It’s hard to argue with the fact that Frozen has proven to be an enormous money machine for Disney. While other, similarly well animated movies like Big Hero 6, Moana and Zootopia have come along in the time since Idina Mendez let it go, these films haven’t nearly captured the imaginations of children around the world in the same way that Jennifer Lee’s icy Scandinavian princess movie managed.
Plus, crucially, no other film has sold as much merchandise. Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with a five year old girl will be well aware of just how many ridiculous products have been sold all thanks to the brand appeal of Queen Elsa and her quirky little sister.
It seemed for a while, after Tangled and Frozen, that Disney had a solid formula in place, revitalizing their classic princess marketing strategy for a string of successful CGI movies. You simply pair a gruff anti-hero leading man with an incredibly Aryan princess whose hair is somehow significant to the plot, and off the story goes.
Strangely, though, Disney hasn’t done this particular story again since Frozen, almost as if they’ve managed to perfect the formula, and have decided to leave it alone while searching for another, new winning strategy. At one point it seems like Moana might have attempted to continue this tradition, but development on that movie took things in a very different direction by the time it was actually finished.
We’d all assumed that Gigantic would continue the Tangled naming and story convention. The movie was announced all the way back at D23 in 2015, and would have seen Jack (of beanstalk fame) teaming up with a giant, who is also a little blond girl.
Formula solidly in place, this should be no problem. But as time went on, the movie’s 2018 release date slipped back to 2020, before now disappearing entirely.
So why has Disney cancelled Gigantic?
Perhaps this is a sign that Disney is learning from past mistakes. Cookie cutter movie molds get stale very fast, and can even weaken the brand as a whole if given time to fester.
Later movies of the Disney Renaissance of the Nineties, such as Hercules and Mulan, are not without their fans, but failed to pull in the critical and commercial acclaim that Aladdin or The Little Mermaid managed a few years previously.
Thus, it seems, in order to diversify the stories they’ve been telling, Disney has decided to kill an obvious Tangled clone.
After all, it’s not like Frozen is going anywhere. With a feature length sequel on the way, it makes sense for Disney to not pollute their own brand with knock-offs when they can just make a direct copy of the original and drown in money from all the new toys they can sell.
Perhaps, there’s also a slight chance that this is a case of the talent of the studio managing to argue the case for more original storytelling.
After all, by this point Disney has fully assimilated Pixar. All the talented storytellers who worked on making Toy Story, and Monsters Inc, and WALL-E, and other similar hits? They now work for Disney, while their former brand is associated with quick and easy sequels like Finding Dory and Incredibles 2 – again, by no means bad movies, but certainly more formulaic than the stories of the company’s pre-Disney Buyout years.
Now, Disney’s animation department is known for innovation; for trying new ideas. They’ve grabbed the best possible talent from across the animation world, and these top creators don’t want to be stuck making derivative fairytale stories by adhering to a strict checklist.
Maybe now just isn’t the time for Gigantic – not when Disney has a direct sequel to Frozen that will definitely earn more money, and when other, more original projects stand a better chance of finding a new niche that the corporation can exploit?
Except, Disney doesn’t have any other original animated properties in the works – not that we’ve been told about, that is.
Frozen 2, Wreck-it-Ralph 2, Toy Story 4, and remakes of Dumbo and The Lion King are all on the horizon, to some degree or other. There’s nothing wholly original in the lineup now that Gigantic is gone.
So perhaps the problem isn’t that Gigantic was too formulaic. Perhaps someone at the top of the company has decreed that original ideas are inferior, and that everything should be a sequel or a remake so as to make as much money as possible, as quickly as possible.
There’s no way of knowing what exactly Disney is up to, but one thing’s certain: the company should not stop producing original film ideas. There’s no way that can end well in the long run.
But hey, now that beanstalk-related movies are off Disney’s agenda, maybe Illumination can sweep in to take a stab at it.
Don’t pretend that kids everywhere wouldn’t go nuts for a giant Minion. Possibly eating an enormous banana, maybe just poking itself in the eye and laughing.
Who says kids movies are too uninspired?