Around the World for Anna and Elsaby Jeff Kober, contributing writer
It started quite simply. Another Disney animated feature was coming out, and, like other films, there would be a meet-and-greet with the characters in some thoughtfully themed setting. In the last few years, it was done with Tinker Bell and her friends in each of her new, subsequent releases. It was done with Princess Merida from Brave. And it was done with the gang from Wreck-It Ralph.
Frozen would be no different.
But it was.
On the first day, the Frozen meet-and-greet opened in Norway at Epcot we stepped casually in the line at the very end of the day to meet Anna and Elsa. My daughter had still not seen the movie, so when I mentioned to her that the line would be 20 minutes, she said she didn't want to bother. I figured once she saw the movie, we would pass by in another day or so.
If only we knew.
Within days, guests were storming rope drop at World Showcase. Soon thereafter, long lines surpassed anything at Test Track or Soarin'. People were on Internet message boards talking about how the line was five hours or more. Clearly everyone under-estimated the power of Frozen.
From the character experience point of view, it only made sense to move them into a place that could accomodate bigger queues and also Fastpass+ options. Enter Princess Fairytale Hall in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, which opened only a few months earlier as a home for Rapunzel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Why not put Anna and Elsa there?
Shortly after opening, Fastpass+ reservations went quickly for the two princesses of Arendelle, where reservations seemed largely taken up months in advance. The result was that the standby line was now long at Magic Kingdom.
In years past, the solution for such was to get to the park really early, and be among the first to visit this attraction after "rope drop" (that is, when the park first opens and cast members hold guests back from pushing farther into the park by holding up a rope barrier).
On two occasions, I arrived before 8 a.m. I headed over by resort Monorail. With a "stated 9 a.m." opening, the holding area in front of the floral Mickey quickly filled up. I say a "stated 9 a.m." opening, because rope drop actually occurs sooner than that. Starting with the train show at 8:45 a.m., featuring Mickey and the citizens of Main Street, U.S.A., the rope drop occured more like 8:50 a.m. So, if you think that getting there by 9 a.m. will take care of it, you will be very disappointed. Even by rope drop, the front area is very heavy with traffic.
Entering Town Square, the two individual groups become one as they merge onto Main Street, U.S.A. Throughout this experience, you'll want to keep your party close together. Even though everyone is walking down the street in the same direction, the crowd is intense and it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. At the end of Main Street, U.S.A., there are dozens of more Disney cast members at each spoke of Central Plaza. It doesn't matter if your agenda is Space Mountain or Splash Mountain, you will be walked to that attraction. If your intent is to see Anna and Elsa, you keep moving forward to the castle.
Note, cast members not only keep you from just running right through Central Plaza, but additional cast members at Adventureland, on the far right, guide guests in that direction, as well. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
As you merge and pass through the castle, there is another group ahead of you of about 40-60 people who had breakfast at the Cinderella's Royal Table at the Castle. They are held, as well, but when your group meets with them, they then become the front of the line (don't think you'll get ahead by darting to the right). The entire procession swings around the Prince Charming Regal Carousel and then enters the queue from the back side.
In doing this on both occasions, I managed to stay behind the original rope drop group going in. When the queue to meet Anna and Elsa finally stopped, I was near the doorway between the exterior and interior portion of the queue. Those who had breakfast at the Castle had pretty much filled the interior portion of the queue. I then asked the cast members how long it would take at this point. On one occasion they replied 60 to 90 minutes. On another, they said it would be about 40 to 50 minutes. I returned to Princess Fairytale Hall (30 minutes) later on both occasions and there was a five-hour wait for Anna and Elsa, with a 30-minute wait for the other two princesses. The challenge with Fastpass+, in comparison to the original Fastpass, is that they now begin those times at the first of the day, where before, they had the first guests arriving to get a Fastpass come back later.
Since then I have been able to find lower standby times in the park. Moreover, I've even found Fastpass+ options to see the princesses for the following day. But that was all before a completely new phenomena occured.
Running now through September 1, Frozen Summer Fun Live! has taken over Disney's Hollywood Studios. I was again there on opening day and found crowds as popular as any Star Wars Weekend. Yet this event isn't running weekends—it's running every day. And with that are some really fun activities.
Anna and Elsa's Royal Welcome
I simply expected a carriage with Anna and Elsa coming to the Sorcerer's Hat Icon Stage having traveled down Hollywood Boulevard. So I was surprised to see a procession almost as big as older studio parades like Mulan and Hercules. There are ice skaters and flag bearers and ice cutters. But the big hit here is the premiere of Kristoff, who brings up the final float in the procession.
The grand welcome is OK—I thought the procession was better. I might suggest catching the event around Echo and Hollywood, watching the parade as it goes by and then viewing it from the big screen set near the Mulholland Fountain. Then, as the grand welcome ends, swing yourself around Echo Lake and see the procession again as it exits near Star Tours.
Oaken's Frozen Funland & Trading Post
For 10 dollars you can skate at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The setting is quite fun, but the queue is not. It simply takes a long time to process people through that activity. Therefore, if your heart is set on this, go first thing in the morning after the park opens, and push your other plans back. Know that Oaken has a trading post there as well for merchandise, but you can find merchandise in many other corners of the park, as well, such as Once Upon a Time.
Coolest Summer Ever Dance Party
It's simpy a re-theming of their DJ and live band on the Sorcerer's Hat Icon Stage. Not a bad thing to do if you have the energy. Perhaps your young ones will want to do that as you stake out a place for watching the fireworks.
For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
This is my favorite of all of the offerings. Hosted in the Premiere Theater on the studio backlot, this air-conditioned show at first glance seems a little hokey. But the castle narrators are a hoot and make it absolutely enjoyable for adults as well as the kids. Anna, Elsa and Kristoff join, as well, but the hit of the show is when hundreds of children in the audience (and a few adults) sing-along with music. With up to seven shows a day it's an emotional treat. Great news is that they are handing out passes in front of the theater with return times similar to the Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow show. So you don't have to stand all day in the sun. And when you do queue, you line up in the shaded, stand-by area reserved for The Muppets. So it's a bearable journey. This show is so good, I wouldn't be surprised if it lasted past the event. But there's not guarantee, so get there now.
Frozen Fireworks Spectacular
This isn't just fireworks—which are very impressive—it's also a send off with Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff. So having a good place staked out to see them and the fireworks is a good idea. If you really, really love Frozen, you might want to consider the Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package, which includes a special area to watch the earlier procession; guaranteed pass and first seating for the Sing-Along Celebration; and a dessert party with a great view of the Frozen fireworks. At $59 for adults and $39 for children, this is a much better value than the fireworks/dessert party at Magic Kingdom.
This spot near Echo Lane and Hollywood Boulevard gives you a close up view of the stage via the screen, but gets you back further enough to see the fireworks play out (which can be difficult to fully see when right in front of the stage). Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
So we've gone around the World—Walt Disney World—in search of Frozen. Who knows, maybe Sven will be showing up at Disney's Animal Kingdom? Maybe a new children's play area featuring Olaf at Blizzard Beach? And what about a change in Maelstrom at Norway? We'll save that rumor for another day. Meanwhile, there are lots of different ways to enjoy Frozen this summer.
Have you experienced Frozen at Walt Disney World? If so, what did you enjoy, and what would your recommend?