Oh thank God, we finally have a movie that’s going to bring back the $100+ million opening weekend. Granted, Joker came dangerously close with its $96 million debut and legged it out waaaaaay past the $200 million barrier I thought was its potential ceiling, and is now the first ever $1+ billion R-rated earner. It’s an odd time at the box office; we go weeks straight with bomb after bomb, then we get a pop culture phenomenon, then we go through another drought. Well it’s about to rain like a mother because the monsoon success story known as Frozen is finally unleashing a sequel. I mean, if this isn’t a guaranteed money maker than the upcoming holiday season is in serious jeopardy.
Five Ways to Prep: Frozen II
By George Rose
November 27, 2019
Obviously occurrences like Joker prove the box office is still a viable commodity, even if only a few break through the trash to become blockbusters. Even though that was barely more than a month ago it feels like forever. And for the first time in forever, there’ll be music, there’ll be light (oh yes, those are Frozen music lyrics) with the release of Frozen 2. What better way is there to kick off the winter holiday movie season than with a snow-themed, superhero power filled, family friendly Disney animated musical?! Cut away all the big brand takeovers like Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar, and you’re left with good old fashioned classic Disney. Aaaahhhh it’s great to be home.
As you may or may not know, though, Disney isn’t really that big on animated sequels. Sure, Pixar has done them but never Disney’s own animation division. Most of those 90’s cartoons got TV show spin-offs or a direct-to-DVD sequel. Only one Disney animated film in this modern area has become a theatrical franchise so we’re basically in uncharted territory here. As the world is pretty much unanimously aware of the Frozen brand, there’s no need to waste time explaining is origins in this intro so let’s get to it. Break out your snow shoes, let it go with the past and that “so five years ago” song, and get ready to head into the unknown with Frozen 2!
1) FROZEN (2013)
In the kingdom of Arendelle, there are two princesses. The older sister, Elsa, has special ice powers and the younger sister, Anna, is thirsty for a dude in her life. When they were young, Elsa accidentally hurt Anna so Elsa was locked away in her room and Anna’s memory was erased. Fast forward in true Disney form and now it’s years later and we have dead parents on our hands. Elsa must finally come out of her room to take the crown and become queen, but her powers become public and she must flee. After Elsa heads to the mountains, Anna goes on a quest after her. There’s some songs (“Let It Go” being the obvious hit), a bad dude (Hans), a good dude (Kristoff), a goofy animal (Sven), a talking snowman (Olaf), more songs, and a heartwarming tale of “sisters before misters”… I mean sisterhood.
As we all know, it was a box office juggernaut. After opening to $94 million over the long 5-day Thanksgiving weekend ($67 over the Fri-Sun portion), it legged it out to $401 million domestic and $1.272 billion worldwide. As Frozen 2 is coming out the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, we won’t have a perfect comparison for the opening weekend. We can, however, play with the domestic total. $401 million in 2013 becomes $448 million in 2019 after adjusted for inflation. Let’s see if we can guess where the sequel might land.
2) TOY STORY 4 (2019)
2019 is a year unlike any other. The streaming wars are just getting started during a time when it seems the box office is finally ending. Very few brands are finding success. Disney is mostly safe, except Dumbo and Maleficent 2 proved to be minor stumbles. Jordan Peele, Joker and John Wick proved strong, while Fast & Furious and It: Chapter 2 also did decent business. Other than that, it’s been pretty bad. It’s hard to imagine Frozen 2 not doing well, but even powerhouse animated brands like LEGO Movie, How to Train Your Dragon and Secret Life of Pets experienced series lows. Only one animated sequel this year could live up to its predecessor and that was Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 4.
Frozen 2 took six years to come out and Toy Story 4 took nine, both pretty long in a world where three years is almost too long for a sequel and five is a death sentence. Still, they took their time and they seem the be the two poised for the greatest success. Toy Story 3’s reviews were 98% positive and 4’s were 97% positive, basically the same which led to similar financial earnings. Frozen’s reviews were 90% positive and 2’s reviews are at 82% positive. A little slip but still high quality. Unadjusted, Toy Story 3 earned $415 million and 4 made $434 million (+4.6%). Adjusted for inflation, 3 made $479 million so 4 was actually down 9.4%. Frozen made $401 million in 2013 which is $448 million adjusted. That means Frozen 2 could earn anywhere between $419 million (+4.6% on unadjusted) and $406 million (-9.4% on adjusted). While not big gains, it’s a huge success in a year when only two non-Disney movie have topped $200 million (Joker and It: Chapter 2, since Spider-Man basically counts as Disney) and continues Disney’s trek towards world domination.
3) RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (2018)
Maybe the better comparison is actually the only other Disney animated sequel to get a theatrical release. Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sure there is a cinema nerd out there trying to say, “Jungle Book 2 got a theatrical release so that’s not actually true.” To which I’d respond, “Listen, nerd, there was almost a 40 year gap between movies and home video wasn’t a factor in the 1960’s, so go write your own article you big dork.” Anyway, Wreck-It Ralph is basically the only non-Pixar Disney sequel that we can work with so that’s what I’m going to use. If there’s really a cinematic issue at hand, it’s that Wreck-It Ralph scored 87% positive reviews while Ralph Breaks the Internet had 88%. The first film is a classic and the second, while very good, was not better than the first. I mean, spoiler alert, Vanellope FREAKING WENT TURBO! I’ll never forgive the writers for that insanely hypocritical mistake.
Anyway, Ralph 1 made $189 million in 2012 and Ralph 2 made $201 million (+6.3%) in 2018. Adjusted, Ralph 1 made $217 million and Ralph 2 made… well, the site I use still says $201 million (-7.4%) so I guess not much has changed in a year. These percentages are very close to Toy Story’s changes but let’s do the math anyway. Based on Ralph’s trajectory, Frozen 2 could earn anywhere between $426 million (+6.3% on unadjusted) and $415 million (-7.4% on adjusted). Between Toy Story and Wreck-It Ralph’s comps, Frozen 2 is looking at a relatively small window between $406 to $426 million. Anywhere in this range would be great and exactly what history says is normal for Disney. Also, I suppose it’s worth noting that Frozen’s Elsa and Anna have a cameo in Ralph 2 with a bunch of other princesses, so it might be fun to check that out if you haven’t seen it. It’s not as good as Ralph 1 but it’s still an entertaining watch.
4) ENCHANTED (2007)
Normal is no fun, though, you know? If Frozen 2 tops $450 million, we have a real reason to rejoice. If it earns less than $400 million, it would be sad but not heartbreaking considering how poorly most animated sequels have done in 2019. Anything less than $350 million would be shocking and anything less than $300 million would just be tragic. Don’t even get me worried thinking less than $250 million is possible. That just can’t happen. But if it did, that would be kind of exciting, wouldn’t it? $400 million is expected, but $300 or $500 million would definitely rock the boat one way or another. It’s when things aren’t normal that you really start to feel something. You know, Disney does animation well and we’ve come to expect that. They’ve recently been killing it with their live-action updates of animated classics (aside from sequels), but we’ve come to expect that too. What isn’t normal for them and has proven to be one of my favorites as a result is their animated/live-action hybrid called Enchanted.
While the film earned a paltry $128 million by comparison, it is no less a Disney classic in my heart. An animated damsel is set to marry a prince when his evil witch stepmother casts a spell to send this future princess into a dreary live-action New York City where “there are no happy endings.” Spoiler alert, in the end she falls for a live-action lawyer, whose now ex-fiancé goes into the animated world to be with the prince. It’s a bit of swinger swapping but if you overlook that it’s a fantastic and funny movie with great music and performances from all involved (including Idina Menzel, Frozen’s Elsa). The thing is, it truly deserves a sequel (which is supposedly in the works).
Some movies don’t need sequels but studios milk the brand anyway and extend the originals story a little to make room for more profits. Some stories, though, are so well constructed that the ideas to further them are ripe for the picking. Wreck-It Ralph is about arcade game characters that are alive and can travel down power cords to interact with each other, which is insane and brilliant. The sequel took the concept further by introducing an internet router to that power cord and all the possibilities that come with it. Those ideas were mostly executed to perfection, aside from Vanellope FREAKING GOING TURBO! I’m not sure where Frozen 2 is heading, since to me it seems like the story was complete. I mean, I guess we could explore Anna having fire powers but that’s too easy of a guess (unless those pink fires in the trailers actually do come from Anna, which would be amazing) and I’m sure Frozen 2 is heading more into “screw Anna, let’s just have Elsa get stronger instead” territory.
Anyway, getting back to Enchanted, I would looooove for it to finally get a sequel. I’m not sure where Disney is going with it but here’s what I’m hoping for. At the end of the first movie, A human girl goes into the animated realm and marries the prince. During the wedding, her cell phone rings, they make a joke about her “getting reception” in this realm, she tosses the phone aside because she doesn’t need it in animation land and it breaks in front of a few curious woodland critters and the movie ends shortly after. So where does the sequel go?
In my head another evil witch or sorcerer find this broken phone, discovers the science of it, mergers that science with their own magic, and somehow creates a machine with the power to converge the two worlds. And since I take everything too far, the real world is too depressing so the animated people kill themselves while the real world people go insane from all the animated hallucinations and probably also kill themselves. I mean, this would be the bad guys plan but someone saves the day. Or maybe the magic phone sends signals to NYC and turns the citizens into zombies to attack on animation land. I don’t know, I just really want a freaking Enchanted sequel. Disney, feel free to call me with a job offer or “story by” credit.
5) ICE PRINCESS (2005)
Much like the characters of Enchanted, I find myself living in two worlds. Obviously, I live in the real world with all of you and we all know how depressing real life can be. That’s why my imagination sometimes gets a little dark, and I can envision an Enchanted sequel where everyone kills themselves… but in a cute musical kind of way! But I’m also a movie fan, a lover of make-believe, a man who loves animation and dreams of wonderful, colorful things. I was so overjoyed watching Frozen, how it blended classic princesses with Marvel superpowers. When I saw it the second time in theaters with a friend, I was so lost in singing along that I accidentally smacked my friend in the face as I was performing in my chair. And if you think I only go crazy for super powers and musicals, you’re wrong. Before there was Elsa the Ice Queen there was Casey the Ice Princess.
In 2005 there was no Marvel or Star Wars under Disney. They had to make their own movies, most of which were family friendly. One of those hidden gems is the underrated (52% positive reviews), underseen ($23 million domestic earnings) treasure Ice Princess. It’s about a nerdy, poor-ish girl that uses science to master the art of ice skating and becomes a champion of sorts. While it’s one of my secret favorite movies in the cheesiest of ways, I’m recommending this movie because it actually makes me believe I can ice skate like an Olympian. I have vivid dreams when I sleep and one of the recurring ones is that I can land a triple axle. Seriously, I just told a coworker about this dream maybe two weeks ago and she laughed at me. I haven’t ice skated since before this movie came out and I could only ever go in circles around the rink, but deep in my heart I feel I can do a triple axle. And isn’t it great that a movie of low quality and lower earnings can inspire such feelings?
My friend then reminded me that I’m 34, well past my physical prime and that if I didn’t land the jump that I’d probably break an ankle or wrist or both. Also, I’d have to spend money renting ice skates and I’m cheap in my old age so that’s another hurdle I can’t get over. It’s funny how dreams are made of incredible feats, unattainable joys and the kind of heartwarming tales you only see in movies. Reality isn’t nearly as much fun, and while I don’t think we live in a world “where there are no happy endings,” they certainly are harder to come by than in an animated setting. I’m not sure where Frozen 2 is going to take us but remember we are in Disney’s capable hands. It’s going to be colorful, it’s going to have catchy music and it’s going to have heartfelt messages. It may not be the kind of revolutionary story that makes this one of the best sequels of all time, but it’s going to be better than anything else we’ve seen recently and it’ll 100% be more uplifting than the Joker. At this point, as long as Elsa doesn’t FREAKING GO TURBO we’ll have a winner on our hands and a blockbuster smash that’ll launch us into a potentially record breaking holiday season.