Frozen, the Disney cartoon-musical that swept the US in late 2013 and early 2014, only arrived in Japan in mid-March. And since then, it’s completely taken over the country. It’s the No. 1 movie in Japanese box offices for the 15th straight week. Among its other accolades in Japan (where it was released under the name Ana and the Snow Queen):
- The movie’s made $231.8 million in Japan so far, more than any movie in Japan’s history except Spirited Away in 2001 and Titanic in 1997—and it’s within striking distance of the latter.
- It blew past Avatar in early May to become the most successful 3D film in Japan ever.
- The soundtrack’s done solid business as well, topping Billboard Japan’s “Top Albums” rankings for Nov. 2013-Jun. 2014 (link in Japanese).
- Japan’s Frozen box-office receipts have contributed 19% of worldwide earnings, second in the world behind the US’s 32%, even though Japan has less than half the population of the US.
So, what’s behind Japan’s Frozen craze?
Undoubtedly, Japanese audiences are responding to the same qualities that have turned Frozen into a global phenomenon. Not only is the music catchy, but the story is morally nuanced enough that adults seem to enjoy it as well as children. And then there’s the fact that Frozen revolves around the relationship between strong, commanding female characters who defy the “Disney princess” stereotype (even though they technically are monarchs).