Two of the most anticipated rides of 2016 for me opened at Epcot in the summer: Frozen Ever After and Soarin’ Around the World. Both rides replaced or refurbished attractions that held a lot of nostalgia for me, but I was excited to ride both of them when they finally opened, regardless of my fondness for their predecessors. Let’s start with Frozen:
Now, I didn’t exactly love Maelstrom, but it was one of those things that I looked forward to every time I went to Epcot. It just became a staple of our trips- from “Back! Back! Over the Falls!” to the part where your boat almost glides backwards out of the open cave, a trip around the World Showcase just wasn’t complete without seeing those lovable trolls. I was as disappointed as anyone when I learned the ride was to be closed to make way for Frozen, which is set in a fictional city in Norway.
There was, and still is, a lot of controversy over whether or not Frozen Ever After belongs here (even though, yes, the ride does contain trolls). To me, it would be more appropriate as a Magic Kingdom dark ride, not in a pavilion in Epcot where countries and their culture are represented. Nevertheless, this is where you can now find the ride and the sisters themselves (they have a meet and greet right next door), and regardless of whether you like this change or not, the ride is there to stay.
I was lucky enough to get a FastPass on the day we visited, since the wait time for this ride currently sits at a consistent 90 minutes or higher (unless you visit first thing in the morning, where you might get lucky and wait only 45 minutes). Getting a FastPass is tricky- as an Annual Passholder, you can only book them so many days out, and you have to get a jump on it. I kept refreshing the “My Disney Experience” app, waiting for a cancellation, until FINALLY one opened up and I grabbed it. My tip for those who have had no luck getting FastPasses is to keep checking, and then check some more- even if you have to set your alarm to get up and check at 3 in the morning.
Once our FastPass was obtained, we made our way over to the attraction. I’d like to mention that we rode in October, after the ride debuted in June. When the attraction first opened, I heard that there were a lot of technical difficulties- which is understandable, seeing as how the Audio-Animatronics for this ride are some of the most advanced in Disney World. Luckily, when we rode, most of the kinks seem to have been worked out, and the ride operated smoothly.
The queue is actually what once was the exit for Maelstrom, as in, it looks like a traditional Norwegian village with some Frozen goodness thrown in. For instance, signs announce a “Summer Snow Day,” a day where Elsa has invited citizens of Arendelle (and guests of Epcot) to visit her ice palace. Oaken, of Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post (“Yoo-hoo! Big Summer Blowout!”) makes a fun appearance in the queue where a video of him appears through the window of his sauna. Through the steam, you hear snippets of him singing and chatting to guests on a continuous loop. I didn’t get to see very much of this, as the FastPass line bypasses this section, but it should keep those quests in the middle of an hour+ wait entertained.
The boats are exactly the same as the ones for Maelstrom (viking ships), and a thrill of excitement ran through me as I boarded. The ride itself is extremely detailed and beautiful, and you immediately turn the corner and glide under a twinkling purple tree so that you can be greeted by Olaf, an Animatronic who seems to have more facial expressions than I’ve ever had in my life. It’s impressive- he genuinely looks surprised to see you.
The ride track is exactly the same as well, yet of course, the story changes- the trolls recount how Anna saved her sister with an unselfish act of true love, and a baby troll excitedly announces that you’re headed to the ice palace (“Lucky!”). As you ascend, the chanting music from the beginning of the movie builds your anticipation until you reach a door with a shimmering snowflake on it- whatever could that mean?
You see Olaf once again, gliding around on ice. Then Anna, Kristoff, and Sven come into view, singing an altered version of For the First Time in Forever (“For the first time in forever, Elsa’s inviting everyone…”). This was one of my favorite parts of the ride- I love how they used the original music, yet changed the lyrics to fit the story of the ride. Also, all the original voice talent from the movie has returned.
Finally, you reach the climax of the ride- Elsa stands majestically on her balcony and sings “Fixer Upper” (Just kidding- you get a heart pounding, emotional rendition of “Let It Go”). This scene brings out all the feels- the music, the movement of the Animatronic, the sweeping feeling in your stomach as you get pushed back by the force of the icy, frozen, fractal-y magic, and the fog that engulfs you as she belts out “the cold never bothered me anyway.” When working properly, as it did for us, this scene was amazing and made it an instant favorite in my mind. I found it extremely well done. The only downside is that it’s hard to take photos of the Animatronic, especially without flash (please don’t use flash). The faces are projected onto the characters, so they come out looking a little orange or blurred.
The ride feels like a little bit of a let-down from there- Marshmallow, the giant Snow monster, and the little snowgies send you careening down the “falls” (Marshmallow will either shout “I’m Free!” or “Let It Go!” as you go down). You are greeted instantly by the Arendelle castle with fireworks bursting behind it on the wall, and then you pass by Anna and Elsa in their Frozen Fever outfits, singing “In Summer” with Olaf. And that’s it! The rides over in three minutes, you disembark and head into a pretty Frozen merchandise-themed store.
I love this ride, and think it’s an instant classic that both kids and adults can enjoy. Though beware- some kids can get scared of the drop (case in my point- my nephew still talks about that “mean snow monster” who pushed us down). I have yet to meet Anna and Elsa in their new Summer home next door, but I’ll be sure to check that off on my next visit.
- If you can’t get a FastPass, try to go at Rope Drop or during the nightly fireworks.
Usually World Showcase opens at 11, but this ride and the Mexico pavilion open at 9 am- also, Mexico now offers breakfast!
- You will get sprayed a little by the water, but not too bad.
- There is no more Norway movie at the end.
- Keep in mind that this ride is meant for little kids (I am very aware that I am not their target audience, but I love it nonetheless).
- They do take your picture during the drop, which is loaded automatically on your Magic Band if you have one.
- Keep in mind that the Animatronics still have a tendency to stop working now and then.
Whew, I didn’t realize how long this would be- please let me know what you think in the comments! Feel free to add tips or your own experiences!
Hugs and fishes,