In a surprise announcement made on Monday, Head of Walt Disney Animation Studios Jennifer Lee announced that the company is selling the rights to the popular Frozen movie franchise. Lee, who served as writer and co-director of the first Frozen movie alongside Chris Buck, appeared unemotional while making the statement. “Disney is no longer interested in pursuing the franchise despite the success of the first film. While the sequel, Frozen 2, will still hit theaters in November of this year, it will be the final Disney Frozen film.”
Robert Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, also released a statement that sheds further light onto why Disney was no longer interested in the franchise. “Strong female characters are over,” he said. “We realized it was a mistake to create a string of Disney princesses who didn’t need a man. Merida, Rapunzel, Elsa… they just weren’t popular. We’re going back to characters like Belle, Ariel, and Jasmine. Good, wholesome princesses who needed rescuing!”
Iger went on to explain that a focus group made up of deeply religious and conservative mothers from the southern part of the United States overwhelmingly confirmed that their daughters had no interest in seeing strong female characters who saved themselves. He shared some of the statements made from this group, including one from a woman who said that, “my daughter doesn’t need to see a princess creating an ice castle with her own two hands, that will give her unrealistic expectations in life. She’s going to be living in a sensible home her husband can afford, and she’s going to be happy with it.”
When asked how the focus group results seemed to contradict the rise in popularity of strong female characters such as Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, Iger was again dismissive. “Neither did as well as Avengers,” he stated. He went on to point out the fan outrage surrounding Star Wars: The Last Jedi, claiming the problems with that film fell squarely on the shoulders of Daisy Ridley’s unlikable character of Rei. “How often does she smile in that film? Never!”
Lee seemingly supported Iger’s stance on strong female characters, pointing out that Elsa was never meant to be a role model. “In fact, she was the villain in early drafts. I wanted her to be a cold-hearted bitch, but Chris and Shane [Morris, both of whom received story credits on the film] said they thought she should be the hero. Who am I to argue with that?”
Several advocates for the LGBTQ community pressed Lee on the fan theory that Elsa was a lesbian and would be given a female love interest in the second film. Lee replied that Disney was no longer interested in the character in any way and that Frozen 2 had been reworked to be “as bland and inoffensive as possible. We’ll let someone else take that risk, we just want to recoup our costs, and we can’t do that if there’s some boycott because we made Elsa a lesbian.” Iger backed up this statement with another referral to the focus group: “Our upstanding Conservative Christian fanbase simply doesn’t want that.”
When asked what she thought of Disney selling the franchise rights to another studio, Elsa voice actress Idina Menzel pointed out her long history of playing strong female characters, including Maureen in Rent and Elphaba in Wicked. “Disney doesn’t want strong female characters now? Well, (censored) Mickey Mouse! I don’t need their (censored) money, I made more in a week doing Wicked. They can kiss my green-painted ass!”
Co-star Kristin Bell, the voice of Elsa’s sister Anna, however, reacted differently. “They’re what? But I’m a Disney princess! They can’t do that to me! I need my phat stacks of Disney dollars! Ohmygod, Dax, cancel our African safari, we’re losing the Frozen checks! I’m going to have to do like ten more seasons of Veronica Mars to make up for this!”
Potential bidders from the rights to the franchise have not been made public, but several of Hollywood’s most famous directors have expressed interest in the series. Quentin Tarantino has publicly commented that he would love to reinvent Elsa in the style of his famous Kill Bill films, while Zack Snyder has mused on a dark and gritty reboot of the heroine. Joss Whedon has said he’s interested in following up the movie with a TV series that follows a teenage Elsa battling the forces of evil with her friends while also juggling the pressures of high school.
No matter where the franchise goes from here (if anywhere), Disney’s decision to let it go is certainly an interesting one. What is certain is that whether dark and gritty or full of teen angst, the future of the Frozen franchise will be an interesting one.