Frozen: A Musical Invitation – REVIEW

Disneyland Paris was a pioneer in Frozen entertainment; it is often too easy to forget this. Back in 2013, before the original film was released, Anna and Elsa made their debut in Disney Magic on Parade, and Olaf was featured prominently in Disney Dreams of Christmas. Here we are, 6 years on and heading into one of the most anticipated films of the year: Frozen 2; and Disneyland Paris is back with a whole season dedicated to our favourite kingdom of Arendelle, but first we have Frozen: A Musical Invitation taking place in the Animation Celebration building at The Walt Disney Studios Park.

A musical tour of Frozen

Disneyland Paris is not reinventing the wheel here, they are simply doing what they know works: giving guests the story and the music of Frozen. However, what is more innovative is the way that it is done.

Starting out in Kristoff’s barn, Kristoff and Sven (yes, Sven is here too!) are preparing to go to sleep when Princess Anna arrives wanting to put on a surprise celebration for Elsa. The big surprise is that the whole of Arendelle, that’s us, are invited up to the North Mountain and into Elsa’s ice castle. Anna teaches us the dance moves so that we can surprise Elsa with a beautiful performance of Let it Go.

Kristoff and Sven in a barn during Frozen: A Musical Invitation

Suddenly, it is time to head to the Ice Castle, we walk into the next room to find this beautiful ice castle alongside Anna and Kristoff. Olaf arrives, on a screen, and suddenly so does Elsa. We then enjoy signing and dancing to Let it Go before a rendition of Love is an Open Door sends us on our way.

Elsa's Ice Castle in Frozen: A Musical Invitation

The show is fast paced enough to keep guests happy, and also to not make feet tired as we are all standing during the show. The large Sven on stage in the first room is certainly a highlight – he is very animated and even dances to Let it Go as well. Everything about the first room is a delight and a pure pleasure to look at. The second room is less visually impressive and the screen-based Olaf does take away something as well. The vocal performance of Elsa also seems to be an issue; this is unsurprising as Idina Menzel’s voice is so unique and strong – even Mickey and the Magician struggles here.

Anna and Elsa in the Ice Castle in Frozen: A Musical Invitation

A special mention needs to go to some of the music within the show, there is one particular version of Let it Go which sounds more rustic and folky, it’s a real success. The music, which is one of the key successes of the show, was recorded by a full orchestra at London’s Abbey Road Studios and 68 musicians around 24 hours to record the full 23 minute show and is something that Disneyland Paris is, quite rightly, proud of.

An intimate show

What is most striking about Frozen: A Musical Invitation is just how intimate it feels. Even towards the back of the room, you are just a few metres away from Anna, Elsa and the rest of the gang and so you feel intensely involved with all the action unfolding and that the characters are addressing you personally.

Anna in Kristoff's Barn in Frozen: A Musical Invitation

It is a truly wonderful feeling that differentiates it from any other show in Disneyland Paris.

A pre-show that maintains its heart

One of the best features of the old Art of Disney Animation was the pre-show room which was home to a wonderful mini-exhibition describing the history of animation from the Cavemen right up to Disney films. This room is wonderfully curated that provides a distraction whilst you wait for the show to begin.

The Multi-Plane Camera at Animation Celebration in Disneyland Paris

Fans of the multi-plane camera, that was such a wonderful feature of the original use of this building, has returned in its old position – we were worried that it would leave Paris and so it is wonderful to see it remain.

Meet and Greets, Drawing, Shops and a Zoetrope

The post-show at Animation Celebration keeps the feeling that there is a lot to do. The Animation Academy has returned, complete with a wonderful new mural that celebrates Disney animation.

Animation Academy at Disneyland Paris' Animation Celebration.

A meet and greet location has also been added to Animation Celebration, this is currently (and perhaps unsurprisingly) occupied by Olaf from Frozen. These meets are reservable through the Liberty application 15 minutes prior to the start of the meet and greet. You also must be in the Disney Parks in order to make a reservation.

Olaf Meet and Greet at Animation Celebration at Disneyland Paris

It makes sense to have a meet and greet in this space, and that we have a Frozen meet and greet for the first time in forever!

A boutique has also been re-opened here, the interior is uninspired but sells Frozen merchandise.

Finally, the Toy Story Zoetrope that was originally in Disney California Adventure has made it to Paris. Inside this dark room, you’ll see how a static model and lighting can bring animation to life – which is also how your brain interprets images on a screen. This Zoetrope is brilliant and something I’m likely to stop by and look at often.

A brilliant addition to The Walt Disney Studios Park

Animation Celebration and Frozen: A Musical Invitation are both brilliant additions to The Walt Disney Studios Park. They fill a Frozen shaped void in Disneyland Paris (which will, once again, be filled in 2023(TBC) with a whole land dedicated to Frozen.

One thing we do know is that it seems Frozen is in safe hands in Disneyland Paris.

The magic of enchanting live entertainment

The closure of a much-loved show is a sad occasion. The 31st January 2016 saw tbe definitive closure of Animagique in the Walt Disney Studios Park. The show, which was part of the opening day line-up in March 2002, involved performers, who for several shows a day, performed in a dark-light theatre style. The closure came as little surprise, how often does a show complete a fourteen-year run in a theme park? In fact, the only piece of live entertainment at Disneyland Paris that has run longer can also be found in the Walt Disney Studios Park, Moteurs… Action Stunt Show Spectacular although this show has seen some changes since it was first introduced to the park fourteen-years ago.

Animagique Finale at Disneyland Paris
Animagique Finale at Disneyland Paris

Animagique was a rare thing for a show, it’s long run was not something that impeded it; it never felt old or boring, rather it was show that enchanted audiences on each and every showing. One thing that can always be said about Animagique was that it was extremely rare to participates in a showing with a near-empty theatre, quite the accomplishment for a theme park that runs 365 days per year no matter what the temperature or weather conditions outside. It may have been cold outside but inside it was toasty and warm, the cast members working the show had a smile on their faces and were always willing to welcome you to their theatre where Disney friends were bound to put a large grin on even the sternest face.

Disneyland Paris has a very rich history of shows, so much so that it seems odd now to think that in recent years there was something of a live entertainment drought. Little did we know that plans were being concocted backstage to bring back the shows with a vengeance. Packing into a theatre seems so integral to a Disney trip, of those who have been fortunate to have been a Disneyland Paris fan for several years, who can forget the Mulan: La légende show? The soundtrack featured heavily on Disneyland Paris music collections, and even now hearing the music I can visualise the amazing performers in my head. Another show I have fond memories of is Pocahontas: Le spectacle. In preparing this article, I made a list of all the shows I can recall in Disneyland Paris history and each and every one of them made me smile like a Cheshire Cat. That’s the magic of Disney.

Pocahontas: Le Spectacle at Disneyland Paris
Pocahontas: Le Spectacle at Disneyland Paris ran from 1996 to 1999

Looking to the past is always a useful exercise. We trade memories over social media of our fond times at the resort, and smile as others mention your personal favourites. And yes whilst in recent years there has been a decline in stage productions, there has always been something else to entertain us away from rides and characters. It is here that I mention that, to me, one of the most important teams at Disneyland Paris are the one that adds the little extra sparkle to any day: the live entertainment teams. Disneyland Paris possesses a wide range of seasons, and none more impressive than Swing into Spring, this musical extravaganza will lift the spirits of all who walk through its gates. The resort possesses eight live music groups which perform on a daily basis in the two Disney parks. These groups add much-needed life and musical joy to each area and inspire the desire to return and watch them again at the earliest opportunity. The Jingle Bell Boys and Hall-o-swing orchestra are two of my favourite musical moments that I have experienced in Disneyland Paris, these street and stage bands add seasonal cheer with their musical talents. The point that is being made here is that Disneyland Paris’s live entertainment is fantastic.

Tangled Scene during the Forest of Enchantment
Tangled Scene during the Forest of Enchantment at Disneyland Paris

What is more, there is reason for optimism! Last week, the newest offering from Disneyland Paris The Forest of Enchantment opened its doors in the Chaparral Theatre following in a long line of high-quality entertainment that has taken place in the Cottonwood Creek area of Frontierland. The show is quite simply fantastic, and the return of live singing to a resort is marvellous. In this show, you will not find miming, you won’t find simple gimmicks designed to pull you in to the show. Instead, you will find a piece of live musical theatre worthy of its name as a Disney production. It brings me right back to the simplicity and heart in Animagique in that all the performers seem to be having such fun and the blend of music is near-perfect. The show calls back through the history of the Chaparral Theatre by including tableaux featuring Tarzan and Pocahontas. The show knows exactly what it needs to be, and then goes beyond it. The new beating heart of Frontierland exudes from the Chaparral theatre.

Mickey and the Magician Concept Art
Mickey and the Magician Concept Art

Beyond this, Mickey and the Magician will fill the theatre once occupied by Animagique, replacing this beloved show is a daunting prospect, but one that will be relished by the Disneyland Paris teams. Already a piece of concept art has been released by the resort giving a glimpse of what to expect come July 2016, the Art Deco atelier looks sublime. The show moves away from black light into a more traditional show medium and that is probably for the best. A show in the same vein as Animagique would probably attract comparison posts which would not allow the new show to breathe in its own space. The show will feature, much like the Forest of Enchantment, a range of Disney characters as Mickey must clean up the magician’s atelier. Time and time again, Disneyland Paris proves it that it has some of the best creative minds in Europe. Nervous about the new show? Don’t be, it’s in good hands and I, for one, cannot wait to see what magic they come up with to enchant us with for the next fourteen years!

Go further!

From Pocahontas to The Forest of Enchantment: 20 years of shows of the Chaparral Theatre Stage – Disneyland Paris News

Final curtain for Animagique before the launch of a new show – Disneyland Paris News

All photos in this article are Copyright Disney