Disney Cruise Line Brings "Frozen" to Life on the High Seas

#1 Animated Feature of All Time Transformed into Live Musical

Disney Cruise Line -
Disney Cruise Line

Since "Frozen" is the number one animated movie feature of all time, it's not surprising that Disney would base new entertainment options on the 2013 movie. Those who love to spend their vacations on cruise ships will be delighted to learn that "Frozen: A Musical Spectacular" opened at the Walt Disney Theatre stage on the Disney Wonder in November 2016. The Disney Wonder is the only cruise ship with this onboard musical.

The 1,750-guest Disney Wonder cruise ship entered service in August 1999 and underwent a major 53-day dry dock refurbishment in Cadiz, Spain in the fall of 2016 before heading to her home port of Galveston. The cruise ship then sails to the Caribbean for most of the winter of 2016-2017.

In addition to "Frozen: A Musical Spectacular", the Disney Wonder added the Marvel Super Hero Academy, a new restaurant named Tiana's Place, and enhancements to its adult nightlife venues and spa. The 977-seat Walt Disney Theatre on the Disney Wonder was fitted with the latest technology to take the audience to the kingdom of Arendelle and to showcase the amazing "Frozen" musical score. Fans of the Disney Wonder and Disney Cruise Line need not worry that current guest favorites like the fireworks at the pirate deck party night might be disappearing.

They won't. 

Disney assembled some top talent to develop "Frozen: A Musical Spectacular", including Director Sheryl Kaller, Choreographer Josh Prince, Writer Sara Wordsworth, Costume Designer Paloma Young, Puppet Designer Michael Curry, and Set Designer Jason Sherwood. Much of this team invested 12 to 18 months in the production. It's a big challenge to adapt an animated movie to a live performance. Their goal was to develop a perfect partnership of technology and old-fashioned storytelling in creating "Frozen: A Musical Spectacular".

Some of the members of the creative team took questions from the journalists who attended a rehearsal at the Disney facility in Toronto in September 2016. Writer Sara Wordsworth explained how she managed to compress the 1 hour and 49 -minute animated movie "Frozen" into a 55-minute live production. This task was especially difficult since many children know the words to all the songs plus much of the narrative. Ms. Wordsworth admitted she had watched the movie "Frozen" dozens of times since she has a young daughter.

She was careful to include all the iconic lines from the movie in her adaptation and not lose the heart and message of the movie.

Costume designer Paloma Young said designing the costumes was all fun. The costumes include a variety of styles such as royal coronation clothes, Elsa's transformation dress (that she wears while singing "Let It Go"), and even those appropriate for dancing trolls. Ms. Young visited a Disney store and watched and listened to children as they viewed and touched the costumes for sale. 

The creative team is only one part of the production. The 18 members of the onstage talent must communicate the story, their characters, and eight musical pieces to the audience in a way that is true to the original movie but is live on the stage. Since the original story was animated, the creative team used state of the art technology, image mapping, projections, light, special effects, puppetry, and amazing scenery in this live production to support the actors and musical score. 

A panel of some of the main characters of the production took questions from the media at the rehearsal. This is the first major opportunity for many of the young actors, and they are thrilled to be working with the Disney creative team. They all want to capture the essence of their famous characters and worked for months in rehearsal to acclimate themselves to the technology, special effects, costumes, and scenery. Those who have sailed with Disney Cruise Line know that this onstage team also performs two other original Disney onstage productions along with welcome aboard and farewell shows.

This type of challenge should look very good on their resumes!

Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer, who are two of the most-loved characters of the "Frozen" movie are played by human-operated puppets in this stage production. Michael Curry, who is also responsible for the dynamic puppets in Disney's Tony award-winning musical, "The Lion King", developed these puppets. The actor who operates the Olaf puppet said he had put many hours in front of a mirror learning how to move the eyes, eyebrows, mouth, arms, and legs of the puppet using three different mechanisms.

This task was difficult, but then he has to also do the dancing, singing, and speaking for Olaf. That's a lot of multi-tasking.

The 18 members of the musical cast greatly entertained the media who attended the rehearsal. On an area the same size as the stage of the Disney Wonder, they performed five of the eight musical numbers. I'm a big fan of dance and especially loved how the small onstage cast could create the same atmosphere as hundreds of animated dancers in the movie. Even without costumes, scenery, lighting or technology, we could use our imagination to see the basics of just what we expected--another outstanding production for Disney Cruise Line.

Other Disney "Frozen" Productions

In addition to "Frozen: A Musical Spectacular on the Disney Wonder, a 45-minute musical interpretation of "Frozen" opened in the 1,984-seat Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure in May 2016, and an entirely separate two-act Broadway production based on "Frozen" is under development by Disney Theatrical Productions. It joins Disney's "Lion King" and "Aladdin" on Broadway in the spring of 2018 after pre-Broadway performances in Denver in the summer of 2017. In addition to these theatrical performances, "Frozen" characters like Anna, Elsa, and Olaf are currently delighting fans of all ages at Disney parks and on Disney cruise ships.

Plus, those who love the original "Frozen" movie can now watch it at home on DVD or Blu-Ray. (Buy or Rent "Frozen" from Amazon.com)