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Why were Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia so popular in East Asia?

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I think Frozen broke out in East Asia for mostly the same reason elsewhere. The dual female protagonists and songs resonated strongly with audiences. South Korea and Japan in particular are big markets for musical films. 

 

Big Hero 6 was because it had elements of both a Marvel CBM and an animated film (generally Japan shuns the former while South Korea and China embrace them). It also helped that Big Hero 6 had an Asian protagonist and a general anime feel to it. 

 

Zootopia's performance is a bit harder to dissect. There have been plenty of talking animal movies in the past,  but I don't think any ever really anthropomorphized them to this extent. The way it tackled serious themes like prejudice was also quite novel for an animated film. East Asia is fairly patriarchal, and supposedly a lot of audience members emphasized with the character struggles displayed in the film. 

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20 minutes ago, KP1025 said:

I think Frozen broke out in East Asia for mostly the same reason elsewhere. The dual female protagonists and songs resonated strongly with audiences. South Korea and Japan in particular are big markets for musical films. 

 

Big Hero 6 was because it had elements of both a Marvel CBM and an animated film (generally Japan shuns the former while South Korea and China embrace them). It also helped that Big Hero 6 had an Asian protagonist and a general anime feel to it. 

 

Zootopia's performance is a bit harder to dissect. There have been plenty of talking animal movies in the past,  but I don't think any ever really anthropomorphized them to this extent. The way it tackled serious themes like prejudice was also quite novel for an animated film. East Asia is fairly patriarchal, and supposedly a lot of audience members emphasized with the character struggles displayed in the film. 

These were all extremely well received movies that resonated with the audiences. They had universal acclaim and themes worked in those countries. Musicals in Korea and Japan, emotional movies in China(we had breakouts like Dangal and Coco to compare ).

 

Otherwise @KP1025 has covered it all. /thread

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On 6/1/2019 at 12:45 AM, FantasticBeasts said:

There are different reason for each of those films. There are not really common elements to their reasons for success apart from being very well received by audiences.

Bingo!

 

On 5/31/2019 at 8:53 PM, cannastop said:

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All of them exceeded expectations in China, South Korea and Japan. Why these movies in particular?

Well, Frozen actually didn't perform as well as it could or should have in China, grossing only $48 million, probably due to timing (it didn't do badly, though, considering).  In the grand scheme of things, it came just a wee bit too early to catch the China train, as it were, and on a smaller scale it was released during a bad time for various reasons, and its run, which appeared to have strong legs, was abruptly cut short.  Releases and schedules work differently in China, of course, and Frozen wasn't treated like a movie that had much potential, all of which had been set up before everyone realized how big it would become.

 

Since then, however, I have heard from sources associated with Disney theme parks (including Shanghai Disneyland, of course) who claim that Frozen has become much better known and very popular in China, which obviously bodes well for Frozen II's prospects in that market.  This time its theatrical release will almost certainly be set up for a potential mega-blockbuster run, and if what I've been hearing is true, then watch out!

 

On 5/31/2019 at 9:28 PM, KP1025 said:

I think Frozen broke out in East Asia for mostly the same reason elsewhere. The dual female protagonists and songs resonated strongly with audiences. South Korea and Japan in particular are big markets for musical films.

I'm sure it was the particular combination of several characteristics Frozen possesses that allowed it to "speak" to Asian cultures in general like few other western movies do.  While these cultures are all unique, there are some things that are common between them, especially in the Sinosphere, which is East Asia (China, Japan, and the Korean peninsula) plus Vietnam.  A movie having female protagonists doesn't mean much on its own, but having two sisters in a fairy tale involving magic that affects nature is a kind of mythology that I think Asians tend to immediately feel a familiarity with and a connection to, and thusly Frozen immediately penetrated cultural barriers.

 

As for the songs, sure, they helped, but other WDAS movies have had wonderful songs, too, and never made much of a dent in the South Korean box office, for example, before Frozen.  Interestingly, in this light, the songs had a particularly strong positive impact on the box office in South Korea, and this probably would not have happened if the movie hadn't gotten their attention first with its other characteristics.  But wait, there's more.  Frozen's message about the true meaning of love, along with its powerful demonstration of family love and loyalty, resonated particularly well in Asia, including South Korea where I've heard that the movie and its songs became popular in schools, as in sung by children, sometimes at the behest of teachers!  I guess they were trying to get it out of the children's systems before commencing with schoolwork, but I've also heard that Koreans liked what it was teaching their children.  If you're going to make an out-of-control fad out of a western movie with viral songs, then it might as well be one that is particularly culturally compatible with Asians and teaches strong morals from the perspective of your own culture.  It was a win-win for everyone, and then there are other things like aesthetics.  While I really don't know for a fact, it may be that Asians find Frozen and its protagonists (especially Elsa) particularly beautiful and appealing.  It's just the perfect western movie for Asian (particularly East Asian) cultures--a spectacular big-budget blockbuster that they can easily and readily embrace, for once.

 

Frozen's most amazing box office run, though, was in Japan, and while the songs weren't quite as big there (Japanese people don't like to sing so much in public), I think in addition to its Asian-friendly characteristics and the other ones that Koreans also went for, Frozen caught a certain zeitgeist with women's rights issues and hikikomori (severely isolated adolescents are a major thing in Japan) that were the topics of the day.  In addition, Japanese people are more into Disney than Koreans in general, and with everything else it had going for it in Asia, this movie might as well have been one of Japan's own, but with qualities that couldn't practically be achieved in Japan because they don't make $150 million-budget movies there. 

 

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Big Hero 6 was because it had elements of both a Marvel CBM and an animated film (generally Japan shuns the former while South Korea and China embrace them). It also helped that Big Hero 6 had an Asian protagonist and a general anime feel to it.

Frankly, this is a no-brainer--sometimes the most blatantly obvious, in-your-face answer is the truest one.  Big Hero 6 has an Asian (at least half-Asian, anyway) protagonist and is in many ways very similar to an archetypal Japanese/Asian superhero movie.  WDAS were on a real Asian-compatible kick, weren't they?

 

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Zootopia's performance is a bit harder to dissect. There have been plenty of talking animal movies in the past,  but I don't think any ever really anthropomorphized them to this extent. The way it tackled serious themes like prejudice was also quite novel for an animated film. East Asia is fairly patriarchal, and supposedly a lot of audience members emphasized with the character struggles displayed in the film. 

Good explanation, and in addition I think that in China in particular people were very impressed with the detective story.  Talking animals and detective stories are of particular interest there, and WDAS combined them so smoothly and seemingly effortlessly, and with such appeal that Chinese people wish they could do the same with their animated features (China is, of course, still at an early stage in really getting into the global filmmaking business, and are learning a lot, which gives them a certain point of view).  In a strange way, possibly by embracing Zootopia so fiercely they're sending a signal to their own animation filmmakers about what they want; in other words, they kind of made this movie their own.  Yes, I'm comparing this scenario with how China has embraced DWA's Kung Fu Panda franchise--these particular animal movies are goals for them.

Edited by Melvin Frohike
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