As one of Disney’s biggest cash cows, Frozen has become one of the most omnipresent animated films in the past few years. In between the smash hit 2013 film and the upcoming 2019 sequel, Disney not only released a 7-minute short in 2015 entitled Frozen Fever, which played in front of the live-action Cinderella, but they also released a 21-minute featurette named Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, playing in front of Pixar’s latest animated feature, Coco.
Originally, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure was not intended to be shown on the big screen, but as a television special on ABC. But due to the film’s cinematic quality, and an attempt to boost interest in Coco, the executives at Disney decided to put the special on the big screen. And while it’s admirable Disney would treat the hard-working animators with a chance to have their work be shown on a massive screen, both its length and content leave viewers with a rotten taste in their mouths, impatiently waiting for the true main event.
While a 21 minute featurette sounds taxing, considering viewers will also be forced to sit through 20 minutes or so or previews, the problem doesn’t come with its length, but its pacing. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure suffers with a slow runtime that attempts to drag out a story that didn’t need to be told in 20 minutes. The basic premise of Olaf attempting to find a holiday tradition for Anna and Elsa works as a cute 10-minute or so cartoon, but at 20 minutes, it quickly grows tiresome. The writers attempt to pad out the story with 4 musical numbers, including two reprises, but it only serves to further prove how limited the story is. With each number coming one after the other, and none of them meeting the gold standard of the original Frozen’s “Let it Go” or “For the First Time in Forever,” or even Frozen Fever’s “Making Today a Perfect Day,” it’s almost groan-worthy to hear one of the characters burst into song.
It also doesn’t help that Olaf is a character who doesn’t work as a main character. The reason he works in Frozen is because he is in the film for small doses. Comic relief characters like him are entertaining as side dishes to the main characters, but having him as the focus throughout the majority of the featurette’s screen time makes it hard to sit through.
Thankfully, the short isn’t a complete disaster. Anna and Elsa are still a likable presence, one or two one-liners and gags with Olaf do elicit a chuckle, and it was nice to see other religions and holidays being represented, like Hanukkah and Saint Lucy’s Day. I also appreciated the ending, which reveals, without giving anything away, a little bit about Anna and Elsa’s childhood and how they connected during Christmas. But with a dull pace and some annoying song sequences, it can’t save this mediocre special.
Olaf’s Frozen Adventure isn’t bad because it’s long. It’s bad because it just flat-out doesn’t work. Even as a television special, it’s forgettable, largely unfunny, and is more or less a waste of time for the animators. Even for Frozen fans, there isn’t really much to get excited over. Reception to the featurette has been so poor, Mexican theaters pulled it after only a week, and America will be doing the same two weeks into the film’s run, and it’s understandable why. In the end, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is probably the weakest part of the “Frozen” franchise, but thankfully Disney will learn from their mistakes and improve on the next Frozen-related short.
Oh, and as for Coco, definitely see it as soon as you can. It’s up there as one of Pixar’s best, with one of the strongest emotional moments in any film this year. Even if you have to sit through Olaf bumble around for 20 minutes, the main dish is absolutely worth sitting through the appetizer.