The power of Disney’s The Lion King was something so dramatic that you knew the moment the opening number dropped that you were experiencing something different altogether. Sure Disney had made dozens of classics all of merit in their own right but The Lion King was special, in many ways the culmination of all the incredible pioneering of animation that had come before. Nearly twenty years later though, the story of Walt Disney Animation wasn’t one of triumph and glory but of darkness deeper than that found in The Lion King’s version of the elephant graveyard. In fact many saw the purchase of Pixar in a deal worth $7.4 billion not as a great merging of animation talents under one storied umbrella but rather just another example of how inept Walt Disney Animation Studios had become in capturing the imagination of moviegoers around the world. But through the incredible work of two of Pixar’s co-founders, John Lasseter and Ed Catmull and truly so many others who brought their leadership, vision and ultimately talent, hard work and drive – the magic that had been lost was once more.
Fast forward to the here and now and I sat in a theater, as many of you did, to watch Disney’s latest attempt at motion picture greatness. After the momentum built upon Wreck-It-Ralph, Tangled and to a lesser extent but still important The Princess and the Frog, I was hoping to see the signs of a storied past brought into a new light for the world of today to bear witness. What I hadn’t expected is that much in the same vein as The Lion King twenty years before, this film would tell of the drama to come in just the first few moments of the film. From the moment “Frozen Heart” begins its clenching and clawing of ice forged in years ancient the tone of the film is set, in an instant I knew and I bet countless others did too this film, those who created it, weren’t just trying to prove their merit but it indeed they were ready to shed the misgivings of a darker period and truly let-it-go like only this film could. Frozen doesn’t approach The Lion King as a film but being able to compare the two beyond the box office tallies speaks to the power of Disney’s latest fairytale. Frozen combines great storytelling, with a modern persona that captures the spirit of today’s audience in lighthearted fun amongst the more serious tones of the movie. It dazzles with some of the best 3D imagery ever seen in an animated film by bringing us inside an ice and snow-filled world and combining that with the visual spectacles of the classic Disney musicals of what had shamefully become a thing of the past. And of course then there is the music. The tie that binds all great movies together is sound and Disney has recaptured its own. As each lyric-filled melody plays it makes you even more excited to hear the next and drives the film forward in a way that makes us wish it just would never end. That is Frozen, that is Disney and my first thought after the film was to welcome back Walt Disney Animation.
Of course I wasn’t alone. The film delivered the No. 1 all-time Thanksgiving debut, the largest opening ever for a Walt Disney Animation Studios film, earning more than $773 million worldwide, including $337 million domestically and the film’s soundtrack was No. 1 in the Billboard top 200 for two straight weeks. For the Walt Disney Company and its legions of fans new and old, there is reason to celebrate and Disney’s latest announcement hopes to keep Frozen’s franchise potential more than just humming along. Beginning on January 31, 2014, fans of Frozen are invited to gather at over 1,000 theaters nationwide to experience the movie once again and share in its musical wonder and delight as Disney brings an “all-new sing-along version” of the film to the big screen. Audiences can expect “on-screen lyrics and a magical bouncing snowflake,” to accompany the incredible music of Frozen such as Idina Menzel’s wonderfully gripping performance of “Let It Go.” For the Walt Disney Company it is the perfect opportunity to cash in on the incredible run that Frozen is having at the box office and further fan the flames of moviegoers, many of which have already seen the film more than once. For fans, it provides what is sure to be a unique experience as together they share in song and in an interesting and fun time for families and friends to enjoy. This type of creative simple fun and incredible business for the Walt Disney Company is only possible because Frozen is transformational.
The power of Frozen much like the power of The Lion King is that their inherit greatness allows for future creative freedom. They can be the wellspring that allows Walt Disney Animation to prosper in the years ahead but only if the storm of passionate talent rages on. It is the sheer greatness that comes with fine work that allows a company even as large as the Walt Disney Company the freedom to be nimble enough to announce lighthearted fun fare like the announcement of a sing-along version of a movie. So as guests take their Disney signing prowess from the halls of YouTube and their bathroom’s showers to the theater, it is my hope that the Walt Disney Company continues to fulfill the promise of their potential and carries on the legacy that Walter Elias Disney himself built. Because the future enjoyment of millions of fans depends on it, because the animation industry truly isn’t the same without it and because who knows someday soon the next movie to roar at theaters may be even more powerful than The Lion King itself. Now that’s a dream the snow queen herself wouldn’t dare put on ice.