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Disney’s Frozen Franchise’s Success Is In Breaking With Stereotypes

‘Frozen’ Sequel Builds On Story of Strength In Sisterhood
by Nancy Cicco
 
As “Frozen 2” opens in theaters, an expert on adolescent development shares why she believes the Disney blockbuster movie series has cast a spell over millions of fans.
     The first installment in the “Frozen” tale is the second-highest grossing animated film of all time with a worldwide box office take of about $1.3 billion. Industry-watchers expect a similar result for “Frozen 2,” which could become Disney’s sixth billion-dollar film this year.
The bond between the sisters who are the main characters is one of the key reasons for the “Frozen” craze, which extends beyond movie theaters into merchandise and more.
     “Psychologists see relationships at the core of women’s identity and development, and relationships between sisters occupy a special status among them. The connection between sisters Elsa and Anna shows that Disney princesses can be stronger together. This celebration of sisterhood explains much of the resonance of ‘Frozen,’” said Doreen Arcus, psychologist and associate professor at UMass Lowell.
     The “Frozen” phenomenon showcases a new empowerment of Disney’s animated female characters and the popularity of that theme, according to Professor Arcus.
     “Disney princesses have become stronger and more independent. But from Snow White to Ariel to Mulan, they have been women apart. Their allies were almost never other female characters but males – whether dwarfs, fish or the Chinese army – and their ultimate attainment was almost always the handsome prince,” Arcus said.
     But “Frozen” has flipped this script to wild success. In the first film, Elsa learned to control her powers and discovered that love and attachment – not to a handsome prince, but to her beloved sister Anna – were the key. And while Anna found true love with Kristoff, it did not mean leaving Elsa behind, according to Ms. Arcus.
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