Tuesday, November 28, 2017

“OLAF’S FROZEN ADVENTURE”: A Great Mini Story Soured by Unfortunate Scheduling

I promised I’d drop a few words about it in my earlier review of Disney-Pixar’s “Coco” so here it is.
One classic program for movie theaters in olden-time days was to put a short production before a feature-length presentation (usually with an intermission in between). Disney, which came into the industry around that period, followed said format back in the day, and made a one-off revival of the practice when they put the Mickey Mouse animated short “The Prince and the Pauper” before main film “The Rescuers Down Under” in 1990.
Pixar resumed the format in 1999 by playing their first ever animation from 1986 (“Luxo Jr.”) before “Toy Story 2” in 1999. Since then they, and Disney Animation Studios later, have been tacking animation shorts before most of their major feature films. Said shorts tend to be about 5 to ten minutes long, which is why moviegoers that went to watch “Coco” were caught off-guard by the length of its pre-main feature presentation, a near-half-hour musical titled “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” As the name gives away, it’s yet another snippet with the characters of the 2013 film “Frozen,” in another slice of their lives before the planned 2019 sequel hits cinemas.
That would be nice, were it not for the fact that the 20-plus-minute short is now drawing the ire of moviegoers who went to watch “Coco.” In Mexico, where the Pixar movie had an advance premiere, audiences were so mad at “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” that cinemas began cutting it out of the program and showing “Coco” alone. When the quirky Dia de Muertos-themed family film finally showed up stateside, the reactions were much the same. Complaints about “Olaf” ranged from its longer-than-usual running time and the incongruity of pairing a short feature starring white characters with a movie about non-Caucasians.
The backlash regarding “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” is such a shame considering that it actually is quite good in itself separate from “Coco.” The story is about the first Christmas celebration in Arendelle following the iconic events of “Frozen,” where Queen Elsa and Princess Anna oversee their first kingdom-wide Yuletide celebration. Unfortunately, their plans for a grand banquet at the castle are foiled by the Arendellians returning to their homes after the formal ceremony because they have their own Holiday traditions to celebrate with, a fact that pokes at old wounds with Elsa and Anna because, due to their isolation while growing up they never seem to have developed their own traditions to share.
Coming to their rescue however is the lovable animated snowman Olaf, who decides to travel across Arendelle with Sven the reindeer to canvass what the citizens love to do during the holidays, and bring them back to the Royal Sisters. What follows is a showcase of all that is good and nice about this time of year, with even a semi-action-oriented climax. In the end, the “Frozen” short actually hews similar plot points to the Mexican-themed movie that would follow it in the schedule, in that there’s always a tradition to be had with family.
All the major voice talent who made the original “Frozen” the hit it was came back to do it all over again: Idina Menzel (Elsa), Kristin Bell (Anna), Josh Gad as the adorable Olaf and even a small part with Jonathan Groff as Kristoff. There are four main songs in the short compared to the one from the previous “Frozen Fever” that was the opener for 2015’s live-action “Cinderella” and in my opinion these sounded better. The last number is just so incredibly heart-warming, even if none could ever quite reach the memetic status of that one song from the first film.
See, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” was originally planned to be shown as a Holiday TV special on ABC, the 20-something running time ostensibly was to allow commercial breaks for a half-hour timeslot. Disney has yet to give an official explanation as to why they decided to stick the special as a short program ahead of “Coco,” though they ought to be aware by now of how audiences have reacted badly to it and in turn, are biased towards labeling it as garbage. If one can just watch it with a cool head, they can see that it really is a wonderful season-special experience. The damage unfortunately, is done.
So Mexico has banished “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” from their “Coco” screenings, while the UK is instead pairing the special with a re-release of original “Frozen.” But everywhere else, I strongly urge them to reconsider their opinions about Olaf’s musical search for holiday traditions, because it really brings the characters and setting of Arendelle to even more vibrant life, in anticipation for that full sequel. It’s not as bad as its reputation implies.
Photo courtesy of frozen.disney.com