Once Upon a Snowman .The Importance of Media Packaging in the Age of Streaming/Social Media

The majority of adult streaming movie watchers (especially comedy fans) were watching the Borat sequel this weekend. Meanwhile, another much smaller scale project from a franchise inescapable to a percentage of grown-up audiences with children debuted on Disney +. This was the latest addition to the Frozen franchise with the new short Once Upon a Snowman. As the title might imply it’s the story of how everyone’s favourite (or most annoying )snowman Olaf came to be. Compared to the huge wave of negative backlash the previous Olaf short got from critics and audiences this one seemed to pass by relatively unnoticed with the majority of audiences focusing on the new misadventures of Kasakstans most famous export. This is all down to how this short was packaged and released. The concept of packaging in media might be more tied in with any number of food products, leisure items, or pieces of physical media. not necessarily streaming/film content. That said packaging factors can still be important for these productions when released in the streaming economy.
Olaf’s Frozen Adventure was initially pitched as a short playing in front of Pixar’s Coco during its US theatrical run in November 2017. Except it wasn’t short. Instead, audiences going to see one of Pixar’s best 2010s offerings were greeted with having to sit through a 22-minute pseudo educational Christmas special that was initially developed for US TV network ABC (and did eventually air on the channel soon after its theatrical run.) Ask “film Twitter” what they thought of the special and you would get a variety of creative vitreal. On one level this breaks the conventions of having a typical in house Pixar theatrical short. but is related to an entirely different Disney franchise (especially one with the marketing power of Frozen)is a deliberate and cynical move. The initial response may have been a bit vitriolic considering the greatest crime committed within the 22 minutes itself was simply being a bad Christmas special but for an audience that came to see Coco, it was understandable. In the UK the special was packaged with the theatrical re-release of the original film. This seemed like a much more honest way of releasing the new content attracting fans of the franchise (both young and old)and significantly more honest the strategy used by Disney’s US.
Flash forward three years and there’s one critical new factor for the packaging and release of Disney content. Disney + is now available majority worldwide. Thus it makes sense that the newest small expansion would debut as a with subscription streaming exclusive. Or does it. The short is still relying heavily on audience tolerance for Josh Gad’s vocal delivery and Olaf as a character. That said when watches view Once Upon a Snowman some of them may be surprised to discover that this is an actual short film running roughly 6 minutes in length excluding credits. Content-wise it’s essentially the Frozen equivalent to The Lion King 3 (1 ½ for American readers.) It’s generally amusing enough but like all Frozen material outside of the main films feels very supplementary (and doesn’t have the absolute banger that is Digga Tunnah from the former film.)
Once the credits have rolled and the avalanche of foreign language credits used to bulk up the runtime appear it becomes immediately obvious how this new short was initially meant to be packaged. it was initially meant to be played in front of one of Disney theatrical offerings for 2019 (likely Raya and Last Dragon)but has been shifted on to streaming in the wake of COVID-19 essentially being a theatrical write off for Disney outside of Pixar’s Onward. Even if this short had played in front of theatrical screenings the fact it fulfils the criteria of being short means that unless parents and individual viewers despise the site of Olaf it’s virtually impossible to get aggravated by. It would not have caused any major outrage (in comparison to the Christmas special .) With being repackaged on Disney + it is available to subscribing fans of the series without necessarily having to potentially anger anyone else. Even if previous forms of media that relied heavily on the packaging are becoming more niche as technology and streaming progress the release of Once Upon a Snowman is a good example of why packaging and promoting a media release honestly is still important in the streaming world.
Once Upon a Snowman is far more interesting for what It isn’t compared to the promotion packaging and release of an Olaf short film. it represents a key example of why packaging and promoting releases honestly and to the correct audience is still important in the age of streaming. Maybe Disney learned a lesson from Olaf’s Frozen adventure backlash or perhaps they may engage in more dubious promotion tactics once the COVID-19 pandemic has played itself out. Only time will tell.

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