Psychologist explains why kids won’t let ‘Frozen’ go

March 3, 2024 | (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — Hell will no doubt freeze over before kids forget “Frozen.”

The Oscar-winning Disney movie has sparked a children’s obsession unlike any other in recent memory, and this week is sure to add more fuel to the fire.

Disney’s new animated short, “Frozen Fever,” arrives in theaters Friday, paired with the new live-action feature film “Cinderella.” 

The short film offers everything “Frozen” fans could want, with clever references to the original (there’s at least one allusion to “Let it Go”) and new additions (never have sneezes been any cuter).

So why do kids remain so obsessed, a year and a half after the original’s release in November 2013?

“I like ‘Frozen!'” shouts 3-year-old Brynn from Arnold, Maryland.

When prodded “why,” the little girl has one simple reply: “Because I do!”

While kids may find it hard to sum up their affection, child psychologists may have the answer.

“All the sudden it became cool to have a sister. It became a neat thing to be a big sister,” says Dr. Eleanor Mackey, clinical psychologist at Children’s National Health System. “I do think a lot of kids can relate to the fact that sometimes a sibling relationship can be tough, and sometimes it can be really meaningful, and that sometimes you have to work past the hard parts.”

Indeed, the Elsa and Anna relationship is a far cry from Cinderella’s Evil Stepsisters.

“Relating to dwarfs or evil stepmothers, it’s just not very connected to daily life, whereas looking at two sisters’ relationships, and difficulties of growing up … (it’s) really universal,” Mackey says. “Elsa has something about herself that everybody’s telling her she has to change or control, and that’s kind of life when you’re a little kid. … So that ‘Let it Go’ song I think really reaches kids when they feel like, oh yeah, I can actually let myself go, be who I am. I think that’s a very freeing message.”

Mackey is herself a mother of two young daughters.

But she says young boys enjoy the movie, too.

“I think Disney did a really good job this time not making it about some romantic love, or all about the girl. … There’s a couple good male characters in there as well,” Mackey says. “I know a lot of boys who really love it, who have gravitated toward it. … It’s not overly girly.”

Mackey says her own husband is a “Frozen” fan, wearing his “Let it Go” t-shirt to various extracurricular events as a proud father who has something to share with his daughters.

“It has this warning in there that you shouldn’t marry the first guy you fall in love with, so I think a lot of guys are cheering that part on too,” she says, laughing.

Mackey says the shared experience is good for the entire family, as proven by moms and dads lip-syncing the songs on dashboard cameras and uploading them to YouTube.

“I mean, check with parents after the 20th time they’ve seen it,” she jokes, “but I think most parents don’t mind watching it with their kids either, which has made it really a nice way to gather families. And I think with all the snow days we’ve had recently, I would bet a lot of money that a lot of households were playing ‘Frozen’ almost on a constant loop on most of these snow days.”

As sure as snow storms come every winter, and every generation passes down its favorite movies to a new generation of kids, our “Frozen Fever” will not break for a long time.

And according to this medical diagnosis, that’s not a bad thing at all.

Hear the full interview below:

March 3, 2024 | (Jason Fraley)
Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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