Friday, November 20, 2015

Frozen in Disneyland Paris

UPDATE: Today, June 21st, the first real Frozen attraction opened in EPCOT, so now that I have seen that attraction, I have some additional comments and ideas to add into this post. A few things have changed, which I will note as I go.



Another month, another post. This is going to be a good one.

So first I have to be honest. This post was meant for December and there was going to be a different November post. But that one needs more work and this one was ready. So easy switch, even though it throws off the seasonal theme. Oops.

So earlier this year, I posted my plan for Disneyland Paris, which included a large Frozen expansion north of Fantasyland. This is that expansion.



Before the plan, I want to start with some Frozen commentary. So there is no way you can deny that Frozen in the parks has gotten a little over-saturated yet underdeveloped. Now three full years out from the most popular Disney animated movie of recent memory, we still don't have a high quality attraction. Just parties, shows, meet and greets, and merchandise that have taken over whole parks. What we have gotten was good, but not as great as possible. We have gotten quantity over quality, which unfortunately works most of the time.

Even if we have been Frozen overloaded, its hard to deny that Frozen's quality and success warrant proper representation in the parks with a modern, fully themed attraction. That looks like its going to start changing with Maelstrom/Frozen coming soon and the large Tokyo land, so hopefully, once those happen things will balance out and we will have a more manageable Frozen presence in the parks. My approach was to give Frozen a landmark status presence in the park.



This expansion plan is the response to this need for Disneyland Paris, so it was important to me for the expansion to be of  substantial size and quality and in a properly themed setting.



Based on the thematic distribution of the park and the available land, I decided to place this major expansion to the north of Fantasyland, outside of the train tracks. The whimsical gardens and architecture of the land make a suitable transition to the separated area. The Fantasyland train station and meet and greet building in front of it are removed and rebuilt with the Arendelle style as an entry way to the land: steep pitched roofs with hand carved detailing, octagonal towers with wide overhang roofs, and a blue and brown color scheme. Guests can either go through the building to get to the land or along a path to the left and under the train tracks. There is also an entry from the Storybook Land area.

Guests passing through the train station building exit the other side to find the gate of the palace. There are also small retail locations on the ground floor. The access to the train station above is by the side doors of the building, which lead to grand stairs up to the platform. One side is entrance and the other is exit.

Through the open palace gate is the main square of Arendelle, with two large fountains and the steeply pitched grand entrance to the palace. The southwest corner tower is the entrance from the pathway around the train station. The attraction entrance is on the right of the main doors, the exit on the left, and the entrance to a sit down restaurant is at the northwest tower. A gate in the west wall leads to backstage and a gate in the east wall leads to the village retail area and the Storybook area. This retail area is the village of Arendelle, so has more rustic facades hiding a large shop.

The elements of the land are basically in one giant building behind the palace and village facades. From right to left, these elements are the retail location, the attraction and queue, the post show skating rink, and the restaurant.



I will start with the attraction. The queue entrance is to the right of the main fa├žade and enters a regal side hall that looks into the main hall. The queues immediately turn left and back outside under an overhang and then back inside into a side building. After switchbacks it turns back towards the main hall. All of the interior spaces of the queue that are set in the palace are richly themed and dressed with tapestries, paintings, and royal fixtures. The queue in the hall curves around the royal seal on the marble floor and then deeper into the palace. Fastpass then turns right towards the stables of the palace, standby turns left for more time in the palace. The standby queue passes through the library, with tall ceiling height bookcases on the walls and in the middle of the room. On the southmost wall of the space, there is a large feature bookcase and a set of bookstands with large open books along the queue. The open books are projection mapped to show a storybook style version of the events of the movie. The queue eventually makes it back towards the stable area of the queue.

This space is much rougher and more rustic with exposed wood beams and stacks of boxes and barrels and hay around the queue. There are also windows that look out into the loading room, which is meant to be outdoors. The two queues are merged and then sent outside to the load platform. We find ourselves in a snowy forest with twinkling stars above. Ahead is a load platform where sleighs are dispatched. Four sleighs load at one time, each seating 8 guests. After loading and seat check, the set of sleighs move forward and through a large pitched roof wooden tunnel, like a gate.

Quickly before moving forward, I want to mention the thought process behind the story here. There is a lot of criticism for book report dark rides, and this is not one of those. However, I still knew I had some crucial moments from the film that needed to be visited. So I staged this as a post movie trip back to the Ice Palace, where Elsa still likes to retreat to escape from the palace. Anna leads the trip and visits some of the same locations as the film in the same order, but it is not simply a retelling of the film but an exploration of the environment. (Update: this is basically exactly what Frozen Ever After ended up doing, so I feel good with that choice now.)

Back to the ride. Once we pass through the tunnel and see a projection of the city in the near distance. We turn the corner and pass through the forest to a large projection surface. As we approach, a sleigh comes out of the forest with Anna driving. She tells us that she is glad to run into us, and that she is on her way up to the North Mountain to bring back Elsa and we can follow along. These first scenes are projection, but then the ride transitions to physical figures along the way. (Update: My original thought to make these projection was because I figured Disney would try to minimize animatronics. Apparently that is not the case, as there are more figures than I expected in Frozen Ever After. So this scene could be replaced with a physical Anna figure instead of projection.)

We continue through the dark forest, seeing first seeing the menacing eyes of wolves in the underbrush and then seeing a projection of Anna’s sleigh racing through the trees. We exit the forest and turn to find Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post. We see projections in the windows of the happenings inside. Across the path is an Anna figure, talking to us about the dangers of the forest. A projection surface shows her sleigh and reindeer sitting in the clearing. We then continue into the barn next to the Trading Post. Inside the dark wooden barn we meet Sven, eating hay, and then Kristoff standing next to his sleigh and greeting us, singing about reindeer. We exit again and out to the frozen crystal forest, with icicles hanging around us. Olaf and Anna are to the right, greeting us and trying to figure out the directions to find Elsa. (Update: this would be a good place for a copy of that totally amazing walking Olaf animatronic, standing on a snowbank to the right of the track. The scene could work with just Olaf, no Anna too if the figure is dynamic enough.) The forest transitions to the snowy rockwork of the mountain and again we see Anna, Olaf, and Sven saying that we are here. Sven repeatedly tries to bite off Olaf’s nose while Anna celebrates.

Now we have reached Elsa’s Ice Palace, the highlight of the ride and the main musical location. Couldn’t leave out Let it Go. The rockwork transitions to highly geometric ice walls that first enclose us and then open up to an important scene. To the right of the track is the transforming Ice Tower, which, in time with the music, magically grows bigger and grander as we pass by. We turn after it has reached its full height and pass right through the middle. Above us, we see the grand ice chandelier growing and pulsing in time. We exit the other side and turn to finally see Elsa wielding her powers and making it snow. Anna calls out to her, saying she is needed back at home, and we then exit the icy walls and back out to the snowy rockwork.

Ok back to describe how this scene works. This growing Ice Tower is my favorite part of the ride and one of my favorite designs overall. Its best to reference the elevations below, showing the start and end point of the growth. The effect is made with both mechanical actions and projection mapping. The main physical element is the top crown of the tower, which can raise up 8’. It sits outside the permanent center of the tower and has a blackout curtain above, so it appears as if the entire tower grows while just the top rises around the stationary center. The middle balcony does the same thing. It rises just 2’ up along the central tower. The handrails of the balcony also rise up out of the balcony as it raises, as if they are growing up. On the top crown, two geometric protrusions come out as it raises to add geometric complexity to the tower. Last, pointed arches slide out in the framed “windows” of both levels. Each side of the arches slide out horizontally from the side to form the completed shape. All of these movements would be supplemented with projection mapping to add icy texture and more changing detail on the facades. The entire change would happen in about 10-15 seconds so that each of the 4 cars can see the process. The changes only happen on this south side of the tower, while the other north side is permanently in its finished state.



Now inside the tower, there is another effect. An angled scrim is positioned above us which is a projection surface. The ice chandelier is projected here. Above the scrim is a physical set of an arched vault which is faintly lit and seen through the scrim. The projected chandelier grows below the real vault. Between the projection, the actual set, and lighting effects, the view above transitions from an empty vault to a grand ice chandelier. (Update: or, it could just be fiber optic effects like in Frozen Ever After. That looks pretty good too.) On the other side of the tower is the main Elsa figure, who conjures the snow and ice with fluid waves of her arms.

Back to the attraction. We leave the Ice Palace, and around the corner is the whole group in physical form, Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf talking about going back to the palace and thanking us. We leave through a rockwork arch back into the load/unload room. We continue through the forest past a final scene of physical Sven and Olaf interacting and talking to us. Around the corner is unload and the spur to the maintenance bay. Behind the unload station is an extremely large window looking into the palace, specifically the Great Hall which is now being used for ice skating.

Guests exit the unload area and enter back into the palace and directly into the Great Hall to see the skating activity. Like the start of the movie, Elsa has made an indoor rink and invited us to join. The skating floor is over 6000 sq ft so should have a healthy capacity. Based on past skating attractions in parks, this would be an extra cost attraction. There is a small queue the leads to a payment and skates desk and a seating area to put on skates. Guests would have a half hour skate session with a new group of skaters every 10 minutes. There would also be Photopass photographer on the ice to capture pictures of skaters. Every 10 minutes, there will be an indoor snow flurry, accompanied by lighting and projections on the walls to bring winter indoors. Next to the Hall is the first retail location, which is where the pictures could be viewed. This post show area exits to another hall that leads back towards the exit to the main square. Restrooms and a side entrance to the restaurant area also located here.


The restaurant main entrance is in the main square, through a first open vault tower and down a hall to a second larger space. The rooms radiating from here are the dining areas. Tables sit under wooden beams and draped fabric sails. Anna and Elsa visit during dinner and have a photo spot in the large entry space. In the city square, Olaf has a meet and greet and there are also a few themed merchandise carts.

Back out of the square, the village resembles the area from the film and is entirely retail. The main building on the north side has multiple facades but is one large space. The buildings to the south are restrooms and an outdoor retail pavilion. The existing Casey Jr. Train passes through the show building, which is now an Ice Cave finale to the ride.



I think that covers everything. I think Frozen needs a high quality themed experience like this, and I hope that what really happens is even better. 

Comment with any questions or your thoughts about what kind of experiences Frozen should have in the parks! Thanks for reading!