Tell us yours and we’ll tell you if it’s special enough.
A short film like Olaf’s Frozen Adventure epitomizes the law of diminishing returns: for audiences, not Disney. The studio is surely making a ton of merchandise money with little work involved considering the characters are already at their disposal. We’re talking a couple directors, a writer, and some songs proving a small price to pay in order to ensure another year goes by where children remember who Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), and especially Olaf (Josh Gad) are. But where a project like this keeps the brand going, its lack of any true creative thrust quickly finds its way to the surface. And when you have to start duping your audience into watching rather than let them find it themselves, the goodwill you’re building starts to turn.
Because what is the point of this short if not recognition for an intellectual property gradually losing its market share? You can put out a press release stating how Disney did Pixar a favor by supplying them a ready-made piece they were going to release anyway in lieu of rushing something of their own together. (LOU was created for Cars 3 early this year and it is fantastic.) You can call placing a twenty-minute short before a 110-minute feature an “experiment” all you want, but don’t expect us to believe everyone up and down the chain of command agreed to the decision out of altruism. The least they could have done was ensure it would entertain enough to be worth what’s clearly a deal with the Devil.
Sadly writer Jac Schaeffer and directors Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers couldn’t make that happen. Honestly, if the above story is true, you can’t really blame them since the project was never supposed to be put in such a precarious position. To create something as fluff—a brand new heartfelt result of the tragic circumstances behind Elsa and Anna’s childhood pushed aside so Olaf can offensively judge a kingdom’s disparate traditions against each other with a goofy “but aren’t I adorable” smile while mocking them is most assuredly fluff—and then attach it to a prestige piece is setting it up to fail. It doesn’t matter how many Frozen fans bought Coco tickets just to watch the latest Arendelle saga, you angered countless more who didn’t.
And when I say “offensive,” I mean it. As the quote at the top of this review states, Olaf approaches these peasants as though an entitled census taker seeking to steal their identities and appropriate them as his queen’s. What’s worse is that they don’t catch the eternal ambivalence masked by idiocy behind everything he does. They invite him in to share their priceless customs so he can laugh at them, take a souvenir, and move on to the next house. He’s quite literally the reverse Santa Claus stealing cheer from families who have previously stated that they want to be left alone out of selflessness. They don’t want to force their traditions on Elsa and Anna. They want everyone to be free to practice his/her own beliefs.
The whole eventually comes around to this revelation while redeeming the one character that more and more proves himself to be irredeemable—Olaf was fun because he was the buffoon sidekick, never the lead—but at what cost to our time? I can’t even say the music was worth the admission price because there aren’t any full songs, just a bunch of disjointed pieces as though singsong resonates more than simple dialogue. We laugh as Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) takes up the mantel of court jester, cringe at Olaf’s callous disregard for decency, and forget how Elsa and Anna do receive an emotional arc because it’s negated by gross manipulation. I’m talking to you, abrupt pan to the family portrait as though for comedic effect rather than reverence.
courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures