Japanese People Can’t Let Go of ‘Frozen’

Every time you want to stop writing about Frozen, it breaks another record. This weekend, the Disney smash hit remained in first place at the Japanese box office for an incomprehensible eleventh weekend in a row. Its $193.7 million gross pushed ahead of Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle to become the 3rd highest-grossing movie ever in Japan. In that country, Frozen trails only Titanic ($201.4 million) and Spirited Away ($229.6M) on the all-time list. Worldwide, Frozen surpasssed Iron Man 3 this week to become the 5th highest-grossing movie of all time with $1.22 billion.

In other box office news, Rio 2 earned an estimated $2.5 million in its 7th weekend for a U.S. total of $121.6M. Global gross is $448.2M, which is still short of the original’s $484.6M.

Thanks to a sinister Hollywood conspiracy to destroy the otherwise perfect Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, the film grossed a pitiful $432,000 in its 3rd weekend. It has earned $7.7M to date in the United States.


  • Alex Dudley

    I wonder what’s the secret to Frozen’s success. Was it the songs? Was it because of the characters? Though a nice movie, I don’t think it was as good as Wreck-It Ralph or Tangled, so I wonder what caused this film to be a bigger hit.

    • Fried

      The songs. They are the most mentioned thing that made people love the movie. Nobody really talks about the songs from Tangled.

      That and word of mouth.

      • Kyle_Maloney

        Which is weird because to me because I find two the songs from tangled are better than nearly all the ones from Frozen. Yeah, there were some dud filler songs in there Frozen has some too if you ask me.

      • rufus3698

        Yes, it was the songs. The local theater had special “sing along” viewings of the movie. I’ve never seen that with anything other than “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

    • Ignoranimus

      There are countless contributing factors, but I think it owes a large amount of success due to its wide appeal. Some audiences might’ve been turned off from Tangled because of the pink hues and traditionally “girly” story, but Frozen, while the two leads are female, has a more gender-neutral palette, meaning more general appeal.

      Plus, the character design is attractive (in both definitions; generally good character design, and the fact that the main characters are conventionally-attractive people, meaning people enjoy watching them more).

      • martin

        i actually thought Frozen was more “girly” because, like you stated, it has 2 female leads. And like Fried said, i think the songs really carried its widespread appeal. And because of the songs, word of mouth started spreading like gangbusters.

        but interesting you mention color palette. definitely valid, although i dont think it was intentional to have the color palette in that manner to sway more males.

      • Marco_Sensei

        For the Japanese part of the Story, you have to know that if you can get the Japanese public crazy about something… They will really go crazy on it ! And then it will pass and they’ll have something else to go crazy about…

        For Frozen Disney did a good calculation by putting Japan release last. They’ve given them this movie after it break 1 billion $, during the Oscars, after getting the reward… By beating the last Hayao Miyazaki’s movie on the same evening.

        That was more than enough for a good start but it has gone from that to Frozen Madness… Tangled did only 31 millions $ in that country. Now Frozen is at 193 millions… No other Disney Princess Movie did that much… Well no other Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Warner…

        That’s just how crazy Japanese people can get over something… But even according to some Japanese friends on mine, it will pass.

    • Max C.

      I’d say Lego deserves more success had I not known that the Japanese dub is supposed to be unfunny.

      • Johnny

        The Lego Movie had a much smaller theatrical release in Japan. Only about 160 theaters carried the film.

      • Jestress

        Even in its original language, the Lego Movie didn’t leave any lasting impression on me. It was entertaining to watch once but I didn’t like it enough as to watch it again or buy it on DVD. Frozen doesn’t have such a “complicated” plot and it’s not as smart-@$$ trying to make fun of everything around it; but at the end of the day… it’s a lot more honest. And I think that wins it a lot of points. I feel like the Lego Movie focused too much on breaking cliches and parodying things, and completely forgot about sincerity.

    • V.M.L.

      Well, fandoms in Japan are very strong and dedicated. Just look at the people who are obsessed with anime & manga, and notice that girly or “kawaii” aesthetics are frequently used in marketing (specifically when it caters to young women), the media, fashion, etc. As someone who use to frequently read shoujo manga, watch anime, and go to Anime Expo, I take this news like “duh!” It’s no surprise that a beautiful, animated Disney fantasy with a princess–and queen–would be a massive hit in Japan. And let’s not forget that there are a lot of Disney fans over there, enough for Disney to give them a Disneyland & Sea! I could go on about this, but, basically, Japan is still more welcoming of feminine, female-led fantasy films than–no shocker–the US.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        And they probably already have several doujins put out based on it too!

    • One of many animators

      I do much prefer Tangled over Frozen.
      1. It was the first 3d Disney film that had a classic fairytale element to it. So I was nervous in seeing if they could pull it off and was really impressed by it.
      2. I found Rapunzel more likeable than either Anna or Elsa.
      3. Villains: I did like that twist in Frozen however I thought Mother Gothel was a far better villain.
      4. Animation. BOTH films have great animation. But Tangled just had the Glen Keane factor! Frozen I felt was more subtle but Tangled had a nice mixture of subtle and snappiness.
      5. Colour. The two films could not have been more different but ultimately I think Tangled had a richer more colourful palette compared to Frozens subdued one.
      6. Those “buddy” characters I will put this simply.
      Pascal+Maximus>Olaf+Rock Trolls
      7. I felt that Frozen had some scenes just for fun or just for action that didn’t add to the story. Tangled…pretty all the scenes added to the plot.
      8. The “Big moment” in Tangled I thought was stringer than the one in Frozen.

      9. Somgs: OK, I am mixed on this and honestly I won’t judge an animated film (Disney or not) on its songs. That’s just me.

      Now, I have both films on Blu Ray and I love both films but if I do prefer Tangled. I think Frozen was marketed way more.
      I even think Tangled’s trailer only had 2/3 characters in it and was all about comedy. Frozen did have its more comedic trailers, one of which contained nearly all important characters, but it also had the Elsa trailer which told you more of the story and depth. Frozen also got its “Sing along” version which of course I am sure increased its box office revenue.

      Again, I do love both film but I am more of fan of Tangled.
      PLEASE NOTE: I am not going start comparing this to anything from Disney’s classic years or its renaissance years because everyone is gonna have an opinion. Comparing it to Tangled is they are both more modern films from Disney based on fair tales.

      • OdysseyTag

        I feel the same way about the two films.

      • One of many animators

        I apologize regarding the occasional missing word or
        misspelling from my previous post.

        It was Monday morning so I didn’t poof read it while having my early morning coffee. But I think everyone found the clarity in my opinion. Sorry about my carelessness.

        (Quite impressed that spelled renaissance correctly at that hour :D ).

    • Mike Scott

      I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen the movie, only trailers (I really want to see it). But when I saw one of the lead girls move in dance with a really cute shoulder move and the proportion of the head to the body an that cute mouth and nose and big eyes – I kind of immediately fell in love with her and I haven’t had that since Ariel in The Little Mermaid years ago. I imagine the effect is perhaps the same for girls.

    • SarahJesness

      Yeah, I’m curious too. There are some things that the movie does extremely well, particularly the characters. I think the songs did sell it to a lot of people; I wasn’t sure I was gonna see the movie until I heard Let It Go. But the movie overall was just decent, not spectacular. Maybe people just really, really liked Elsa.

    • Ajipon

      At its core, it’s a story about the love of two noble characters, spurned by circumstances, rekindled by acts of self sacrifices. That the love is between sisters, that the songs are powerful, the animation, love able and many other factors just adds to that core.

    • Benjamin Juandy

      My guess is that it conveyed the subversions of the archetypical ‘Disney Princess’ much more clearly and ubiquitously than Tangled. I saw Tangled as an attempt at a Mulan-esque, girl-hero, I-can-beat-the-boys movie but falling into the same traps with the romance. This did a better job of capturing the classic Princess feel while simultaneously recreating Lion King’s soundtrack success.

  • James

    It is the songs that make this successful. This FEELS like a classic Disney film. Tangled and Princess and the Frog looked the part, but they didn’t have the memorable songs and moments – the pink elephants, Bambi’s mother dying, aladdin and jasmine flying on their carpet. Frozen clearly has that, as far as audiences are concerned – the music, the ice castle, etc.

    Walt Disney was clearly brilliant at creating those moments that everyone always remembers – people know specifics about many of his films even if they’ve never seen them. Since his death, that was only achieved again briefly in the early 90′s. Frozen is closest a Disney film has come to this since The Lion King twenty years ago.

    • Mike

      You don’t think the lantern scene from Tangled, coupled with I See the Light, was a memorable moment? Or Dr. Facilier’s song and ultimately getting dragged to Hell by hoodoo spirits in Princess and the Frog? Those moments from those films certainly impressed themselves on me.

      • Mehitabel

        Tiana’s song “Almost There” beats “Let It Go” by a mile. Too bad the rest of the movie didn’t live up to that one great song. Note to Disney: frogs are box office poison. As the latest Kermit movie has also proven. ;)

    • JodyMorgan

      I pretty much agree with James. While I prefer Tangled to Frozen, even I have to admit that “Let It Go” is far more memorable than any other song in either movie, and the set pieces in Frozen are more striking than those in Tangled.

      One other thing I’ve been considering, and I’m wondering if anyone else thinks this has merit: There seems to have been an impression, up until a few years ago, that Disney animation had sort of lost its way. Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph had to overcome that impression, and as a result Frozen benefited from Disney’s restored reputation. It’s pretty much a repeat of how The Lion King wildly outperformed Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast (which, themselves, wildly outperformed The Little Mermaid) at the box office about 20 years ago. (On the other hand, considering how often people consider Pixar, Dreamworks Animation, and even Illumination Entertainment movies to be from Disney, I could be way off base here.)

      • George_Cliff

        I think there is a lot to your theory. Disney Animation had really caught an upward draft of late. I think the beginning goes back even further than Tangled and ‘Wreck It Ralph’ though, back to when Disney bought Pixar and Ed Catmull and John Lasseter took over; this goes back all the way to ‘Meet the Robinsons’ and ‘Bolt.’ As Ed tells it in his new book, Disney Animation had essentially ossified in the absence of the Nine Old Men and under the relentless corporate pressures and hierarchy. There was a prevailing fear of failure chilling creativity. Ed and John came in and broke down a lot of the rigid culture in Disney Animation that was stifling creativity and story development. Perhaps Ed’s take is wrong, but I found it quite compelling and it is certainly hard to dismiss as coincidence the fact that Disney’s latest renaissance corresponds closely to Ed and John taking over. It should be interesting to see how audiences respond to ‘Big Hero 6.’

      • SarahJesness

        … That’s a really good point. I was just reading a blog article on franchise “fatigue” and how a franchise can recover. X-Men was in a slump after the third film. The latest movie, Days of Future Past, had one of the best opening box office performances in the series. The article proposes that the movie did so well because the previous film, First Class, made people interested in the franchise again. While First Class didn’t make as much money as many other films in the series, it was a very good movie that got audiences excited about the X-Men again, and it gave them hope that there would be more good films. Similarly, Batman Begins didn’t have a spectacular box office performance, but people liked it so much that the next movie, The Dark Knight, did really well.

        You probably are right, the previous films probably made people more confident to watch a new Disney movie again.

    • CaJd554

      The songs have no character and are pointless. They tend more often than not to stop the film (with it’s paper thin “story”) dead in it’s tracks. It is NOT a “classic Disney” film. It’s a post modern Disney film–driven by marketing and politics.

      • Mehitabel

        I could not agree more. I’m glad WDAS has had such a massive hit, but Frozen’s story is so meh and so calculated that frankly it left me cold (sorry).

      • Ferdinand Engländer

        I agree with the songs being show-stopper and the story being very problematic. I just want to point out that the term post-modern does not equal “calculated, bad marketing film”. Very simplified I would say that post modernism is an extremly sceptical interpretation of established patterns. It even denies that there are any patterns to be valid or objectively existing. Why do I mention this? Well Frozen would have been much better if they had followed their post modern elements. In the first half of the film they break conventions (no villain except for Elsa’s fear, making fun of love on first sight) = post modernism. But then they turn everything again resulting in unmotivated songs and a weird everything turns out well end with no clear theme,(is it love between sisters? Then why the heck did she get this guy in the end… Wasn’t the film claiming to break the clichés? ). This would have been necessary for the path of returning to classic storytelling. It could have been a great skeptical exploration of the Disney clichés (which Enchanted wasn’t too in my eyes), but instead it’s an undefined mess.
        But the post-modern way of storytelling isn’t for everyone and probably very tough to do marketing for. There is this great TV show called Community which manages to be super sceptical and meta about conventions and yet let’s you feel so much empathy towards the characters.

        • Dusty Ayres

          Wreck-It-Ralph was better than this movie (as was Tangled and The Frog Princess) but people wanted the safe and sure every time, and sadly, they got it.

      • otterhead

        Thank you for your incredibly cynical opinion. I disagree entirely: the songs are story-driven, are instantly memorable, and (like any Broadway musical) let the characters express their personalities, needs, and arcs. They’re essential to the story.

    • Matthew Broussard

      Yeah. Too bad Robert Lopez lacks the class of the Disney songwriters of yore: http://www.tmz.com/2014/03/04/robert-lopez-oscars-winner-frozen-bragging-photo/

  • Vivi

    Key to success: Angst + Game of Thrones Filters.
    For those who are asking.

  • Toonio

    I’m not surprised of Frozen success in Japan. The characters and story seem to come right out from a wacky Japanese show.

  • The Nat Kidd

    Very nice Disney, glad to see you guys are in the top now again instead of Pixar. No hatred towards Pixar, but they’re successes have gotten kind of annoying. Even some films I thought from them weren’t great as the ones from different companies. Still, nice job Disney. Nice job. ;)

  • Austin Papageorge

    It was also huge in South Korea. Biggest foreign film of all time there.

  • https://vimeo.com/channels/wharton Brett Wharton

    I think this is the best summary on here of why audiences loved the film. The movie has some flaws, but I think the positive elements you pointed out are why general audiences are responding so well to this movie, even if filmmakers and animators have their gripes about other aspects. (One element I think you left off though – Olaf. People love Olaf. He was a genuinely warm and hilarious character.)

  • Harrison

    I am really getting fed up with this movie. It was okay, but it being compared to classics like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King is just embarrassing. The whole movie to me is just so dull and uninteresting. I honestly think that the only two factors that made it a success is Let It Go and that stupid snowman Olaf. Not to mention that this is the movie that will kill classic Disney animation in movies. Why would they ever go back to traditional animation when they know that the world will pay to see this garbage?

    • CascadeWvera1

      ‘Garbage’?! There goes credibility.

      • Harrison

        Well okay ‘Garbage’ is a bit of a stretch, but I’m sure you get what I’m saying. I’m just upset that this is the movie that will end Disney traditional animation.

        • CascadeWvera1

          Um. It wasn’t. Traditional animation was shut down after The Princess and the Frog/Winnie the Pooh.

  • QuickPaw

    I missed out on Tangled when it came out, but I’ve caught some of it on TV in the past few months.

    So far, I do prefer Frozen, but I think the biggest reason for this is the fandom. It feels like Frozen has hit that sweet spot of inspiration for artists/writers. There are definitely low points to the film, like the Trolls, but that seems to be overshadowed by the relationships of the characters and their potential.

    I do like the fact that the characters aren’t completely over the top and a bit subdued. Quite honestly, I haven’t gotten over Rapunzel eyes…just slightly too big for my taste. If you’ve ever walked down a Disney section of a toy store, and seen the princess collections, she seems to stick out like a sore thumb.

    I do like both films, but again, Frozen gets my choice. I feel like they can explore the characters and their world more, where as Tangled was all done up in a nice one-off package.

  • Size8

    been scratching my head on this movie looked at reviews e.g
    this was a really fair one. great for animators who like deep understanding on story mechanics for animation.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQLhXhf5ZC8

    did my own thinking and i just don’t get it. but i know what the formula is, make an animated music video and you have a hit put in some empowerment songs and BAM a billion dollars. not hating on it or anything. its just that i just don’t get it.

  • Mortimer

    Could it be that “Frozen” and “The Little Mermaid” both reached a massive, doting global audience to a measurable degree because of their literary source material? Hans Christian Andersen was no slouch when it came to creating a story, even when key elements were altered and softened by a studio. For decades one of his very best narratives, “The Shadow” has remained untouched by Hollywood, perhaps because as an ‘adult’ fairy tale it was deemed too dark and bleak. But such things are not theoretically beyond the strong feature story/direction teams Disney now has at the helm. Sometimes the very toughest of nuts just might be cracked.

  • Jidousha

    Speaking as someone who lives in Japan, the ‘Let it go’ song is HUGE here, both in its English language and re-recorded Japanese incarnation. Weeks after the movie opened, I’m still hearing it play everywhere I go in shops, on TV, etc. That must contribute somewhat to the movie’s popularity

  • George

    Having been to Japan a few weeks ago, I’m not surprised. The Japanese version of Let it Go is okay, I guess. I’m not getting it. Oh well.

  • Size8

    it did not have the elements that make a movie great and what was its theme. the humour was cliche . at one point elsa has enough control of her power to make frank Lloyd wright-ian architecture and make dolce-eque dresses but in another scene she looses this masterfulness and control how again? because story? they spent so much time trying to pull the rug out from under you that the overall story suffered.

    the thing is trying to make this movie sound like its citizen kane or usual suspects is a far fetched claim.

    and yes it was because it was a musical no one even remembers most of the plot. the kids sing the songs more than talk about how great the theme was.

    listen, this is typically a forum for animators (and animation lovers) to discuss and even dissect the matters of a structure of story (and things that affect the industry) i would have expected you to consider these things beyond fandom .

    i enjoy it when a people can sit and consider matters beyond lenses of the tsunami of popularity and discuss structure down to the nitty grits of it. at the end of the day a lot of what is popular isn’t very good. hence justin bieber.

    what separates us from that lot is we have the banner of “all things considered”. if we follow a thread in a story only to find out it leads no where and has no resolution point then we can consider it a matter of failure on the part of the stories structure , for example why only elsa with powers not anna how did that come about. anna spend a lot of time pinning over her sister then stops and it becomes bout getting a man in the space of a song? not to mention elsa’s ability to create life because script? the mythos is sorely underdeveloped on that one which come bundled with the trolls who nobody knows about why? and how did the parents know about it, that alone tended to imply a family secret and thinking of the family even trivial matters like when anna was hurt by elsa , they come into the room not in their PJ’s but fully clothed like they were expecting anna to get hurt and clothed a head of time in preparation.

    if i have to teach story structure in a class this would not be a good case study.

    • Lithia

      I found some arguments from that video to be relatively weak. For instance, those guys were complaining about Frozen’s dialogue being too “bland” and basically stating the obvious as opposed to using expressions such as in Wreck-It Ralph where Wreck-It Ralph smashes Vanellope’s car. Yes, the dialogue in that scene works very well for the reasons they mentioned, and I admit that Frozen’s dialogue may lack that something to be blown away. However, the dialogue from Wreck-It Ralph as a whole can be considered less impressive as it displays moments of dialogue we’ve all heard before and an overuse of crude humor which can be jarring at times.

      I also found their argument of Frozen’s songs not fitting in with the location it takes place in to be unfair mostly because they compared Frozen to Tangled at a few points in their review. which the guys claimed was “solid”. Tangled’s takes place in Germany, yet there is almost no link to that culture in terms of the music (except maybe the “Kingdom Dance” sequence). So for Tangled, the (guitar) music is alright, but it’s not for Frozen to have Broadway songs?

      I also disagree with Frozen having too many characters. Technically, Frozen and Tangled have both seven characters. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Mulan all have at least ten characters (I believe) and even The Princess and the Frog must have about nine. If there point was that Frozen had unnecessary characters, that’s a little unfair as I could probably eliminate characters from some of the films I already mentioned as a lot of then are side characters (ex: Chef Louie (The Little Mermaid) and Yao, Ling, and Chien Po (Mulan))

      Note: None of this includes extras such as the thugs (Tangled), the trolls (Frozen), the sisters (The Little Mermaid), or townsfolk and furniture (Beauty and the Beast).

      I kind of disagree that Frozen had no theme. I think that if it did at all it would have to the “true love.” I was something that Anna thought she understood from the beginning when she met Hans (quotes: Elsa: You can’t marry a man you just met. Anna: You can if it’s true love). However, as it turned out, Anna was wrong (quote: “I don’t even know what love is…”) Since it seemed to be Anna’s problem from the beginning and the had to learn it (the hard way), I think that “true love” (maybe in different forms) was probably the main theme and not something totally convenient as the makers of that video claimed. Granted, Frozen may have have too many themes to deal with if that was their point.

      • Lithia

        Sorry for grammical errors!

      • Lithia

        In addition, their comparison to Secret of the Wings was also a little unfair in my opinion, as they claimed it to be a better “sister” film than Frozen. However, the situations between the films are different. In Secret of the Wings, Tinker Bell and Periwinkle had just found out that they were sisters. They hugged a lot, played together, had conversations… however, it all made sense for Tinker Bell and Periwinkle to do that because they had a limited amount of time to be with each other. Anna and Elsa, on the other hand had a more realistically portrayed sister bond, as it was more like one you would see between sisters you may have actually met. Sure, Anna and Elsa didn’t hug each other a lot like Tinker Bell and Periwinkle, but do you see real everyday siblings hug each other and play with each other to that extent?

    • Jasleen

      Seriously? I think some of the flaws aren’t big enough to harm the enjoyment of the film (i.e. The fact that the King and Queen had their normal clothes on when they found the sisters in the middle of the night). They would be nice to know, but it doesn’t really harm the film, in my opinion. Also, I’m judging your credibility, as I had trouble reading your comment. It was set up so poorly.

    • Lithia

      The songs not fitting with the location is fine by my point of view. It’s NOT an established location. The kingdom, Arendelle, is FICTIONAL. It’s not a real-world location. Frozen never states the country it takes place in unlike films like Brave (Scottland). Frozen was inspired by several different Scandivavian countries, but no location in general. So technically, it’s technically okay for Frozen to have Broadway songs.

      Besides, the characters are not supposed to speak English anyway, so they had to make changes. Scandivnavia isn’t a very well known culture in America. It’s not like in Beauty and the Beast where the characters are French. Everyone knows what “Bonjour” and “Monsieur” and “Mademosielle” mean, so that’s not a problem. However, with a Scandivnavian-inspired setting, have Norweigan music to fit with the setting would probably be a little awkward, in my opinion. It’s not totally left out though. There are some Norweigian instruments in the score.

  • ddrazen

    Looking at “Frozen” from a Japanese perspective, the major draw may not be the music alone but the ending. It ends not with a wedding but with the restoration of “wa” between Elsa and Anna. “Wa” is the idea of balance and harmony, something that was lost when Elsa accidentally grazed Anna in the opening of the film. The closed door/Do You Wanna Make A Snowman tableau pretty much set the tone that something had been lost in the relationship of the two sisters. In the end, that wa is restored, which is a major happy ending for the story.

  • marshmellow

    AMAZING movie! Keep chugging!