What you can learn from Disney’s biggest flop

We took the kids to see Frozen 2 the other day.

SPOILER ALERT – songs occur far too frequently, though admittedly it wasn’t quite as agonising as I thought it would be.

(Probably because I brought the entire snack aisle from Tesco in with me!)

When I watch movies with my family, I’m grateful to be a dad at a time when movie studios make kid movies with parents in mind. Without the little gags and inside jokes, I’d hate it. I have no idea how my parents endured TV shows for kids without stabbing people in the eye.

(Remind me to Google “Were murder rates higher in the 1980s?” later)

Anyway, back to Frozen…

If you’re familiar with the plot from the first Frozen film, the last thing you need me to do is recap it here…

…but I am going to anyway.

If you pay attention, you’ll see why.

Frozen is the story of two sisters, Anna and Elsa. Anna is the quite bossy and feisty one of the pair. The movie starts with her looking forward to marrying Prince Hans and finally becoming Queen.

Elsa, her sister, is jealous and evil. More than that, she’s cursed – everything she touches turns to ice. It’s this power that prevents her from being Queen, despite being the older of the two.

As the wedding approaches, Elsa decides to plot a diabolical plan. Along with her evil henchman Olaf (a snowman – of course), they try to destroy the town and Anna. During the battle, Anna’s heart is partially frozen by her sister’s ice power and Prince Hans goes AWOL.

Anna sets off to find her prince, believing a kiss from him will heal her heart. Meanwhile, Elsa plans another attack, but it’s so powerful that it gets out of her control. Elsa realises she’s in danger. It becomes clear that the two sisters are going to have to work together to end this.

They team up and save the village. Anna’s heart thaws and everyone later dies when they are all sucked into a jet engine…

I’m joking, they live happily ever after.

If you’ve seen Frozen, you’re probably questioning one of three things right about now:

  • Your memory, or
  • What drugs I’m on, or
  • Your memory

When Disney created Frozen, the plot above is what they first created. They cast the characters, created the movie and showed it to higher up executives, convinced they were on to a winner.

They were wrong.

The higher up folk hated it.

“You’ve not gone deep enough…there’s not enough to get into.”
“There are too many characters to keep track of!”
“The ending is bloody obvious!”
“I Fucking hate Olaf!”

What made all this worse was this wasn’t even the first draft of the movie. Animators had been battling for months beforehand, tweaking every aspect of the film, to make it perfect.

  • Should Anna and Elsa be strangers, not sisters?
  • Maybe Elsa should get the throne?
  • Shall we add some ninjas?

OK, I may have made one of those up.

The point is that the version the execs hated was actually the best one the team created!

It’s very easy to write “stop being so hard on yourself when you make a mistake. Even the big boys don’t get it right all the time”.

Actually, that would be easy. I should do that.

Let’s really hammer this home though.

Disney is a massive company.

They’ve made movies before (with penetrating business insights like these, I should be working for Bloomberg).

If you had to bet your Gran on one company being able to know what would work movie-wise, it’s Disney.

Frozen was Disney’s 677th movie. And that’s only counting films. There are countless TV shows and cartoons that I could add to make that number more impressive.

All the knowledge and experience of making 676 movies and even that wasn’t enough to help them create a sure-fire winner.

676 movies and they still turned out a flop.

So what if your social post didn’t get the likes you wanted, or your lead magnet was as popular as Tom Hanks at a… (damn, I shouldn’t have chosen him for this metaphor. He’s really popular).

Learn from your mistakes and move forward. That’s all you – and Disney – can do.

And they did.

Frozen ended up grossing over $1.25bn. It’s now the highest-grossing animated film of all time, passing Toy Story 3. Not only that, it’s the 15th highest-grossing movie of all time.

It won two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, a Grammy and five Annie awards (I have no idea what they are, so I’m just assuming they’re good!).

Better than all that though, it’s given me precious moments of peace and quiet at times when the kids were really beginning to do my fucking head in.

So, yeah, stop being so hard on yourself.

Let it go.

(You knew that was coming, didn’t you?)

Have a great weekend,