I went to see Coco with my family this weekend. It’s been years since I’ve been able to watch a movie in theaters with my brother and my parents, so I was excited to be able to take them to Pixar’s sumptuous new story about an aspiring young musician trying to make his way through the Land of the Dead. The movie was great — thought-provoking, moving, and respectful of the traditions by which it was inspired. There was just one thing that marred the entire experience.
Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.
Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is a 21-minute “short film” that plays in front of Coco. That means that between 15 minutes of trailers and this 21-minute ABC holiday special, you’re looking at a good 35 minutes before the movie even begins.
The decision to put this special in front of Coco creates numerous externalities. First of all, it bumps a Pixar short film that would’ve otherwise gone in its place. These shorts, while hit or miss, often showcased important up-and-coming talent and were frequently nominated for “Best Animated Short Film” awards due to their quality (I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Olaf’s Frozen Adventure will not land that honor). It also means there are lots of confused people in the audience of Coco, wondering whether or not they’re even in the correct theater.
My family and I almost walked out – and there were 13 of us awaiting Coco, not a lame and unnecessary time suck that was the Frozen “short.”
— Bachman McHutchins (@jmartindustries) November 26, 2017
But let’s put all that aside. Even if all those extremely annoying aspects of the Olaf-viewing experience weren’t present, you’d still have to contend with this: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is a terrible piece of art represents all the worst aspects of the commercialization of Christmas. Olaf has always been an irritating character, but he’s fine in small doses — he’s the spice, not the stew. Making him the center of the story is like trying to force Captain Jack Sparrow into the protagonist role of a Pirates film (How’d that work out for Disney?).
Olaf spends the movie hunting around for more “traditions.” Songs are sung. References to Frozen are made. Suffice it to say, he comes to learn that the real tradition…was love.
The short film was constructed in a way to be the most widely appealing, least offensive reference to Christmas ever. At the end, when Elsa uses her ice powers to create a Christmas tree, there’s a Disney ornament at the top, rather than something that might actually symbolize anything other than corporate domination of the holidays.
This is the type of film people complain about when they say that Christmas is too commercial. It says nothing of value. Its execution is barely competent. It is only interested in getting you to buy more Frozen Blu-Rays, or getting you to think about these characters once more during the long wait for Frozen 2.
It is a colossal waste of time whose only legacy will be that it made the magical experience of seeing the great new Pixar film just a little bit less special.