Like any loyal Disney fan, I paid a visit to my local cineplex over the long weekend to delight in the powerful story of Pixar’s Coco and fell in love with all it had to offer. But it seems that many a moviegoer, both inside and outside of the Disney fan clan, were upset with the short that proceeded it. Today we examine the case of The People Vs. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.
It seems that Olaf didn’t make it clear to the theatergoing public that he would not only be part of their Coco experience, but that he would also be a whomping 21-minutes of it. Originally produced as an ABC television holiday special, Disney made the controversial decision to package the “short” with Pixar’s upcoming film. While the reason has never been overtly stated, I had assumed that Disney’s marketing research team was worried that Coco wasn’t trending well enough and that they felt the added bonus of Frozen characters would be enough to boost ticket sales to profitable margins.
While it’s probably true that at least some of the audience were persuaded to see Coco primarily because of the Frozen spin-off (I saw a family leave the theater after Olaf finished), the social media response says otherwise. It appears that the majority of moviegoers turned out to see Pixar’s latest triumph on its own merits and were largely put off by the disjointed holiday spectacle that came before it. Having had an early peek at Olaf’s Frozen Adventure at the D23 Expo, I was well aware of the entire entertainment package I had bought a ticket to. But I sympathize with those who did not, as a member of my own party whispered “Are we in the right theater?” as Olaf hit the 10-minute mark with no sign of wrapping up soon.
Now you might ask yourself, if more is more, why would anybody be mad that they paid standard ticket prices and got more content out of it? For some, the grievance is that Coco is already nearly 2-hours long. You add a 21-minute short and 20-minutes of previews and you’ve just spent a Titanic amount of time in the theater, possibly with young kids, and you didn’t even see Jack Dawson draw Rose Dewitt Bukator like one of his French girls (although you do see a naked skeleton having her portrait painted, so there’s that).
On the marketing side, I always thought it was odd that there was a completely separate ad campaign for Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. The theater I went to actually had a poster just for it on display, with a message at the bottom that you have to see Coco to experience it, but the Coco posters make no mention of Olaf. There were even separate TV spots and only the Olaf ads mentioned Coco, never the other way around. Could a joint marketing effort have helped avoid the flack Disney is now receiving? I feel like in the year 2000, Disney did a better job of making audiences aware of a one-day Double Feature of The Emperor’s New Groove and 102 Dalmatians than they did of letting everyone know that you’d get a side of marshmallow snowman with your cocoa… or Coco.
All that aside, there also seems to be a large number of people who disliked Olaf’s Frozen Adventure simply because it was related to Frozen. While there was a time where it felt like the characters and songs were unavoidable, I feel like we’re out of the winter woods on that front. The fans are a little more chill about it now, they’ve grown and are now above screaming “Let it Go” acapella at the top of their lungs in the Target check-out line. But perhaps some parents have been so overexposed to the original film by a never ending FastPlay experience that it triggers PTSD just to hear Josh Gad say “Helllloooooo.” I wonder how long it will take for that frostbite to thaw, or if it ever will.
While I enjoyed Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, it dawned on me after leaving the theater that it was mostly forgotten by the end of the main feature. On its own, it has some funny gags, catchy songs, and gives you the warm holiday fuzzies. In other words, it’s a great holiday TV special. But in this package, it quickly gets obliterated by the jaw-dropping Land of the Dead, powerful story, and familial themes in Pixar’s latest masterpiece. Was it even fair to pair it with Coco to begin with?
As I said in the introduction, I loved all that the Coco moviegoing experience had to offer, including Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. I wasn’t born yet when Mickey’s Christmas Carol (26-minutes) was attached to a re-release of The Rescuers, but I do remember seeing Mickey’s version of The Prince and the Pauper (31-minutes) in theaters in 1990 with The Rescuers Down Under. To me, the Olaf/Coco package offers a throwback kind of experience, not unlike the presence of a short before each Disney and Pixar animated feature.
And so for anyone who hasn’t yet seen Coco, know this: There is a 21-minute TV special starring Olaf and his Frozen friends attached to every showing of the film. If you’re adverse to all things Frozen, find a theater with reserved seating and show up about 35-minutes after the scheduled start time to miss all of the trailers and most of the short (reserved seating is important to avoid sitting in the spitball pit down in front). And if you love Frozen, get there early and be sure to buy a hot cocoa from the concession stand before the show, as both Olaf and Coco are sure to put you in the mood for some soothing warm liquid chocolate.
Now, are you ready to go back to Titanic?