Can Frozen 2 Replicate the Success of the First Film in Japan?

  • The year was 2013. Walt Disney Animation Studios, also known as Disney Animation, had experienced a couple of successful years, finally been able to come out of the creative slump it had found itself at since 1999 when Tarzan became the last film of the Disney Renaissance. The decade that followed had been marked by films that had failed to breakout and find success, a period that came to an end in 2009 with the release of The Princess and the Frog. After that, movies like Tangled and Wreck-it-Ralph have cemented what would end up becoming the Disney Revival. However, 2013 was going to be a special day that would forever change Disney Animation.

    by Martin Danker

    During the Thanksgiving holidays, Disney released their newest film, Frozen, which thanks to a number of factors including little competition during the season, ended up becoming a smash hit in the United States after it grossed over 400 million dollars. The “Frozen fever” was not only felt across the United States, but also overseas; and no country showed so much adoration for the film than Japan, where it grossed an astonishing (if not absolutely mind-blowing) 249 million dollars. That officially made Frozen the 3rd highest grossing film at the Japanese box.

    Frozen-mania had hit the country with such force that Idina Menzel, who voices Elsa, had a very successful tour in Japan thanks to the fame she had gained in the country after the release of the movie.

    The film’s success also influenced Disney’s decision in creating a sequel, and oddity for the Mouse House. While Disney Animation has released sequels to certain films, these were never intended to be released to theaters. Instead, Disney sequels were always meant to be for Disney Channel or straight-to-video movies. Ralph Wrecks the Internet was the first sequel Disney Animation created that was actually intended for theaters, and thus Anna and Elsa became the first Disney princesses to have a sequel that was going to be released in cinemas across the globe.

    Frozen 2 came out in a year that was showing “sequel fatigue”, in which several sequels and franchises that were expected to bring millions ended up disappointing and some even bombing. However, Frozen 2 showed that a 6 year-gap was nothing to worry about as long as the sequel was something audiences actually cared about and wanted to see. That’s the main difference between The Secret Life of Pets 2 and Frozen 2.

    The Secret Life of Pets was an unexpected hit that grossed $875 million worldwide, including a healthy $41 million in Japan. However, The Secret Life of Pets 2 ended up grossing a disappointing $441 million worldwide ($20 million in Japan); meaning that while audiences had showed great interest in the original movie, they just didn’t care enough about the brand and its characters to justify going to the movies for part two. However, with a budget of just $88 million The Secret Life of Pets 2 was actually a commercial hit, and not a box office bomb. And still, despite being an actual success, The Secret Life of Pets 2 looks like a terrible disappointment because of the initial film’s exuberant cinematic run.

    Frozen 2, on the other hand, ended up breaking Thanksgiving records in the United States, playing like a juggernaut film that crossed the $300 million milestone in the U.S. after only 13 days of release. In Japan, the film opened with an astonishing $17.8 million (Frozen opened with $7.5 million) during its first weekend in Japan. That makes it the 3rd highest opening weekend in Japan after Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of The Sith ($18.9 million), and The Matrix Reloaded ($18.6 million). The question, however, is whether Frozen 2 will have the legs of Frozen, or if it will play like a regular blockbuster in Japan.

    The problem with the original title completely destroying the Japanese box office is that the second film could end up looking like a box office disappointment in the country despite being extremely successful and potentially one of the highest grossing movies in Japan. This is a trend we have seen this year with the likes of The Life of Pets 2 and It Chapter 2. The latter ended up grossing $470 million while the first installment grossed $700 million. Both The Life of Pets 2 and It Chapter 2 were very successful and profitable movies, but because they ended up grossing way less than their predecessors, some analysts looked at them like box office disappointments.

    Frozen 2 will not encounter those comments thanks to it’s impressive performance worldwide that is already pushing the movie for a likely over $1 billion finish. Not to mention that the movie is proving to be very popular in China, where it outgrossed the original film just with its opening weekend totals. However, some analysts could still see Frozen 2‘s numbers in Japan with dismay if the movie is not able to come close to the success of Frozen.

    Expecting Frozen 2 to replicate the success of the original title in Japan could indeed be wishful thinking (let’s wait and see, shall we?). After all, what Frozen experienced in Japan was so jaw-dropping and insane that it left analysts in a state of shock years ago. Your Name (君の名は), which smashed the Japanese box office after its release in August 2016 was not able to surpass Frozen, settling for number 4 in the list of highest-grossing movies in Japan. That probably paints a clearer picture of just how astonishing Frozen’s performance was.

    Even if Frozen 2 is not able to match its predecessor’s success, it should not be seen as a box office disappointment in Japan. Not to mention that numbers Frozen 2 has pulled off during its first two weekends in Japan have been nothing short of fantastic. Theaters are packed, and some people have not even watched the movie yet because they are waiting for crowds to subside. During its first weekend, Twitter users even commented that there were crying babies in late night screenings, meaning that those who wanted to enjoy the movie without hearing infants could not even see the movie past 10 PM. Thanks to the number of people who are just waiting for the Frozen fever to tune down a little and strong word of mouth, Frozen 2 will continue to show its muscles in the Japanese box office.

    *Featured Image by 1977__03 (ゆいさんです) on Instagram