News Column

Disney takes its time in turning 'Frozen' into attraction

June 18, 2014

By Dewayne Bevil, Orlando Sentinel



June 18--During the "Frozen" phenomenon's first six months, the Disney movie raked in $1.2 billion worldwide at the box office, inspired the sale of countless princess gowns and prompted kids and grownups to wait four hours to meet film heroines Elsa and Anna at the theme parks.

"Let It Go," the film's anthem, nabbed an Oscar. The "Disney on Ice: Frozen" figure-skating show debuted, and a Broadway-style "Frozen" play was proposed. And Walt Disney Co. chief Robert Iger proclaimed "Frozen" one of the company's top five franchises.

So where is, say, Disney World's Fantastic Frozen Freefall ride or its "Frozen: The Musical!" show?

Still on the drawing board, experts say.

"It takes time for stories to mature and to come to market ... and to be turned into a ride or experience. So I don't think it's surprising that we don't see it or hear it yet being talked about," said Brian Sands, a vice president with AECOM, a market-research company. "That doesn't mean it isn't occurring behind the scenes."

An oft-repeated theory -- or hope -- among theme park-goers: Disney will transform Epcot's Maelstrom ride, a mild log-flume attraction, into "Frozen" fare. Maelstrom is in the park's Norway pavilion and shares a Scandinavian setting with the film, and it's gentle enough for youngsters.

Not so fast, the Disney camp says.

"'Frozen' continues to be extremely popular with our guests," said Kathleen Prihoda, a Walt Disney World spokeswoman. "While we are always looking at ways to enhance our guest experience, we have nothing to announce at this time."

Jim Hill, a theme-park industry blogger and editor of JimHillMedia.com, said he believes executives want to take advantage of the film's popularity, but there are fears the phenomenon could fade within a few years.

"They don't want to have all this stuff in place and then all of a sudden have the enthusiasm for 'Frozen' melt," he said.

There have been instances in which Disney theme parks had major attractions that practically coincided with the film release. "The Legend of the Lion King" stage show at Magic Kingdom came out two weeks after "The Lion King" opened, Hill said, and timely parades were themed around the films "Hercules," "Mulan" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

"When it comes to the princesses, there's been a hesitation," Hill said. "It took 20 years to get a 'Little Mermaid' ride done. Same thing with 'Beauty and the Beast.'"

Disney's strategizing could take a while because it's handling a once-in-a-generation film, one that potentially could have extended popularity, said Dennis Speigel, president of the International Theme Park Services trade group.

"This is our 'Snow White,' this is our 'Wizard of Oz,' in 2014," he said.

"They want to do it right because this is going to have a long, long, long, long run -- decades," Speigel said.

Now that theme-park guests can see Anna and Elsa at Magic Kingdom, either at a meet-and-greet or during the new Festival of Fantasy parade, Speigel anticipates that Disney will move ahead with the "Frozen" renovation of Maelstrom. He expects that to be an interim step to a bigger "Frozen" attraction.

"This is just the appetizer," he said. "And the entrÉe is going to be eventually what they roll out there now that they understand the depth of this product."

dbevil@tribune.com or 407-420-5477

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(c)2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

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Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)


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