The first time a Walt Disney Animation Studios movie opened in the month of November was “Fantasia” in 1940. The next was “Robin Hood” in 1973. The film after that was “Oliver & Company” in 1988, followed by the next four Disney animated movies in a row — “The Little Mermaid”, “The Rescuers Down Under”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin” — all released just before Thanksgiving.
“Treasure Planet” opened the day before Thanksgiving in 2002. “Bolt” was released the Friday before the holiday in 2008. “Tangled” and “Frozen” had nationwide starts over the long Thanksgiving weekend. And five of the six most recent Disney Animation features began in a late November spot.
This continues this holiday week with “Wish” — Disney’s animated feature celebration of a century of magic and achievements at the studio. And The Mouse House has already claimed the day before Thanksgiving for the next three years. (Maybe two new “Frozen” installments will take two of those spots?) So why is this holiday so important to Disney? In September, I met and spoke with Academy Award winning “Frozen” director and Disney Animation CCO Jennifer Lee, who’s also the co-screenwriter of “Wish”. Here’s what she told me:
“We feel incredibly blessed to have people come to expect a film from us at that time because it is a time about family, community and coming together. That’s what the holidays are about. You start with Thanksgiving, at least in America, and in other parts of the world you head towards the holidays at Christmas and other holidays that are celebrated. That time of year and coming together is a big part of what meant a lot to Walt. This is a place for families to come and have fun. That’s an important time for us. We think that it symbolically ties to the whole Disney dream. It is a family time. When you hear folks say, ‘We come to expect that holiday Disney film’, it puts a charge. You want to deliver. That’s what’s fun if it’s gotten to that point of people anticipating it. You recognize what a privilege that is.”