|Princess Anna in the Frozen Royal Coronation Parade // Photo by Maureen Stone|
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL – The biggest surprise of a recent September “Grand Adventure” weekend in Walt Disney World centered on a series of uproarious activities packed into each of the final days of the “Frozen Summer Fun” program at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Crowds of ecstatic Disney guests gathered for four public Frozen-related events each day, and two additional V.I.P. parties were held exclusively for purchasers of a sold-out “Premium Frozen Package.”
|Table display at the Frozen Dessert Party // Photo by Maureen Stone|
The good news for any travel agents and family vacation clients frustrated that the “Frozen Summer Fun” program was scheduled to end in Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Sept. 28, 2014, is the new Disney announcement that Princess Anna, Queen Elsa, Kristoff the iceman, Olaf the snowman and other Frozen supporting characters will return to more than one Disney park in the near future. A sold-out Broadway show rarely closes its run, and the same has proven true of the sold-out Frozen-related summer attractions at Walt Disney World.
Thomas Skaggs, chairman of Disney Parks & Resorts announced in his “Disney Parks Blog” on Sept. 12 that construction will begin on a new and permanent Frozen ride in Epcot later this year. Additionally, several Frozen attractions inspired by the crowds at Summer Frozen Fun will appear this holiday season in the Magic Kingdom and the Hollywood Studios.
“We’ve made ‘Frozen’ a part of the guest experience in a number of ways already and our guests have both loved them and asked for more,” wrote Skaggs. “So I’m pleased to say that we’re starting construction at Walt Disney World Resort on a brand new “Frozen” attraction at the Norway Pavilion in Epcot. The new attraction, which replaces Maelstrom, will take our guests to Arendelle and immerse them in many of their favorite moments and music from the film. The pavilion will also include a royal greeting location where Anna and Elsa can meet our guests. We think these “Frozen” elements are great complements to the Norway Pavilion, which showcases the country and region that inspired the film.”
|Elsa and Anna onstage at The Frozen Sing--Along // Photo by Maureen Stone|
Frozen Events This Christmas Season
Frozen fans in Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, however, need not wait until the Norway ride opens in 2017 in Epcot. Starting this November, according to the Skaggs announcement, Queen Elsa will use her powers each night to transform Cinderella Castle into an ice palace, and Magic Kingdom guests at “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party” will see Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf appear in Mickey’s “Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.”
Additionally, Hollywood Studios guests will see an extended version of the wildly-popular “Frozen Live – For the First Time in Forever; a Frozen Sing-Along Celebration,” according to Skaggs. There will continue to be a Frozen attraction called “Wandering Oaken’s Frozen Funland.” The attraction will have an enlarged ice-covered play area situated closer to the Sing-Along Celebration in Hollywood Studios’ Premier Theater than the prior summer Frozen Funland.
Travel agents who are unfamiliar with the Frozen phenomenon (as was this writer before the “Grand Adventure” experience) may want to do quick research, starting with a viewing of the film and a study of its upcoming Disney Walt Disney World attractions. Frozen may be a best opportunity to earn long-term Disney clients by making them among the first to experience the energy surrounding its superstar characters.
A father in a family of four from Indiana waiting in line for public transportation after the Frozen September attractions in Hollywood Studios may have accurately summed up fan sentiment. “Anna and Elsa are this new generation’s Cinderella,” said the father. “When these kids are older they will look back at these characters in the same way we look back at our earlier favorite Disney characters.”
|Elsa, Anna and Kristoff onstage at the Frozen Sing-Along // Photo by Maureen Stone|
Among the Frozen Summer Fun experiences sure to be available this holiday season, the Sing-Along Celebration ranks as a memory maker. Anna, Elsa Kristoff, Olaf and two “historians” from the Frozen kingdom of Arendelle appear live on stage and present the Frozen film’s highlights on the movie screen behind them, along with each song’s lyrics displayed in subtitles. The audience reaction is just short of a frenzy.
Young audience members’ reaction to Anna and Elsa were comparable to a rock star concert greeting, and their lusty group singing of the film songs created an electric vibe throughout the theater. Young singers, many of whom recited film dialogue as well as song lyrics by heart, raised the volume when time came to wail the now-famous “Let It Go” with Queen Elsa.
|"Ice" Skaters in the Frozen Royal Coronation Parade // Photo by Maureen Stone|
Similar, if not quite so dramatic, experiences occurred at a Royal Welcome coronation parade in which the princesses and their court rode through the heart of Hollywood Studios in their royal carriage to throngs of cheering fans; at a “Wandering Oaken Frozen Funland” inside a sound studio where it was possible to make small snowmen and ice castles in a frozen snow play area or skate on a large ice rink; and at an evening fireworks display, again hosted by the live Princess Anna and Queen Elsa. Real snowflakes, not paper, flew from cannons firing from rooftops about Hollywood Boulevard to sprinkle the happy guest crowds exiting Hollywood Studios at the end of the fireworks show, a magical Disney touch.
V.I.P. Frozen Premium package guests paid $59 per adult or $34 per child for a special viewing area that included Frozen refreshments for the morning parade and a larger Frozen Dessert Party with an assortment of character desserts, and rum-based Frozen drinks available for the adults, before the evening fireworks. Expect these exclusive, special-ticket events to be an optional part of future Frozen programs.
|Autographs from the stars of Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue // Photo by Maureen Stone|
Unfrozen “Grand Adventure” Highlights
There were many other highlights to savor during a preview “Grand Adventure” weekend for grandparents, parents and grandchildren celebrating National Grandparents Day on Sept. 7.
- The “runDisney” team is a Disney sports management group hosting a wide array of fitness-related public and customized activities for guests and groups. Our group participated in a two-mile fun-run and walk through Epcot that proved an early morning treat experiencing the beauty of the park without any other guests. Upcoming runDisney events include the annual “Disney Wine & Dine Half-Marathon Weekend” Nov. 7-9, and the “Princess Cup” girls' soccer tournament, for six-aside teams of girls age 9 to 13, on Oct. 10-12.
- The 40th-Anniversary performances of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Review were performed Sept. 5 in the Frontier Theater at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Fort Wilderness remains one of the best family experiences at Disney. Hoop-Dee-Doo features a fun family stage musical in old west style, characters who spring from the stage to interact with amused audience members, and a generous family-style meal of BBQ pork ribs and fried chicken that compares well with grandma’s best at home. The stage performers generously meet with young audience members for post-show autographs.
- A visit to the horse stables at the Fort Wilderness Resort was a family favorite. General Manager Jose Mola and Tri-Circle D Ranch Zoological Manager Bruce Miller introduced guests to some of the 90 Disney horses housed in the stable barn. With three breeds of draught horses and a collection of 25 ponies the ranch offers guests choices of hay rides, wagon rides, pony rides and carriage rides, most of them at Fort Wilderness stables, but some at the Disney Port Orleans Resort each evening. Special arrangements can be made for group rides, whether or not they are Fort Wilderness guests. Travel agents should remind clients that Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground guests have regular Disney water launch transportation directly to the Magic Kingdom, making it among the most convenient locations for families.
- Other Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground experiences can include walking and hiking on 750 acres; evening campfires with marshmallows, s’mores and singing cowboys, fishing, canoeing, archery and swimming in two popular pools.
|Bruce Miller, zoological manager at Tri-Circle D Stables, with draught horse "Kahn" // Photo by Maureen Stone|
Disney’s Grand Adventure vacations, with more details available at https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/grandparents-grandkids, have the one drawback of offering so many choices that older guests planning visits with children or grandchildren may suffer vertigo in trying to plan it all. The guidance of a Disney expert travel agent to help sort through the details can make the difference between a well-organized optimization of Walt Disney World Vacation time and potential disappointment over missed family preferences among so many available experiences.