Frozen — Live at the Hyperion
This summer, one of the biggest draws at the Disneyland Resort is undoubtedly Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, which debuted May 27, 2016. Even though the film was released almost three years ago, it remains one of Disney’s strongest cash cows, a consistent golden goose. Animal metaphors aside, the Frozen hype has barely slackened, and with this new show, it doesn’t seem like it’ll slow down anytime soon.
With the tourist summer season coming up, I thought I’d give my initial impressions and thoughts. If you’ve avoided images of the show and don’t want to be spoiled, I’d recommend not reading any further. I didn’t have the best seat in the house, but I still had a pretty good view overall and the pictures show pretty much everything.
Frozen replaced Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular which played at the Hyperion on the California Adventure Hollywood Backlot from 2003 until January 2016. Thirteen years is a testament to what a beloved show it was. I’d seen it a few times during its run, and like many one of my favorite aspects of the show was Genie’s ever-changing commentary on current events and pop culture references that kept the show fresh every time. It was an incredibly well done stage show and brought the magic of the film to life in a very impressive way.
All that said, personally, these types of stage shows don’t rank very high up on my favorites list when it comes to theme parks, and I didn’t have that emotional connection with the Aladdin show that some fans do. And while I liked Aladdin much more than Frozen and think it is a superior film, and was sad to see one of my own childhood favorites lose its place in the parks, there’s something to be said about the ongoing commercial success of Frozen and the connection to the film and characters that today’s kids are making now.
To start, let’s reiterate that this show is The Big New Thing this year at Disney California Adventure, and that means massive crowds. In the summer after the film was released, wait times for the Elsa and Anna meet-and-great rivaled that of E-Ticket rides. Never underestimate the sheer number of people wanting to see the latest and greatest at Disneyland.
If you plan on seeing the show, you must arrive at California Adventure early. I recommend getting to the turnstiles at rope drop (right when the park is schedule to open) to be one of the first in line for fastpasses.
There are currently three showings per day, but the fastpasses are distributed on a first come, first served basis, going through each show until the last fastpass for the last show is distributed. This means you cannot choose which showing to see. You can of course arrive a little later to get a later showing, but you run the risk of being too late and missing out.
If you have multiple people in your group, after all the tickets have been swiped into the park, only one person needs to be in line and the rest can start their day in the park. There really is no point in having everyone in line and it would be a waste of everyone’s time to do so.
All hope is not lost if you arrive too late and can’t get a fastpass, there is a standby line. However, I wouldn’t count on the standby to get a seat.
After you have your fastpass(es), you’re required to queue up at the Hyperion starting an hour before the show. If you want your pick of seats, get there early. I personally don’t think there’s a bad seat in the theater so long as you’re not stuck behind someone excessively tall.
When you enter the theatre, the stage is set and Arendelle is displayed in all its glory. This show makes use of many technological advances that either weren’t available or weren’t as prevalent when Aladdin was created, and so it is very interesting from a simply technical aspect to see the magical elements of the movie brought to stage.
The show makes heavy use of high-definition projections on the giant backdrop, which has both positives and negatives. The types of projections allow scenes that would be far too complicated to recreate otherwise to be shown, and video projections are now common in many rides as well in Disney and other theme parks. It is a much more cost-efficient alternative to building multiple, costly set pieces that rotate on and off stage. The downside to this is I find these projections tend to show their age fairly quickly and once they do, they can look (for lack of a better word) rather cheap if not maintained well.
These boring technical elements aside, the show is quite enjoyable and faithful to the film. It does a great job bringing characters like Sven and Olaf to life with well-done costumes and puppetry. As you would expect from Disney, the performers were fantastic at their roles, and, for me, Olaf stole the show as he did the movie.
One of the reasons Aladdin was great for repeat viewings, other than loving the film and the fact that it was an excellent production, was to see what Genie would say about current events. This seemingly improvised commentary kept the show fresh, and was developed over time as the show settled in and the performers got comfortable with their roles. However, Robin Williams’ Genie in the film already referenced a lot of pop culture, and there isn’t that kind of comedy in Frozen. Of course, all of that is too early to tell at this point in time and it remains to be seen what the performers are comfortable with as the show progresses.
Unlike Aladdin which introduced a new song for Princess Jasmine, there is nothing really new in the stage show. At approximately an hour long, it is around 40 minutes shorter than the film. Admittedly, I’m not nearly as familiar with Frozen as I was with Aladdin, so I can’t even really remember most of the things from the movie that weren’t present in the show.
As with most new things at Disney parks, it doesn’t matter what one random blogger says, most everyone is going to want to see this show because it’s new and it’s hyped.
All things considered, Frozen Live is definitely a solid, well-executed show with wonderful performances. I do recommend seeing it at least once, and I look forward to seeing it again.
Is it worth the approximately two hours of waiting (it can take an hour to get the fastpass, then there’s the hour wait at the theatre before the show) that could be spent elsewhere? While lots of factors go into answering that question, the fact is a lot of kids are going to want to see their beloved movie on stage. Plus, curiosity and wanting to see what everyone else is talking about (and most Disneyland fans are talking about it) would make this show quite hard to resist.
If nothing else, the outside queue at the theatre is well-shaded and the inside of the Hyperion is very cool and comfortable, especially on a hot summer day. I’d recommend grabbing lunch (perhaps a clam chowder bowl from Pacific Wharf Cafe, or a Mac n’ Cheese Cone from the Cozy Cone Café in Carsland) to eat while waiting for the show to start, which would at least make that hour productive.
If you’ve seen the show, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments. Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve said, or do you have tips of your own? Let me know!
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