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Olaf's Frozen Adventure is about to leave theaters where it has been seen ahead of Coco for the last three weeks. Seeing a straight Disney property ahead of a Pixar film was an odd combination to start with, but now we know why it happened. Coco co-director Adrian Molina has explained that the studio simply didn't have a short ready to pair with Coco due to the time crunch of producing two films in one year, so when Pixar got the call that Disney was looking to place Olaf's Frozen Adventure, it made sense, especially since the two films had related themes of family and tradition. According to Molina...
It absolutely does sound like a nice pairing. Frozen, in addition to being a massive box office hit, was also a movie about family. The Olaf's Frozen Adventure special sees Josh Gad's talking snowman go looking for ideas in regards to people's holiday traditions because Anna and Elsa don't really have any, due to their separation growing up. Since Coco is also about family traditions during the holidays, as Adrian Molina explains to Yahoo, there's a clear connection there.
It's honestly more of a connection than we usually get out of Pixar shorts and the features those shorts get associated with. Every once in a while you get a Piper attached to a Finding Dory, a short and a feature both dealing with the ocean, but more often you get Lou and Cars 3 which had no association whatever.
There have only been a few times when Pixar and Disney have cross-branded like this. Pixar shorts were attached to both of the recent Muppet films, The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted. In addition, the original Toy Story saw a reissue of the Roger Rabbit short Roller Coaster Rabbit.
Features are always the priority at Pixar and that means sometimes animators working on shorts can be pulled off of them to help with features. This may be why there wasn't a short ready to go for Coco already; since there were two features being worked on at the same time. It seems that if Olaf's Frozen Adventure hadn't come along, then Coco would have been released alone. It would have been the first time a Pixar film was released without a short of any kind.