Something that’s nice to do for yourself and your loved ones during the holiday season is to put a “yule log” on the television and listen to its crackle. Watching a fireplace burn on television can be a suitable replacement for having an actual fireplace, if supplemented with a candle that smells like Douglas fir, and maybe some incense that is “campfire”-scented. This is a wonderful holiday tradition that I’ve embarked upon during this strange year, but I feel compelled to warn everyone out there that if they choose the particular adventure that is the Arendelle Yule Log on Disney+, they should be prepared for psychological terror that does not feel very festive.
In previous years, I was content with Netflix’s “Fireplace For Your Home,” which is just an hour-long video of a fireplace burning in crisp HD. This year, I got started with the yule log in October and so was looking for other options. The Arendelle iteration appealed to me because unlike Netflix’s offerings, it is three hours long, which is the correct amount of time for something of this nature. Pleased with myself to have discovered a new Yule log to feed my unfortunate obsession, I plugged in the lights for the tree, turned off most of the lamps in the living room, and pressed play, settling in for what I thought would be three hours of atmospheric, holiday-inflected quiet time.
The duration of the Arendelle yule log is by far its greatest strength. Three hours is just long enough for me to read a little, fall asleep a little, and then wake up a little, before turning off the TV and toddling to bed. The fireplace is set in what I assume to be Arendelle’s great hall; there are stockings hung by the fire with care, and a pile of presents in the corner. The sound of the Arendelle fireplace is superior to Netflix’s iteration, for you can hear both the roar and the crackle. Pleased with my decision, I went to the kitchen and waited for the kettle to boil, basking in the warmth of my apartment’s clanking radiators. The crackle of the fireplace was soothing, the kind of ambient noise I seek when the hollow empty silence of my apartment becomes too much to bear.
As I was walking from the living room to the bedroom, mug of tea in hand, I heard a man’s laugh—a giggle, really—reverberate through my house, scaring the shit out of me and causing me, embarrassingly, to scream as if I were being home invaded.
Who is in my house? What are they doing? Why is my winter reverie being interrupted by the sound of a MAN laughing? Doesn’t Disney+ know that I live alone and that my habit of leaving the bathroom window open for ventilation means that someone could easily climb up the fire escape and into the restroom through the open window, lying in wait for me in the tub?
The culprit was not a home invader or an actual human body. It was Olaf, the terrible snowperson that children ostensibly love, making one of three random cameos in this winter wonderland, running across the screen to chase a butterfly, laughing at his inability to catch the damn thing while also, I presume, marveling at the fact that he did not melt the minute he crossed the fire’s path.
Jump scares are expected for horror movies and the like, but I did not expect my already-frazzled nerves to be re-frazzled by what is ostensibly meant for children. Olaf running across the screen at random moments over a three-hour span of time is emotional and psychological terrorism of the sort that Disney excels at. I do not need this kind of shit from my leisure activities, and I imagine that a wide swath of the general public would agree. Slap a trigger warning on this thing, Disney+, or stand back as I lead the revolution against Olaf’s tyranny.