Frozen Ever After has been controversial ever since it was announced. Though characters have been slowly creeping in to Epcot's World Showcase over the past two decades, they’ve been implemented alongside real world locations, which has seemed like a happy compromise between the original vision for the World Showcase and the growing popularity of film-based animated characters (and of course Disney's need for corporate synergy in the parks). Though the film Frozen was inspired by the country of Norway, this country is never mentioned in Frozen Ever After.
While this is certainly a thematic issue for the larger World Showcase, when taken by itself, Frozen Ever After is a triumph. And here’s why:
1. It’s the story you know, but it is not a book report
One of the biggest blunders in Walt Disney World’s history was not capitalizing on the success of animated hit The Little Mermaid in the early 1990s. And though Disney attempted to fix its mistake in 2012 with the opening of Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, many fans have criticized this attraction as being lazy, essentially hitting all of the bullet points from the film without adding anything new or interesting.
With this in mind, the challenge for Imagineers working on Frozen Ever After was to create a ride that allowed guests to relive favorite moments from Frozen without simply re-telling the story of the film. And fortunately, clever Imagineers have found an ingenious way to do just that.
The events of Frozen Ever After take place during a “summer snow day” which is a holiday in the country of Arendelle that commemorates the events of the first Frozen film without simply retelling them. We’ll get more into this on the next page, but if you are trying to avoid spoilers know this: during Frozen Ever After riders experience some of their favorite moments from Frozen in this new attraction, but they won’t be exactly how you remember them, which is a very good thing.
2. Disney has raised the bar for animatronics, again
Back when the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opened back in 2014, fans marveled at the animated animatronics that were used in this hybrid roller coaster-dark ride. And Disney has evolved this technology for Frozen Ever After, continuing to use animated faces for characters like Anna, Elsa and Kristoff that replicate the look of the film on these character's faces. However, it's not just these characters' faces that look like the film. Animatronic movements are extremely fluid, and Elsa in particular pulls off some surprisingly complex hand gestures during the Let it Go sequence that must be seen to be believed.
3. Olaf might be the most impressive animatronic ever created
Now that we're in spoiler territory (final warning!), one of the most impressive parts of Frozen Ever After comes right as the beginning, as Olaf welcomes guests to the "Summer Snow Day" and informs riders that they will be traveling to Elsa's ice castle. This animatronic may be small in stature, but the range of moment is impressive, as Olaf bounces and moves around in an extremely fluid way. If you haven't been on the attraction yet, you can check out this on-ride video for a quick look at Olaf. Prepare to be impressed.
4. The Let it Go sequence might be one of the most thrilling moments in a Disney dark ride, ever
No matter whether you love it or hate it, Let it Go is a powerful, anthemic song that is packed with emotion. Designing a ride sequence that was able to live up to the feelings inspired by Let it Go in the Frozen film must have been a daunting task for Imagineers working on this ride. However, as riders enter Elsa's ice castle and hear those familiar notes, Elsa move her arms to summon the ice castle walls (as she does in the film) and then uses her ice powers to send guests backwards on their boats with ice walls rising around them as the music crescendos, creating one of the most powerful and emotionally affecting moments in any Disney dark ride. As the music dies down, a quick blast of fog brings guests back outside the castle walls, where Marshmallow (and dozens of adorable snowgies) are waiting to put your boat back on course.
While its true that Maelstrom fans may find this sequence very familiar thanks to the identical track used for this ride, Frozen Ever After actually makes the backwards and forwards boat movements feel more deliberate than Maelstrom ever did. The trolls sending you backwards was certainly interesting, but there was never any real narrative reason for it, and while whizzing backwards past a polar bear was certainly fun, this experience can't really measure up to the feeling of watching an ice castle form around you while listening to one of the most anthemic songs ever created.
5. Everything old is new again
One of the big complaints about the aforementioned Little Mermaid ride at the Magic Kingdom is that this attraction shuffles riders from musical setpiece to musical setpiece, without much explanation in an effort to cram all of this film's greatest hits into a single attraction that guests can sing along to.
However, since Frozen Ever After takes place after the movie and is a "celebration" of the events of the film, there's no such pressure to get guests from song to song as quickly as possible. However, knowing how popular the tunes are from this film, Imagineers have wisely decided to include new versions of some of Frozen fans' favorite numbers with new lyrics sung by the original voice cast of the film. So, for instance, For the First Time in Forever, is now sung by Anna and Kristoff right before guests enter Elsa's ice castle and feature lyrics about the "Frozen Fun" that awaits riders within the castle. And during a reprise of "In Summer" at the end of the ride, Olaf is joined by Anna and Elsa in their Frozen Fever outfits, who are now singing along to this classic song as well. Though the tunes are familiar, the lyrics and singers have changed, which makes the soundtrack for this attraction feel fresh, even for those who have heard all these songs dozens of times before.
While it's probably true that Frozen Ever After doesn't technically "belong" in the World Showcase, putting location issues aside, the ride that Disney has created in this space is nothing short of amazing. From the fluid motion of the cutting edge animatronics to the new songs and thrilling Let it Go sequence, this is one ride that really hits all the right notes. While we were worried when this attraction was first announced that Disney was cutting corners with a quickie overlay of Maelstrom in an effort to get a Frozen ride in Walt Disney World as soon as possible, we're happy to report that nothing about this attraction feels "cheap" or rushed. In fact Frozen Ever After might just be the best Walt Disney World dark ride to be constructed in the past decade.
Have you been on Frozen Ever After yet? What do you think of this new attraction?
Source: Theme Park Tourist
Banner Photo Credit: Disney