In 2013, the Disney film Frozen took over the hearts and minds of every single human being in America below the age of 13. The story about two sisters trapped in a world where it’s always winter was a massive success for the company and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Frozen broke box office records earning $1.280 billion in box office revenue and becoming the highest grossing animated film of all time before its sequel, Frozen II and the rerelease of The Lion King boosted those films to the 1 and 2 positions. Frozen is currently the third highest-grossing animated movie and the 16th overall highest-grossing movie of all time.
And then we get to the merchandising. It’s estimated that Frozen merch has generated $107.2 billion in retail sales and $13.4 billion in royalties from licensing the rights of Frozen to toy companies. Random House has also sold over 8 million dollars in Frozen books.
This cash cow was easy enough to make. The story isn’t original. It comes from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen. Previously Disney has adapted a number of Hans Christian Andersen tales including those that became The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, Fantasia, and The Emperor’s New Groove. So why did it take Disney so long to getting around to making an adaptation of Andersen’s story The Snow Queen when so many of his other adaptations have been big commercial successes?
The real reason this idea was pulled out of the slush pile of many Disney films stuck in development hell may have nothing to do with making money at all. An internet conspiracy theory posits that the reason Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen story was selected to proceed to production was because of an idea that the film could be titled Frozen. This would solve a long-running PR problem for Disney, which is that children and adults alike are freaked out about the urban legend that Walt Disney had himself cryogenically frozen.
The conspiracy theory is that Walt was made aware of tumor on his lung that there was no treatment for at the time. Being a man of basically unlimited financial means and imagination, he decided to solve the problem by having himself cryogenically frozen until medicine advanced enough that he could be unthawed and treated. According to legend, Disney’s frozen body is stored underneath the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at the Disneyland park in California.
Believers point to literature about the possibility of cryogenically freezing your body until medical science advances that was published in the years before Disney’s death. This includes the book The Prospect of Immortality by Robert C.W. Ettinger’s which was published in 1964. Ettinger’s book specifically said that the technology currently existed for someone to freeze themselves, though creepily he also mentioned there was currently no known way to wake people up afterward.
There is no mention of the rumor on his Wikipedia page despite the fact that the rumor has been popular for over 50 years and is probably one of the main reasons people even go to the page in the first place. So, there might be a teeny tiny bit of truth to the rumor that Frozen was so titled to bury the rumor forever. Anytime someone googles “Walt Disney” and “Frozen” they will now be inundated with results about the children’s movie.
The actual facts surrounding Walt Disney’s death are a lot less interesting. In 1966 Walt Disney was diagnosed with lung cancer, he died soon after. Disney’s body was cremated and the ashes are kept at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, CA. Walt’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, has said “There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that my father, Walt Disney, wished to be frozen.”