Over the last five years, the Frozen franchise has been a pop culture juggernaut for Disney, which is saying a lot given the many successful films they’ve had as of late. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is their latest effort to capitalize on any momentum that’s left before Frozen 2, a holiday-themed short film that’s three times the length- 21 minutes- of 2015’s Frozen Fever.
Placed in front of Pixar’s latest film Coco, it left a lot of audiences feeling…well, I don’t know how to say this without it becoming a terrible pun…chilly.
My friend I took with me to see Coco didn’t mind the short much, but some of the adults around me in the theater looked annoyed, and even as a fan of the 2013 film myself I couldn’t blame them.
This isn’t the first time Disney has released a full featurette in front of another property- a notable example being The Prince and the Pauper, a 1990 Mickey Mouse short that preceded The Rescuers Down Under. But I can see where people would be bothered by a half-hour film placed in front of the new IP they bought tickets for, especially if you’re a parent who doesn’t want your kids up too late.
The backlash has been severe enough to where theatre chains in Mexico stopped airing the short before Coco screenings. Finally, Disney recently announced the short is being pulled from all theaters- future screenings of Coco following December 8 will no longer feature it. Now here’s where my personal biases come into play- I am a mark for the charming citizens of Arendelle, but I can see where Disney has beaten Frozen into the ground marketing wise.
So if you’re sick of this film and are just about ready for them to let it go (more in the Chief Bogo sense), Olaf’s Frozen Adventure probably won’t convert you to my camp. But just taken as a short on its own, I didn’t think it was all that bad.
So Anna and Elsa are hosting their first Christmas celebration since the events of the first film, and they’re disappointed when the townspeople have to go back home to their own holiday affairs. The two sisters essentially don’t have any Holiday traditions of their own, due to Elsa’s prior isolation and the fact they’re both orphans. (There’s also the added responsibilities of governing an entire kingdom at such young ages, which the short could have but doesn’t acknowledge.)
Our favorite cuddly snowperson sets out with Sven the reindeer to find the two sisters a tradition, hopping door to door and interviewing the townspeople on how they celebrate. This results in all of the spontaneous singing and embarrassing mishaps for Olaf as you might expect. Frozen’s never skimped on the quality of its visuals- you can tell that the sisters’ new outfits were tailor-made for a new line of dolls0 and most of the songs are pretty catchy, most notably “When We’re Together” and Kristoff’s little ballad in the first half.
At his lowest point, his friends eventually have to set out and find him. I will say it’s pretty jarring seeing Olaf actually depressed and heartbroken about something, and believe it or not it does fit his character. He’s not very smart, but it’s also obvious just how much he loves Elsa and Anna, and I think that helps make him so endearing to many people. Josh Gad has always done a very hammy performance with this character, and I can see where some people would find him annoying after a while.
But the closest the character got to this emotional point was towards the end of the original film when Anna was transformed into ice, but aside from that he’s usually a bouncy, happy-go-lucky pile of slush. As basic as this story is, it does manage to give Olaf new degrees of depth.
I feel Coco was probably strong enough a film to stand on its own without the short, especially given its great early word of mouth and the appeal of the Pixar brand. But Frozen has been something successful on a level not even Disney was expecting, and 2015’s The Good Dinosaur didn’t have that strong of a Thanksgiving opening as they wanted- so I can see why they made the call to tack this featurette on.
Towards the end, I was ready for the real damn movie to finally start already as much as anyone else, but I was genuinely moved by the end of Olaf’s Frozen Adventure regardless. I personally liked it, but it was certainly a bad PR move on their part, which I feel is a shame given the attention to detail on display here.