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People really hate the Frozen short playing before Pixar’s new film Coco

It’s a deviation from Pixar’s usual practice, and it’s not going over well.

Coco and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure
Coco and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.
Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Seeing the newest offering from Pixar has been a treat since Toy Story, the studio’s first full-length feature film, hit theaters in 1995, more than two decades ago. And there’s almost always been a bonus cherry on top: a short animated film that played before the feature and often contained some of the funniest, freshest, and sometimes most poignant storytelling of the year, giving space for Pixar’s animators to experiment. Some shorts were better than others, but they were never dull.

The latest Pixar film, Coco, earned raves from audiences over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, with an A+ Cinemascore and a box office haul that topped Justice League. Critics liked it too.

But when I asked about it on Twitter, audiences appeared nearly united in one overwhelmingly negative opinion: that Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, the 21-minute “short” that plays before Coco, totally stinks.

A whole lot of people were angry that the “short” was so long:

Actually, that is in fact what happened: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure was originally planned as a 21-minute holiday television special to play on ABC (which is owned by Disney). The short is a sequel to both Frozen and the Frozen Fever short, which played with Cinderella in 2015. In Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, the inhabitants of the Frozen universe have to overcome having no holiday traditions, due to Elsa’s curse.

At present, you can’t see Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (legally, anyhow) without paying to see Coco — and it wasn’t shown to critics in advance press screenings either. One can imagine a few reasons why, but the most obvious answer is that making critics sit through a 21-minute holiday special in the Frozen universe might dampen the Coco reviews more than a little. Judging from audience reactions, that may have been a savvy move on Disney’s part.

Pixar was acquired by Disney in 2006, and some have argued that this marked a turning point for Pixar. No longer could it be the chance-taking maverick studio that turned out continually surprising films; now it was part of a bigger corporate entity, and along with that came pushes toward more sequels and merchandising-friendly fare.

Putting a film from the Frozen universe in front of a Pixar original film further marries the Disney Animation and Pixar universes. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is meant to be a bridge into Frozen 2, which is due out on November 27, 2019.

Like its predecessor, Frozen 2 is expected to be a monstrous success, and keeping interest alive by stringing out the Frozen universe feels like a play straight from the Disney handbook. But one has to wonder if the hatred for forcing Frozen into the Coco experience may backfire just a bit for Frozen.

(But one only has to spend time around 6-year-old girls to know the answer: Probably not.)

Meanwhile, apparently some theaters in Mexico — where Coco, Pixar’s first feature with a nonwhite cast, is set — have just stopped playing Olaf’s Frozen Adventure altogether after complaints:

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