Frozen 2: An Enchanted Journey – Review

Anna, Elsa and Kristoff invite guests to celebrate Frozen 2 – but is the show living up to the expectations of the film?

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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.

What can other Disney Parks tell us about the WDS expansion?

Star Wars Land model at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World

The Walt Disney Studios expansion will be unique to Paris, let’s look at other Disney parks to see what we might get.

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Exciting times ahead for the Walt Disney Studios Park

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Star Wars Land

Upon its opening in 2002, it’s fair to say that the Walt Disney Studios Park has left something to be desired. The park was the victim of a lack of real investment, patchwork theme and an overall vision that seemed lost and confused. Since then Disneyland Paris have put a lot of effort into fixing this problem, and to their credit much of it has worked, including the recent expansion of La Place de Rémy in 2014. However, many of the issues remained and have been difficult to fix without a significant investment on the level of Disney’s California Adventure.

Tuesday 27th February 2018 was the day that the fortunes of this half-day Park were radically transformed. Bob Iger (Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company) announced with Emmanuel Macron (President of the French Republic) an investment of €2 billion in the Marne-la-Vallée resort which is to be used to overhaul the Walt Disney Studios Park and to effectively double its size. The plan focuses on extension, theme and the incorporation of 3 much-loved IPs into the park including Marvel, Star Wars and Frozen as well as an expansion to Toy Story Playland (2010).

Robert Iger and Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace
©PHILIPPE SERVENT / PRESIDENCE DE LA REPUBLIQUE

It’s time to dig into this in deliciously geeky detail and look at what the future holds for fans of Disneyland Paris.

Front Lot

Front Lot was always an area of the park that seemed to work, the glamour and excitement of Hollywood beckoned guests and truly does offer a lot of promise. Studio 1 was always the odd part of this set up; in the new concept art Studio 1 remains but is radically transformed and looks more fitting to the 1930s aesthetic that fits the look and feel of Front Lot.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Front Lot

I’m glad the soul of Front Lot is getting a boost rather than a subtraction. Obviously we cannot see inside Studio 1, but we can only hope that an overhaul is planned here to coincide with this new classy look of Front Lot. Exiting Studio 1 will now reveal an exceptional vista that will be difficult to beat in any Disney Park.

Toon Studio

Not much changes here, the classic Art of Animation building remains, as does Animagique Theater, Crush’s Coaster, Cars: Quatre Roues Rallaye, and Flying Carpets over Agrabah. Further round, Toy Story Playland and La Place de Rémy remain. This area was always one of the strengths of the park, so seeing little change here comes as very little surprise. It does look that the general criticism of the Walt Disney Studios Park has been ameliorated somewhat with increased greenery.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Toon Studio

The big news here is an increase in size of Toy Story Playland with what looks to be a new attraction (much like the Alien Swirling Saucers attraction coming to Walt Disney World this year). Whilst the expansion of Toy Story Playland doesn’t seem overly necessary, the new attraction is very similar to the Cars attraction and is nevertheless welcome.

Production Courtyard

Again, there’s not a huge amount of change here. Studio Theatre remains pretty much untouched and the biggest surprise was that The Hollywood Tower Hotel looks set to remain welcoming guests. The only question mark hangs over the old Disney Channel building which does look a little different but no detail was provided as to what will become of it. It seems likely that it will become part of the MARVEL area of the park.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Production Courtyard

MARVEL

Backlot will be unrecognisable following this redevelopment. In its place a MARVEL area which looks to feature at least 4 big attractions (including the recently announced Iron Man takeover of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster). Departing are Armageddon: Les effets spéciaux and Moteurs Action… Stunt Show Spectacular, a move that fans are unlikely to bemoan.

The Stunt Show stands are still clearly visible in this concept art, which would make sense if we are to get a new stunt show based on the Avengers. The same applies for Armageddon, the building looks to be staying but with new hosts. Next to Armageddon is a new building and a Quinjet, which look as if they close off the path behind the Tower of Terror; unfortunately this will likely see us lose a piece of Disney history in Café des Cascadeurs.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Marvel Land

On the left hand side of this land stood the two restaurants: Restaurant des Stars and Disney’s Blockbuster Cafe. These look to have been removed in exchange for a more flashy building exterior, the building is pretty sizeable and so could welcome something of a reasonable size.

The look and feel of the area is very modern yet sleek and so could easily pass off as futuristic and whilst we know the Marvel look is coming we have very little idea as to what these buildings will contain. The incorporation of MARVEL into a previously unsightly area of the park is an ideal fix and does improve dramatically the biggest issue facing Walt Disney Studios Park. A comprehensive MARVEL themed zone in Paris as well as the new hotel will be a significant draw for fans of MARVEL and could very well see Paris as THE place to be for MARVEL fans.

STAR WARS

Remember looking on jealously when Star Wars Land got announced for Walt Disney World and Disneyland? Remember that jealousy bring upped when it became Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Batuu? Then seeing it in Star Tours in Paris? Now, we will shortly be able to boast our own Star Wars land!

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Star Wars Land

On the concept art the land looks to be smaller than its American counterparts, but this could easily just be the artist impression and not wanting to show us everything. The architecture of the land does look very similar with its canyons and yellow domes, we can also spot a black X-Wing sitting there. Again, we have no indication as to what to expect from this land in the way of attractions, the US Star Wars areas will contain multiple attractions, shops and restaurants and it is difficult to see Paris deviating from this model.

Interactive experiences were mentioned by Bob Iger as he announced this expansion and so we can only hope that Star Wars will take full advantage of this. It’s thrilling to see this land being incorporated into Disneyland Paris and it will undoubtedly be incredibly popular upon opening. Star Wars is a huge franchise and its representation at Disneyland Paris has always been strong, but this is next level which Paris needed to match when faced with its American cousins. It looks like the challenge has been raised and met and this will become an integral part of the expansion upon completion.

FROZEN

Potentially the biggest Disney animated film ever finally gets a land in the Walt Disney Studios Park, this decision simply makes sense. The Frozen theme fits perfectly with the idea of creating an immersive landscape featuring potentially shops, restaurants and a big attraction. Imagine being able to eat dinner in the company of Anna and Elsa in Arendelle, this could be the potential big money spinner.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Star Wars Land

On a level of this concept art, we can see both the castle of Arendelle, a little village and Else’s Ice Castle which will be directly opposite the park entrance, something that will provide a stunning vista upon leaving Studio 1. The land looks much like the proposed Hong Kong Frozen land which, when we dive into Hong Kong concept art, gives us a clue as to what will be featured here. Frozen has a ton of characters that each provide a deep layer of the Arendelle universe to explore and in addition, by the time this area of the park opens we will have a Frozen sequel that will be able to be built into this area.

Frozen is a natural choice and rounds off the new lands in perfect style, the visual of the ice castle emerging will provide a stunning backdrop to the Walt Disney Studios Park and means that there truly is something in this expansion for everyone.

Lakes and Landscaping

But new lands are not where this expansion and investment ends, a large criticism of WDS was the lack of landscaping. These criticisms have been completely brushed away with the increase in size with more room afforded to greenery but most importantly (and impressively) a lake will be built as a hub for the park. The lake will become a wonderful and beautiful part of the park which will likely see shows performed on it and the route around the lake seems as if it will be given a parade.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Star Wars LandThe lake looks to be absolutely stunning, and is an interesting enough shape. Walking around it is likely to be an absolute pleasure. It looks as if a lot of effort has gone into making the park LOOK good and feel like a pleasant place to be, obviously this is just a concept and things can and will change but as a statement of intent it is impressive.

Walt Disney Studios Redevelopment - Star Wars Land

OVERALL THOUGHTS

We have been crying out for years for something like this (in fact, anything that would make the Parisian second gate better), and now it is here it feels a little overwhelming. I will admit that I’m still sitting grinning with delight over this expansion and will continue to do so for years to come. Many will have feared that an expansion would see only Marvel or Star Wars properties coming to the park, but not the case as Disneyland Paris really is catering for all fans.

Walt Disney Studios Park - Redevelopment concept art

Equally important is that from what we so far know, this investment will be predominately for the Walt Disney Studios Park, Disneyland Park will not be touched by this large investment of intellectual property. There is something pure about this, Disneyland Park has a lot of soul and whilst it would be fantastic to see investment head there, the Studios needs it and is the ideal place to incorporate all these IPs in a way that feels cohesive and sensible. The park will look and feel fantastic and that is a win for everybody.

The rollout of these changes will be from 2020 – 2025 and undoubtedly there will be a gradual influx of news as we go. Disneyland Paris is transitioning from a future of ‘what is happening next, there is nothing on the horizon’ to being genuinely one of the most exciting Disney developments ever.

It’s going to be a fun ride, and I can’t wait to share all the information and opinions (and listen to your views) as we go along.


ED92 Podcast Promo - WDS ExpansionTo discuss this large re-development of the Walt Disney Studios park, I was invited onto the ED92 podcast to join ED92‘s Ben, CuriousAxel and Michael McNeela. The podcast is avaliable now to download on all good podcasting networks including the Apple Podcasts app

How much Frozen is too much Frozen?

Anna in Disney Magic on Parade

There is always a lot of talk about the latest hype item and its place (or normally lack of it) in Disneyland Paris. In November 2013, Disneyland Paris updated its parade to include characters from the film Frozen. At this time, these characters were dubbed as being from ‘the upcoming film’. Here we are three years on and the Frozen characters have created a polemic. So how much Frozen is too much?

What is there at Disneyland Paris?

Since November 2013, the Frozen sisters have enjoyed their time on Disney Magic on Parade daily. The section of the parade consists of half a float decorated in a Frozen landscape with a small Olaf waving to his fans. This float replaced The Little Mermaid section of the parade.

During the Christmas season Disney Dreams! becomes Disney Dreams! of Christmas which has a very heavy Frozen plotline. Olaf hosts the show which features multiple numbers from the film’s soundtrack. The show is widely regarded as a lesser version of the main Disney Dreams! show, but still delights guests and sets a wonderful Christmas tone to end a magical park day.

Olaf during Disney Dreams! of Christmas

Merchandise. Lots of it. Frozen is the hit film of the moment, guests love it and it still makes a fortune in merchandise sales. It only makes sense that Disneyland Paris follows up on this. The merchandise is mostly targeted at the child audience and there is very little in the way of adult merchandise.

So what about Frozen Summer Fun?

In 2015 Disneyland Paris debuted a new season based on the film. Frozen Summer Fun could really be described more as a ‘mini-season’ than a full-scale season in the same vein as Spring, Halloween or Christmas but manages to pack in various fun elements that makes it a joy to take part in.

Elsa in Frozen Sing along
Elsa in Frozen Sing along

Frozen Sing-along, which also takes place as part of Disney’s Enchanted Christmas, is a fun show that takes place in both English and French. It’s not a show on the same scale as Mickey and the Magician and so it would be unfair to judge it using the same criteria. What it does is done very well and provides a really fun 30 minutes with the film’s characters and songs.

There are also opportunities to see the characters in a carriage ride and in Disney Dreams! with the inclusion of the hit song Let it go!

So is this too much Frozen?

Put simply. No.

Frozen is the franchise that makes Disney a stack of cash for the moment. Will it always be this way? Probably, the success seems to have sustained so far and will only increase with the sequel in a few years time. It is realistic to say that Frozen will remain popular for years to come.

Frozen Summer Fun will not be back next year, but what can Disneyland Paris do to create a real presence for Anna and Elsa?

Boosting the Frozen presence

Anna and Elsa need to be characters that guests can meet. Disneyland Paris tried this during the 2014 Christmas season and it simply didn’t work – or rather it did but Disneyland Paris refuse to admit to this as the princesses gained such long queues they were deemed to be too popular.

Anna in Disney Magic on Parade

So how do we control this? Anna and Elsa need to be placed inside the Auberge de Cendrillon and you would have a guaranteed sell out for each and every sitting. Ideally, a Frozen ride would be a fantastic addition, but I would also very much like to see a musical much like the one that has recently debuted in Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.

When does it get too much?

This is the million dollar question. A question that has no answer. When Toy Story is considered, we seem rather ambivalent towards it. Recently, a new Toy Story puppet show debuted in The Lucky Nugget Saloon and we didn’t say ‘Woah, too much now’ despite the fact it has 4 rides, a land, a restaurant (technically, even though it is pretty much closed down), numerous meet and greets, a large merchandise line and parade inclusion.

There’s no such thing as too much as long as the execution is right, the characters are good and it’s not too much in your face. So let’s look forward to more Frozen in the parks. And as soon as possible – please?