NEW YORK >> Let it go (on)!
The Walt Disney Co. on Thursday announced plans to make a sequel to the animated mega-hit “Frozen.” Bob Iger, Walt Disney Co. chief executive, and John Lasseter, head of Walt Disney Animation Studios, joined in officially announcing “Frozen 2” at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in San Francisco.
At the shareholders meeting, Disney also announced a release date for “Star Wars: Episode VIII”: May 26, 2017. Rian Johnson, known for the innovative time travel film “Looper,” is confirmed to write and direct.
The “Frozen” sequel had been widely expected for a film that has become a juggernaut for Disney. Since its release in November 2013, “Frozen” has made nearly $1.3 billion globally at the box office, generated a massive merchandising revenue stream and won the Academy Award for best animated feature.
Disney didn’t announce any details on the sequel’s plot or a release date, but said directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck will be returning.
“We enjoyed making Frozen Fever so much and being back in that world with those characters,” said Lasseter. “Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck have come up with a great idea for a sequel and you will be hearing a lot more about it and we’re taking you back to Arendelle.”
Though a sequel was always only a matter of time, fans have waited eagerly for the announcement. Most big box-office hits generate sequel announcements within weeks of opening.
But any delay in a “Frozen” sequel has been easily assuaged by the film’s unabated popularity. “Frozen” is by far the biggest grossing animated film ever, and its soundtrack, led by Idina Menzel’s “Let it Go,” remains ubiquitous. A “Frozen” short is to play in front of Disney’s latest release, the live-action “Cinderella,” which opens in theaters Friday.
Josh Gad, the voice of the snowman Olaf, was on hand for the announcement Thursday and will be returning for the sequel. But no other returning characters were announced.
Iger said “Star Wars: Episode VIII” will take place after the events of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which opens Dec. 18.
Iger also announced that the first in a series of big-screen “Star Wars” stand-alone films is titled “Rogue One.” Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”) will direct off of a script from Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”).
Felicity Jones, who earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in “The Theory of Everything,” is set to star in “Rogue One,” which will shoot in London this summer for Dec. 16, 2016, release.
The Walt Disney Co. also said at its annual meeting in San Francisco that investors had voted down shareholder proposals that would have separated the CEO and chairman role. They also rejected a proposal related to paying executives stock awards if Disney is bought.
The company’s board had recommended voting against both proposals.
Bob Iger has been CEO since 2005 and chairman as of 2012. He received $43.7 million in total compensation last year, up 27 percent from the previous year. Disney had a blockbuster year in 2014 thanks to the popularity of “Frozen” and other films, along with strong results from its parks.
A meeting attendee asked Iger for a raise for Disney employees, too. The CEO noted that, after agreeing last year to increase base pay to $10 an hour for employees covered by one of its largest unions, Disney has extended that commitment to all hourly employees of the company.
Other major U.S. companies have also recently said they will raise employee pay in the next few years, including Wal-Mart, TJX and Gap.
In response to another shareholder question, Iger said the company had expanded its policy of not showing smoking in movies aimed at young people to include films made by its Marvel and Lucasfilm units. That rule had applied to Disney-branded movies and Pixar movies.