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'Frozen 2' marks the tip of the sequel iceberg

Frozen 2 is the latest sequel to be churned out by Hollywood. But not all sequels are created equal.

The announcement lit up the Internet Thursday: “Frozen," every blog and fan site in the known realm made clear, would be getting a sequel.  Disney chief Robert Iger tipped the news at the company’s shareholder meeting, saying that “Frozen 2” was a reality for the company.

Iger's comments contained little new information — no title or plot line — while the fact of the sequel was hardly new. You don’t have a $1.3-billion global grosser these days without making a sequel. (You barely have a $130-million movie without making a sequel.)

But the interest in Elsa and Co. knows no bounds, and so the enthusiasm, too, was boundless. As of Friday afternoon, “Frozen 2” was still one of the top trending topics on Twitter Friday afternoon.

Lost in the enthusiasm were some intriguing questions. How "Frozen 2" goes over when it finally comes out will be interesting--not financially (Disney will be just fine) but culturally. One of the factors that has made movies from Disney's animation unit such a force over the decades is the company’s aversion to sequels; some of its biggest, especially, of the modern era, stand entirely on their own ("The Lion King," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin," to name three, films of a shared sensibility but distinct presentation.)

Disney sister unit Pixar also studiously avoided sequels for many years, nurturing each movie like a newborn and creating an event feeling around all of them. It helped make the era of “Wall-E," “The Incredibles," “Ratatouille” and “Up seem like a golden age, in part because it was a golden age, a group of movies at once sharing a banner and yet possessing of a unique visions. But a few years ago Pixar answered the sequel siren call. Soon the company was making movies like “Cars 2” and “Monsters, Inc.” And soon after the juice began to leech away.

At least a “Frozen” sequel makes sense; like “Pitch Perfect” and a few others similarly oriented, it’s an original, organic hit that has fans clamoring for more. 

Fan clamor, though, is not exactly the phrase that characterizes plenty of other sequels these days. Earlier this week Ivan Reitman and Sony announced a new male-centric “Ghostbusters” with Channing Tatum and the Russo Bros. This is different from the long-rumored “Ghostbusters 3” and not to be confused with the Paul Feig female-centric “Ghostbusters” and the potential other output of what will be called... Ghostcorps. Yep, this is real. As Reitman told Deadline, “We want to expand the Ghostbusters universe in ways that will include different films, TV shows, merchandise, all things that are part of modern filmed entertainment.”

Ivan Reitman is a talented director, one of the commercial-comedy greats. And the first “Ghostbusters” is legendary. But is there some unquenched need for “Ghostbusters: The Flamethrower,” some thronging fan base that hears the phrase “new company dedicated to endless production of ‘Ghostbusters’ movies” and can’t get enough? If there is, they’re saying less than the Stay-Puft man.

Moviedom these days is filled with efforts like this — franchises in search for a reason for being  (see also under “Terminator: Genysis”). When the demands of Wall Street drown out the needs of a story or a fan based, this is what we end up with.

At the same meeting where he announced (to those Wall Streeters) “Frozen 2,”  Iger was also revealing some dates and details for new “Star Wars" movies. We knew we were getting a load of “Star Wars” in the coming years, but Iger made clear just how that load would be spaced out--as it turned out, rather crowdedly. We’ll have a moment to breathe after ”Star Wars Episode VII” hits theaters  in December — the movie after that,  Gareth Edwards’ standalone “Rogue One,” won’t come out until December a year later. But after that it will be a scant five months until the next "Star Wars" movie, Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars Episode VIII.” And it’s conceivable we’ll see Josh Trank’s "Star Wars" standalone (it stands alone from the standalone) not long after that.

“Star Wars” of course is a property fans are clamoring for more of. But that demand isn't being met in a single, curated effort a la “Frozen;” it's in a keep-em-coming manner. The question is what happens when we get to the end of that cycle. Will "Star Wars" feel more like “Frozen 2” or the sixth “Ghostbusters” movie? As this week's news once again made clear, the issue in Hollywood these days isn’t whether a sequel might be made — it’s what kind of sequel will get made.


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