It's official. Frozen 2 is happening, and millions upon millions of kids around the world are shivering with joy.
The announcement came at The Walt Disney Company's (NYSE:DIS) recent annual shareholder meeting. And though Disney hasn't confirmed an official date for the sequel yet (some are speculating 2018), it's no surprise investors pushed shares of the entertainment juggernaut to all-time highs following the news.
After setting a new box office record with the biggest-ever Thanksgiving weekend launch in 2013, the first Frozen went on to gross an incredible $1.27 billion worldwide, including an impressive $873.5 million in foreign markets. That made Frozen the highest-grossing animated film of all time, and the fifth biggest-movie overall behind only Avatar, Titanic, Marvel's The Avengers, and the final installment of the Harry Potter franchise.
But that begs the question: How high can it climb?
I think Frozen 2 will have no problem exceeding $1.5 billion in box office revenue worldwide -- a feat accomplished to date by only Avatar, Titanic, and The Avengers. Here's why:
History is on its side
Of course, we can't exactly gauge Walt Disney Animation Studios' track record with modern CGI sequels, because Frozen 2 will be its first. But we should keep in mind that Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter holds the same position at Disney animation studio Pixar, which has plenty of encouraging sequel data on its side.
Take Monsters University, for example, whose $743.6 million global box office haul represented a 41% increase from the $529.8 million achieved by its predecessor, Monsters, Inc. A similar increase over Frozen would put Frozen 2 at roughly $1.8 billion.
Or take Toy Story 2, which reached $485 million in box office receipts, compared to "just" $362 million from the first Toy Story film. Even this more modest 34% improvement would put Frozen 2 at over $1.7 billion worldwide.
Even Cars 2 would work, having "only" built upon Cars' success by increasing global ticket sales 21.2% to $559.9 million. If Frozen 2 follows suit, it would mean a massive $1.54 billion at the global box office.
Disney's hype machine has already started
Arguably no company knows better how to spur public excitement for its films than Disney. As it turns out, Disney has already started hyping Frozen 2 in the form of its new Frozen Fever short, which can only be viewed in theaters by picking up a ticket to its freshly launched live-action rendition of Cinderella.
In fact, Disney began whetting Frozen fans' appetites well ahead of its sequel announcement by posting this Frozen Fever preview last month:
As Frozen 2's development progresses, you can bet Disney will have prospective audiences thoroughly primed to watch the film by the time it debuts.
Key creative figures are back for more
Speaking of development, here's what Lasseter had to say at the initial announcement:
We enjoyed making Frozen Fever so much and being back in that world with those characters. Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck have come up with a great idea for a sequel, and you will be hearing a lot more about it and we're taking you back to Arendelle. We are so excited about that.
Lee and Buck were the co-directors of the first Frozen film. It's little surprise they'd be eager to return. But their creative perspective and talents are crucial to repeating the experience that led audiences to give Frozen a rare A+ CinemaScore. That virtually guaranteed Frozen would enjoy sustained success due to word-of-mouth and repeat viewings -- something evidenced by the fact that it won the weekend box office a full six weekends into its theatrical run, and remained in the top five for its first 12 weeks on the big screen.
Finally, Frozen's composer, Christophe Beck, returned to write the score for Frozen Fever, and Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez -- still coasting high on the heels of their Oscar for Let It Go -- penned a new song for the short, titled Making Today a Perfect Day. Its worth noting, however, that none of the three have confirmed their official return for Frozen 2 just yet. But the Lopezes have openly tweeted about both Frozen Fever and Frozen 2, and their continued involvement in the franchise at this point seems all but inevitable given its past success.
In the end, if all these pieces fall into place, Frozen 2 should have little trouble eclipsing $1.5 billion at the box office. Combined with the subsequent onslaught of Frozen merchandise and other supplementary revenue streams, Frozen 2 will create yet another massive windfall for Disney and its investors.
Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.