So much for franchise fatigue and the great sequel slump of 2019.
After a string of disastrous openings for would-be studio tentpoles like Charlie's Angels, Dark Phoenix, and Terminator: Dark Fate, Hollywood has found its footing again thanks to a talking snowman.
Frozen II scored the highest global opening for an animated film over the weekend, bringing in $358 million and a snowstorm's worth of new records to add to Disney's already crowded mantle. The movie is well on its way to becoming the studio's seventh movie of 2019 to cross the billion-dollar mark; a club that is virtually guaranteed to get even bigger by year's end when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in December.
The failure of some of 2019's other blockbusters based on pre-existing source material had some Hollywood prognosticators wringing their hands over the future earning potential of reboots, remakes, and sequels. But Frozen II's massive success should put some of those concerns to bed — albeit with a new lesson: The franchise formula isn't broken, it's just not one size fits all.
This year, other studios came up (very) short trying to stoke millennial and Gen-X nostalgia for bygone hits like Men in Black and The Shining. But, Disney stayed true to its loyal audience of grade-schoolers who almost never let Bob Iger and Co. down at the box office. Hoards of costumed Annas and Elsas (and their parents) filled movie theater seats over opening weekend, with Olaf and Sven merchandise quickly filling the holiday wish lists of children around the world.
It's that combination of character, story, and cross-sector revenue streams that made the original Frozen such a sensation when it opened in 2013. The movie brought in $1.2 billion worldwide, won two Oscars, and breathed new life into Walt Disney Animation Studios, which had faded in relevance behind Disney's other animation powerhouse: Pixar.
And yet, lightning never strikes the same place twice and neither do blizzards, apparently.
Frozen II fails to match the storytelling magic of the original — and not for lack of trying. The bloated plot is filled with new cute and cuddly characters tailor-made for stuffed animal immortality, mixed moral messaging, and song after song desperately auditioning to be the next Let It Go, the show-stopping centerpiece that became the franchise's hallmark to the tune of 1.8 billion views on YouTube. But parents, have no fear. None of the songs on the soundtrack have the hauntingly catchy earworm potential of the wickedly talented Adele Dazeem's — er, Idina Menzel's Academy Award and Grammy-winning anthem.
But narrative nitpicking proves obsolete in an age of toddler-fueled 10-figure box-office domination. Even if Frozen II was just a 90-minute livestream of a winter storm, it would likely still bring in billions thanks to the one-word title at the top of the one sheet.
Thankfully, critics like myself will have another chance to be impressed, when Disney releases the now, all-but-inevitable Frozen III.
Disney's Frozen II gets two-and-a-half Max heads out of five.