This past weekend I took my two preschoolers (ages three and five) to a Frozen “sing-a-long” in San Francisco. Most of the little girls in the audience came decked in aquamarine Queen Elsa costumes, and twirled around at the front of the theatre while the movie and its hit songs unfolded on the big screen above them. My kids, who came dressed like normal people, sat mesmerized by the film—as if they weren’t watching it for the umpteenth time—and joined in as the entire audience belted out Elsa’s standout song, Let it Go.
Yes, more than one year after Frozen’s debut, my little girls are still enamored with Elsa and Anna and their music. They’re not alone.
Frozen, the top-grossing animated movie in history and the fifth-highest grossing movie of all time, has already raked in about $1.3 billion worldwide for the Walt Disney Co. The film’s soundtrack was ranked the No. 1 best-selling album of 2014, moving more than 3 million copies. Last month, Frozen dolls dethroned once-reigning Barbie as the top holiday toy for girls, and Disney has said it sold over 3 million Elsa and Anna costumes this year. A Frozen edition of “Disney on Ice” has been touring across the country, and the characters from the movie are already one of the biggest draws at Disney’s theme parks.
Disney has no intention to let it go anytime soon—in fact, it can keep milking the Frozen cash cow for years to come. Word is that a sequel and a Broadway musical are in the works. So is a Frozen-themed Disney parks attraction and, possibly, a TV show on the Disney Channel—all natural extensions for the company to pursue.
“They know how to leverage a property in more ways than just about any other company,” says Jessica Reif Cohen, a media analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch who has covered Disney for over two decades.
In addition to its animation studios, the mediatainment giant’s business encompasses theme parks, TV networks, consumer products and gaming. That gives the company the ability to not only extend a popular brand like Frozen way past its Box Office debut but to do so in a way that allows it to maintain creative control and maximize profits (because fewer “middlemen” are needed).
“This has real franchise potential,” CEO Bob Iger told investors just a few months after the movie launched late last year. No kidding.
But while Frozen has broken several records, it won’t be the first time Disney builds a long-lasting, multi-billion-dollar franchise out of an animated movie. Case in point: The company’s 1994 hit, The Lion King, became the fourth longest-running Broadway show in history, grossing over $1 billion. Even passé princesses like Beauty and the Beast‘s Belle and Snow White are still bringing in revenue in the form of merchandise and park attractions. In light of those franchises, it wouldn’t be surprising if Frozen keeps generating revenue for Disney for the decade—or decades—to come, crazy as that sounds.
“It’s got great music and transcends generations,” says Reif Cohen, the media analyst. “And for whatever crazy reason boys seem to like it too.”
The majority of kids at the sing-along I attended in San Francisco were girls, but a few boys were also in the audience. When it was all over, I put my two little girls in the car and headed home. While I (and countless other parents) may have Frozen fatigue, my kids have shown no signs: Right away, they requested to hear—what else?—the soundtrack from Frozen.