- Pixar’s new movie “Coco” has a 21-minute “Frozen” short playing in front of it in theaters.
- People have been surprised and subsequently furious by this unusual move.
- The Olaf-centric “short” plus regular trailers means “Coco” begins over 40 minutes after a theater’s listed start time.
- Though fans of “Frozen” will like the short, Disney should have just released it separately.
Pixar’s stunning new movie “Coco” has already had a successful opening week over the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, but the film’s debut hasn’t been without controversy. Disney made the unique decision to pair “Coco” with a new 21-minute long “Frozen” featurette starring Olaf — and people are pissed.
Why the “Frozen” short is so unusual to begin with
“Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” is an outlier when it comes to the short films typically played before Pixar movies in theaters. For one, it was produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios — not Pixar. Though the companies are connected, the two studios’ movies and shorts are typically kept separated.
Then there’s the 21-minute runtime of “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” That length, especially for an audience who might not be expecting a “featurette” (as Disney calls it in press releases and trailers), is downright confusing. Combine it with the trailers and usual theater advertisements for rewards programs or warnings about cell phone use, and “Coco” is starting more than 40 minutes after the theater’s listing times.
Here’s a sample of how critics and regular moviegoers reacted to “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure”:
Coco is spectacular but unfortunately the Frozen short that precedes it will eat your brain from the inside, then spit the amygdaloid rind that remains thereafter down your throat.
— Ian Bogost (@ibogost) November 23, 2017
I’m going to say it, since no one else will. The Frozen short in front of Coco is a giant piece of frozen shit. Olof made me want to punch myself in the face.
— devon sawa (@DevonESawa) November 26, 2017
good evening to everyone except for the executive that doubted coco’s natural ability to draw in an audience and forced a half an hour long frozen ‘short’ before it that made everyone wanna walk out early
— Calvin (@calvinstowell) November 25, 2017
BEWARE, If you’re taking your kid to “Coco” there is a shitty 21 minute “Frozen” short beforehand. It’s annoying and bad.
— Nick Thune (@nickthune) November 24, 2017
The 21-minute Frozen “short” before the spectacular Coco might be the worst thing Disney has put its stamp of approval on in ages.
— It’s Brittany, Grinch (@butterbard) November 24, 2017
The seemingly endless, deeply mediocre Frozen ‘short’ they force you watch before CoCo is a hate crime
— Patrick Sullivan (@PatchNavillus) November 24, 2017
#Coco was one of the best movies of the year!
Conversely, the #Frozen short that preceded it was one of the worst attemtps at visual media that has ever been created
— Caroline Lamarque (@badcree) November 23, 2017
OLAF’S FROZEN ADVENTURE filled me with rage. In addition to representing the worst elements of the crass commercialization of Christmas, the songs were lackluster, the plotting is painfully cliched, and Olaf is annoying as shit.
— David Chen (@davechensky) November 26, 2017
Complaints about “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” were bad enough in certain Mexico areas that one theater chain, Cinemex, reportedly stopped showing the Disney short before “Coco.”
Ese momento en el que #COCOlapelícula nos robo el corazón…
— Cinemex (@Cinemex) November 3, 2017
This is significant for the non-US box office, considering “Coco” is now the highest-grossing movie of all time in Mexico. INSIDER reached out to Disney for comment, but did not immediately hear back.
But the short wasn’t as bad as I was expecting
“Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” was not shown to critics who attended early press screenings of “Coco.” So Thanksgiving weekend, I saw the movie for a second time in order to understand what all the fuss was about with the Disney “short.”
After reading about the backlash to the short for a few days, I was prepared for the worst. But “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” was a charming and well-crafted follow up to “Frozen.”
The mini-movie tells the story of Elsa and Anna celebrating their first Christmas in Arrendelle since the events of “Frozen.” When they realize they have no family Christmas traditions to help them celebrate, Olaf goes on his “frozen adventure” in a misguided effort to help locate a tradition the sisters can co-opt.
The story is a little weak, and the four song interludes are definitely unnecessary. None of the music stacks up to the original music in “Frozen.” But if you were a fan of the original Disney movie, and Olaf in particular, then the humor and lighthearted holiday message will resonate with you.
Plus, the animation is stunning. I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney wanted to create this short just to show off the incredible rendering of Elsa’s new winter gown, complete with a fuzzy white collar that I couldn’t stop staring at while it was on screen.
Why the runtime is the “Frozen” short’s biggest issue
The backlash Disney has inadvertently caused is stemming from the poor advertising. The TV commercials I’ve seen for “Coco” don’t mention the 21-minute long “Frozen” short, and even the direct trailers for “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” fail to mention a runtime.
That in itself isn’t odd. It would be strange for Disney to say, “Hey, just so you know, this ‘featurette’ is over 20 minutes long so plan accordingly.”
But the choice to ditch the usual six-minute original Pixar short and instead offer up a drawn out mini-sequel to “Frozen,” Disney made a serious miscalculation.
My tickets were for a 10:15 a.m. showing of “Coco” at an AMC movie theater, which listed the total runtime as two hours and eight minutes. The previews began at 10:16 a.m., and we were shown seven trailers for upcoming movies.
“Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” started at 10:34 a.m, and “Coco” didn’t begin until 10:56 a.m. — more than 40 minutes after my ticketed start time. The movie ended at 12:33, 10 minutes past AMC’s advertised run time (but we didn’t sit through the whole credits).
For families going to the movies with younger kids (and their short attention spans), the runtime of “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” could lead to confused toddlers who don’t understand what movie they’re supposed to be watching. And for any audience member who didn’t like the original “Frozen” movie, sitting through 21 minutes of Olaf before seeing “Coco” can understandably cause frustration.
Then there’s the more serious criticism being leveled at Disney’s choice. “Coco” is the first Pixar feature film to focus on a non-white protagonist, telling the story of Mexican Dia de los Muertos traditions through the lens of the young Miguel and his lifelong dream of playing music.
As some of the aforementioned tweets suggest, some people think Disney might have been concerned that “Coco” would fail at drawing audiences in its opening weeks. Would people still buy tickets to a Pixar movie that didn’t star anthropomorphized toys or cute animals or an all-white set of human protagonists? It’s possible Disney wasn’t convinced.
Some believe Disney might have thought that the added bonus of “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” would ensure success for “Coco,” but instead the featurette has only succeeded in capturing the ire of moviegoers while “Coco” itself is a box-office hit that critics are raving about.
Next time, Disney should stick to the traditional separation of its own animated hits like “Frozen” and the original works of Pixar.