OPINION: Disney, Frozen, and Popular Culture
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about Disney’s latest animated movie, the mega-hit Frozen. The story focused on a Norwegian princess named Anna, who goes on a quest to find her sister, Elsa. Elsa is the Snow Queen, and has the magical power to create snow and ice. Frozen – although animated in CGI – brings back the formula that made movies like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Beauty and the Beast the animated classics they are today. As of this year, the film (which cost $150 million to make) has grossed over a billion dollars at the box office, including over $300 million here in the United States, not to mention they recouped their losses from that year’s megaton bomb, The Lone Ranger. The success of Frozen has brought Disney stock at an all time high.
I have had a love for Disney movies ever since I was a little boy, and seeing Frozen when it first came out brought back memories of those old Disney movies (especially the movies that Walt Disney himself was involved with) I grew up watching. This success also let Disney learn the obvious… people want to see movies that are suitable for the entire family to watch, and it should be easy for them, since they’ve been associated with wholesome family entertainment since Walt’s era… Well at least with their movies and theme parks, the TV networks nowadays are another story.
Here’s the bad news, Disney has a lot more obstacles to overcome. One of them being the cultural problem we have here in the US. Even if Disney wanted to bring back its formula for new generations of kids, even if Pixar still makes good movies, and even if the theme parks are still fun to go to, that’s not going to be enough for Disney if they want to bring back a time when families were still intact. The reason, on some of the kids’ channels on TV, there are absolutely no adult or parental role models to guide any of the child protagonists seen on any of their original shows, and when there are, they are portrayed as buffoons and the target audience is prone to imitate the bad behavior the protagonists of these shows promote, like what Disney Channel and it’s sister network Disney XD put out.
Want an example? Check out this intro to the horrendous Disney XD sitcom Crash & Bernstein. After watching that piece of garbage, I was convinced that both of those kids’ networks are now unworthy of having the Disney name on their stations, and both Walt Disney and his brother Roy would both turn in their graves if they saw trash like this on the airwaves with their last name slapped on the title card… By the way, guess who would also turn in his grave if he saw that dreck? Does the name Jim Henson ring a bell? The show uses a purple puppet played by puppeteer Tim Lagasse, who used to work for many of Henson’s projects. That in itself is a disgrace.
And here’s a shocker, if you’ve heard of Hallmark Channel – a network owned by Hallmark Cards – which creates programming the entire family can watch together, Disney Channel used to have that similar format back when it launched in 1983. The network decided decades later, that format didn’t make money anymore, and a better way to make a profit was to compete with Nickelodeon (a network that has created vile stuff that hurts children since I was born – the three exceptions being Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Doug). That’s bogus. If you watch the Hallmark Channel – like my mother does – a lot of their programming does well in the ratings, their most popular show right now is When Calls the Heart, a series developed by Michael Landon Jr. (the son of late actor Michael Landon). Duck Dynasty is also a perfect example of a program that the entire family can watch together.
I will make this point again, Disney should be commended for continuing to carry on their great tradition of wholesome family entertainment with Frozen, a movie that brings back the elements that made the Disney animated classics so special. It’s a welcome relief to see a movie like this in this day and age when children are losing their innocence at younger and younger ages. But, again, they don’t go far enough in my estimation. Our culture has gone down the drain, no matter how many great family movies Disney continues to make, and no matter how well-managed the theme parks continue to be. Because of that, The Walt Disney Company has a lot of obstacles to overcome.