There's an urban legend out there claiming that Walt Disney's body was frozen in cryogenic storage. It's not true, of course, but next week Disney (NYSE:DIS) really will be Frozen.
Disney's latest animated release about a Scandinavian town where a spell is cast triggering a snowstorm in July opens just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. This has historically been a good time for Disney to crank out a family-friendly feature. Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Tangled, and Bolt have all fared well opening just ahead of Thanksgiving. A strong extended weekend showing often extends well into December as families and Disney fans flock to the multiplex.
This isn't the best time to put out an animated feature. It's not a coincidence that the seven highest-grossing full-length animated features have been released between mid-May and early July. That's box office gold for studios as parents seek to entertain young children after the school year is over. However, this time of year also isn't too shabby.
However, it's probably not a shock that the Pixar-fueled pieces -- in this case the first two Toy Story movies -- have fared better than Disney's own releases. This is a distinction that's been blurring lately. After the Pixar acquisition, studio head John Lasseter was tapped as chief creative officer for all of Walt Disney Animation. It has made a difference in the rather lackluster storytelling trap that Disney had found itself a decade ago outside of its Pixar releases. Tangled, for example, scored more than $200 million in domestic ticket sales, grossing nearly $600 million worldwide with its release three years ago.
That's the bar that Frozen will be up against in terms of gauging success. The movies do have their similarities as love stories with strong female characters in exotic settings to attract daughters, but with enough action and offbeat characters to attract sons. With Disney shares hitting fresh all-time highs on Friday expectation are naturally heightened that anything out of Disney's animation studio -- especially properties that are already being exploited with theme park characters and mobile app games -- will fare well.
No one wants a thawed-out feature.