It’s a deviation from Pixar’s usual practice, and it’s not going over well.
Seeing the newest offering from Pixar has been a treat since Toy Story, the studio’s first full-length feature film, hit theaters in 1995, more than two decades ago. And there’s almost always been a bonus cherry on top: a short animated film that played before the feature and often contained some of the funniest, freshest, and sometimes most poignant storytelling of the year, giving space for Pixar’s animators to experiment. Some shorts were better than others, but they were never dull.
The latest Pixar film, Coco, earned raves from audiences over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, with an A+ Cinemascore and a box office haul that topped Justice League. Critics liked it too.
But when I asked about it on Twitter, audiences appeared nearly united in one overwhelmingly negative opinion: that Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, the 21-minute “short” that plays before Coco, totally stinks.
Didn’t hate it, but was supremely annoyed. My Mom and I looked at each other with a “Really?” expression several times. Halfway through she even asked, “How long does this last?” We just wanted to see COCO.
— Ethan Anderton (@Ethan_Anderton) November 25, 2017
Tonight a friend could not stop talking about how much he hated it. He wants me to see it so I can hate it too.
— Eric D. Snider (@EricDSnider) November 25, 2017
Unspeakably dreadful. The songs were sludge; the plot, idiotic. It made me loathe commercialized Christmas, a holiday I enjoyed as a child, with a dark and molten rage.
— Clive Thompson (@pomeranian99) November 25, 2017
A whole lot of people were angry that the “short” was so long:
My friend’s response pic.twitter.com/ldBrEEDfnT
— Caroline Madden (@crolinss) November 25, 2017
The FROZEN short before COCO unforgivably stretches the definition of “short.”
— AADowd (@AADowd) November 25, 2017
Someone in our audience involuntarily exclaiming “oh my GODDDDD” when Elsa started to sing again was the hardest I’ve laughed at the theater in 2017 https://t.co/pBVngdwnfg
— Ross Kroeber (@RossKroeber) November 24, 2017
It was *at least* twice as long as anyone in my theater wanted. Did they make it as a TV special, then someone said “eh, just put it in front of COCO?”
— David McGinnis (@dav_mcg) November 25, 2017
Actually, that is in fact what happened: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure was originally planned as a 21-minute holiday television special to play on ABC (which is owned by Disney). The short is a sequel to both Frozen and the Frozen Fever short, which played with Cinderella in 2015. In Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, the inhabitants of the Frozen universe have to overcome having no holiday traditions, due to Elsa’s curse.
At present, you can’t see Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (legally, anyhow) without paying to see Coco — and it wasn’t shown to critics in advance press screenings either. One can imagine a few reasons why, but the most obvious answer is that making critics sit through a 21-minute holiday special in the Frozen universe might dampen the Coco reviews more than a little. Judging from audience reactions, that may have been a savvy move on Disney’s part.
I also prefer there to be a high wall of separation between Disney and Pixar. Yes, I know they’re bedfellows. But Pixar shorts should remain in Pixarland rather than become a canvas for B-Rate Disney sequels.
— Zach Dickson (@zachdicks0n) November 25, 2017
Saw it today, hated it, resented Disney for so flagrantly shoving its way into the at least marginally more sacred Pixar universe
— Zach Barnes (@zdbarnes) November 25, 2017
Pixar was acquired by Disney in 2006, and some have argued that this marked a turning point for Pixar. No longer could it be the chance-taking maverick studio that turned out continually surprising films; now it was part of a bigger corporate entity, and along with that came pushes toward more sequels and merchandising-friendly fare.
Putting a film from the Frozen universe in front of a Pixar original film further marries the Disney Animation and Pixar universes. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is meant to be a bridge into Frozen 2, which is due out on November 27, 2019.
Like its predecessor, Frozen 2 is expected to be a monstrous success, and keeping interest alive by stringing out the Frozen universe feels like a play straight from the Disney handbook. But one has to wonder if the hatred for forcing Frozen into the Coco experience may backfire just a bit for Frozen.
(But one only has to spend time around 6-year-old girls to know the answer: Probably not.)
Meanwhile, apparently some theaters in Mexico — where Coco, Pixar’s first feature with a nonwhite cast, is set — have just stopped playing Olaf’s Frozen Adventure altogether after complaints:
Back home, in Mexico, people complained a lot about it so they eventually stopped showing it.
— Santiago Velazquez (@Santi_E14) November 25, 2017
That would me my guess, even though Coco is an American film, Mexican people took a lot of pride in it. I guess maybe they saw the frozen short as an insult or something
— Santiago Velazquez (@Santi_E14) November 25, 2017
Everyone hated it, I went to Coco premier here in Mexico and the next Monday on the office there were 2 trending topics 1. Everyone loved Coco 2. Why the hell did we had to sit trough 20 minutes of that “short” it was like an episode of Disney Channel