My Disney Top 5 - Things to Love About Epcot's Frozen Ever Afterby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. For as long as this pandemic has been going on, I've been opening my articles hoping that all of you out there are healthy and safe. As the news here in New York broke that just about all restrictions are lifted, 70% of our state population is vaccinated and the positivity rate is the lowest it's ever been - well below 1% - I'm feeling that I can begin to drop that opening sentiment. Obviously, I still hope that all of you are, in fact, healthy and safe, but perhaps I'm achieving my own little personal return to normalcy here by stating that from now on, that sentiment will be understood and implied but no longer printed.
As I reach that milestone with my articles, I'm also reaching another one as I continue my in depth look at each and every Walt Disney World attraction. I'm crossing into one of the most magical places on any Disney property anywhere, Epcot's World Showcase. I could walk around World Showcase for hours just watching the people, admiring the exquisite details, eating, drinking, shopping, or just basking in the extraordinary atmosphere so expertly created by Disney's Imagineers. I've long said that there's nothing like capping off one of those long, magical, marathon Walt Disney World days than with a beautiful, leisurely nighttime stroll around World Showcase.
I'm starting with the Norway pavilion because it's always been a favorite. Favorite is such a relative term when it comes to World Showcase. I'd be hard pressed to pick an actual favorite nation out of the eleven surrounding the lagoon. Each one has so many different things to offer. Years ago, I wrote Top 5's for each of the Epcot countries. You could read my Norway countdown here. For the sake of this series of lists I'll just be covering the countries with bona fide ride attractions like Mexico, Norway and the American Adventure. I won't be counting the films because, dare I say it, out of all of them, even the old Norway film, I've only seen O' Canada! I'm not sure why. I've certainly had enough opportunities to see them, but we never seem to make the effort. Some day perhaps.
So, without going back and reading my Norway countdown, what is it that makes this one of my favorite World Showcase destinations? There's a long list, but to be brief, Norway has a lot going for it. It's got amazing architecture. It's got delicious treats at Kingla Bakeri. They do a wonderful job with Norwegian history inside the stave church. I love the sod roof. There's princesses to meet. There's unique shopping. And, oh yeah, in 2016, a little film called Frozen took over the pavilion's original attraction, Maelstrom. Many Disney purists were and still are incensed that the polar bears and trolls of Maelstrom had to clear out for Anna, Elsa and Olaf. I've long been on record as saying that despite my fondness for Maelstrom, I have no problem with Frozen's takeover because it was done really well. How well? Let's take a look with my Top 5 things to love about Epcot's Frozen Ever After.
5 - Wandering Oaken's Sauna
One of the cruel tricks about FastPass is that you frequently get rerouted around some of the cooler queue moments in attractions. Peter Pan's Flight comes to mind right away. While I'm always thrilled to not wait in a long line, missing out on walking through the Darling house is a shame. Expedition Everest is another. There's SO much to see in this queue that you bypass on the FastPass or single rider line. The same can be said about Frozen Ever After. One of the cooler things in the queue is when you wander into Wandering Oaken's and see him in his sauna.
If you've only ever been on this ride with FastPass, look it up on YouTube. It's a boatload of fun. I especially like Oaken singing Let it Go and when he "draws" his face as Olaf's in the steamy sauna window. I'm not gonna lie…I also get a big kick out of Oaken being the voice that speaks to you as you board and exit the boats, especially in Spanish.
4 - Arendelle
Something that World Showcase just nails at every single turn is the incredibly detailed and authentic architecture. The Imagineers outdid themselves all over World Showcase, especially here in the Norway pavilion. I'm especially fond of the recreation of a square in Arendelle that you walk through in the main queue.
There's a beautiful mix of stone and wood all bathed in the soft light of the hanging lanterns above. It's one of my new favorite attraction rooms in Walt Disney World. There's definitely an atmosphere being created as soon as you walk in. The music. The lights. The buildings. It's all good.
3 - The Animatronics
Animatronics are a major component in the so called "Disney difference." While many attractions at competing parks are leaning toward the use of video projection screens, and yes, I will concede that Disney has been guilty of this as well, there's still nothing like seeing fully fleshed out figures in a Disney attraction. Frozen Ever After's animatronics are apparently the first ever all electric animatronics, meaning they are not animated using the classic hydraulics that Disney pioneered decades ago. This makes for more fluid and consistent movements. Those of you that have been on the ride are also well aware that the Frozen animatronics also feature projection mapped faces.
Disney has been fine tuning these over the years and, personally, I think they did an outstanding job in Frozen Ever After with the projection faces. I think it brings them to life in a whole new way and makes them look more like the animated versions from the films. Olaf and Sven are my personal favorites, especially when Sven has his big tongue stuck to the ice.
2 - Elsa's Ice Palace
There was never a doubt that this iconic moment in the film was going to be the big showstopper in the attraction. It's the big song and when you're watching the film, you could almost say to yourself, "Boy, if they turn this into an attraction, they could do a real cool thing with this scene." I think they pulled it off beautifully.
The Elsa animatronic is amazing. The lights and screens surround you and are pretty striking as you float backwards away from Elsa. I also love the puff of fog that you disappear into as you leave the room. Top notch. All of it.
1 - It's The New Kid's Classic
When we took our kids to Walt Disney World for the first time it was all about Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan and Buzz Lightyear. Those were their big rides, especially Pooh. We'd ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh multiple times a trip if not multiple times a day. It's like the defining Disney ride of their childhood. When they go back now, there's no question about whether or not to make a stop at Pooh. Of course we will and we always will. That's what Frozen Ever After is going to be for a whole generation of kids. The first film, as we all know, was a global phenomenon. Every kid of that age saw it. We all saw it, but this was a tremendous movie event for the kids of that era. Granted, there was Frozen over saturation for some time there. My teen sons and I saw the movie on opening day, just like we always do with any Disney animated film. We all liked it a lot. And then WHAM! Frozen was everywhere.
If you were a kid who loved all things Frozen, the moment when you walked into Arendelle, boarded that boat and then saw Olaf singing Do You Want to Build a Snowman to you must have been the greatest thing ever. You'll never forget it and as parents, we'll never forget the look on your faces. Frozen Ever After is a childhood defining moment for a ton of kids out there and that's the reason I love it, even though it wasn't that moment for my own kids. I love the fact that Disney just keeps on doing what they do best with their attractions; giving kids those magical moments that will stay with them forever.
I couldn't let a discussion about Frozen Ever After go by without seriously suggesting that after you ride through Arendelle you take a walk through the Royal Sommerhus. It's a wonderful continuation of your Frozen experience. They did a beautiful job with this meet and greet area. It's much more than a place to meet Anna and Elsa. The details, the architecture, the flowers. It all comes together for a totally immersive visit to Arendelle and from what I understand after reading some Norwegian cast member comments, it's remarkably accurate to an actual home in Trondheim, Norway. You won't regret paying this area a visit on your next trip.
Once again, I'm not going to go down the road of complaining that Disney is shoehorning their intellectual properties into their attractions. As opposed to Peter Pan, Snow White, Mr. Toad and others on opening day at Disneyland? Disney is about telling their stories and a lot of their stories obviously involve their characters. So, I'm ok with Nemo, Remy and Olaf taking over attractions in Epcot. On the flip side, I do truly hope that Buzz never takes over Mission: Space and that Mater and Lightning McQueen don't move into Test Track. But sometimes it makes sense and I have no problem with what they did in Norway, mostly because I happen to think they did a fantastic job. If you believe in the fact that going to Walt Disney World is supposed to be a transformative experience, and I certainly do, then you can't lose with Norway and Frozen Ever After.
That's all for this time. As always, I want to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below to share your thoughts on Frozen Ever After. Stay safe and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.