Inside “Frozen World,” Disney’s new magical attraction

When "Frozen" became Disney Animation Studios' first $1 billion hit in 2013, executives in the company's experience division were quick to take notice. Josh D'Amaro, chairman of Walt Disney Company Experiences, and "Frozen" writer-director Jennifer Lee know what needs to be done. Within three years, a team of Imagineers worked to bring Anna and Elsa’s Kingdom of Arendelle to Hong Kong Disneyland. Now – finally – they’re opening the doors.

"Frozen World" will open on November 23 and is the first of Disney's three Frozen- themed areas to enter global parks (Disneyland Paris and Tokyo DisneySea are both scheduled to be completed in 2024). And continue to spend US$1.4 billion to expand Hong Kong Disneyland. Hong Kong Disneyland began operations in 2016.

On land, guests can ride Frozen Ever After, a new version of the existing boat ride at Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, as well as Wandering Oaken's Sliding Sleighs, This is a "beginner" coaster for young fans who aren't quite ready to explore more of the park's thrilling attractions. Park visitors can dine at the Golden Crocus Inn, which serves a selection of Nordic-inspired dishes, and visit Northern Delights ("Arendelle's oldest dessert shop"), a dessert shop selling Olaf-shaped soft-serve ice cream and other treats shop.

Hong Kong Disneyland

This space is a love letter to the people who have made the series what it is today, and these people are not just the millions of children who have proudly worn Elsa costumes over the past decade. The world of Frozen was created specifically for Disney adults. Disneybound, a community of (mostly) adults who design clothing to resemble the iconic characters without actually wearing the costumes, has inspired a lot of the more subtly themed knitwear that can be purchased in the land and accessories. If you're looking to take your Disney trip to the next level, there's a service that allows guests to style their hair to look like Anna or Elsa, perfect for anyone looking to bring the Frozen fun home with them For people, you can send letters to friends and family. Families arriving from Arendelle.

Hong Kong Disneyland

D'Amaro and Lee joined Bustle at Hong Kong Disneyland's Arendelle to discuss Frozen, respecting fan feedback, and the happy accidents and plot contrivances that created some of the series' most beloved moments.

Bustle: When did you know Frozen needed its own dedicated space at Disneyland?

Damaro: I remember where I sat in my first experience of Frozen and how clear the message was, how powerful the music was, and how immersive the environment was. When you have a story like this and then you get a reaction from the world like you did, there's no question we'll start thinking about it.

What are the most important things that need to be done in order for people to truly feel like they’ve spent a day in Arendelle?

Damaro: When you enter the land under the bridge, you immediately feel like you're being transported to a place that's almost separate from the park. By the way, if you go back 70 years, this is exactly what Walt wanted. Leave this world and come to this fantasy world. So I think you need that. There needs to be a transformative element that says “I am somewhere else.”

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Jennifer, as the creator of this story, what was it like for you to "step into" the world of Frozen for the first time?

Lee: I keep saying I'm shocked, but I mean it in a good way. It's an amazing feeling and it's not something you imagine will happen. You can't plan for this. I told Josh how we came up with the clock tower: we needed something to give us an excuse to make robots. Wandering Oak started out as just a costume change and then turned into one of my favorite characters. I really feel like I'm on this growing journey.

Hong Kong Disneyland

Even the secondary characters are realized here. You mentioned Wandering Oak, but there's also The Love Expert, Elsa the Snowman, and Bruni the Fire Elf.

Lee: My favorite thing is that Snowgies was born out of [the question] "What does Elsa's sneeze look like?" Marc Smith, our story director on Frozen 2, said, "I feel like when she sneezes, little snowballs come out of her ears," and we went from there. They have to appear innocent, mischievous and fun. They have no arms, which makes their movements so interesting.

If I could spend every waking moment [at Walt Disney Imagineering], I would.

The Imagineers did a great job of bringing these intricacies to life in Frozen , and I've never seen so many snowmen in my life.

Damaro: If I could spend every waking moment working on [Walt Disney Imagineering], I would.

Hong Kong Disneyland

How much influence do online communities and fandom have on the execution of a project like this?

D'Amaro: [People say] "Everything you do, there's going to be someone with an opinion. Isn't it a pain in the neck?" My answer to that question is absolutely no. It’s a blessing that people are actually paying attention to what we’re doing. They are as much a part of it as we are.

Lee: I totally agree with you, not only as a storyteller but as a kid who grew up on Disney. I think about what technology we didn’t have back then, and how many times, for me as a kid living in Rhode Island, the Disney experience was just at home or in a movie theater. Now, the idea that we are increasingly able to build community connections is a beautiful thing. It became personal in a way that wasn't possible when I was growing up. I think it's important to build this community space through stories about hope and escape and seeing the best and silliest parts of ourselves.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.