Summary

  • Frozen
    ‘s box office success is unmatched, with no other film able to beat its record-breaking achievements, making it a franchise that Disney can continue to capitalize on.

  • The original film brilliantly subverted the traditional Disney formula, breaking expectations by challenging the idea of romantic love being the only true love that can break a spell.
  • Elsa and Anna’s relatability and their unique sisterly bond set Frozen apart from other Disney movies, with their characters resonating with modern audiences who don’t put princesses on pedestals.

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In 2013, Frozen smashed box office records to become the top-grossing animated movie of all time, and no other film save for its own sequel has managed to beat or even match its success, for a variety of reasons. The grip that Frozen has on audiences is evident in its box office achievement, amounting to a combined gross of $2.73 billion with Frozen II. The interest in Frozen also translated into copious earnings for Disney through merchandise and theme park attractions, to the tune of $5.3 billion (via IndieWire). And Frozen is the only Disney Princesses franchise to have its own separate section on Disney+.

In the 10 years since Frozen’s release, multiple animated and live-action films by Disney have made their debut both theatrically and on-demand via Disney+, but none have seen its caliber of success. Many Disney animated features have been the talk of the moment at the time of their release, yet the only one able to top Frozen’s box office success was its own sequel, in 2019. This makes Frozen the most recent franchise that Disney can continue to milk knowing that audiences will be there for it, ready to consume new content, such as the upcoming Frozen 3, or buy merch related to the movies.

Related: Frozen Sequel Series Will Reveal What Happened Between Frozen 2 & 3

Frozen Brilliantly Subverted The Animated Disney Formula

Elsa, Hans, and Anna in Disney's Frozen

Frozen’s final twist overturned decades of the same Disney formula where true love acts that broke the spell were usually between princes and princesses. The pattern was so steadily established that both audiences and characters alike, aside from Elsa, didn’t bat an eyelash when Anna declared Hans as her one true love after spending only one day with him. This made Frozen’s final twist doubly ingenious, as it subverted both the expectation that it had to be romantic love to break the spell, and that any meet-cute where characters seemed in sync actually resulted in true love. Frozen’s Hans twist is to this day one of Disney’s most shocking revelations.

Related: Frozen & Toy Story Avoided The Same Villain Problem (That Would Have Ruined Both Movies)

Frozen’s Soundtrack Became An Instant Classic

Olaf, Elsa and Anna in Disney's Frozen

Frozen’s soundtrack quickly conquered fans after its release in 2013, and “For the First Time in Forever,” “In Summer,” “Love Is an Open Door,” “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” and “Let It Go” are to this day part of the Disney Hits official playlist on Spotify. The songs’ catchiness and the vocal abilities of its performers all contributed to making the Frozen soundtrack stand the test of time.

At the time, “Let It Go” managed to reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart’s top 10, the first song from a Disney animated musical to do so in 18 years, proving a commercial success for Disney. However, it also remains one of the most beloved songs among Disney fans, with the record-breaking hit still being the most-streamed Disney song on Spotify 10 years after the film’s release.

Frozen Is Incredibly Rewatchable

Olaf in 2013's Frozen

Like many other Disney animated features, Frozen’s story makes for a movie that can be enjoyed multiple times, even if the final twist is spoiled with the first watch. Its relatable characters and the various journeys they go through all make Frozen a joy to rewatch, giving viewers the chance to focus on different characters with each viewing. While delving into emotional themes with Elsa and Anna, Frozen also has perfect comic relief in Olaf and Sven, primarily — and even in Kristoff. Coupled with the multiple catchy songs and the variations on the hero’s journey that Frozen crafts, the humor adds to the enjoyability that Frozen rewatches offer.

Elsa & Anna Are Modern Disney Princesses

Elsa and Anna in 2013's Frozen II

The first Disney Princesses were almost presented as perfect characters who could do no wrong, with the conflict in their stories almost stemming completely from their antagonists hating them for a specific reason. While that changed over the years and could already be noticeable with the Disney Princesses of the late ’80s and ’90s, Elsa and Anna’s relatability in Frozen couldn’t be missed. Whether that came in the form of Elsa’s fear of hurting those closest to her or Anna’s inelegant but realistic way of waking up, they characters proved to be Disney Princesses for a modern audience who didn’t put them on a pedestal.

The modernity of Elsa and Anna’s story is even more evident with the second part of Frozen’s final twist, as the act of true love proves to be Anna’s sacrifice to save Elsa. With that development, Frozen essentially relegates romantic love to a step lower than sisterly love, which was never done before in Disney Princess movies, at least not in those where acts of true love were necessary to break curses. Frozen II continued along those lines, also letting Anna follow her own journey, and while it included romantic love, that was never at the center of its story, marking a resounding shift, especially given the Frozen franchise’s popularity.

Disney Hasn’t Introduced Many New Princesses Since Frozen

Raya as Raya and the Last Dragon, Elsa and Anna in Disney's Frozen II, and Moana in Moana

Although multiple Disney animated movies have been released in the 10 years since Frozen, not many Disney Princesses were introduced to the public during that time. Moana was one of the two animated films canonically introducing a new Disney Princess, and while the 2016 movie had moderate success, it didn’t reach Frozen’s heights. The latest new Disney Princess to be introduced was Raya from 2021’s Raya and the Last Dragon, which was released straight on Disney+ due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making it more difficult for the movie to reach varied audiences due to how streaming algorithms work.

Frozen 2 Improved Upon The Original’s Success (Making It Even Bigger)

Elsa and Anna in Frozen II

While Frozen already smashed multiple records, Frozen II managed to overtake it, which isn’t an easy feat as sequels are rarely more widely liked than the originals. Not only did Frozen II overthrow Frozen as the highest-grossing Disney animated movie of all time, but it also was very popular with audiences. Despite critics giving a higher score to Frozen compared to Frozen II on Rotten Tomatoes, Frozen II had an audience score of 92% on the site compared to Frozen’s 85%. Frozen II benefited from Frozen’s already solid story by exploring even more intense themes, letting the characters grow together, even if their paths diverged in the end.

Related: Frozen’s Original Plan Made Anna & Elsa’s Relationship Even More Heartbreaking

Elsa & Anna’s Sisterly Bond Is One-Of-A-Kind In Disney Movies

Anna and Elsa in Disney's Frozen

Friendship was always central in Disney movies, with the oldest Disney Princesses often relying on animals as friends. While more recent Disney animated movies introduced female friendships with The Princess and the Frog’s Tiana and Charlotte and Raya and the Last Dragon’s Raya and Namaari, and various Disney animated films focused on families, no other focused on a sisterly bond. Frozen is not only the first to do so, but the only franchise that consistently puts two sisters at the center, with Anna and Elsa’s growth as characters inextricably linked to their bond’s development, making it central to both Frozen and Frozen II’s stories.

Disney & Hollywood Have Changed Massively Since Frozen

Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven in Frozen II

Another reason Disney still can’t top Frozen with new original animated movies has to do with the way the industry changed in the past 10 years. While streaming platforms already existed in 2013, they weren’t as widespread. The existence of Disney+ essentially changed the way Disney distributes animated movies, only choosing to release some theatrically. Plus, COVID-19 devastated the film industry for a prolonged period of time. Frozen’s success can’t be replicated, as it happened in a different time, where Hollywood’s hurdles were different. Frozen 3’s story could potentially set another record for Disney, but it would still only ride on the back of the original Frozen’s success.

Disney Had Been Working On Frozen Since The 1990s

Elsa, Anna and Kristoff in Frozen II

The Disney Renaissance era reintroduced the possibility of adapting Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen as a Disney animated movie long after Walt Disney first had the idea. While that project was scrapped in 2002, the idea to turn the story into a film had at least gained traction in the ’90s. While Frozen and the initial ideas for The Snow Queen totally diverge, with Elsa being the hero and co-protagonist instead of the villain, as in Andersen’s original story, the Disney animated feature still had more than 20 years to take form, resulting in a better, more thought-out product due to its long gestation.

Frozen Was An Original Movie In A Market Of Sequels & Remakes

Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf, Sven, Anna, and Hans in Frozen

Due to the changes in the industry, Disney animated movies aren’t guaranteed a theatrical release anymore. In addition to that, Disney’s focus on releasing live-action remakes of Disney classics in recent years makes Frozen one of the last original stories with Disney Princesses at its center to be released theatrically and become an enormous hit. This makes it especially difficult to replicate Frozen’s success, especially if Disney isn’t willing to bet on original content to be released on the big screen due to the recent unpredictable box office results.

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