Why “Coco” audiences are rejecting “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure”

in Disney, Entertainment, Movies, Movies & TV, Pixar

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, American Pixar fans lined up at theaters around to country to see the animation studio’s latest masterful feature “Coco,” helping the movie rack up a robust $71 million across its first five days at the box office. But there’s one sticking point that’s keeping “Coco” from being an unqualified success– people are voicing strong negative reactions to the Disney featurette “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” that plays before the main attraction.

While most of the complaints have been in reference to the piece’s length, others have cited cultural insensitivity or simply dissatisfaction with the quality of the storytelling or songs in comparison to the movie that follows it.

When I first saw the Olaf short over a month ago, it was shown separately from “Coco” at its own media event and was rather warmly received. In my write-up of the Q&A with the creative team and voice actor Josh Gad after the screening, I even said I was “delighted by its energetic animation, catchy original tunes, and heartwarming story.”

So why are general audiences rejecting “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” now that it’s been paired with the highly-acclaimed “Coco” and both are playing together in theaters nationwide? I’ve got a few theories.

1 – The short isn’t short, and it isn’t Pixar

For the past two decades (starting with “A Bug’s Life” in 1998) Pixar films have had a roughly-five-minute-long Pixar-developed animated short attached to them. That’s over fifteen examples of very popular movies setting a standard to which fans have happily grown accustomed. In fact, “Coco” marks the very first time a non-Pixar short has played in front of a Pixar feature.

As if that weren’t enough of a change from what’s come before, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” (originally designed as a made-for-TV holiday special) runs a whopping twenty-one minutes long. That length is testing audience members’ patience, and having them check their Apple Watches as they wait for the actual movie to start. Some theaters have even reported folks who have come out confused they may be in the wrong showing. That’s probably the first indication that “Olaf” hasn’t found the right home.

2 – People who hate “Frozen” really hate “Frozen”

It may be the highest-grossing animated feature of all time, but let’s face it, “Frozen” isn’t for everyone. The backlash against Olaf and friends has been going strong since the original movie became a surprise smash hit in 2013, and all signs point to it continuing through to when the official sequel “Frozen 2” finally sees the light of day two years from now. And while the two usually have some crossover appeal, Pixar fans aren’t automatically on board for everything coming out of its sister studio at Disney Animation.

If you already hate “Frozen,” chances are you’re not going to like “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” Personally, I have nothing against either and I’m not ashamed to admit I enjoyed both. But I don’t begrudge those who can’t stand Anna, Elsa, and the rest of the Arendelle gang. Their presence was over-saturated in popular culture– and especially in the Disney theme parks– for a long while (though that has died down over the past couple years) so I can appreciate being annoyed by their very presence if you’re already fed up with the whole thing.

3 – The two movies have different demographics

Historically, Pixar shorts attached to Pixar movies have worked wonderfully because they’ve introduced complimentary themes or ideas to receptive audiences. In pairing “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” with “Coco,” Disney appears to have wanted to broaden that audience– to attract moviegoers who may not be inherently drawn a story about Dia de los Muertos or Mexican culture at large.

That plan has backfired in the way that playing a horror movie short in front of a light-hearted comedy might. Like it or not, Pixar audiences tend to skew a bit older and more mature than with that of Disney Animation Studios. “Frozen” may be fun for the whole family, but its apparent target fanbase still comes across as very young. And “Coco” attendees who have actually come for the specific cultural authenticity are understandably finding Disney’s attempt at undistinctive mass appeal with “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” to be just a little insulting.

Ultimately I feel like this comes down to a case of bad programming. I don’t think the “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” haters are wrong per se, but I do think the featurette may be playing for the wrong audiences. In my opinion, the short isn’t bad in the right context. I wish Disney had trusted its initial instincts and aired it as a special on ABC this holiday season. I think there it would have been as warmly received as it was at the press screening I attended.

Pixar has trained audiences to expect memorable Pixar shorts (that are actually short) with their Pixar movies, and I believe the lesson learned this weekend is that audiences wouldn’t have it any other way.


  1. TimP

    The kids who grew up watching Frozen won’t be back to see Frozen 2. They are already sick of it. Demographics is the biggest reason and should be #1 instead of #3. Not to mention the age demographics, there’s also the gender demographics. Frozen appeals to girls. Coco is more boy oriented. If they had a Cars or animated Marvel or Star Wars short, it’ll be more appropriate.

  2. That Bitter Cripple

    My oldest niece, who was the target for Frozen when it was released, was over her Elsa craze within a year. To be a little catty, she’s already “let it go”. Elsa stopped being cool a long time ago. It’s only my sister that cares because Elsa used to be a good babysitter.

    There’s a lot more to this than those three things. Putting Frozen with Coco is also pretty racist. Coco is Pixar’s first attempt at making things right with the company and their climate of sexism and racism. What’s Frozen?

    For those of us who aren’t fooled by yelling “sisters” until our lips turn blue, we know the source material is much more feminist and that Frozen itself as a movie is primarily male and romance driven, despite the yelling that it isn’t. While most movies have self-sufficient princesses that obtain princes only after the chaos has quieted down and they’re almost bonus prizes that hardly talk, Anna gets two whirlwind romances. Then there’s that icky thing about Kristoff. He’s based off the Saami. Yet all of that tribal referencing gets whitewashed. Let’s not forget Elsa trying to tell her sister just what to do in her love life is the exact opposite of being feminist.

    Frozen is a little bit racist and super sexist. And that’s just a quick glance at it. After five viewings I keep realizing things are worse than I thought. No Broadway belting can make me “let it go”. The movie makes my skin crawl.

    Admittedly Frozen is a film I abhor, but that’s because of the flaws. I love a good musical and the music is written well. That can’t help the plot holes and how bad it all is. Not even a cute yet infuriating side kick can distract me from everything.

    No, Olaf, you cannot distract me from how this short has turned into a twenty-two commercial of “Remember how we have a short about springtime? Now here’s one about Christmas! Buy our toys!” Spring. Summer. Christmas. We need one more and we got a full set!

    Consumerism that we really didn’t need extra of, some added racism that only Frozen fans will deny but trust us, it’s there… What else is there…

    The fact your small children will not handle this? That’s another indication. Taking your child out to their first showing of a movie and you’ve picked Coco? Show up late. Please. Otherwise, they’ll have a meltdown midway. If anything Disney is torturing people with disabilities who need to plan for these things, people with anxiety, those on the autism spectrum, and generally anyone who has trouble sitting still. Stay home, you say? That’s nice. We’ll keep everyone locked in an asylum like the Victorians did because neurological conditions that cause pain are a reason to keep people in a box. Glad you’re ableist, darling. So glad.

    If that’s any indication, no people should not stay home. They should plan to show up late and skip the snowman. Forget the “confused people”. Think of the parents with children. Think of the people with chronic pain. Think of the other people around you for once.

    Disney wasn’t thinking and I’m not angry. Just frustrated. Do I hate Frozen? Undoubtedly. I think it’s the worst thing Disney has ever produced…and they produced The Black Cauldron. And I like that movie quite a bit, but it’s a hot mess. Most Disney movies I enjoy are hot messes and I can admit it.

    This needed to stay on tv. This needed to hit the widest range of audience as possible TO SELL THE TOYS. What on earth are they thinking? Market! You’re good at marketing, why do that?! So STUPID! The worst choice Disney has made since a certain pink cake in the park.

    1. Shelby

      How is it racist exactly??
      And the entire movie is about Anna caring about her sister instead of some guy she just met, she only met up with him so she could go find her sister and in the end it’s her sister that saves her. I think you’re stretching to try to find more reasons to hate it, but I do too. It’s been shoved in our faces for waaaaaay too long.

    2. Mike Bee

      Talk about going on too long…

    3. John

      LOLOLOL… “racist”

      Snowflakes hate Frozen. Go figure.

  3. Kenneth Cox

    For me, it was the fact that it made Coco up till about the halfway mark feel like it dragged on too long. Well, now I know why if we watched 20 additional minutes (not including previews).


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