The Popularity of Frozen

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

The popularity of Frozen has been magnified by the rise of gender segregation in toys:

Princesses may seem like a permanent feature of the toyscape, but they were less common before the 1990s. “The idea that pink princess fantasy dream dolls have always been a part of girlhood is false,” says Elizabeth Sweet, a lecturer at the University of California, Davis, who studies the cultural history of toys. Sweet has found that the popularity of gender-neutral toys reached a peak in the mid-1970s. Since then, toy makers have embraced the market-doubling effect of pushing certain toys to boys and other toys to girls. Sweet says the level of gender segregation has never been higher. A typical big-box store might have four aisles of blue toys and four aisles of pink toys with an aisle of yellow toys in between. “Separate but equal,” she says. Legos, for example, evolved from simple packs of building blocks into play sets mostly sold to boys, often with brand tie-ins. In 2012, the company introduced Lego Friends, which are basically Legos for girls.

Disney really began to focus on princesses in 2000, after a new executive went to see a “Disney on Ice” show and was struck by how many of the girls in the audience were wearing homemade princess costumes. “They weren’t even Disney products,” the executive, Andy Mooney, told the writer Peggy Orenstein for her book about the rise of princesses, “Cinderella Ate My Daughter.” The Disney Princess line now makes about $4 billion a year, on par with the earning power of Mickey Mouse himself. (The “Frozen” girls are not, as yet, official members of the Princess ensemble.)


  1. Handle says:

    ‘Market doubling’? Product differentiation and market segregation doesn’t double the toy market at all; there are still the same number of children after all.

  2. Candide III says:

    But their parents can buy more differentiated toys for them. From toy business’ point of view, the ideal toy would be one that is so irresistible to children that their parents will have to buy it, and so ‘specialized’ (is that the word?) that it gets boring literally the next day and is discarded or tucked away and forgotten. Unspecialized toys, like wood blocks or generic dolls, are, I think, very bad at providing steady cash flow.

  3. “Sweet has found that the popularity of gender-neutral toys reached a peak in the mid-1970s.”

    I was around during the mid-1970s.

    The extent to which violently unpopular gender-neutral toys were forced on children over their shrill protests reached a peak in the mid-1970s.

  4. Toddy Cat says:

    Yeah, I remember the whole “gender-neutral” toy thing in the mid-1970′s. A lot of stupid things peaked about 1975-76. The period from 1967-1976 was the high noon of nonsense in the U.S., although the period from 2006 until now is giving it a run for its money.

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