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Why Frozen 2 blew everyone away at the box office

From live-action remakes to animation, the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the Star Wars saga, 2019 has been filled with high-profile theatrical releases, many of which have come from Disney. In spite of their Midas touch, though, there was a legitimate concern that Frozen 2 might not find the same level of success as the studio's other hits.

Frozen 2 arrived more than five years after Frozen was released, which compounded fears that it would have a hard time living up to its predecessor, but the second chapter of the Arendellian chronicle shoveled in a whopping $127 million domestically and $350 million worldwide on opening weekend. From there it only continued to surge, and mere weeks after its release, it cracked a cool billion at the box office — the sixth Disney film to do so in 2019.

So what is it about the royal sisters of Arendelle and their quirky yet beloved adoptive family that brought moviegoers flocking back for more so many years later? Let's break it down with this look at why Frozen 2 blew everyone away at the box office.

The Disney juggernaut

If there's one factor behind Frozen 2's success that stands tall above all the rest, it has to be two big, black, cylindrical ears. The mere fact that the Walt Disney Company backed the movie's $150 million budget is about as big an endorsement as any film can get these days.

The release of a Disney movie has become nearly synonymous with box office success. At this point, audiences know that if a movie starts with a sparkling blue castle and fireworks set to the tune of "When You Wish Upon a Star," whatever comes next is probably going to be worth their time. Whether it's watching the fourth installment of a story about talking toys, a remake about a pride of lions, or an animated movie about a video game character, if it opens with the Disney theme, it's going to bring in the big bucks.

Just look at the numbers: Deadline pegged Disney's 2019 worldwide box office earnings at a record-breaking $10 billion less than three weeks after Frozen 2's release — and keep in mind that this was still before the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ballooned those earnings even further. There's no doubt at this point that Disney has their finger on the pulse of modern entertainment, and they're capitalizing on it in every way possible.

Frozen 2 is a family-friendly affair

Another element that spurred Frozen 2 towards such heady success is the simple fact that it's a very family-friendly film. Other technically all-ages efforts that came out earlier in the year, like the live-action remakes of Aladdin and The Lion King, had elements that were a bit intimidating for younger audiences. Frozen 2, though, is watchable for everyone, right down to the two-year-old superfans who viewed Frozen five times a day, seven days a week for months beforehand in preparation for the sequel.

If a film is good for the kids, it typically translates into a lot of extra tickets being purchased. Two kids heading to the theater to get their Anna and Elsa fix, for instance, means that at least one extra ticket is going to be purchased for their accompanying parent or guardian. On top of that, movies of this nature often lead to entire families of four, five, and six people — or more — all going to the theater together. While some tickets may be sold at lower prices due to the age of the viewers, it still adds a substantial chunk of change to the final total.

Frozen 2 proves that timing is everything

At the box office, timing is what location is to real estate — namely everything. Just ask UglyDolls, which was dead on arrival when it showed up at theaters one week after Avengers: Endgame started its historic box office run. Rather than suffering from its release date, Frozen 2 ended up dominating the box office, virtually going unchallenged from Thanksgiving week right on into the first half of December.

One obvious factor behind the film's preeminence was the holiday crowd. The original Frozen blazed a similar trail when it was released the day before Thanksgiving in 2013. In both cases, the surge of holiday moviegoers inflated the already natural success that the films clearly would have enjoyed.

Along with the festive nature of the release date, Frozen 2's dominance was also largely impacted by the fact that Wonder Woman 1984 and the Bond adventure No Time to Die both cleared the runway beforehand. The films had been originally scheduled for November release dates, and both eventually were pushed back into 2020. Instead of having to work its way past multiple franchises, Frozen 2 found itself with very little competition.

A childhood fad

Yet another factor that drove in the holiday crowds was the incredible — bordering on incredulous — popularity that the Frozen franchise sustained during the years between the first and second movies. During Anna and Elsa's six-year hiatus from the silver screen, they remained household names (and a daily streaming request from children everywhere).

The fanatical pop-culture fandom could be seen in the wild popularity of the song "Let It Go," multiple releases of Frozen-themed shorts, and the endless — and we mean endless — procession of merchandise inspired by the film. In fact, Anna and Elsa's sustained success feels like nothing quite so much as NBC's The Office, which went off the air the same year Frozen came out. In the time since, both the movie and the show have continued to expand followings that have only intensified, and, in the case of Frozen, that rabid fanbase certainly played a factor in the box office success of the sequel.

Frozen 2: Not your mother's sequel

In the past, Disney sequels have often lacked the quality and heart of their predecessors. Rather than attempting to raise the stakes, many of these sequels ultimately looked like half-hearted attempts to provide something, anything, that allowed fans to continue the experience of the first movie. This approach led to dismal films like Mulan II and Kronk's New Groove — movies that typically went direct to video and focused on secondary characters, mundane plots, and a general lack of the type of quality fans have come to expect from Disney.

Not so here. Rather than feeling decidedly less interesting, Frozen 2's compelling storyline simply feels like a continuation of the original story. In a certain sense, one could argue that it serves as the second half of a story that had to be finished, even if you don't realize this until you see the sequel.

On top of the quality of the story, Disney also poured a reported $150 million into the production — for those of you keeping score at home, that's one and a half times the estimated budget for The Lego Movie 2. The obvious takeaway is that right out of the gate, Disney clearly committed to a high-quality sequel that was meant to rival the original film.

How Frozen 2 upped the ante

Frozen is a well-made animated film. It has quality musical numbers, talented actors voicing the characters, and it bucks the stereotypical expectations of a Disney princess movie. That said, while the movie conjures up grandiose images of snowswept landscapes, giant snow monsters, and an epic ice castle, when you break it down, the story itself isn't quite as big as it appears on the surface.

From beginning to end, it follows Elsa's internal journey as she comes to grips with who she is and learns to control her powers. It also follows Anna as she blossoms from a second thought to a strong-willed leader of men. Kristoff and Sven serve as the hapless orphan and his pet who find a new lease on life. Toss in Olaf, a few trolls, and a surprise villain twist, and, well, you've seen this kind of thing before.

Frozen 2 picks right up where the first movie left off and barrels ahead, expanding and building on the plot in numerous ways. It does so geographically by exploring more of the land around the city of Arendelle. It also adds a deeper sense of growth by further developing the sisters in much more complex roles. This brings a sense of narrative strength and purpose to the sequel, giving it the legs to stand on its own.

Frozen 2's new storyline

Along with growing the narrative of the original Frozen plot, Frozen 2 also stands out as a movie with more to tell. While the story is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," the saga of Elsa and Anna has evolved into its own unique tale. The sequel also branches out into the greater history of Arendelle, the fate of the girls' parents, and the spiritual state of the fantasy world as a whole. All around, the movie has new things to say about the characters, their story, and the world in which both are set.

In contrast, the same year that Frozen 2 was released, remakes of Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King, and even Lady and the Tramp all fell back on the known. While the studio's live-action remakes of its animated classics have been fun for the most part, one thing they severely lack is an original story to hook the audience — something that Frozen 2 delivers in spades. The mysterious continuation of the popular princess' storyline was certainly a driving factor behind Frozen 2 fever.

That Frozen music

Like numerous other Disney hits, Frozen is particularly beloved for its musical score. Songs like "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and "For the First Time in Forever" were instant classics, while "Let It Go" became an international sensation.

With the bar set so high, one question that had to be asked was if the sequel's soundtrack could live up to the original. When Frozen 2 arrived, fans breathed a collective sigh of relief as they saw — or rather, heard — the second film carry on the franchise's musical legacy with aplomb.

From a "Let It Go" followup in the form of Elsa's (Idina Menzel) "Into the Unknown" to the deeply emotional refrain of Anna's (Kristen Bell) "The Next Right Thing," Frozen 2 fearlessly brings the heat with its inspiring musical numbers. And then, of course, there are songs like Olaf's (Josh Gad) "When I Am Older," which helps to ease the tension with laughter. From the opening scene to the closing credits, the music of Frozen 2 never failed to meet the fans' certainly lofty expectations and kept that opening weekend energy riding high.

Frozen 2's humor

Frozen is a fairly funny film. Olaf is a riot every time he opens his mouth. Sven keeps everyone laughing with his endless pursuit of carrots. Kristoff's conversations with his four-legged companion are brimming with sarcasm and humor. The big blowout scene at the Wandering Oaken's Trading Post and Sauna is the perfect way to warm up the chilly atmosphere.

Frozen 2 takes the comic relief, especially when it comes to Olaf and Kristoff, and cranks it up a notch. Olaf struts his new permafrost coating all over Arendelle as he brings his newly enlightened educational prowess to bear on every event that takes place. Meanwhile, Kristoff's fruitless attempts to propose throughout the film keep everyone jubilantly on the edge of their seats.

The funniest moment of all, though, comes in the form of the lovesick boyfriend's Queen-meets-Chicago '80s-style power ballad "Lost in the Woods." Backed by a chorus of reindeer, Kristoff's anguished refrain, belted out as he wanders the woods pining for Anna, is the definition of comic relief and most certainly served to keep the social media buzz around the movie firing on all cylinders.

Sister power in Frozen 2

Disney princess films have gotten a pretty bad rap over the years for their romance-driven storylines. Whether you're following a strong, independent spirit like Pocahontas and Mulan, or a helpless romantic like Snow White or Ariel, the plot always seems to revolve around those knight in shining armor moments.

Frozen focuses on something completely different, though equally important: family. While there is certainly a love story throughout both films, particularly between Kristoff and Anna, it takes a back seat to the bond that holds the two sisters together. In the first movie, when she's forced to choose between the two, Anna opts to help Elsa rather than run to Kristoff. In the second film, Kirstoff's vain attempts to propose to his girlfriend take a back seat to the endearing family dynamic between the two sisters.

This family focus is one that parents and children of all ages can get behind, as supporting your family is a much easier message to endorse compared to the whole "love at first sight" shtick. There's little doubt that the power of family was a positive refrain that played into the minds of parents everywhere as they bundled their kids up to take them to see Frozen 2 over the holiday break.