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Frozen may finally be slowing down at the box office, but it’s heating up online.
The spring thaw may be melting away box office returns for winter’s blockbuster Frozen, but in fandom, the love for Disney’s acclaimed ice princess fable is merging with anticipation for the next big animated film: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (HTTYD).
Sure, these animation studios are competing against each other, but fans have enough love to go around. Over the last year or so, fans of Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks have merged their favorite characters from five recent films into one fandom: The Rise of the Brave Tangled Frozen Dragons, or RotBTFD for short. (We know, it’s a mouthful.)
Illustration by moonlight-dragon/Tumblr
The fandom started out long before Frozen entered the scene. Previously, there were the “Big Four” or RotBTD in acronym form. There’s Brave’s spunky scottish heroine Merida, HTTYD’s Hiccup, Tangled’s Rapunzel, and Rise of the Guardians’ Jack Frost.
Illustration by talesofavikingqueen/Tumblr
…Especially Jack Frost.
Rise of the Heartthrob
Illustration by breetroad/deviantART
Fans may not have poured into theatres for Dreamworks’ Rise of the Guardians, but Jack Frost, its main character, is getting plenty of action in fandom. Since the film came out, fans have eagerly shipped (or paired, if you’re not familiar with the term) Jack with Rapunzel, or “Jackunzel.”
Illustration by venus-mike-adel-leo/deviantART
Then there’s Jack with How to Train Your Dragon’s Hiccup (the ship name is “Hijack“).
Illustration by breetroad/deviantART
And Jack with Brave’s Merida, a.k.a. “Jarida” or “Meriack”.
Illustration by nnysgirl666/deviantART
The other permutations of the “Big Four” are everywhere, of course: ”Meripunzel” femslash, and shipping Hiccup with the ladies (“Merricup” and “Hiccunzel”). And, naturally, there’s lots of adventures with all of them together.
Illustration by heeyjayp17/deviantART
Illustration by pixelmagus/deviantART
But as popular as all of these pairings are, they can’t hold a candle to the newcomer: The enormous fandom of people shipping Jack Frost with Frozen’s ice queen, Elsa.
Unlike the “Big Four” pairings that came before it, Jack/Elsa didn’t quite share the same origins. Instead of arising from a shared love of the four fandoms, “Jelsa” hit fandom like a bolt out of the blue. The fandom has spawned innumerable deviantART groups, Tumblr RPGs, and epic cosplay. It’s so popular that it’s almost a meme.
Seriously. Even Kakashi from Naruto ships it (GIF via ceecysr)
It all started with this gorgeous piece of fanart. The artist, kazeki on deviantART also called watermelonwings on Tumblr, eventually deactivated her various social media accounts and stopped posting art, in part because she couldn’t keep people from reposting this image across the Internet.
Can a single piece of fanart launch an entire fandom? It can when the characters are this eerily similar. Both Jack and Elsa are powerful but flawed characters of ethereal beauty: drenched in ice-cold blue, with frost-white hair, and a deliberately chosen life of wintry solitude, what could make more sense than to pair them together?
Illustration by diwine_waro/deviantART
And if you’re a slash fan? You needn’t let that stop you: Just genderbend Elsa or Jack and you’re good to go.
Illustration by breetoad/deviantART
We are Family?
Before Frozen joined the group, the “Big Four”/Rise of the Brave Tangled Dragons fandom was one big party.
Once Frozen came along, debate broke out over what to call the new fandom. Many proposed replacing the “Big Four” with the “Super Six” featuring the additions of Elsa and Anna, the heroines of Frozen. But because Frozen is a relative newcomer, and because it has a much wider fandom primarily interested in Jack/Elsa, not everyone has been comfortable accepting it into the mix.
Still, some aspects of the “Super Six” are easy:
GIF by rotbdgifs/Tumblr
For instance, Disney helped out by having Rapunzel attend Elsa’s coronation in Frozen:
GIF via enraptored
This has led to the speculation that it’s possible they’re related in the “universe” of the two stories, and that their parents are siblings. But not all of the crossover possibilities are as rosy. Some are intricate, but dark:
GIF by the-wanted-thief
And some are just plain inspired.
GIF by rotbtdgifs/Tumblr
Regardless of what you call it, the Rise of the Brave Tangled Frozen Dragons fandom has spawned crossover fanfiction, crossover scripts written collectively, and modern AUs, as well as an entire Tumblr devoted to crossover GIFS, not to mention endless YouTube fanvids with magical edits bringing the five film worlds together.
The merging of Frozen with the “Big Four” has a lot in common with the Disney fandom’s drive to turn Elsa into a Fire Queen, another ongoing Alternate Universe fandom that plays around with the film’s core elements:
Illustration by messr-snuffles/deviantART
What both of these AU imaginings share is a love for empowered female characters—after all, four of the “Super Six” are female—and the desire to explore worldbuilding in ways that you wouldn’t normally find in a two-hour animated film. In that respect, both Fire Queen Elsa and the RotBTFD may owe a debt, not to previous animated feature films, but to epic, layered universes like Avatar: the Last Airbender and Homestuck. Both of these beloved fandoms weave their narratives across cultural lines. In the case of the Disney fandom, ever-desperate for diversity, it’s easy to see the appeal. And Homestuck fans are no strangers to the merit of crossing over all the fandoms: they’ve done it already with the meme-turned-meta-fandom, Fandomstuck.
But there is another element on the horizon: The long-awaited, eagerly anticipated sequel to How to Train Your Dragon. Will the fandom grow to embrace more characters from the HTTYD landscape? Or will other films like the underrated Epic enter the picture?
In any event, fandom has entered what could well be a new phase of its creative life, one where film fandoms don’t need new infusions of canon to have an extended afterlife. They just need new crossovers with other films and other worlds.
The possibilities are endless, and the Rise of the Brave Tangled Frozen (Insert Film Here) Dragons shows no sign of slowing down. We look forward to seeing what the next fandom will be to join this new animated film family.
Illustration by lancelotmilitar/deviantART
Aja Romano is a geek culture reporter and fandom expert. Their reporting at the Daily Dot covered everything from Harry Potter and anime to Tumblr and Gamergate. Romano joined Vox as a staff reporter in 2016.