron Man 3," the only other film to reach the milestone last year.
Additionally, the film's soundtrack managed to knocked Beyonce's new album off the top of the Billboard charts three weeks ago, becoming only the fourth soundtrack from an animated film ever to hit No. 1.

Just what has made "Frozen" such a wild success?
Perhaps it was the fact that on this critic's opinion, the film stands as the most beautifully animated effort by the studio since "Fantasia 2000." Maybe it's the film's fantastic song-list, easily the best featured in an animated Disney film since "Pocahontas." Possibly, it was the lack of quality competing family films in theaters these past few months.
In all likelihood, it's a combination of all of the above.
The film's incredible success marks a true return to form for the Walt Disney Animation Studios.
After hitting a critical rock bottom with "Chicken Little," the studio has produced a string of wildly acclaimed films including "Bolt," "Tangled," "Winnie the Pooh," and "Wreck-It Ralph," largely thanks to a creative overhaul at the Walt Disney Animation Studios by PIXAR chiefs Ed Catmull and John Lasseter who were put in charge of the studio following the Walt Disney Co.'s purchase of PIXAR in 2006.
But while "Wreck It Ralph" and "Tangled" each managed to gross over $400 and $500 million respectively, for some inexplicable reason, no effort from the studio has been able to attain the same level of financial success enjoyed by multiple releases from corporate sibling "PIXAR" as well as rivals including "Dreamworks Animation" and "Blue Sky Studios."
While the additional cost of viewing the film in 3-D (as well as higher ticket prices across the board) and a more favorable foreign market in general no doubt contributed to the film's financial success, there's little doubt that this is the most popular film from the studio since "The Lion King."
In light of the feature's unexpected success, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that the company plans to produce a stage version of the film adapted for Broadway, while rumors circulate that a possible "Frozen" themed attraction could soon make it's way to Walt Disney World.

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