For the first time in forever, it looks like there's an animated-musical phenomenon.
Frozen has kept the box office in deep freeze since hitting theaters in November, icing its way to $800 million worldwide and melting the hearts of viewers of all ages. Throw in a hit soundtrack that topped the Billboard album chart for a third week this month (769,000 copies sold to date), an Oscar-nominated song (Let It Go) that went to No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 (842,000 downloads), and a Golden Globes win for best animated feature (the category it's also competing in at the Academy Awards), and Frozen has not only whirled up a box-office blizzard but become a musical phenomenon as well.
Disney is now looking to further the family flick's melodious success, opening a sing-along version in 1,000 theaters nationwide this Friday.
"It's the perfect storm of a lot of circumstances," says Brian Balthazar, a pop culture expert with AOL.com. "With all the YouTube videos that have come out of people singing Let It Go and (offering) their own take on this great music, it can spread like wildfire."
Let It Go is the film's undeniable showstopper, which comes about as Elsa (voiced by Broadway actress Idina Menzel) flees to the snow-capped mountains, unable to suppress her frigid powers any longer. The exhilarating anthem has already garnered more than 115 million combined views on YouTube for its dazzling animated sequence and Demi Lovato-led music video, not including the countless covers by adorable 4-year-olds and all-girl a cappella groups (a few of which have gone viral). The breakout hit has also received its fair share of parodies, whether it's Batman villain Mr. Freeze offering his rendition or one frustrated alto wondering why all Disney songs are written for women with higher voices.
"It's one of those songs that when you hear it, you're ready to turn it up in your car and sing along as loud as you can," says managing editor Kate Ward of Bustle, a start-up women's news site that has written extensively about Frozen. She praises the song's message of non-conforming and disregarding what others think. "That's something we can all relate to: this (reminder) to just let it go, not worry about things and be yourself. People are really connecting to that."
Aside from the fact that December and January are generally slow months for new music (unless you're Beyonce, whose self-titled album spent three weeks at No. 1), it's the "polished," "rousing" and "Broadway-ready" songs that make Frozen's soundtrack stand out, says Daily Beast culture writer Kevin Fallon. (Fittingly, Disney has already announced plans to adapt the movie for the stage.)
While Disney's most recent animated musicals, The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Tangled (2010), have enjoyed success at the box office, their soundtracks peaked at No. 80 and 44 respectively on the Billboard album chart. Frozen is only the fourth soundtrack for an animated film that has taken the No. 1 spot since 1956, according to Billboard, following Disney classics The Lion King (1994) and Pocahontas (1995) and Universal Pictures' Curious George (2006), with songs by Jack Johnson.
"We learned from Glee that songs from a TV show or a movie can become a hit in mainstream media," says Balthazar, adding that while "there's power in what kids want," moms still control the spending. "There's strong messaging in this film that really crosses over. If a kid wants to get the soundtrack to Frozen, I don't know a lot of moms that would be like, 'Oh, that's not a good idea.' They're probably going to embrace it."
The tunes from Frozen also play into the nostalgia of twenty- and thirtysomethings, calling back to animated musicals such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast that they grew up with.
"It resonates a lot with what I call the 'Buzzfeed generation': the people who love clicking on those lists for Internet strolls down memory lane of their childhood," Fallon says. "Disney musicals are definitely a part of that."