Disney Slammed After Documentary Exposes “Trainwreck” Behind the Scenes

in Disney, Movies & TV

Frozen 2 Elsa on fire (edit)

Credit: Disney

A documentary has exposed Disney’s internal processes — and people have some serious opinions about what it all says about the company.

Anna (Kristen Bell) and Olaf (Josh Gad) laying on a picnic blanket in 'Frozen II'
Credit: Disney

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The Walt Disney Company’s first full-length animated feature film, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (1937) by Walt Disney Pictures changed the game with its ground-breaking (for the time) animation and gave the company its iconic association with storytelling and quality. Ever since Walt Disney’s initial foray into that world a hundred years ago now, Disney has attempted to stick to that storyline as a company — but as many ought to know by now, there have been growing complaints about studio executives and their penchant for what some might describe being “money-grubbing practices” (see: the public reaction to ex-CEO Bob Chapek’s ousting from the company) — both at their theme parks like Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and within their bread-and-butter realm of animation and film.

Character meet with Anna and Elsa from Frozen at Disney California Adventure in Disneyland Resort
Credit: Disney

2013’s Frozen 2 (otherwise stylized as Frozen II), was the follow-up film to Walt Disney Animation Studios’ explosively successful Frozen (2013). The film that debuted in 2019 featured many returning cast members and creatives, from directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, Disney and Broadway composer duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and Robert Lopez, to Kristen Bell as Princess Anna of Arendelle, Idina Menzel as Queen Elsa of Arendelle, Josh Gad as Olaf the Snowman, and Jonathan Groff as Kristoff. Martha Plimpton as the Northuldra chief Yelena, Sterling K. Brown as Arendelle lieutenant Mattias, and Evan Rachel Wood as Queen Iduna round out the talented voice cast.

Why Frozen II, you ask? Well, it was given special treatment over at The Walt Disney Company’s very own streaming platform, Disney+, with the “making of” documentary currently in contention, Into the Unknown: Making Frozen II (2020). The documentary has resurfaced recently with regards to the working practices that The Walt Disney Company engages in, and the way their studio projects nowadays are run.

Walt Disney working with a mechanist on two tiny figures being made for Disneyland exhibits. These animatornic figures are part of a barber shop quartet, where their movements will be synchornized to a sound track.
Credit: Disney

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Disney has received increased scrutiny from the online sphere of late, especially with the Disney 100 celebration being hyped up by the company itself. Nostalgia is the name of the game right now for Disney — but they might be finding that with the praise and love they hope to drum up through these centennial festivities is also bringing up some not-so-positive moments from their past. With Into the Unknown: Making Frozen II, Disney is being criticized for a multitude of production sins — from severe overwork and “crunch” (something already much-debated over regarding Marvel Studios), to overly-interfering studio executives, to pure money-making overtaking actual storytelling and creative freedom.

(l-r) Queen Iduna, Anna, Elsa, and King Agnar in 'Frozen II'
Credit: Disney

Well-known content creator and Disney enthusiast Jenny Nicholson recently tweeted about her disappointment with Disney, saying that she feels “haunted” with the knowledge that Frozen II had such a fraught production after watching the Disney+ documentary:

I’m gonna be haunted for my whole entire life by that Disney+ documentary where they’re making Frozen 2 and like 6 months before release they have a lot of miscellaneous animated sequences but still don’t know what the movie is gonna be about

Nicholson’s tweet garnered an unprecedented number of likes and engagement (considering the film and documentary have both been released for several years already), kickstarting a conversation about Disney and their rather unsavory working practices. The public reaction truly showcases the current public perception of the company, and their place in the animation and movie industries.

Users such as @Gavinckss began calling Frozen II a “trainwreck”, elaborating on the fact that the creators had not yet decided on the main driving plot point of the story — a mere month before it released in theaters:

It’s fascinating how they showed how much of a trainwreck it was from the beginning and how even a month before the movie was supposed to come out they didn’t know who the voice was aka the whole point of the movie and then it ends with them being like we fixed nothing 😀

User Stella Jo describes the interviews in the documentary rather horrifically, stating that the creatives looked like they “had a gun to their head” throughout:

the way everyone in their interviews looks either like they’re on the verge of tears or has a gun to their head explains it all

While Dan Posluns added that it looked like a seriously “gross mismanagement” on the company’s part:

They portray it as some kind of underdog triumph and all I could see was gross mismanagement from top to bottom

Morgan Meehan-Lam expressed upset at the documentary, saying that they felt extremely unsettled by the inhuman way the animation team were treated:

I spent the doco so mad for what they did to that animation team, mad at the director and mad at the obliviousness.

“Haha It was hard and the team had to sleep at work but they did it haha”

“Haha This was all completely avoidable haha”

Meanwhile, both Oliver S. Tormey and Joe Manke commented on the seemingly infinite budget, as well as the severe crunch put on the creators by Disney:

Tormey: It’s crazy that they had a guaranteed audience, infinite budget, talented creatives but still failed to say anything coherent.

(in reply) Manke: Infinite budget doesn’t mean anything without infinite time to spend it. Crunch doesn’t make quality.

Gab Rosemary additionally responded to Tormey, pointing the finger at the studio executives and Disney higher-ups:

That’s bc storytellers weren’t behind any of it, studio executives were

From the conversation being held about Disney right now, it’s increasingly clear that there is a severe opinion shift towards disappointment and upset felt by the public — especially compared to the generally favorable image that Disney held from Walt Disney’s time to about the 1990s and even some of the early 2000s. The Walt Disney Company of today is slowly accumulating more and more call-outs from the public, especially with the increased visibility of social media highlighting injustices, mistreatment, and bad workplace practices.

Movies like Frozen II, created by the company mainly to capitalize off of its predecessor’s mega-hit success, throws creatives into seriously deep waters — with the studio’s main focus on selling toys and Elsa dolls to kids (and their perhaps unwitting parents), as well as getting paying butts into cinema seats. If movies and sequels like this (we can’t not mention Toy Story 5) were given more time to “bake in the oven”, so to speak, and production was focused on storytelling other than toy and ticket sales — perhaps Disney would be able to reclaim their title as the true Mecca of top quality animation and artistry. Right now, it seems like DreamWorks is actually set on taking that crown, funnily enough.

What do you think about Disney behind the scenes? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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