Can Disney recreate 'Frozen' magic on Broadway?

The smash hit animated movie 'Frozen' is being adapted as a Broadway musical that will open in 2018 and a TV special based on the movie will arrive in 2017. Disney has created plenty of hit animated movies, but what made 'Frozen' become a phenomenon?

'Frozen' stars Idina Menzel.

Fans of the movie “Frozen” don’t need to let the film go just yet. 

Disney recently announced that the smash hit animated movie will be the basis for an animated special that will air during the holidays in 2017 and that a musical based on the film will open on Broadway in 2018. 

According to Disney, “Frozen” actors Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, and Josh Gad will all return for the animated special. 

Meanwhile, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who worked on the songs for the 2013 animated movie, will be adding new tracks for the Broadway musical adaptation and “Frozen” screenwriter and co-director Jennifer Lee will be adapting the story for the stage. 

“Frozen” tells the story of two sisters, Anna (Bell) and Elsa (Menzel), who are in line to rule the kingdom of Arendelle and whose lives are thrown into turmoil when Elsa reveals her powers over snow and ice to the public and then flees.

The movie is now Disney’s highest-grossing animated film of all time, outdistancing such past hits as 1994’s “The Lion King” and the 1992 movie “Aladdin.” Its success isn’t just in comparison to other Disney animated films, either – it’s passed box office titans such as “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “Spider-Man 2.” 

What made “Frozen” stand out from the pack and become so popular? 

Vulture writer Bilge Ebiri found that the mood of “Frozen” makes it different from animated movies trying to be relevant with pop culture references.

“’Frozen’ stands out for its old-fashioned story – with its regal setting, its lonely princess in a castle, its kingdom under a spell – and for its visual splendor,” Ebiri wrote. 

But another aspect that’s apparently behind the appeal is that in many ways, the movie is not a traditional Disney tale.

Erika Wells, a psychologist at Union College, told The New Yorker, “It’s the furthest thing from a typical princess movie. The handsome prince is evil. The person with the magical powers is good. It spins Disney on its head.”

The character of Elsa is also key, say critics. Besides having a showstopping song, she’s far from a villain. After Wells and a colleague talked with Union students about the movie, they found that “everyone could identify with Elsa,” New Yorker writer Maria Konnikova wrote.

“…Born with magical powers that she couldn’t quite control, she meant well but caused harm, both on a personal scale (hurting her sister, repeatedly) and a global one (cursing her kingdom, by mistake). She was flawed – actually flawed, in a way that resulted in real mistakes and real consequences. Everyone could interpret her in a unique way and find that the arc of her story applied directly to them." 

Ebiri agreed, writing “However you cut it, this is a tale about growing up, becoming your own person, and learning not to be ashamed of yourself."

Marketing may also have played a part. Disney seems to have made an effort to aim the movie at all moviegoers, not just young girls, and Forbes writer Scott Davis writes that other marketers can learn from Disney’s success.

“If you totally leave out boys, you will cut your audience potential, fracture families and potentially miss out on a much bigger piece of the pie,” Davis wrote. “…In [movie promotion during] October, we saw the full plot line, multiple male and female characters, action, song and humor. It wasn’t until the film was released to such widespread love and overwhelming word-of-mouth promotion that audiences learned it was a story dominated by the relationship of two sisters. The slow reveal plan worked; stats show that 43 percent of audience members are male.”

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