ANAHEIM, Calif. — After the success of Disney’s 2013 movie “Frozen” and its introduction of Arendelle sisters Elsa and Anna, it’s largely forgotten that an early trailer for the movie didn’t even show Elsa and Anna; it was all about Olaf the snowman and reindeer Sven.
Disney, burned by animated box office disappointments (think: “The Princess and the Frog”), resorted to a don’t-say-princess (or musical) marketing strategy to try to draw more boys to its animated films.
“Frozen” turned out to be such a huge hit that it’s unclear whether Disneyphiles were more excited for the live-action “Cinderella” movie opening [last week] or the “Frozen” short, “Frozen Fever,” that was tacked onto the front of “Cinderella.” “Frozen Fever” tells a story about Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) throwing a birthday party for her sister, Anna (Kristen Bell). There are hiccups in Elsa’s plan when she comes down with a magic-influenced cold in this seven-minute sequel short that includes a new song from the team that wrote “Let it Go” for “Frozen.”
The across-the-board success of “Frozen” — the film has raked in $400 million to date domestically, making it the No. 3 release at the box office in 2013 — perhaps caught Disney executives off guard. The movie opened Nov. 22, 2013, and there weren’t a lot of “Frozen”-themed tie-ins at Florida’s Walt Disney World or California’s Disneyland at Christmas 2013.
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But the appetite for “Frozen” from park visitors was real in late 2013 and early 2014: The wait for meet-and-greets with Elsa and Anna could often be estimated in hours, not minutes. But now there should be plenty of “Frozen” to satisfy Elsa and Anna aficionados.
Walt Disney World
Meet-and-greet opportunities with the sisters from Arendelle occur inside Princess Fairytale Hall in the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland.
The pair also appear in the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade and the “Celebrate the Magic” nighttime projection show at Magic Kingdom.
The Maelstrom ride at the Norway pavilion at Epcot closed last year to get a makeover as a “Frozen”-themed ride, but that overhaul isn’t expected to be complete until early 2016.
The “Frozen” E-ticket attraction is “For the First Time in Forever: a ‘Frozen’ Sing-Along Celebration” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Arendelle’s royal historians recount the “Frozen” story, aided by clips from the movie on a big screen. The singalong also features actors playing some of the film’s most popular characters on stage, including Elsa, Anna and Kristoff.
“For the First Time in Forever” also can be found at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif., where it has taken over the Muppet Vision 3D theater as part of the “Frozen Fun” festival in the park’s Hollywood Land.
The actors playing Arendelle historians in the singalong go for laughs by incorporating bits of song lyrics into their dialogue (“There were frozen fractals all around,” one says) and toss in references to other Disney properties (“Once upon a time, a cute little clownfish … A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”).
And while the sudsy snow that falls from the theater rafters and other lighting and visual effects may awe some in the audience, just getting to sing the “Frozen” songs at the top of one’s lungs may be the primary appeal to many “Frozen” fanatics.
The California parks offer more “Frozen” tie-ins than Florida thanks to “Frozen Fun,” which runs through May 15 at Disney California Adventure. (It departs in May in favor of the Diamond Celebration for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary that begins May 22 and features the first nighttime all-LED light parade, “Paint the Night,” a new fireworks show at Disneyland and a new “World of Color” nighttime fountain show at DCA.)
The “Frozen”-themed “Freeze the Night” evening street party at DCA, featuring chain saw ice sculptors, will revert to the “Alice in Wonderland”-themed “Mad T Party” in May but the “For the First Time in Forever” singalong will continue indefinitely.
Olaf’s Snow Fest, which began with the advent of “Frozen Fun” at DCA in January, continues through at least April. Housed in Stage 17, a building usually reserved for special events, Olaf’s Snow Fest features a field of icy snow for guests to play in, a short sledding hill and the opportunity to meet Olaf.
Anna and Elsa greet DCA park visitors in the Disney Animation building in Hollywood Land. Visit early in the day to collect a return time for meeting the royals of Arendelle. (These meet-and-greets will continue beyond May.) In the same location the Animation Academy teaches park guests how to draw animated characters, including Olaf and the “Frozen” snow monster, Marshmallow.
At Disneyland, a Royal Theatre show in Fantasy Faire features Renaissance Vaudevillians Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones retelling the “Frozen” story, dressing up as some of the characters and greeting guest stars Anna and Elsa, who also appear on a float that precedes the afternoon “Mickey’s Soundsational Parade.”
Actor Josh Gad, a 2003 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, provided the voice for Olaf in “Frozen” and marvels at the movie’s influence, especially when he visits the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
“I can’t tell you how wonderfully rewarding that is growing up in South Florida and going to Disney all the time as a kid and now to see a walking character version of this persona I created is the coolest thing ever,” he said, “and to share that with my daughter is doubly rewarding.”
Gad said he continues to record the voice of Olaf for attractions at the Disney parks.
“I could easily pass on those things if I wanted to because it’s not like they’re huge paydays, despite what you might think,” he said in January while promoting his upcoming FX series “The Comedians.” “It’s more that I feel an ownership of the character, and I don’t want kids to be confused, saying, ‘Why does Olaf sound like a completely different person?’ As long as I can retain this youthful vocal intonation I have, I’ll keep doing it. It’s always fun.”
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If you go for ‘Frozen’ fun ...
Magic Kingdom: Meet-and-greets with Elsa and Anna inside Princess Fairytale Hall; see the pair in the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade and the “Celebrate the Magic” nighttime projection show.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: “For the First Time in Forever: a ‘Frozen’ Sing-Along Celebration.”
Ticket details: https//Disneyworld.disney.go.com/tickets
Disneyland: Renaissance Vaudevillians re-tell the “Frozen” story with an assist from Anna and Elsa at the Royal Theatre in Fantasy Faire. Anna and Elsa also ride.
Disney California Adventure: “Frozen Fun” runs through May 15, including Olaf’s Snow Fest and “Freeze the Night” evening street party. “For the First Time in Forever: a ‘Frozen’ Sing-Along Celebration” and “Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome” meet-and-greet will run indefinitely.
Ticket details: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/tickets
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