How Disney’s Frozen made £1billion and turned Elsa into a feminist icon

Disney's dreams of a white, and wealthy, Christmas are about to come true in spectacular style.

Cinema’s hottest hit is virtually certain to be Frozen II.

Children obsessed by the 2013 original can finally Let It Go because a new ­avalanche of princesses, adventure and laughter is about to overwhelm them.

Favourites Elsa, her sister Anna, Kristoff, snowman Olaf and reindeer Sven are all back.

They head to an enchanted land and face danger to find the origins of Elsa’s power and save their kingdom.

Frozen II has all the ingredients of a Disney animated classic and is shaping up to be an ­unstoppable force when it hits our screens on Friday.

Even the trailer was a huge hit. It was viewed more than 116 million times in its first 24 hours.


And with Frozen ­earning £1billion, hell will freeze over if the sequel does not rake in a fortune.

But why did Frozen become the ­highest-grossing animated film of all time?

Aside from a strong plot and great songs – Let It Go won one of its two Oscars – Frozen had a very modern empowered heroine in Elsa.

She is a girly but gutsy role model who is stunning but ­sassy and who can fight her own battles without a handsome prince to save her.

The strong hint of a flawed heroine and stumbling super hero also runs through Frozen II.

But there will also be changes in the sequel as Kristen Bell, who voices Elsa’s sister Anna explains.

She says: “The world has totally changed. We go on an entirely new and ­somewhat dangerous adventure as these characters outside the walls of Arendelle to get answers about Elsa’s powers.

“Along the way we meet a lot of new ­people and we ­discover some problems from the past that affect the future of the kingdom.”

And despite being a huge magical ­adventure, Frozen II also feels very ­personal to Kristen. Some of the ­actress’s own personal ­experiences are in the plot.

She said: “Jennifer Lee, the writer, was so collaborative on the first one.

“When we sat down for the second she said, ‘You had a hand in creating this ­character. What do you think her next step would be?'

"I told her a lot of things I had personally gone through and why I thought that would resonate with what Anna would be feeling.

"She wrote that into the script so there are a lot of very ­intimate moments for me.”

Frozen II also sees the return of ­musical maestros Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who took the Academy Award for Let It Go, as well as for Remember Me in 2017’s Coco.


All the major characters get a chance to sing and Elsa’s song Into the Unknown may just be the next Let It Go.

So can Frozen II emulate the success of the original?

Its soundtrack has been sold and downloaded millions of times and its DVD became Amazon’s best-selling children’s title.

Film critic Mark Adams said: “Frozen is a film that ­enchanted a generation. In the wilful and wonderful Elsa it provided a strong and determined Disney princess who inspires the film’s young fans.

“Bold, brave and brimming with boundless energy, Elsa is a feminist icon to be reckoned with.”

Frozen is not the first Disney movie with a strong female lead but the film’s concept offers something more to ­princess lovers and haters alike.

Elsa does not always know how to use her ­powers. She means well but she often gets it wrong, which people can identify with. She’s a girl not afraid to have a go.

London-based Robert Bean, author the Nine and a Half Golden Rules of Branding, said: “Frozen deals with grown-up themes, challenging and thoughtful issues, all wrapped in magic and invention.

“The merchandise is so successful because people want to buy into a piece of that, to buy a fragment, a little like a holiday souvenir.

"It’s a way of endorsing it and of having a piece of the film.

“The merchandising is such a big hit because of the quality of the initial­ ­product.

"Credit to Disney for producing a world which clearly captures the ­imagination and appeals across the board.

"We won’t look back in 20 years and think Frozen was a fad. It has a good engine and it will run and run.”

Andy Young, creative director at Young Studio in London, believes Frozen is successful because it has moved with the times.


He said: “The Frozen franchise has all the magic and charm of the classic Disney movies countless ­generations have grown up watching, only much more shrewdly catered to the modern viewer.

“The stronger, more empowered, ­female characters are a perfect fit for a generation of young girls looking for more wisecracks and less fainting from their Disney princesses.

"But Disney have carried the appeal of the film on to ­merchandise like never before.

“It appeals to young girls who are not only willing to get on board with any product Frozen puts its name to but are also unconcerned with the price because it’s not their money paying for it.

“From a brand ­perspective it can’t really get any better.

“Disney also make good use of licensing. By ­partnering with brands from Iceland to M&S, Disney ­ensure Frozen products are ­accessible to every corner of the market.

“Not only that but they’re smart with their pricing. Frozen dolls, pyjamas and electric toothbrushes aren’t cheap but they’re not hugely expensive ­either, ­ensuring the brand is primed for mass consumption.”

Elsa’s character has made such an impact that fans even ­began the #GiveElsaAGirlfriend ­campaign in the hope that she might become Disney’s first gay princess.

Way back in 1941, Walt Disney said to his ­employees: “The girl artists have the right to expect the same chances for ­advancement as men.”

So maybe the idea of girls matching the boys for heroism is not just a pretty fairy tale after all.

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