The global blockbuster success of Disney’s “Frozen” was not by accident.
The company put a huge investment into making the animated film as accessible in Beijing as in Buenos Aires. The movie is translated into 41 languages, which included an international cast of more than 900 people. They worked on 1,300 recording sessions.
The efforts helped make “Frozen” Disney’s biggest hit ever and the fourth top-grossing film in U.S. history. It’s No. 3 in Japan. To date, “Frozen” has brought $1.27 billion in global box office revenues — more than two-thirds comes from overseas ticket sales.
This global business dynamic has changed the way Disney and other studios think about the production of their films, said “Frozen” producer John Del Vecho. “For international success, we need to make sure we have universal [stories] with universal characters that are relatable to today’s audience,” Del Vecho said this week in a speech at the Paley International Council Summit in New York.
And what the “Frozen” creators found was an international audience ready for new approaches to storytelling and themes that better reflect modern life. The tropes of good versus evil and love at first site — the backbones of most Disney films — were challenged in “Frozen.” The central character, Elsa, is complex and tests notions of the antagonist. It’s a love story, but not a romantic one at its center.
A key moment in the making of “Frozen” came when John Lassetter, Disney and Pixar’s chief creative officer, asked, “Why does Elsa have to be a villain?”
“It was the best question” Del Vecho said, and it set off the creation of the Academy Award-winning song “Let it Go.”
In deciding to focus on the relationship between sisters Elsa and Anna, Disney brought together women in the studio in what they called a “Sister Summit.” At the meeting, women with sisters talked about their relationships, giving the movie’s creators found a deep well of ideas about familial relationships, Del Vecho said.
“Authenticity was key,” he said, adding that audiences around the world were looking for the same.