Frozen's Hot Following

The chilled-out fairy tale has burned up the box office

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Along with boasting feel-good characters, Frozen has harnessed the power of the Internet. One sign of how inspirational the movie has been is in the online life of its most anthemic song, "Let It Go," in which Elsa embraces her abilities with full gusto and promises that she will not be forced to hide any longer. Since early December, the official music video has been watched more than 85 million times on YouTube, and a pop-rock version by Demi Lovato has another 69 million views--not to mention the more than 3 million other videos that pop up in a Frozen/"Let It Go" YouTube search. There are versions by singer-songwriter types and versions that show you how to play the song on guitar. There are cute versions sung by toddlers and club-music remix versions. There are versions in dozens of languages and parody versions that use strategic bleeping to make the song seem raunchy. YouTube views don't directly contribute to box-office numbers--and neither do myriad blog posts about the movie's feminist cred--but they've kept the movie in the cultural conversation months after most November releases have melted away.

There are other impacts that can't be measured by stats. Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who co-wrote the movie's songs with her husband Robert Lopez, tells TIME that she's been told the songs have helped children overcome speech impediments. " 'Bobby and I are delighted and bewildered' is the best way to put it. We never imagined this," she says. "When you get a story like that, you don't analyze why."

Rosenberg and Vanburkleo, who live in Minneapolis and San Francisco, respectively, are part of an extensive community--cosplayers, as they're known--who create elaborate costumes of their favorite characters, and the look of Frozen has won over their fellows, who also tend to be active in Internet fan groups. "Frozen is just a single movie, but it's got a life of its own outside the theaters when it comes to online," says Vanburkleo, who works as a social-media manager for a game company. "There are Tumblr blogs and Facebook groups, and the fans really keep content alive, which I think is great for brands."

Then there are the factors that have long made Disney heroines popular. Frozen has a bevy of beautiful dresses, plenty of funny moments, tunes you can hum and a gripping story. "They just hit a home run," says Abby Root, 23, of Queens, N.Y. "The music is really great, and it's that classic musical structure we haven't seen for a long time. The animation's really beautiful. The story is well done."

That's something more-typical princess fans can get behind too. On a recent Saturday night in Brooklyn, Colleen Douglas, 34, and her daughter Lenora, 4, emerge from their sixth go-round with Frozen. Together they sum up the full range of reasons for the movie's success, suggesting that the magic is in the combination. Lenora clutches a Frozen doll and wears a sparkly blue Frozen dress under her winter coat, and--thanks to the movie's other assets--her mother is O.K. with it. "I don't mind watching it like 12 times," says Douglas. "It's one of the first Disney movies where [the message] is like, 'You can't marry a strange man you just met.'"

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