Could Disney's Oscar-nominated 'Frozen' play bigger role in theme parks?

Orlando SentinelMarch 6, 2014 

Epcot guests meet the fearless heroine Anna, left, and her sister Elsa from the Walt Disney animated feature film "Frozen." WALT DISNEY RESORT

GENE DUNCAN — Gene Duncan, photographer

ORLANDO -- "Frozen" is such a hot commodity that parents already wait in line at Epcot for hours so their kids can meet the film's two princesses, and Disneyphiles speculate that the movie could eventually play a major role at the theme parks.

The Disney animated film, set in the fictional, icy land of Arendelle, has made almost $1 billion at the box office worldwide since its November release. It won two Oscars -- best song and best animated feature -- at Sunday's Academy Awards.

One day last week, Russell Powell and his 5-year-old daughter, Raeghan, arrived at 9 a.m. at the park's Norway pavilion, where the "Frozen" encounters with princesses Anna and Elsa are staged.

Although they were told their wait would be 150 minutes, princess time was their No. 1 priority, Powell said.

"Our plan for Epcot is to spend the morning waiting in line for two to three hours to meet Anna and Elsa," said Powell, who lives in Benton, Ark. "From there we have everything else we want to do on FastPass."

By 10 a.m., the line snaked over to the margarita stand at the adjacent Mexico pavilion.

Guests there were told the wait would top five hours. Many joined the line anyway.

The characters' popularity has spurred speculation that "Frozen" might find a permanent home at the parks, perhaps in Epcot's Norway section, which shares a Scandinavian setting with the movie.

Disney would not say whether it had any plans.

"We are always looking at ways to enhance the Epcot guest experience," said Disney World spokeswoman Kathleen Prihoda. "That said, we have nothing to share at this time."

But guest demand in the parks and the potential for interactivity could eventually lead Disney to build a "Frozen" attraction, said Dennis Speigel, president of the International Theme Park Services trade group.

"I'm sure they're already having planning meetings about, 'How do we evolve

this over the next five years?' " he said. " 'How do we tie them into our Fantasyland? What do we do to make this really in the guests' faces?' "

Lou Mongello, host of an unofficial Disney World podcast on WDWRadio.com, said it's natural that when a Disney movie becomes a hit, "everyone starts talking grand plan: 'Oh, they're taking out Maelstrom and they're putting in the 'Frozen' ride.' "

But Mongello noted that creating an attraction takes years, and he's not sure about the plausibility of revamping Maelstrom, a dark boat ride that tours Norwegian seas.

"World Showcase is a world's fair," Mongello pointed out. "It's meant to showcase the culture of . . . these countries. If all of a sudden it becomes a 'Frozen' ride, it's something very different."

"Frozen" follows the ups and downs of the two sisters through romances and an incident that leaves one of them with a frozen heart that can be thawed only through the power of love. For laughs, there's a comic snowman named Olaf.

The film is already within a few million dollars of overtaking 1994's "The Lion King" as Disney's top-earning animated film.

In addition to their appearances at Epcot, "Frozen" characters have been incorporated into the Magic Kingdom's nightly "Celebrate the Magic" show. Anna and Elsa also will appear in that park's Festival of Fantasy parade, which debuts March 9.

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