Lawsuit Claims Frozen Teaser Copied From Animated Short The Snowman

Slate's Culture Blog
April 9 2014 10:23 AM

Lawsuit Claims Frozen Teaser Copied From Animated Short The Snowman

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Olaf in Frozen (left) and a still from The Snowman (right).

Photo illustration by Derreck Johnson/© 2013 - Disney. All Rights Reserved./The Snowman still via YouTube

Last month, Disney’s whimsical tale of two sibling princesses, Frozen, became the highest-grossing animated film of all time. But it appears not everyone’s swept up in the phenomenon. A lawsuit filed against The Walt Disney Co. in March and flagged by The Hollywood Reporter alleges that the teaser trailer for Frozen, released last June, borrowed generously from another winter-themed animated short, The Snowman, distributed months earlier. Calling the teaser “substantially similar” and presenting a frame-by-frame comparison as visual evidence, co-creator Kelly Wilson claims copyright infringement, alleging that the trailer’s plot, themes, and characters all mirror The Snowman.

The suit goes on to detail some of the resemblances: Both premises involve a dimwitted snowman (Frozen’s Olaf, The Snowman’s titular character) who accidentally loses his carrot nose, resulting in a haphazard race to cross an iced-over pond to retrieve the carrot before someone else (Frozen’s reindeer Sven, The Snowman’s gang of rabbits) gets to it first. The teaser concludes with the same twist as The Snowman: The animal has a change of heart and returns the carrot.

Disney denies Wilson’s claims, telling Slate, “The claim is utterly without merit and we will defend against it vigorously.”

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This is not the first controversy that’s surrounded Frozen’s teaser. In Slate’s review of Frozen, Dan Kois noted the film’s initial ads misled his 6-year-old daughter into thinking the “movie was about a snowman and a reindeer fighting for a carrrroooottttttttt!”—Kois’s daughter's reaction is cited in the claim as evidence of the teaser’s influence—and indeed the movie’s marketing was frequently criticized as misleading, as it often didn’t let on that the movie was a musical about princesses. You can watch both the teaser and the short below:

Dee Lockett is Slate's editorial assistant for culture.