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Okay You Primitive Screwheads

Disney Sues a Blatant (Alleged) Frozen Knockoff That Really Should Have Known Better


Meet distribution company Phase 4 Films, the Asylum of animation. Are you in the mood for Dreamworks, Pixar, and Disney, but you really, really hate all those production values? Phase 4 has you covered with their bargain basement knockoffs of Brave, Cars, Madagascar, A Bug’s Life/Antz (two for one!), Bee MovieHow to Train Your Dragon, Up, Charlotte’s Web, Kung-Fu Panda (a genderswapped version where the heroine must rescue the “handsome Prince Po”), Shrek (twice!), and, now, Frozen. Only that last one just got them sued.

Never mess with the Mouse House.

The plot of Frozen Land actually has as much to do with Frozen as Frozen has to do with the original Snow Queen story that inspired it. (So, not very much.) IMDB lists the synopsis as “Three young Inuits set off in search of a promised land to save their clan from starvation.” It’s set in 1910. There are no at first obnoxious-looking but then strangely heartwarming (ba-doom-tiss) talking snowmen. In fact, when the film was released theatrically in November it was called The Legend of Sarila. Only it turns out no one wanted to see The Legend of Sarila, so when it came time for a home video release some genius at Phase 4 thought “Heyyyyy. Frozen‘s done pretty well for itself lately. That movie has snow. Our movie has snow. Twinsies!” So they retitled it Frozen Land and changed the logo to something that’s pretty much the Frozen logo with some minor changes and “Land” tacked on underneath.

Disney, smelling something fishy, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit. Phase 4 Films, according to the lawsuit:

“redesigned the artwork, packaging, logo, and other promotional materials for its newly (and intentionally misleadingly) retitled film to mimic those used by [Disney] for FROZEN and related merchandise… As is apparent from the face of the FROZEN LAND logo, despite the infinite options available to it, Phase 4 intended its logo to replicate the FROZEN Trademark Logo of Disney’s FROZEN. For example, the FROZEN Land logo also includes jagged, uneven edges on the lettering, dramatic flourishes on the letters, and an elongated R and Z that cradle a stylized O that curves into itself and does not close entirely. In addition, the word ‘frozen’ is significantly larger than the word ‘land.’ The two logos are nearly identical.”

So it’s the marketing, not the film itself, that’s hitched itself to Frozen‘s star. That makes me a bit sad for the director, who probably toiled away for years on this movie only to have Phase 4 swoop in and brand it a Disney knockoff. Then again, this might be the best thing that could’ve happened to The Legend of Sarila/Frozen Land. Sure, among Disney’s demands is that all the Frozen Land DVDs be destroyed. But let’s be real: How many DVDs would The Legend of Sarila have sold in the first place? Watch the trailer. Frozen Land gets points for diversity, but as a whole it just looks plain bad.

By the way, the voice actor in that trailer saying “It’s time to go to Sarila”? Christopher Plummer. I kid you not. You chase down that easy paycheck, sir. You’ve earned it.

(via Cartoon Brew)

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  • gia manry

    There is actually a whole cottage industry of films with copycat covers– “mockbusters.” It’s up for debate whether the majority of buyers are of the “My kid liked Frozen, maybe they’ll like Frozen Land” variety or the “accidentally grabbed the wrong movie because I didn’t do my homework/wasn’t paying attention” variety.

    It’s common, and they’re typically pretty low-budget, so I don’t know how bad you have to feel for the director.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mockbuster

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I wouldn’t call Frozen Land a mockbuster, though. It looks to me like the filmmakers set out to make their own movie completely independent of Frozen, and Phase 4 slapped on the title. It’s not like Asylum’s Age of the Hobbits, where Asylum obviously set out to siphon off the Hobbit trilogy’s market.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I don’t know if I’d call Frozen Land a mockbuster, though. It’s not like Asylum’s Age of Hobbits, for example, where you can tell they actively positioned themselves alongside Peter Jackson’s movies. It looks to me like the filmmakers set out to make their own movie independent of Frozen, and then the distributor came along later and slapped the new title on.

  • Kathryn (@Loerwyn)

    I think their main target is unaware parents, yes. I’ve even seen reputable stores carry them, though, which is a bit odd – I remember a UK supermarket chain carried the Tangled ‘knock-off’ for a while. Sad thing is they blur the lines between ‘genuine’ and ‘fake’, and it can make it hard to decide whether to try certain films.

    That said, I’m not entirely sure I’d ‘believe’ (for want of a better term) the idea they’re legitimate films that are rebranded and sold as, essentially, a scam. I would think that they’re created by these companies to hit the release period of better films – so they’ll either translate foreign films or knock out a low budget film with a vaguely similar theme – in order to fool unaware buyers.

    But I am rather cynical.

  • gia manry

    Hmm, you may be right– IMDb actually only knows the film under the title that was used in the UAE, “The Legend of Sarila,” which also features an entirely different look. In that case it IS unfortunate. :

  • Carmen Sandiego

    Watching the trailer I actually want to see this movie.

  • gia manry

    Whatever sells, especially from the retailers that want to sell stuf at a bargain (Walmart, for example).

    But yeah, from the look of this (after doing a little more research) it looks like it was a legitimately created film that was presumably licensed for distribution by Phase 4, whose marketing strategy revolved primarily around pitching it to Frozen buyers.

    Now, I don’t know how things work for those companies, but at my employer (FUNimation) we have to submit a great deal of material, including packaging, to our licensors (mostly the anime production committees in Japan, though we have some non-Japanese materials as well– such as the Canadian TV series Lost Girl) for approval.

    So even if the film wasn’t created to piggyback on Frozen, the creators/rights-owners may have given the thumbs-up to this strategy.

  • gia manry

    Whatever sells, especially from the retailers that want to sell stuf at a bargain (Walmart, for example).

    But yeah, from the look of this (after doing a little more research) it looks like it was a legitimately created film that was presumably licensed for distribution by Phase 4, whose marketing strategy revolved primarily around pitching it to Frozen buyers.

    Now, I don’t know how things work for those companies, but at my employer (FUNimation) we have to submit a great deal of material, including packaging, to our licensors (mostly the anime production committees in Japan, though we have some non-Japanese materials as well– such as the Canadian TV series Lost Girl) for approval.

    So even if the film wasn’t created to piggyback on Frozen, the creators/rights-owners may have given the thumbs-up to this strategy.

  • http://everythingiscats.wordpress.com/ Krystal

    I spotted it on Netflix and the first thing I thought was that it was another “mockbuster” but the synopsis didn’t look anything like Frozen, nor did the characters. The quality of animation doesn’t look fantastic, but I still think I’ll give it a watch. You don’t see many movies starring Inuit characters, so that could be worth it. That being said, I hope Phase 4 changes their branding around if refusing to do so means losing their movie.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah I saw that. Usually I’m all for the little guy, but Frozen is my favorite film this year and Elsa my new favorite Disney Princess (despite being a queen).

  • Charlene Green

    I saw this a couple days ago while at Wal-Mart, but the fact that there was Alaskan Inuit people on the cover shoud’ve been obvious that it was nothing like Frozen at all. In fact, what I saw in the trailer where similar elements to Brother Bear and Legend of Korra.
    The animation isn’t terrible, to be honest, but the story sounds a little boring. I’ll have to rent this movie out sometime.

  • Karki Meade

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2070831/

    This one screamed “Craptacular!” from the moment I first saw it. After checking some reviews, I’m glad it has largely disappeared from memory.

  • Anonymous

    That’s pretty much the same as The Legend of Serila. It’s originally a French movie, was released a year before Frozen came out, and has a completely different plot.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, Christopher Plummer…please, for your sake, stop being in bad animated movies…
    Anyway, I’d actually heard a little about this movie. It doesn’t sound too terrible, all things considered…it doesn’t sound like Frozen, for starters, and it’s certainly different storywise and I love seeing diversity in animated heroes…but ugh, Phase 4 movies are usually SO bad…I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of sitting through several with my 6 year old cousin, and lemme tell you, they’re quality terrible.

    ….Still might give this a watch, though, before Disney forces a rebrand or something.

  • Ashe

    Uh, is it bad that this looks genuinely more interesting than Frozen? There are some really cool locations and designs in that trailer (the mermaid goddess, oh my gosh).

    Yeah, it’s stiff and the voice acting is bad and it’s still riding on the coattails of an infinitely more popular movie, but…imagine if this had Disney’s budget!

  • Anonymous

    Hm. Gender-swapped kung-fu panda that saves the dude in distress sounds quite interesting to me. I may have to check into that.

  • flyingpenguin

    Ah, I saw about that after posting my comment. That’s pretty bad on Phase 4′s part then. I hope none of this will effect the crew behind the film. They at least tried to do something different.

  • Shirubie

    (Ok, Disqus seems to have eaten my post, let me try again)

    I live in the province of Quebec, Canada, where this movie was produced, and I’ve heard a lot about it when it was released. It’s a pretty big achievement for Quebec cinema, the first 3D animated film ever made in Canada, and was in production for many years (and was directed by a woman BTW). It had pretty good reviews over here, was shown in a few film festivals like the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and is even eligible for a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination! Now all the hard work put into this movie will go to waste because some idiots want to change the title to rip off Disney.

    Don’t let the stupid marketing fool you and check it out (Official website here: http://www.thelegendofsarila.com/ ), it’s not cheap crap made to make a quick buck, it’s a labor of love by independant creators who wanted to make a good children’s film based on inuit legends and culture. It just had the bad luck of ending up with a crappy distributor.

  • Anonymous

    There all on netflick too :D

  • Anonymous

    I’ve heard good things about Frozen since its release but actually the Legend Of Sarila stirred more interest in me than Frozen’s trailer when that came out.

    The quality of the animation in The Legend… and character design seems to range between being actually pretty good (that underwater goddess character) and OK in a generic kind of way. But feeling any park of artistic freshness at all was a step up from what I saw in Frozen’s trailer which is incredibly slick but very boring-looking.

    After the discussion there’s been around Disney’s whiteness and appropriation of Sami culture in Frozen, a comparable film that actually engages with a marginalised culture kind of emphasises the points about how narrow Disney are.

    It’s a real shame that the makes of The Legend of Sarila felt they had to ‘mockbusterise’ the marketing The Legend… to push a film that ought to have been able to achieve moderate success on its own merits from the looks of it. Of course Disney have every legal right to protect their own imagery etc but you can’t help but sympathise with the desperation of a small production company who can’t possibly compete with Disney’s marketing budget. It;s not a level playing field and it;s not enough to simply make the best product you are capable of – without a vast marketing budget you’re likely to sink without trace. They probably thought they’d get away with being so blatant because of all those Disney mockbusters that Disney never seems to bother itself about.

    It’s funny, Disney never seems to go after those mockbusters which make no real secret of trading on the former’s movies. I guess they feel those are beneath contempt whereas this is of high enough quality people might actually get mixed up?

  • Charlie

    Yeah, when I heard about this I felt sorry for the creators. Especially since several previous films that legitimately rip-off Disney/Pixar movies have gone unpunished. Hopefully it’ll be rereleased under its proper title one day.

  • Eve

    I’m glad to hear that. When I saw it pop up on netflix, I thought it was a rip-off. Now I’ll check it out.

  • Shirubie

    I hope the movie producers sue Phase 4 for ruining their movie’s chances on home video. Seriously, for every customer who gets fooled by the similar title, how many more savy film fans won’t even touch it now, thinking it’s a “mockbuster”?

  • MoonDancer

    (Too Long: Will not Read: Rambling on the treatment of foreign content, such as the here Sarila movie, by the American market, as seen by someone who’s lived in and out the USA. )

    It’s such a desolating turn of events… on the French-speaking side of things, all I heard about the movie is how the team toiled 10 years on a shoestring budget to make this movie, and how proud they were of their accomplishment… the team telling their hopes and dreams of making it to film festivals and, in one particularly (heart-wrenching in hindsight) interview, talking excitedly that distributors from other countries were showing interest…

    And now on the English-speaking side of things, well, this mess with the distributor’s disgusting practices; the movie is now branded as a shitty knock-off in the USA, and you can just see how it negatively colored everyone’s opinion of it after a brief glance.

    I wonder if, for instance, the author of this piece, who is of the opinion the movie is just plain bad and that Phase 4′s scheme might actually be the best thing that could have happened to it after a cursory look a the trailer… well, I wonder if she’d be of the same opinion if she had first heard of the movie under different circumstances.
    Of course a mere glance is enough to see it’s Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks-grade quality, but it was made with the tiniest fraction of the budget, technical means and manpower of the powerhouses.
    Now to just claim as a fact that “no one wanted to see The Legend of Sarila”, is kind of disingenuous when nobody even knew it existed in the first place over here, since nobody here follows what happens in other countries besides the occasional BBC show from the UK…

    It’s really easy as an American to go dismissing and mocking the quality of foreign content when the American market is so hostile and protectionist against the same material in the first place. American content gets exported worldwide en masse no matter how crappy it is (Hollywood churns out a torrent of stinkers each year, yet no matter how dumb and vile “Big Fat Gross-Out ‘Comedy’ 12: Farting on Dwarves with Racist Accents, Starring Adam Sandler”, you can bet your ass it will get exported to other countries…)

    Whereas barely anything foreign gets trickles in back in return. And what gets in usually goes through a licensing company that will liberally recut/mix/dub the thing (4Kids and Japanese anime is an excellent example) nearly beyond recognition, or the rights will be quietly bought and the product will be remade in the USA without the public being made aware it wasn’t American content to start with.

    (I’m still not over my dismay at learning in one of my Politics/Economics courses how the USA, for instance, uses it’s economic clout when making trade agreements with other countries to force upon them creepy culturally hegemonic clauses such as “you will have to import a certain percentage of media content produced in the USA each year for X years” … Needless to say there is no clause saying the USA has to return the favor. Poorer countries have to swallow these clauses along with the rest, get inundated in American content and their own locally-produced content suffers as a result… fueling the vicious circle of not being able to compete with the American market.
    And the American public, blissfully unaware, carries on thinking other countries barely ever produce anything worthwhile and that American content is clearly superior, or else, why would it get redistributed all over the world, eh?…)

    Anyway, I’m rambling, but before you get too angry at me for “bashing” my adopted country, I am not saying there’s not a ton of amazing quality content here in the USA. It’s just that it doesn’t have the monopoly, and that it’s sad how little of the good stuff from other countries ever manages to claw its way to the American public, and rarely manages to arrive unadulterated at that.

    People here deserve better than watching, say, “Dinner for Schmucks”, or a contrived, thankfully dropped American remake of the “IT Crowd” that had so little reason to be adapted they even kept Richard Ayoade to reprise his own role? Insulting to the audience’s intelligence and stifling the American public out of all sort of cool chances to discover the cultures of countries abroad. So is local distributors taking foreign movies and trying to pass them as Disney knock-offs… A damn shame all in all. Everyone loses.

  • Azkedelia

    I saw this movie on Netflix, and I really liked it! The slow-mo recap at the end was really unfortunate, but I loved everything else, and Sedna was cool as hell! (though I don’t think she was missing any fingers? That’s kinda the equivalent of Priapus missing his… y’know.)