As a broad in her late twenties who can still sing every word to “Part of Your World”, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Colours of the Wind” it doesn’t surprise me in the least that Disney’s latest musically driven animated film, Frozen, has been a success right out of the gates. We’re talking major nods including wins at the Oscars, Golden Globes and BAFTAs.
After its final release in Japan this past weekend, Frozen has raked in a total of $1.07 billion USD in box office revenue alone – bumping Toy Story 3 out of top spot as highest grossing animated feature of all time. One can only imagine the additional stream Disney will see in the years to come from selling Elsa dresses and plush versions of Olaf…
So, why is this cartoon’s triumph Broad-worthy? You may have caught this Ted Talk that I recently posted on our Broad World Facebook page, talking about the lack of female protagonists and the message being portrayed by the majority of female lead roles. Frozen’s predecessor, Toy Story 3, is a great example of the point that the speaker is trying to make. The heroine of Toy Story 3, Jessie, is incredible – she’s witty, she’s smart, she’s rough, tumble and rebellious – she’s one of the guys! But that’s just the problem we’ve been seeing in film, strong female characters like Jessie are surrounded by male friends and challengers – they wind up being the “only girl in the room”, and defined by their rebellion from stereotypically feminine traits. This is where Frozen really breaks the mould, and more importantly, shows us that making these changes doesn’t mean affecting revenue stream.
Coming out of 2013, did we really need more proof? The top grossing film of the year was the Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which is undoubtedly female powered with Katniss Everdeen leading the charge. Again, she’s surrounded by men (along with a few ditsy, weak women) and is a bit of a loner being misunderstood due to her lack of femininity, but we’ll take it as a minor triumph. Then we have Gravity, which scooped up 7 wins from the Academy while basically having only Sandra Bullock as an actor – did Clooney really count?
Is this shocking? No. After all, women do make up half of the population, and statistically they buy 50% of cinema tickets purchased – so why wouldn’t more Hollywood big wigs be targeting this demographic? Maybe it has to do with some of these facts about the business side of the film industry and who’s calling the shots. Even in the top 100 films from 2013, where 2 of the top 3 were clearly lead by female protagonists, only 16% were led by women.
It sounds a bit discouraging, so why the big praise for Frozen in particular? Your two lead characters, Elsa and Anna, are everything for a young girl to aspire to be, and everything for girls to finally be seen as. They’re independent, powerful, courageous, sarcastic and witty – traits usually identified with men in film – but they completely maintain their femininity, while being flawed and dynamically changing characters.
This is brilliant! It demonstrates so clearly – and even monetarily, shareholders! – that there is a forward motion happening.
Disney does it again – keep bringing on the female heroines and timeless sound tracks.