Walt Disney’s birthday was on December 5th, which also happened to be the day that Disneyland announced the full-blown Frozen overhaul coming to the resort in less than a month. Both of these milestones meant a lot to me, and in maddeningly different ways.
I always try to think about Walt on his birthday–I try to imagine if he’d enjoy the newest films Disney and Pixar have come out with, what he’d think about all the political stuff his company is knee-deep in, and, on this birthday in particular, what he would have to say about the continual oversaturation of the market by his company whenever they score a hit film. I know that Walt made some choices in his career that may seem similar–like making sequel after sequel for his one of his first cartoon hits, The Three Little Pigs, but I think a businessman trying to get his company off the ground is a lot different from an established company milking a film for all its worth and compromising their brand to do it.
For the record, I am not a Frozen hater. If you read my review of the film posted over a year ago, I found the film exciting and endearing. However, working at Disneyland since then has definitely made me (and even the most diehard fans of the film I work with) start to suffer from Frozen fatigue. From the five-hour lines for meet-and-greets to the fact that every other little girl in the park is dressed like Elsa and the other half are dressed like Anna, (because they were sold out of Elsa dresses) the overwhelming presence of Frozen in the parks is already exhausting. The girls had to get their own float in the Soundsational Parade and now the same (lame) float is smack-in-the-middle of the beloved Christmas Fantasy Parade. But this is all just child’s play compared to what the masterminds of marketing have come up with to satisfy the Frozen-zied masses:
- The attraction I worked on for the better part of this year, Storybook Land Canal Boats, is getting some serious Arendelle additions. The last overhaul the fifty-nine year old ride had been in 1994, with the additions of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid themed miniature real estate. I only wish this update felt more like the company caring about “the original small world” as opposed to this feeling like just another way to promote their billion dollar Froz -anchise.
- Several years ago, Pixar built something truly remarkable to show the world how far zoetropes, a primitive circular tool spun to give the appearance of motion of drawings or photos, can be taken. Their Toy Story zoetrope has been residing in Disney California Adventure for three years now, bringing joy and wonder to thousands of people–myself perhaps most of all. But, do you know what the higher-ups think belongs more in the “Animation Building” than a phenomenal piece of artwork that simultaneously cherishes the roots of animation while illuminating its remarkable potential? A larger meet-and-greet for Anna and Elsa.
- In Disneyland, there is a quaint, charming theater called the Fantasy Faire Theater. Two Shakespearean thespians, Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones narrate Tangled and Beauty and the Beast productions six times a day. I worked at the theater for a long time and have seen the shows dozens of times and can attest to how enjoyable these little skits are. Starting in January, however, something much chillier will be storming into town. Word on the street is that is bye-bye to the tale as old as time.
The rest of the changes include getting rid of Mad Tea Party in DCA for a “Freeze the Night!” party, saying sayonara to Muppet Vision 3-D for a Frozen sing-a-long, opening up Stage 13 for an Olaf snow party and an unimaginable assortment of other Arendellean shopping, dining and entertainment “delights.” Like junkies coming upon a discarded pile of opiates, Frozen fiends will find the happiest place on Earth so overloaded, they may actually suffer an Olaf overdose.
Which leads back to the initial thought that sparked this rant: what would Walt say about all this? To an extent, every entertainer instinctively wants to give his audience what they want and the masses seem to be crying out for MORE FROZEN! However, the really great artists know that what the public may be asking for and what is right for the artwork do not always match and that the preservation of the art (and therefore the brand) should always win out. I am not saying that Disney is a total sellout for the Frozen firestorm on its way to Anaheim (and Orlando, for that matter), but it does bring back memories of awful Disney sequels and a genuine Elsa-induced chill runs down my spine.