It’s Frozember! Each day this month, Rotoscopers is celebrating Frozen, all in anticipation of Frozen 2, arriving in theaters November 22.
When Frozen became a massive success upon its 2013 release, it came as no surprise that Disney began infusing the story into its theme parks. Over the past six years, there have been some fascinating adaptations of the franchise. From amazing to controversial, Frozen has seemingly done it all within Disney’s parks, both stateside and internationally. Here are the top 10* Frozen theme park attractions.
*This list doesn’t as much rank from worst to best in terms of quality, but rather counts down based on influence to the park in which the attraction resides or impact on the overall Frozen legacy.
10) World of Color: Winter Dreams Disney California Adventure (2013-2015)
World of Color is a nighttime water spectacular that first debuted in 2010. The show is often given seasonal makeovers, and 2013 saw the debut of a holiday-themed show, Winter Dreams, hosted by none other than Olaf. For 2013, this was pretty big news. This show premiered before Frozen released in theaters, so the show gave guests a first look into Olaf’s personality. More importantly, though, it offered a glimpse at “Let It Go,” notorious even before it was widely heard. Winter Dreams only lasted three years, replaced by World of Color: Season of Light for the 2016 season moving forward.
9) Frozen Summer Fun Disney’s Hollywood Studios (2014-2015)
People were Frozen crazy in the year following the film’s initial release. Any appearance of Anna and Elsa within the theme parks was the equivalent of a celebrity sighting, and families went nuts. While plans were put into development for a permanent Frozen ride, to satisfy demand in the meantime Disney instated Frozen Summer Fun.
For two summers, Disney’s Hollywood Studios became a celebration of all things Frozen. This included a processional through the park, a small show in which Olaf basked in his summertime glory, fireworks set to music from the film, and a sing-along stage show that would inadvertently become a permanent offering for the park (more on that later).
In reflection, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Frozen Summer Fun was the way it set up its narrative. With any resort, there wouldn’t need to be any “story” or “justification” for what was essentially a festival celebrating a movie. This being Disney, though, there actually was a set-up for all of this. In a traveling tour of various kingdoms, Anna and Elsa visit “Hollywoodland” for the summer to greet its citizens and enjoy the season.
The 2015 version of Frozen Summer Fun was part of a larger “Coolest Summer Ever” campaign across all of Walt Disney World, kicked off by a 24-hour special event at Magic Kingdom hosted by Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf.
8) Festival of Fantasy Parade Magic Kingdom (2014-present)
It’s true that Frozen is one of many films highlighted in Magic Kingdom’s daily Festival of Fantasy Parade. The production is hardly exclusive to Arendellians, also featuring practically Disney’s whole library of animated classics, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Brave. But it’s Frozen‘s influence within the parade that places it on this list. If we’re talking about impact and influence, which we are, this is a prime example of Frozen beginning to misplace fellow Disney brethren, for better or for worse.
Allow me to explain. When Festival of Fantasy debuted in spring 2014, it was slated to feature Princess Aurora on a garden float along with other Disney princesses. The soundtrack for that float even included “Once Upon a Dream” in its medley of princess songs. Then Frozen happened. People wanted to see Anna and Elsa when they came to Disney World, and would surely expect to see them in a new parade. But there wasn’t enough time to include an entire Frozen float into the parade. It would have to be part of an existing unit. It would have to replace something already planned. Who got the boot? Princess Aurora. Her portion of the princess float was reconstructed to resemble Elsa’s icy palace, and Anna and Elsa proudly rode upon it when the parade debuted. In an interesting twist, though, there wasn’t enough time to record a new version of the parade’s soundtrack before it debuted. So on opening day, the float still played “Once Upon a Dream” despite Aurora being completely absent. It wasn’t until a few months later than the float would abridge its medley to include “For the First Time In Forever” and “Let It Go.”
This was the first big instance of Frozen forcing other Disney properties out of the way. As we’ll see later on, it wouldn’t be the last.
7) Royal Sommerhus Epcot (2016-present)
We’ve established that Disney park guests went gaga when Anna and Elsa showed up anywhere. So of course, the ultimate souvenir from a Disney trip at the peak of Frozen pandemonium was a family photo with the famous sisters. The demand, though, became overwhelming. At the time of Frozen‘s release, Anna and Elsa were crammed into a small room in Epcot’s Norway pavilion (unknowingly a prophecy of things later to come). Lines became too long for even Disney to properly manage at this location, so the sisters were moved to Magic Kingdom’s Princess Fairytale Hall, a spot that has much more capacity to hold large volumes of waiting guests and can get them through the line quicker thanks to some Disney magic behind the scenes.
Upon the opening of Frozen Ever After (don’t worry, we’ll get to it) at Epcot in 2016, Royal Sommerhus opened along with it as the permanent meet & greet location for Anna and Elsa. While essentially the attraction exists for the sole purpose of being a photo-op with Anna and Elsa, it does slightly build upon the world of Frozen in a new way that no movie shows us. This, as it’s presented to us, is a summer home that Anna and Elsa’s parents would take them for family visits. While in line, we even see remnants of the sisters’ childhoods. It remains the forever home that Walt Disney World guests know they can always find Arendelle royalty all day long, every day, eliminating a wild goose chase to track down a photo as is the case with some characters.
6) Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire Magic Kingdom (2016-present)
This stage show in front of Cinderella Castle incidentally celebrates, in chronological order, the peak films of the Disney Revival: The Princess and the Frog (2009), Tangled (2010), and Frozen (2013). In context of our Frozen countdown, the most fascinating quality that Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire offers is the interactions of Mickey and the gang with the royalty of the Disney animated films. Unlike, say, Cinderella or Peter Pan, who Mickey has seen often and seems to know quite well, this show presents each character as the first time they’ve ever been part of a Disney spectacle like this.
This means that we literally get to see Anna, Elsa, and Olaf introduce themselves to Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Think about the magnitude of that sentence. These are generations of Disney coming together before our eyes, tangibly greeting one another for the very first time. As a fan, this is an interesting opportunity and not one that I think many expected to be part of this show’s proceedings when it opened in 2016. Also of note is that Minnie has heard of Anna and Elsa. In fact, she’s a fangirl. Mickey’s set up the sisters’ arrival as a surprise to Minnie, and the mouse, like many in the audience, goes crazy. “From the moment I heard your story, I admired you both so much.” So did we.
5) For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration Disney’s Hollywood Studios (2014-present) Disney California Adventure (2015-2016)
This show is a carry-over from the temporary Frozen Summer Fun (see above) that guests enjoyed so much at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that Disney decided to make it permanent. That being said, it has the feel of something that didn’t know it would be around for a long time. I’m not sure what guests expect upon entering For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. Despite the words “sing-along” being in the title, I don’t think many people expect the show to actually be as simple as watching clips from Frozen on a screen and singing along while narrators provide commentary. Yes, it has brief live appearances from Frozen characters, but this is not a full-scale musical retelling of the film as guests might expect from the precedence set by other shows throughout the park.
That being said, the premise on paper sounds a lot more boring than the captivating presentation that ensues in person. The sing-along aspect is fun. The narrators are hilarious. The informal nature of the proceedings help us relax a bit; we needn’t be on our best behavior as with most “shows.” While some may have expected or even preferred a more traditional musical or find it lazy to seemingly pop in a DVD and press play, there’s still value in the uniqueness of what happens here if you’re willing to let yourself get as excited about it as the narrators are.
In California, this show replaced Muppet*Vision 3D, but didn’t last long. It closed when Frozen — Live at the Hyperion, a much grander production, opened in 2016. The theater where the sing-along was held was a preview center for new Disney films for a few years. Today, it presents Mickey’s PhilharMagic.
4) A Frozen Holiday Wish Magic Kingdom (2014-present)
Remember when I said Frozen sometimes displaced things? Yeeeaaaahhh. Buckle up.
Beginning in 2007, Disney adorned Cinderella Castle each Christmas season with gorgeous icicle lights. Photos don’t do them justice. They’re breathtaking. Every night, the lights would magically turn on for the evening with the help of Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother. This is, after all, Cinderella’s home.
Upon Frozen‘s success, the writing was on the wall. This was low-hanging fruit. This was handed to Disney on a silver platter in a way that they’d be silly to neglect. Elsa had icy powers. This was the resort’s iconic structure that turned to ice every Christmas season. It made sense for Elsa to now be included in the annual event. The way in which she was included, though, could have been handled a bit differently, in my opinion.
Turns out, Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf are visiting this kingdom for the holidays. (They sure do visit neighboring kingdoms often, huh?) They remark about how beautiful the decorations are everywhere, but notice that the castle is missing decor. “Elsa!” Anna exclaims. “Wouldn’t it be great if you used your frozen fractiley powers to cover the castle in ice and snow?!” Elsa replies, “Anna, I’d love to, but I can’t. This isn’t our home. We’re just visiting and we have to be respectful to the people who live here.”
That seems like a perfect cue for the person who DOES live here, right? Instead of Cinderella appearing and giving her blessing, though, Anna literally has the guests peer pressure Elsa into making graffiti on the castle. Ok, ok, so maybe this wasn’t meant to be analyzed with such scrutiny, but I can’t shake that this could’ve gone a little different.
Despite this nitpicking, the brief ceremony is a delight. It peppers in clever phrases from Frozen‘s script throughout its dialogue and includes pleasant orchestral versions of Frozen songs and Christmas tunes alike in what is basically an eight minutes of stalled anticipation for the lights to follow.
The spectacle itself is still the same as it’s always been since 2007. The lights are no different, and are beautiful as ever. Simply the “turning on” ceremony each night is now void of Cinderella. Will Elsa be convicted of trespassing charges this year?
3) Frozen — Live at the Hyperion Disney California Adventure (2016-present)
If A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration at Disney’s Hollywood Studios swerves expectations in an underwhelming (yet endearingly quirky) way, Frozen — Live at the Hyperion at Disney California Adventure swerves expectations in an overwhelming way. It’s practically a mini Broadway musical, clocking in at 55 minutes and with the costuming and production value of anything you’d hope to find in New York.
Interestingly, in the performance I attended, most of the jokes were met with minimal laughter. It would stand to reason that as many times audiences in the room have seen Frozen over and over, hearing the same jokes simply aren’t funny anymore. However, this could’ve just been the show I was at and not a common issue.
Though it’s nearly flawless, Frozen — Live at the Hyperion holds a sour reputation among some for replacing the phenomenal Aladdin —A Musical Spectacular, which had performed in this space since 2003 and did vary up its script with different material and even topical jokes for Genie based on current events.
2) Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Fantasy Tokyo Disneyland (2015-2018)
Imagine Frozen Summer Fun from Disney’s Hollywood Studios on steroids. Or, perhaps more realistically, with a much bigger budget. That’s what Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Fantasy was at Tokyo Disneyland. This was a seasonal Frozen festival on a grand scale that honestly put Hollywood Studios to shame. With a stronger parade, more park-wide activities, and more impressive fireworks, this celebration lasted four years, with its final season ending last year in 2018. Its big claim to fame? This was the only place in any Disney park to date where you could see Prince Hans.
1.) Frozen Ever After Epcot (2016-present)
Out this entire list, this is the only item to be a ride. Everything else is some form of live entertainment. Because of the investment and longevity that comes with building a permanent ride as well as the trajectory of influence this particular ride set into motion, it makes the top of our countdown as #1.
Frozen Ever After is a boat ride taking place after the events of Frozen. It’s “winter in summer” day, celebrating the day on the calendar that Anna saved Elsa with an act of true love. To commemorate, we’re invited to take a boat tour of Arendelle. Along the way, we see plenty of familiar faces and even hear a few familiar tunes. This structure is unique from most classic Disney rides of this same style in that Frozen Ever After doesn’t simply retell the events from Frozen, though the nature of it is so similar that if you’re not paying close attention, you might think it does that anyway.
With stellar Audio-Animatronics figures and even a bit of thrill, Frozen Ever After is one of Epcot’s best attractions.
The context surrounding the ride is particularly curious, though. It replaced Maelstrom, a longstanding ride celebrating Norwegian culture. Despite being located within the Norway pavilion and even using the same track layout as Maelstrom, Frozen Ever After doesn’t even try to work in Norwegian heritage into its narrative. At first, this seemed to be a departure of form for Epcot. Now that we’re a few years after its opening and we know what Disney’s building next, though, the ride was actually a taste of a new era for Epcot, one less occupied with education and more focused on characters. Future attractions will bring Ratatouille to the France pavilion and Mary Poppins to the United Kingdom pavilion. Elsewhere in the park, a Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster will open (though that, at least, has been promised to include educational value somewhere within it). Whether this new direction for Epcot is exciting or apocalyptic depends on who you ask, but the park is for certain in the middle of a transformation toward a new version of itself, and one might point the beginning of that transformation back to Frozen.
It should come as no surprise that, now being an established staple of the Disney fold, Frozen is continuing to be used, perhaps now even more than ever. Following Epcot’s lead, multiple permanent attractions are currently in development for Disney theme parks around the world.
At Hong Kong Disneyland, a new Frozen area will include a replica of Frozen Ever After along with an all-new ride, Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs. Disney says the ride “begins when you visit Oaken’s infamous store. Then, Olaf and Sven help pull your sled to the top of the lift before sending you on your way.” It appears to be similar in function to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom, though that is pure speculation.
Disneyland Paris will welcome a Frozen land to its Walt Disney Studios park that will include a restaurant and, mysteriously, an attraction inside Arendelle’s neighboring mountain range…!
In 2022, Tokyo DisneySea will open “magical springs that lead to a world of Disney fantasy,” which include locales based on Peter Pan, Tangled, and Frozen. Imagine a high-tech Fantasyland and I think we’re on the right track. Frozen’s involvement in this new port include a boat ride (unconfirmed to be Frozen Ever After or not) and a restaurant inside the Arendelle castle.
Have you experienced any of these Frozen attractions? Which would you be most excited to visit?
Blake is a scriptwriter at Elevation Church, where he develops documentary shorts and creative elements as part of the film team. He graduated Appalachian State University studying Electronic Media Production and is an alumni of the Disney College Program. Blake’s favorite films are Mary Poppins, The Lion King, and Toy Story 3. You can find him on Twitter (@blake_242) and visit his blog at blakeonline.com.