UNIVERSITY PARK -- Hearts melted inside Disney's "Frozen" Ice Palace in The Mall at University Town Center on Thursday.
Parents and children showed up with big smiles and laughter for the opening of the interactive feature, the mall's newest attraction with one of the most popular Disney movies.
Cailey Helems looked puzzled as the snow fell, making snow angels while "Frozen" songs played on TVs in the background. It's the first snow experience for this Florida child, even if the snow wasn't real. Her grandmother Laurie Feagans couldn't keep from grinning as she snapped photos of Cailey, encouraging her to play.
How much does Cailey sing those "Frozen" songs?
"Over and over and over and over," Feagans said. "She knows all the songs, she's a huge fan."
The "Frozen" experience is a partnership between Disney and the mall's operator Taubman Centers, which has only
10 of its malls participating nationwide, including International Plaza in Tampa. It's also a promotional tool as Disney releases the sing-along "Frozen" DVD on Nov. 18, which will be available for purchase at the ice blue palace in the mall's grand court.
"Our partners -- Disney, "Frozen," Shutterfly -- and our local partner Lakewood Ranch were committed to our shoppers and our little shoppers," said Kimberly Dominguez, marketing and sponsorship director for the mall. "We go to extremes to really make the interactives so they can engage with the product. Obviously being partnered with 'Frozen' makes it extra special, and it's something that all children will love."
Do you wan to build a snowman? It might be plausible, but not quite possible inside the ice palace, as the "snow" is a mix of glitter and synthetic materials. But children can take home an Olaf snowman hat or poster at the merchandise booth on their way out. There is an ice block visitors can touch to leave their handprint as they enter, prompting giggles from kids as they're surprised by the cold rush.
Al Fogarty, visiting here from Nova Scotia, knew he had to bring his 3-year-old daughter Ellie Fogarty wearing her Princess Elsa T-shirt. She watches the movie any chance she gets on the family's iPad.
"She's always singing," Dad Fogarty said.
Their visit demonstrates how much the "Frozen" palace is a destination for visitors, something that Dominguez believes will continue.
"I definitely think that this is a destination," Dominguez said. "The mall in itself has become a premier destination for shopping and dining, and this just enhances the overall experience and our commitment bringing the best customer experience for the holiday."
There's so much "Frozen" frenzy going on at the Ice Palace that Santa Claus is an also-ran for some kids as they bypass the jolly elf for the ice throne.
"We have not only photos that the parents can take, but Disney products for purchase," Dominguez said. Shutterfly offers a variety of photo packages, but no purchase is required at the experience.
"Frozen" will continue until the Mall at UTC lets it go on Christmas Eve.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.