There are many universally recognised film companies, both renowned and independent.
One example of a renowned, American film company is Walt Disney Animations. Walt
Disney Animation Studios, headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California,
was previously known as Walt Disney Feature Animation, Walt Disney Productions and
Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. It is an American animation studio which creates animated
feature films, short films, and television specials for The Walt Disney Company. The
company was founded on October 16, 1923, by Walt and Roy O. Disney and is a part of The
Walt Disney Studios. The studio has produced 53 well known feature films (such as The Lion
King, Cinderella and Beauty and The Beast) beginning with Snow White and the Seven
Dwarfs (1937), and its most recent being Big Hero 6 (2014). In 2006, Walt Disney Feature
Animation underwent a renaming and is now recognised as Walt Disney Animation Studios
and comes under The Walt Disney Studios alongside Pixar Animation Studios, which was
acquired by Disney in the same year. For much of its existence, the studio was recognized
as the premier American animation studio; it developed many of the techniques, concepts,
and principles which became standard practices of traditional animation, such as: squash
and stretch, anticipation, staging, straight ahead and pose to pose animation, following
through and overlapping action and so forth. The studio also pioneered the art of story
boarding, which is now a normal technique used in both animated and live-action film
making. Walt Disney Animation Studios, currently managed by Edwin Catmull and John
Lasseter (who also manage Pixar), continues to produce animated features using both hand-drawn
and computer generated imagery techniques. The current total of annual gross
revenues for Walt Disney Animation is $48,813 billion and continues to grow each year upon
each film release.
One of Disney’s most recent feature animated films is that of Frozen. Frozen is a 2013
American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy-comedy film produced by Walt Disney
Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 53rd animated feature in
the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy
tale The Snow Queen, the film tells the story of a fearless princess (Anna) who sets off on an
epic journey alongside a rugged iceman (Christof), his loyal pet reindeer (Sven), and a
hapless snowman (Olaf) to find her estranged sister (Elsa), whose icy powers have
inadvertently trapped the kingdom in eternal winter. On December 22, 2011, following the
recent success of Tangled, Disney announced the title of a new film, Frozen, and a release
date of November 27, 2013. A month later, it was confirmed that the film would be a
computer-animated feature in stereoscopic 3D, instead of the originally intended hand-drawn
animation. On March 5, 2012, it was announced that Chris Buck and Jenifer Lee would be
directing, with John Lasseter and Peter Del Vecho producing. It features the voices
of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, and Santino Fontana. Christophe
Beck, who had worked on Disney's award-winning short film ‘Paperman’, was hired to
compose the film's orchestral soundtrack, while husband-and-wife song writing team -
Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez composed the songs.
Actress Kristen Bell was cast as the voice of Anna on March 5, 2012. Her previous works
include: Spartan, Burlesque, Scream 4 and Movie 43. Bell's casting selection was
influenced after the filmmakers listened to a series of vocal tracks Bell had recorded when
she was young, where the actress performed several songs from The Little Mermaid.
Moreover, Idina Menzel, a Broadway veteran, was cast as Elsa. Menzel had previously
auditioned for Tangled, but did not get the part. However, Tangled's casting director, Jamie
Sparer Roberts, kept a recording of Menzel's performance on her iPhone, and on that basis,
asked her to audition along with Bell for Frozen. Menzels previous works include: Just A
Kiss, Rent and Disney’s Enchanted.
In regard to the writing of Frozen, several core concepts were already in place from Buck
and Del Vecho's early work, such as the film's "frozen heart" concept. They already knew the
ending involved true love in the sense of the emotional bond between siblings, not romance,
which instantly separated Frozen’s messages and values to that of most other Disney
Furthermore, Frozen was released theatrically in the United States on November 27, 2013
and premiered at the El Captain Theatre in Hollywood, California on November 19, 2013,
and had a five-day limited release there, starting from November 22, before going into wide
release. A teaser trailer was released on June 18, 2013, followed by the release of the
official trailer on September 26, 2013. On January 31, 2014, a sing-along version
of Frozen was released in 2,057 theatres in the United States alone. It featured on-screen
lyrics, and viewers were invited to ‘follow the bouncing snowflake’ and sing along with the
songs from the film. After its wide release in Japan on March 14, 2014, a similar sing-along
version of Frozen was released in the country in select theatres on April 26. In Japanese-dubbed
versions, Japanese lyrics of the songs appeared on screen for audiences to sing
along with the characters.
Frozen had a lot of synergy with a lot of the Disney franchise. For example, Frozen was
promoted heavily at several Disney theme parks including:
Disneyland’s Fantasyland, Disney California Adventure's World of Colour,
Epcot's Norway pavilion and Disneyland Paris' Disney Dreams! Show.
Disneyland and Epcot both offered meet-and-greet sessions involving the film's two main
characters, Anna and Elsa. On November 6, 2013, Disney Consumer Products began
releasing a line of toys and other merchandise relating to the film in Disney Store and other
retailers, highlighting the synergy Frozen created within the Disney Company. Frozen also
had convergence, for example the trailer could be viewed on multi-media platforms such as
iPhone, Android, PC and Laptop and this is where Frozen’s website, app, soundtrack, digital
posters and merchandise could be viewed, downloaded or purchased.
Frozen was released for digital download on February 25, 2014, on Google Play, iTunes,
and Amazon. It was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Blu-ray
Disc and DVD on March 18, 2014. On its first day of release on Blu-ray and
DVD, Frozen sold 3.2 million units, becoming one of the biggest home video sellers in the
last decade, as well as Amazon's best-selling children's disc of all time. The digital download
release of the film also set a record as the fastest-selling digital release of all time. Frozen
finished its first week at number 1 in the United States. The film sold 3,969,270 Blu-ray units
(the equivalent of $79,266,322) during its first week, which accounted for 50 percent of its
opening home media sales. In the United Kingdom, Frozen debuted at number 1 in Blu-ray
and DVD sales on the Official Video Chart. According to Official Charts Company, more than
500,000 copies of the film were sold in its two-day opening (March 31 – April 1, 2014).
During its three first weeks of release in the United Kingdom, Frozen sold more than 1.45
million units, becoming the biggest selling video title of 2014 so far in the country.
Overall, Frozen received great commercial and critical success. Frozen earned
$400,738,009 in North America, and an estimated $873,481,000 in other countries, giving a
worldwide total of $1,274,219,00. It is the fifth highest-grossing film, the highest-grossing
animated film, the highest-grossing 2013 film, the highest-grossing Walt Disney
Pictures release, and the second highest-grossing film distributed by Disney. The film also
earned $110.6 million worldwide in its opening weekend. On March 2, 2014, its 101st day of
release, it exceeded the $1 billion mark, becoming the eighteenth film in cinematic history,
the seventh Disney-distributed film and the first animated film since Toy Story 3 to do so.
Bloomberg Businessweek magazine reported in March 2014 that outside analysts had
projected the film's total cost at around $323 million to $350 million for production,
marketing, and distribution which, in comparison to independent films, is an extremely above
the line cost that not many independent film companies could aspire to have.
Film review and renowned critiquing website, Rotten Tomatoes, reported that 89% of critics
gave the film a positive review based on 189 reviews, with an average score of 7.7/10,
making it the highest-rated family film in 2013. This enabled Frozen not only commercial
success but, somewhat more prestigiously, critical acclaim.
However, in conjunction with this, Independent film is becoming increasingly popular and is
now universally recognised for making blockbuster quality feature films. An example of a UK
independent film company is Film 4. Film 4 is a British digital television channel available in
the United Kingdom, owned and operated by Channel Four Television Corporation, that
screens films. It offers films in standard definition free of charge. Film4 was created in 1982
as Film4 Productions, a film production company owned by Channel Four Television
Corporation and has been responsible for backing a large number of films made in
the United Kingdom, and around the world such as: 12 Years A Slave, Ill Mannors and The
Inbetweeners Movie. The company's first production was Walter, directed by Stephen
Frears, which was released in 1982. Film4 was originally known as FilmFour and became
Channel 4's second channel (after Channel 4 itself). The first film to be shown on Film 4
was What's Eating Gilbert Grape. In 2004, Tessa Ross became head of both Film4 and
Channel 4 drama. The name "Film4 Productions" was introduced in 2006 to tie in with the
relaunch of the FilmFour broadcast channel as Film4. Film4 did not originally broadcast
many blockbusters, but nowadays broadcasts many mainstream Hollywood films. The
channel frequently has themed nights or seasons in which a number of films centred around
one genre, director or actor are shown.
Due to Film4 Productions being an independent film company, it is a non-profit organisation
despite its most famous film Slumdog Millionaire grossing $234 million. The company makes
around 6 low budget films per year.
An example of one of Film4’s productions is that of the conglomerate film 12 Years A Slave.
12 Years A Slave is a 2013 historical drama film and an adaptation of the 1853 slave
narrative memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free
African-American man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841 and sold into
slavery. Northup worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for twelve years before his
release. The first scholarly edition of Northup's memoir, co-edited in 1968 by Sue Eakin and
Joseph Logsdon, carefully read and validated the account and concluded it to be accurate.
12 Years A Slave is the third feature film directed by acclaimed British director Steve
McQueen. The screenplay was written by American director and writer John Ridley. Chiwetel
Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup with Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul
Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong'o,Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, and Alfre Woodard all
featured in supporting roles. Principal photography took place in New Orleans, Louisiana,
from June 27 to August 13, 2012.
After meeting screenwriter John Ridley at a Creative Artists Agency screening of Hunger in
2008, director Steve McQueen got in touch with Ridley about his interest in making a film
about "the slave era in America" with "a character that was not obvious in terms of their
trade in slavery." They developed the storyline but finalised the vision when McQueen’s
partner found Solomon Northup's 1853 memoir Twelve Years a Slave. After an extended
development process, during which Brad Pitt's production company Plan B
Entertainment backed the project, which eventually helped get some crucial financing from
various film studios (such as New Regency Productions), the film was officially announced in
August 2011 with McQueen to direct and Chiwetel Ejiofor to star as Solomon Northup, a free
negro who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Deep South.
With a production budget of $20 million, filming began in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June
27, 2012. After seven weeks, filming finished on August 13, 2012. As a way to keep down
production costs, the majority of the filming took place in the greater New Orleans area –
mostly south of the Red River country in the north of the state, where the historic Northup
was enslaved. Among locations used were four historic antebellum plantations:
Felicity, Bocage, Destrehan, and Magnolia. Magnolia, a plantation in Schriever, Louisiana, is
just few miles from one of the historic sites where Northup was held.
The cinematographer, Sean Bobbitt, filmed 12 Years A Slave on 35mm film 2.35:1
widescreen aspect ratio using both an Arricam LT and ST as opposed to the new
technology, digital. Bobbitt, whose background is in digital photography, focuses his skill on
film as opposed to new digital film. The last nine films Bobbitt has shot were on film because
that was the medium that best fit those stories; therefore 12 Years A Slave was shot on film
which differs to many American film companies such as 20th Century Fox.
The music to 12 Years a Slave was composed by Hans Zimmer, with original on-screen
violin music written and arranged by Nicholas Britell and performed by Tim Fain. The film
also features western classical and American folk music such as John and Alan Lomax's
arrangement of "Run, Nigger, Run". A soundtrack album was released digitally on November
5 and received a physical format release on November 11, 2013 by Columbia Records. In
addition the album features music inspired by the film by artists such as John Legend, Laura
Mvula, Alicia Keys, Chris Cornell, and Alabama Shakes.
12 Years a Slave premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2013, before
screening at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, the New York
Film Festival on October 8, The New Orleans Film Festival on October 10, 2013,
and Philadelphia Film Festival on October 19, 2013.
On November 15, 2011, Summit Entertainment announced it had secured a deal to
distribute 12 Years a Slave to international markets. 12 Years a Slave was commercially
released on October 18, 2013 in the United States for a limited release of 19 theatres. The
film was initially scheduled to be released in late December 2013, but this release date was
postponed due to further text screenings. The film was distributed by Entertainment One in
the United Kingdom. 12 Years A Slave’s DVD release was on March 4, 2014 (USA).
12 Years A Slave did not have as much synergy as Frozen due to it being an independent
production, however they did use their partner Channel 4 TV channel and Film4’s website to
promote the film. During its marketing campaign, 12 Years a Slave received unpaid
endorsements by celebrities such as Kanye West and Sean Combs which aided in the word-pf-
mouth and viral hype marketing for the independent film.
As of May 20, 2014, 12 Years a Slave had earned $187.7 million including $56.7 million in
the United States. During its opening, limited, release in the United States,12 Years a
Slave debuted with a weekend total of $923,715 on 19 screens for a $48,617 per-screen
average. The following weekend, the film entered the top ten after expanding to 123 theatres
and grossing an additional $2.1 million. It continued to improve into its third weekend,
grossing $4.6 million at 410 locations. The film release was expanded to over 1,100
locations on November 8, 2013.
12 Years A Slave did not only receive commercial success but also widespread critical
acclaim. 12 Years a Slave received almost universal acclaim from critics and audiences, for
its acting (particularly Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o), Steve
McQueen's direction, John Ridley's screenplay, its production values, and its faithfulness
to Solomon Northup's account. The Film review site, Rotten Tomatoes, reported that 97% of
critics gave the film a "Certified Fresh" rating, which was based on 258 reviews with
an average score of 9/10 which is extremely high and fairly rare for an independent film.
Henceforth, it is evident that both Frozen and 12 Years A Slave were highly successful in
their own rights, such as both receiving excellent commercial and critical success. However,
it is also evident that American, blockbuster film companies and independent film companies
have a very different approach to budget and film/animation which separates the film
industry of today. The film industry is an ever growing economy and despite blockbuster
production companies remaining renowned and the highest grossing, due to 12 Years A
Slave’s competitive success in relation to blockbuster films, independent film companies
could see a future matching the success of the already acclaimed, high end American film
In conclusion, I have experienced both films myself and despite Frozen’s digital finesse, 12
Years A Slave could not be faulted, from its incredible cast to its accurate account of
Solomon’s story partnered with its cinematography. I believe that digital and film are both
successful in their own right and should be used for different film purposes and styles of
films. I believe film has a more artistic flare and traditional appeal to it that can be lost with
digital production. However, I also understand that when it comes to keeping up with
technology and understanding the audience’s development, that digital is superior. Digital
thrives in marketing and the production of technologically advanced films, as well as posing
a threat to piracy through digital distribution and exhibition.
Despite my love and appreciation for film, I believe the future of the film industry will play
victim to digital as it is ever growing and adaptable to the changes we experience as a
market that film cannot compete with. However, because of this digital paradigm shift, the
magic and tradition of film production, distribution and film experience could be lost entirely
and it will forever change the way we think about, consume and experience film.