November 15, 2023, 9:17 AM ·
Eleven years ago, Walt Disney Imagineering brought an animated feature to life like never before. Cars Land allowed Disneyland Resort visitors to walk into the world of Radiator Springs from the 2006 Disney/Pixar animated hit. Cars Land set a new standard for immersive entertainment based on an animation franchise. Today, WDI has done it again.
World of Frozen might be the name of the new land at Hong Kong Disneyland, but make no mistake – this is Arendelle, and I kinda wish that Disney had just called the land that.Walk under the railroad tracks from Fantasyland and you will feel as though you have stepped into Disney’s “Frozen.” WDI has brought the Kingdom of Arendelle to life in faithful detail, allowing you to share in its celebration of a “summer snow day,” as the land’s story goes. Join me for a tour.I love how the fake mountains of Arendelle visually blend seamlessly with the real mountains of the surrounding area in Hong Kong. It adds to the sense you have stepped out of an amusement park and into an actual mythical land – a transformation that realizes the full potential of themed entertainment.In addition to the wonderful Nordic-inspired architecture and design, World of Frozen features two rides, a show, a gift shop, a counter-service restaurant, and a sweets shop. Let’s look at each.
Frozen Ever AfterDisney’s opened its first Frozen-themed ride with my making over the former Maelstrom boat ride in EPCOT’s Norway pavilion to “Frozen Ever After” in 2016. Here in Hong Kong, Disney recreates the basic layout of that attraction, while plussing it with far more impressive animatronics, staging and design.If you would like a convenient comparison, here is the link to our POV of the original, EPCOT installation of Frozen Ever After.One rather important caveat prevents me from enthusiastically recommending this new version. Disney did not get the final drop right. It’s jarring at the end, causing several of us who rode it discomfort. Now I must say that because this was a media preview, I and others were riding alone in boats designed to carry 20. That lack of weight may have contributed to the problem, but Hong Kong Disneyland isn’t exactly Disney’s busiest park. Sending partially filled, or empty, ride vehicles is much more common here due to lower crowds than in the U.S. parks. So I suspect that others might be feeling it in the backside on this ride until Disney re-profiles that final drop. Beyond that, though, this Frozen Ever After delights, providing a welcomed new dark ride experience for the park.Wandering Oaken’s Sliding SleighsWorld of Frozen’s new roller coaster is perhaps Disney’s most elaborately decorated kiddie coaster. Disney’s newest mountain stands on the edge of Arendelle, enticing the kingdom’s would-be thrill seekers with twisting turns of steel track. The ride’s first turn actually delivers a touch more punch than one would expect from a kiddie coaster. But after that, well… there’s not much after that. The whole experience, from dispatch to unload, clocks in a just under 60 seconds – way too short of an experience to justify the length of the queue that Disney has built for this. As a walk-on, it’s a cute ride. The power mechanism for the ride elicits a laugh, and the views of Arendelle are stunning. But I can hear the complains from any family that has to wait more than 10 minutes for this experience. Again, Hong Kong Disneyland’s relative lack of crowds should help here, but Disney is building World of Frozen to help ensure that small crowds become a part of Hong Kong Disneyland’s past, not present and future.Playhouse in the WoodsNext to the exit of Wandering Oaken’s stands Playhouse in the Woods, an indoor interactive theater experience. The story is that this is a place where Elsa practiced her ice skills and played with Anna, and now the room has opened to the people of Arendelle now that Elsa is out… with her ice skills, that is. The “interactivity” is pretty much just picking a corner of the room and moving toward it, but the projections impress, as do the hard work of the performers. Throughout the land, World of Frozen’s cast members help sell the story that they are citizens of Arendelle, happy to welcome visitors for their summer snow day celebration. They’re a delight to interact with, so follow along if you are invited to join in their games.FoodArendelle’s restaurant is the Golden Crocus Inn, serving a variety of Nordic-inspired dishes. I opted today for the Bayside Seafood Medley, given my enduring love for seafood. The salmon, shrimp and mussels were fine, save for the fact they were drowning in a cream sauce. I should have known this would be the case, given past experience with Scandinavian cuisine, but I ordered this anyway and soon regretted not trying the more popular lamb shank. Other entree options were a Village Chicken Roll Stuffed with Ham and Cheese, and a Forest Mushroom Pasta. I will update if I get the opportunity to try those later in my visit.The Northern Delights sweets shop offers baked goods, ice cream, and a wall of chocolates, reflecting Disney’s collab with Godiva on this land. I opted for some Norwegian smultring doughnuts, slathered in a hard icing and with a nice glimpse of jammy spice underneath.MerchandiseFrozen Ever After exits into Tick Tock Toys and Collectibles, where Arendelle’s master toy maker sells their work. Like the rest of the land, it’s a handsomely designed space, and filled with more unique selections than typically found in theme park gift shops.The plush are knitted, in the fashion of an Arendelle toy maker. There are sweaters and hair accessories as well as hoodies and headbands and Lego and more. The apparel choices here support the market preferences in Hong Kong, which park merchandise officials say is far more interested in cosplaying as citizens of Arendelle than just buying a shirt with Anna and Elsa on it. (Hey, I bought a wool blend sweater for US$60 and a cotton blend for $US51. You can see them – the green one and the white one, respectively, in the photo above. Prices here are consistently lower than Disney’s U.S. parks.)The cosplay analysis if spot on, given what I have seen in the park during my stay. But most of the dressing up seems to be in support of Duffy and Friends rather than any other Disney IP. The Frozen shop is the only one in the park I saw with no Duffy and Friends presence, so I guess we will see how long that lasts. Duffy is a world traveler, after all.I just hope that Duffy leaves some space on the shelves for Arendelle’s unique merch. Mystic Manor – the best ride in the park – has a gift shop at its exit, too. And save for a kids’ shirt and an Albert the monkey keychain plush, there is no Mystic Manor merch to be found there anymore. Let’s hope the citizens of Arendelle – and their visitors – do better in supporting their local store.Because this little corner of the world is better for being all ‘Frozen.’ For tickets to Hong Kong Disneyland, please see our partner’s Hong Kong Disneyland tickets page.And to keep up to date with more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider’s weekly newsletter.