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.