“Frozen” Smashes Disney Animation Opening Weekend Records

Disney’s Frozen, directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, smashed every possible box office record for a Disney film this weekend, grossing $67.4 million over the 3-day weekend, and $93.9M over the five-day holiday period. The previous highest opening for a Disney film was last year’s Wreck-It Ralph, which opened with $49M. In 2010, Tangled opened in the same Thanksgiving holiday timeframe with a $48.8M weekend, and $68.7M five-day holiday. With Frozen’s breathtaking numbers, it’s hardly worth mentioning that Frozen had to settle for second place at the box office, behind the Hunger Games adaptation Catching Fire.

Give credit to John Lasseter. After two clumsy misfires—Bolt and Princess and the Frog—he has delivered three blockbusters in a row for Walt Disney Animation Studios—Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and now the studio’s biggest opening ever, Frozen. (Winnie the Pooh doesn’t count because it was neither designed to be, nor marketed as, a blockbuster-style film.)

A year-and-a-half ago, few people within the studio would have predicted the creatively troubled Frozen to turn out the way it did. The film even had a directorial shakeup midway through production, which is perhaps the defining hallmark of Lasseter’s managerial style. The original director, Chris Buck, wasn’t sacked, however, which kept the film out of the headlines. In late November 2012, the studio simply added Jennifer Lee as co-director. Perhaps we’ll get the whole story someday because you don’t just add a new director to a film so close to its release date. For now, Lasseter has proven once again that he knows how to deliver a hit.


  • alana

    also, please give credit to the amazing animation, story and visual development teams who stuck with the film throughout its rocky creative process and made it into the film it is now…

    • Power_Animator

      THATS RIGHT!!

  • Tres Swygert

    That’s great to hear for Disney. If he can make the films better for Pixar (the last three we not as strong as their predecessors), we’ll be on the right track for sure.

  • Lucky Jim

    There are a couple of interviews where Chris Buck mentioned that the release date for “Frozen” was moved up a year, which was why Jennifer Lee, at the time the screenwriter, was asked to become co-director and help share the workload, particularly in the writing process.

    How accurate that statement is is anyone’s guess, but it seems to have worked.

  • http://the-animatorium.blogspot.com/ Natalie Belton

    The picture above has got some visual irony. Winter themed movies are hot at the box-office apparently.

  • Max C.

    Disney never seem to want their biggest non-Pixar, non-actiony films to be #1 hits. They just place them a week after or on the same week as films that are bound to make more money. Even The Muppets made less money than a film about abortion.

  • Daniel

    They discuss her addition as director here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiqwfOX5jAE

  • Alex Irish

    Was Bolt a misfire for coming out the same day as Twilight? And was Princess a misfire for coming out the week before Avatar? These were good/great Disney releases, but they were stomped by immediate competition. It’s as though Disney was purposefully sabotaging their chances.

    • vincenzosz

      That makes no sense. Avatar and Princess have different audiences. If a movie has interest (and hopefully is good) it will be successful regardless of the competition from hi profile films, as has been proven by this very scenario with Frozen competing DIRECTLY with Hunger Games and still doing very well.

      • SarahJesness

        But Avatar was marketed to kids as well as adults. (there was a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy tie-in) And Avatar was HYPED. UP. A kid’s movie that wants to be successful doesn’t just try to appeal to kids, it needs the parents to feel like they’re going to enjoy the film as well. And if there’s a huge movie that all of the parents will be seeing, that means less $$$ for the kid films, even a good one.

    • http://voyagesextraordinaires.blogspot.com/ Cory Gross

      Disney purposely sabotages a lot of their movies, both animation and live-action.

  • AmidAmidi

    Disney animated films are not auteur works driven by a director’s vision. They are constructed top-down by forces that eclipse the director’s chair. If “Frozen” was a flop, Lasseter would get the blame as the studio’s top creative person. It’s only fair that he gets a pat on the back for its success.

  • NathanFordsEvilTwin

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  • George Comerci

    It definately deserves to break records, it was fantastic :)

  • Dana B

    No surprise there! I can’t wait to see it, hopefully this week. Maybe next week it’ll sneak up in first place at the box office.

    It’s cool the Disney films keep topping thanksgiving records, but it makes me wonder if Big Hero Six will follow that example. It will definitely be a different kind of Disney film. Let’s hope they get audiences excited for it, as for me, I’m really looking forward to it!

  • Hankenshift

    Yes, give a LOT of the credit to Mr. Lasseter. There is no bigger fan or supporter of Disney animation and the Disney company and animation in general than John Lasseter–and there is nothing but proof of that indisputable fact. Can you prove otherwise? You do realize it’s a big company, and animation is but a very small part of the actual machine, but a big provider of content and characters?

    You may not agree with his taste, but Disney makes family films–the hardest kind to make, because they’re working to entertain all audiences, not just kids and not just adults. Why would Disney limit their market by doing otherwise?

    Would you rather have david stainton still in charge? Do you think you could handle the job?

    Get a grip.

  • Tacowiz

    I am hopeful for the influence this success will have on future films produced by Disney, but fearful for the way those films will be advertised.

  • Matt Sullivan

    Too many songs. Otherwise, pretty damn good.

    • http://sullivanimation.com/ Matt Sullivan

      ^ ^This guy is not the Matt Sullivan that worked on Frozen…. that would be me. He’s an imposter. http://static5.businessinsider.com/image/50b77c12ecad042c68000005-480/bear-in-disguise.jpg

      • AmidAmidi

        Thanks for clarifying, Matt. The other Matt Sullivan has been commenting here for years. You guys should meet!

        • Matt Sullivan

          What the!- Oh yeah! I did see my name in the credits, and was momentarily flummoxed because I sure don’t remember working on Frozen. Wish I had tho. Wish I had ANY job right now. LOL

  • Lucky Jim

    Here’s an interesting article about how Disney marketed “Frozen”: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/02/movies/frozen-disneys-new-fairy-tale-is-no-2-at-box-office.html?ref=movies&_r=0

    I imagine it will raise the hackles of a few folks that post here…

  • Floyd Norman

    Anybody who’s been in the animation business a few decades knows this is nothing new. Disney’s “The Lion King” was a disaster. Story problems and a replaced director didn’t bode well. Yet, the film went on to record breaking success. Same old story. The beat goes on.

    • hg9

      It’s not a perfect movie but I much prefer Lion King over their overrated and Beauty and the Beast. Good lord talk about marketing done right.

  • coolzone

    150 million dollar budget.

  • Hankenshift

    That’s the silliest comment I’ve seen on this sight in a long time, and quite simply, factually 100% untrue. There are many kinds of animation (duh). And most of it still hand drawn. But no one cares about hand drawn feature animation more than they do watching a great movie (hand drawn or not). Disney hand drawn animation didn’t fail because of John Lasseter. It failed because of bad management, and VERY bad movies no one wanted to see.

  • Barrett

    I think the assumption that “people just want to see CG” is a self-perpetuating falsehood that plays into the interests of certain corporate players and factions of the animation industry who prefer 3D CG “puppet animation” over drawing and draftmanship. Princess and the Frog was not the best test of viability because it was such a naked nostalgia ploy, it was essentially a throwback to early 90s Disney animation, and it appealed mainly to fans of that specific aesthetic. Something less retro but still 2D could make bank easily, especially because 2D is now the exception, not the rule.

  • Hankenshift

    lilo & stitch was a so-so movie, that did moderately well at the box office, and New Groove flopped big time. Iron Giant is the best animated feature of that era, while el dorado was a boring flop all around. Atlantis, Home on the Range, Treasure Planet? Not only dreadful, but big flops as well. (although to be fair, all of the above films smell of management interference on a major level!).

    Even so, this was DISNEY’S problem, not CG or John Lasseter.

  • Hankenshift

    Maybe you should look up the definition of “fact,” as you do not seem to grasp the meaning. You can’t make up your own facts. People don’t want to see “cg.” They want to see great films. Stop putting animation at the kids table.

    • Nayx

      I didn’t said the main reason CG killed 2D animation was because people want to see it. Most important is the effort that comes with computer animation (hence my question with Toy Story). You think hand-drawn movies wouldn’t be a success if CG wouldn’t be a thing?

      I don’t know, but all you talk about here is quality, which isn’t a matter at all.

      • Hankenshift

        Who’s talking “quality?” No one cares what a film looks like. All they want is characters and a story to care about. Story is important. Storytelling is king. Animation and design are only icing on the cake–cg or otherwise.

  • http://voyagesextraordinaires.blogspot.com/ Cory Gross

    There was a shake-up? That would explain why it became a different movie a third of the way through!

  • Hankenshift

    “And that isn’t a part of the overall quality?”
    Not necessarily. It’s a fact that audiences would rather see a good story well told, NO MATTER WHAT MEDIUM, and even [alleged] quality. Disney hand drawn animation is dead. And they killed it themselves, with no help from cg or John Lasseter. And no one cares.Get over it. But hand drawn animation is VERY much alive and well all over the world, and even in the United States. Just not at Disney.

  • Dennis Zazueta

    This looks like a cute movie for kids, however my 4.5 year daughter cried during it because of the scary animation of trouble for the characters and the almost near death or seemingly death to the sister, It was not a warm and fuzzy movie as it appeared to be in the previews, I believe Disney was deceitful in the previews and would not recommend for children under 7

  • Pablo Rages

    OMG it’s a chick flick for little girls … if you have boys try another movie … and talk about melodrama …. characters getting totally over the top about small things … and we wonder why our teenagers are so emotionally sensitive when we bring them up with movies like this … we are fostering drama queens!