The Avatar Effect: How Too Much Hype Can Ruin A Movie


Hype is, by definition, a pretty great thing. It increases awareness and creates excitement. It brings people together and generates new understandings. It encourages new interpretations, inspires new ideas, and so on. Also, every once in a while, hype occurs because something is actually good.

When Disney’s Frozen was first reviewed ahead of its theatrical release back in December 2013, the general consensus among critics was that it was pretty decent. It was no Tangled, but it was nice to look at and apparently there was a pretty good song or two in there. All in all, it could count itself among the respectable additions to Disney’s catalogue. And that was about it.

Then something happened. Somewhere in the social-media-sphere, it was quietly decided that Frozen was the best thing to come out of Disney since one of its artists glanced at a computer generated animation from some partner company of theirs and thought ‘say, I wonder where we could go with this?” With that, the world went instantaneously hot for Frozen. It has remained a steadily growing sensation ever since, with cult references, merchandise and soundtrack-covers leaking into pop culture faster than a snowman in summer. It took $1.14 billion dollars at the box office, far outstripping both Toy Story 3 and Disney’s long-standing masterpiece The Lion King. Its long list of accolades is probably best summed up by its taking home of the Best Animated Feature Oscar, Disney’s first ever win in this category. It also walked away with the equivalent BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Critic’s Choice awards. Small countries could be fed on the revenue earned by “Let it Go” alone.

I will admit that I came to the Frozen party a bit late. But after several months of being steadily drip-fed the belief that it was spectacular, I was finally persuaded to take leave of my own senses long enough to go into it expecting a marvel. Thirty minutes found me still expecting. As did 102 minutes. It was only really on reaching the nine minutes of closing credits that the expectations could finally accept it was probably time to take the film’s advice – and Let it Go.