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.

15 years of Walt Disney Studios – A happy future to come?

Front Lot in Summer

On March 16th 2017, the Walt Disney Studios Park will turn 15 years old. The park opened in 2002 with much fanfare and hype after having being planned even before the opening of Disneyland Park. The reality, however, was a barebones park with very little in the way of attractions and a very basic opening roster. Today we may associate the park with the overpowering images of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, but its easy to forget that this attraction did not actually exist in 2002. In fact, when exiting Studio 1 you were immediately faced with Studio Tram Tour and very little else. But is the park actually any good?

Front Lot in Summer

The Walt Disney Studios Park is not bad

The overarching consensus online is that the Walt Disney Studios park is not a good experience. And whilst yes the park is littered with problems (and more than any Disney park ever should have), it is not a terrible way to spend part of your day. Is it as good at Disneyland Park? No, not even close but considerable work has gone into the park over the past 15 years in an attempt to fix the mistakes of the past. The first big expansion came in 2007 when Toon Studios opened featuring Crush’s Coaster and Cars Quatre Roues Rallye as well as a small photo location. A year later in 2008 the Tower of Terror was officially inaugurated and with it a Hollywood style street area around it. 2010 saw Toy Story Playland and 2014 was the year that Ratatouille and La Place de Rémy arrived.

La Place de Rémy

There are quality attractions in the park, there are also some very fun shows and now a fantastic place to have a meal. For pure thrill seekers, Walt Disney Studios is probably even the preferred park. When it comes to theme, there is work to be done. Front Lot is such a positive and inspirational opening to a park, it is a genuinely pleasant place to visit. The issues come after that. The park is very much designed with minimal greenery making it reasonably easy to maintain but gives a less than ideal aesthetic value.

Nobody should discount the experience that Walt Disney Studios offers, should it not be there it is likely that it would be missed.

So what’s wrong?

The park was opened with a vision of going behind the scenes in a working film studio; the problem there was that film studios aren’t designed to be attractive places. That’s fine for a film studio, less fine for an amusement park. Disneyland Paris have done their absolute best to fix this by creating new experiences in themed mini-lands.

Backlot - Walt Disney Studios Park

This has lead to a new issue. The park is now littered with good experiences but has moved further and further away from the working studio theme  and has become a patchwork of theme. The good news, however, is that this is very fixable.

The next 15 years…

The future is bright for this second gate in Paris. The patchwork of theme could work if executed correctly. It will take a lot of creative direction from Walt Disney Imagineering, a lot of investment and some new experiences. The future of the Walt Disney Studios park should be important to every Disneyland Paris fan. A failing second gate will negatively affect the resort and bring the experience globally down. Disneyland Paris have never allowed Walt Disney Studios to get that bad, in fact they actively try to fix the errors of the past.

Hollywood Tower Hotel - Walt Disney Studios, Paris

The next 15 years of the park will see further investment and potentially a big increase in investment to bring the park up to the Disney standard. It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride, but that can only be a good thing!