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REVIEW: Epcot’s “Frozen Ever After” and “Royal Sommerhus” are welcome additions to Disney’s experimental theme park

in Disney, Epcot, Movies, Movies & TV, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

In a grand display of thousands (and thousands) of tourists packing into a small space, Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida officially opened Frozen Ever After and the “Royal Sommerhus” meet-and-greet with Anna and Elsa.

Seriously…thousands. Look at this line:

Many fans have been a house divided on the necessity for this attraction to exist at all, mainly because Frozen-fever has basically taken over all of Epcot’s cherished Norway pavilion, including the beloved ride Maelstrom. The attraction originally featured the golden age of Vikings coupled with an encounter with some dastardly trolls, and then a log-flume dip into…an oil rig (classic). Snark aside, I personally adored the ride and made sure it was a part of my regular visits to the park growing up. But, while I was sad to see it go, I completely understand Disney’s reasons for replacing the ride. Frozen is a hot product for the corporation, and at the end of the day, they have a business to run. The ride will attract many more guests to the park, whether it seems like it fits in the overall vibe of the world showcase or not.

So let’s talk about that: how does the new Frozen expansion feel amidst the grandeur of Epcot’s iconic World Showcase? The truth is, it’s really not as bad as you would think — in fact, it’s not bad at all. The architecture of the Royal Sommerhus pavilion not only fits in with the Nordic architecture already in place, but adds and complements the scenery with thatched roof houses and a sort-of garden area fit for the Norwegian countryside. Nothing, save for signs outside of the individual attractions with the film’s logo, scream “LOOK YOU GUYS, FROZEN!!”

This was clearly done on purpose as an attempt to retain the integrity of the representation of Norway. Especially given the fact that Disney’s animated hit, while inspired by that country’s culture, does not actually take place in the country of Norway. So rest easy, purists. Frozen has not tarnished anything about the World Showcase. In a shocking twist, it’s actually enhanced it.

Let me put it this way: If a Finding Nemo ride can find a home over in Future World, a Frozen ride can find a home in the World Showcase. If you accept one and not the other, any argument to the contrary is hypocritical.

So how was the ride?

Frozen Ever After essentially follows the exact same ride track as Maelstrom, only the surrounding spectacle has been gutted and replaced with some of the most intricate and impressive animatronics on Disney property.

The story for the ride takes place after the events of the film, where you are invited to Elsa’s castle for a royal celebration. Characters throughout the ride sing some of your favorite songs, state some of your favorite phrases, and most importantly, come to life before your very eyes. Most of the faces on the characters are projection mapped, very much like the dwarves in Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom or Radiator Springs Racers at Disney’s California Adventure. They certainly get the job done. Granted, it was the first day and some of the animatronics were a little buggy or frozen (pun intended) in place, but Disney has never failed to come through with a fix within a few days — we won’t talk about Everest’s “disco yeti”.

One of the standout moments of the ride, and rightly so, is when you finally reach Elsa’s sparkling freezy fortress and experience the ice queen herself singing Let it Go. What starts as a casual passing by of a scene in a dark ride becomes a participatory immersive music video with screens on the walls shattering and sparkling to life, and Elsa herself sending your boat back through a glittering, frosted corridor with the power of her ice magic. It was fantastically executed and (dare I say it) thrilling.

Check out the sequence below:

The ride concludes with Anna, Elsa and Olaf gathering together to sing one last song before guests disembark and continue about their day. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, delivers the fanfare that one would expect from a Disney ride, and serves to complement the property both accurately and lovingly. Who could ask for much more?

Here’s the full ride-through experience:

Meeting and/or greeting

The Royal Sommerhus addition to the Norway pavilion is pretty much your typical meet and greet experience. The only difference is, the queue passes through what is apparently Anna and Elsa’s summer home from when they were children. So guests will have the opportunity to see dolls the sisters used to play with as children, and other trinkets that may hint at what life was like for these two young ladies growing up.

A large part of me wishes there were a little more bells and whistles throughout the house to keep people occupied or entertained, but that’s a small complaint. I just think it would’ve been kind of neat to see Elsa have taken the home into her own hands and spruced it up with her ice magic somehow. Maybe a few of those little adorable snowman minions peeking out of corners, or hiding in the cookie jars. Then again, the dialing back of the magic a little bit may have been part of the imagineer’s attempt to not take away too much from the celebration of Norwegian culture in place.

When you finally meet the sisters, they are so excited to see you and beyond happy to talk about their memories in the home, how funny it’s been having Olaf around for the vacation, and other wonderful talking points. The kids will absolutely love the opportunity.

Here’s a full walkthrough of Royal Sommerhus:

The verdict

Overall, I personally feel like Frozen has a very comfortable home at Epcot. It doesn’t go completely fantasy bombastic (it’s not “Frozen Land”), and that absolutely works to its favor. There’s a delightful meet and greet opportunity, a stellar dark ride, and the rest is a celebration of Norway. The way it’s always been…just without Maelstrom.

I think, if I may offer my two cents, that fans should embrace change when it comes to the Walt Disney World parks. Do we have to be happy about the loss of a favorite ride? Of course not. A part of me still weeps for the loss of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Magic Kingdom. But there’s always room for progress, and the parks will be constantly growing and changing throughout the entirety of their existence. So rather than swimming upstream and protesting something new, take a more positive route and find things to love about the new kid on campus.

A lot of very creative and talented people worked with love and dedication to bring this experience to life, and I guarantee they are so excited to share it with all of you. We now have two new quality experiences at Disney’s Epcot theme park — and what’s an “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” without a few experimental prototypes, and a community to honor the effort?

9 Comments

  1. EricJ

    Like Anna & Elsa first appearing at MK, ALL WE HEAR in the press is the “five hour lines”.
    So…are there FastPasses for this, or not? I haven’t checked.

    1. Cassie

      Yes. I was able to (barely) reserve fast passes for this ride for our trip at the end of July. They weren’t available for the day we’ll be at Epcot so I picked a “free” day to go and ride. I’m not a huge Frozen fan but it will cool to see what they did. I, too, miss the Maelstrom ride!

  2. Denny Miller

    I rode the new ride on Tuesday afternoon! Kudos to the Imagineers on the incredible job of making this ride so amazing. You get to see Olaf singing, dancing and ice skating! The Elsa animatronic defies everything you ever have seen. It’s like she’s really standing there! I can’t wait to ride it again! Grins!

  3. Nicolò

    I just want to say thank you for this beautifull and intelligent article.
    From the moment this ride opened, I read so many posts around Internet filled with rage about the ride, the closure of maelstorm and How the ride was just “ok”. I think that Disney imagineering did an incredible job with this ride and just seeing the pov of the ride I had gosebumps…THIS is a real Disney dark ride.
    My only concern is How they will manage the Big crowds and fastpasses, since the capacity for the ride is really limited

  4. Eric

    I had the privelege to stand in line 3 hours with Adam and made the wait worth while. I had the three whining daughters. Great ride and finally was able to ride after leaving the wait line when it broke down.

  5. Caleb Mills

    Such a good, article, man. Everything you said was well thought out and expertly stated. It’s nice to read an article about WDW that isn’t filled with negativity and cynicism, but is equally not looking through rose-colored glasses. Well done, Adam.

    This makes me very excited to go back and visit EPCOT and for the future of the park. As we all know, it’s in need of a TLC, but this encourages me that the park is in better hands than the Disney community at large originally thought. You just made my day i little more magical. Thanks again!

  6. JimJ

    Disney fans should welcome this new attraction. Some complained that Frozen Ever After turns World Showcase into Fantasyland and that it should go there. This is nonsense argument. The opportunity to turn a rejected government and corporate sponsorship into a Disney world class attraction was embraced. This model should encourage the eventual replacement of unpopular attractions into worthy Disney IP attractions. I’m looking at the botched Imagination and the tired Energy Adventure. Add new attractions to the empty World Showcase land plots. Ratatouille comes to mind next to the France Pavilion.

  7. Zippy

    The ride is actually pretty underwhelming… totally phoned in.

    Follows the same path as Maelstrom, and there isn’t even a story. Just a few scenes with the characters in new animatronic format.

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  1. Frozen Ever After opens to rave reviews | Guide2WDW

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