Home > Reviews > REVIEW – Olaf’s Frozen Adventure

REVIEW – Olaf’s Frozen Adventure

Directed by: Kevin Deters, Stevie Wermers
Produced by: Roy Conli
Screenplay by: Jac Schaeffer
Edited by: Jeremy Milton, Jesse Averna
Cinematography by: Alessandro Jacomini, Cory Rocco Florimonte
Music by: Christophe Beck, Jeff Morrow
Songs by: Elyssa Samsel, Kate Anderson
Starring: Josh Gad, Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Chris Williams, John de Lancie
Year: 2017

So, for Christmas this year, I decided to do something a bit different. Instead of Christmas films – the like of which I feel I’ve exhausted all good possibilities over the past 7 years – I’m going to be reviewing… Christmas shorts! Easier, quicker, and, for the most part, uncharted territory on this blog, with a couple exceptions.

For the first review of the season, I’m covering what is somewhat of a controversial short from Disney, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. (As if you couldn’t tell by clicking on this review….) Released theatrically in 2017 to less than tepid response, the short was originally slated to air as an ABC television Christmas special before being thrust, rather inadvisably, into theatres for a limited time as the short preceding Pixar’s own holiday-themed and much-anticipated feature film, Coco, before making its way back onto the small screen, as originally intended, a few weeks later. During its theatrical run, this side story to Disney’s 2013 runaway hit was maligned not just for being significantly longer than the usual short you would expect prior to a Disney or Pixar film, but also for the way in which this cash-in’s silly tone and Christmas-themed shenanigans clashed with the comparatively more serious and thoughtful presentation of Pixar’s Día de los Muertos-themed masterpiece.

Having seen Coco during its opening weekend and, thus, being among the unlucky early audiences who witnessed Olaf’s Frozen Adventure’s limited theatrical release, I can, indeed, confirm that Disney’s marketing experiment was ill-advised, particularly since it likely came at the cost of seeing one of Pixar’s generally reliable shorts, as we’ve all grown accustomed to. One couldn’t help but wonder, however, if the Frozen short would have worked better on its own, as intended, and not… you know, when prefacing a film about remembering loved ones who have passed on. While I did miss its inevitable broadcast on ABC, I did wind up picking up the recently-released Blu-Ray on Black Friday, because… well, it’s Disney, and I’m a sucker who justified the purchase due to its included slipcase, which you just know is going to not be in subsequent shipments, and because the $10 Blu-Ray also included a few other, older Disney shorts to fill us all with holiday cheer and… yeah, I just wanted it. It’s a problem. And so, having rewatched the main feature (I’m not reviewing the other shorts, which are basically bonuses padding out the package), how has my perspective on the short changed over a year after my initial viewing, separated from its feature length anchor?

Well, of course, I can’t tell you just yet without talking about the story, because that’s how these reviews work, and you can’t exactly grasp the full extent of my opinion until you know the plot summary, can you? (Geez, I’m rusty at this writing thing… Be better and more frequent at writing should be my New Year’s resolution. Also… lose weight.)

Set during what seems to be the beginning of the first Christmas season after the events of the original feature film, Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and their ever-cheerful snowman buddy Olaf are elated to be opening up the castle to the public, yet again, this time for the Christmas bell-ringing celebration that marks the beginning of the holidays. Their plans for a big soiree, however, are thrown for a loop when everyone begins to head home immediately after the aforementioned bell-ringing. Turns out, everyone has something bett—er… rather something more personal in mind to kick off the season than to mingle with everyone else, doing the same things they’d normally be doing at a big party. Anna and Elsa, unfortunately, do not recall having ever had any Christmas traditions thanks to Elsa being cloistered away due to her powers and the later death of their parents while they were both still fairly young. While Kristoff – the adopted son of a bunch of magical rock trolls if you recall – attempts to persuade the girls into adopting a few of his own unusual and somewhat gross traditions, Olaf sets out to find out what the townsfolk are doing this time of year in the hopes of inspiring the girls and raise their Christmas spirits.

Let’s get one thing straight here with this particular short: Much of your enjoyment of this film will largely center upon your appreciation for Olaf as a character and Josh Gad as an actor, even if only in voice (or maybe even particularly based on it). If you didn’t like Olaf and his perpetually cheerful brand of earnestness in the original film, this short is not going to be for you, and you should probably already know that based on the title. Those who like him may also find their patience wearing thin with the amount of focus he’s afforded across its approximately 22 minute runtime. For me, however, I was a fan back in 2013, and here in the short, I continue to be, even though I acknowledge the short’s… you know… shortcomings. But, yeah, I think Gad and the writers of this special continue to make the character endearing and amusing enough to not become a nuisance, and the bigger laughs continue to largely derive from Olaf himself.

Naturally, you can also expect a Frozen-related short to also include a few new songs for your kids to sing endlessly for hours and days on end. Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately, depending on your perspective – nothing here comes close to matching the earworms found in the film proper, both in terms of memorability and quality. The best way I can sum up the songs in this film are that they sound very much like what you would expect from this had it been produced as one of those direct-to-video sequels Disney used to unload back in the ‘90s and early 2000’s. Apart from maybe one or two gags during Olaf’s songs, there’s nothing really of note here beyond the fact that the songs are at least inoffensively listenable, and they did manage to get back the entire cast of the feature film to lend their considerable talent to these rather ordinary songs. So, even if you’re not enjoying the lyrics and composition, you at least have the vocal talents of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, and Jonathan Groff to appreciate while you consider that it could be much worse – you could instead be listening to Gilbert Gottfried “singing” an entire number as Iago in The Return of Jafar.

Luckily, nothing in Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is anywhere nearly as egregious as what can be found in those films. Nothing from the original film is retconned, ignored, or heinously contradicted as in the grotesque and regressive Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. So rest in peace – the film doesn’t wind back time to reveal that, during her self-imposed exile on the mountain, Elsa had to fend off a fire-wielding spinster named Aslaug who wanted to melt Christmas out of existence because she was dumped by her Christmas-loving boyfriend before Elsa realizes that the solution is to introduce Aslaug to the complementarily handsome and fire-wielding Prince Magne from the kingdom next door, thus bringing contentment and self-worth to Aslaug’s life. The worst that can be said about this short is that it didn’t feel so short when it played before what is actually a fairly lengthy film already and that it predictably doesn’t live up to the standards of its critically acclaimed and bigger-budgeted theatrical forebear from what was also a largely different crew.

I like Olaf’s Frozen Adventures just enough to have not regretted spending the $10.00 on the Blu-Ray along with its accompanying but largely unrelated shorts, and I don’t even necessarily regret seeing it in the theatre, either, even if only as a sort of mind-numbing talking point I can bring up in some unforeseen future conversation. “Hey… did you know that I’ve not only seen both Frozen movies, but also the limited theatrically released short that people for some reason didn’t like very much but I thought was actually kind of okay? … Well, now you do! Aren’t you glad you talked to me?”

The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 3 / 5

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