The Frozenification of Disney’s theme parks continues. For almost a decade since the film’s release, Imagineering has been gradually adding Frozen to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and the international parks in Paris, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. (Updated May 12, 2023.)
It started with some of the most popular meet & greets ever, continued with stage shows and other injections that the company scrambled to debut in the year after the movie’s release to take advantage of the pop culture phenomenon. This seemingly culminated with Frozen Ever After in the Norway pavilion of EPCOT’s World Showcase a few years later.
That reimagined ride marked the first standalone Frozen attraction, replacing the quirky cult favorite Maelstrom. Frozen Ever After was an immediate smash hit, and is still one of the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World and the biggest Frozen attraction anywhere in the world. Until now…
Starting in the second half of 2023, the World of Frozen and Kingdom of Arendelle will begin to debut at Hong Kong Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. Plus, a version of this expansion in Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea.
Let’s take a grand circle tour of the international parks to see all of the Frozen fun that’s currently under construction!
Hong Kong Disneyland is where the first expansion will debut, with Arendelle: The World of Frozen opening in the second half of 2023.
The World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland will be the first highly immersive Frozen-themed land inspired by the Walt Disney Animation Studios hit films. In this Frozen land, guests will be able to visit the kingdom of Arendelle and be fully immersed in all its sights, sounds, cuisines, and traditions, as seen in the all-time favorite movies.
Arendelle: The World of Frozen will be home to two attractions and more at Hong Kong Disneyland.
First, a one-of-a-kind roller coaster called Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs, where guests will embark on a scenic ride through Arendelle on a ride designed and built by Wandering Oaken and powered by his buddies Olaf and Sven. Each experience on Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs begins when you visit Oaken’s infamous store. Then, Olaf and Sven help pull your sled to the top of the lift before sending you on your way.
Arendelle’s other attraction at HKDL is Frozen Ever After, based on the popular boat ride in EPCOT.
Frozen Ever After takes guests on an adventurous journey through the kingdom of Arendelle. Guests will have the chance to see Elsa create a beautiful “winter-in-summer” day.
Arendelle: The World of Frozen has already been delayed several years. First, by economic and political problems that depressed attendance at Hong Kong Disneyland, and then by the closures and slow reopenings of the park.
On a positive note, the World of Frozen now has a different second attraction than originally announced. Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs is now a roller coaster instead of a Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree clone, which is a huge upgrade.
May 12, 2023 Update: Speaking of Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs, Hong Kong Disneyland just shared a new construction update. Test rides have started on the attraction, with Imagineers and Cast Members had the opportunity to be among the first to give Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs in World of Frozen a try!
Disney also indicated that the attraction will officially open in the “second half” of 2023, meaning July or later. (Typically, Halloween and Christmas are the busy seasons in the back half of the year at HKDL, so our guess is by October. Given that test rides have already begun, that seems like an achievable timeframe.)
Powered by his buddies Olaf and Sven, they’re working together to pull the sleighs to the top of the lift hill. The above image offers another look inside the attraction, at what appears to be two static figures in a show scene. (Hopefully it also has Audio Animatronics!)
Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs will feature trains of sleds through a family ‘storytelling coaster’ that appears similar to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney World and Shanghai Disneyland. The more we see of Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs, the more we suspect it’s a reskinned Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. That’s not a bad thing, either. SDMT is a great rite-of-passage coaster and the two rides look very similar! (Here’s hoping that Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs is a tad longer.)
Frozen Ever After is expected to be a scene-by-scene clone of the EPCOT attraction, albeit with a number of upgrades.
Some will come simply by virtue of this attraction being a new build instead of a retrofit of an existing attraction, which will improve its hourly capacity and efficiency. Other upgrades will come to its staging (again, since it’s not repurposing old spaces), with upgrades to Audio Animatronics (AAs) also expected. My personal hope is that they don’t do the projected faces for any of the AAs–that technology has not aged well, and Imagineering has found superior alternatives since. Which brings us to the latest update…
Speaking of the updates to Frozen Ever After, Imagineering has shared the above new video of the Audio-Animatronics figures of beloved Frozen characters as they embark on a whimsical journey. For these AAs, Imagineering collaborated with Walt Disney Animation Studios to ensure that every detail of these characters – such as costumes and performances – feels like they’ve stepped right out of the movie.
Imagineering pushed the boundaries to enhance the technology of the Audio-Animatronics figures while developing this new attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland. In particular, Elsa takes Audio-Animatronics technology to a whole new level. When you see Elsa performing her signature song “Let It Go,” her facial expressions and body movements will bring her to life like never before.
Disney has also shared the above new drone video, showing construction progress on the Arendelle village, which is almost completed! This features the clock tower, Elsa’s Ice Palace sitting atop the North Mountain, and Arendelle Castle–all setting the scene for World of Frozen to come alive.
From this video, it’s already clear that the World of Frozen project team has taken immersive storytelling to the next level. Using the natural landscape of Lantau Mountain behind Hong Kong Disneyland as a backdrop for the Kingdom of Arendelle is such a nice touch–a wonderful use of shakkei, or borrowed scenery.
In creating the World of Frozen, Imagineering’s vision is making this land a living and authentic Arendelle where guests can step into the cinematic scenes from the Frozen films. The team recreated iconic landmarks of Arendelle that will instantly resonate with the fans of Frozen and all guests alike.
A Frozen-themed land is also being built at the Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris. France’s second gate will soon welcome Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and their friends to their very own world within Walt Disney Studios Park.
Construction started earlier this year on the Frozen-themed area, and likely won’t open until 2025. No time frame has been given, that’s simply our guess based on what’s normal for Disney.
As guests approach the heart of the Walt Disney Studios Park, Elsa’s Ice Castle will beckon them from across the new lake. This magnificent structure will stand atop of a 131-foot snow-covered mountain, right next to a 3-hectare lake.
This Walt Disney Studios Park overhaul was first announced over 4 years ago, and a lot has changed since. Above is the concept art that was originally released, showing Arendelle dead-center behind the lake with a version of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to the left of that. While Disney has not addressed the fate of Galaxy’s Edge, it also hasn’t mentioned that component of the project since that land debuted to disappointing numbers back in 2019. It’s safe to assume only the Arendelle expansion is being built at this point.
With that in mind, here’s a closer look at just the Arendelle area coming to Walt Disney Studios Park.
The Kingdom of Arendelle will open its gates to the public “for the first time in forever”, and on this occasion, many experiences will await, including a new attraction that will take guests on a journey alongside iconic characters from the world of Frozen. The village – with its film-inspired architectural style – will be home to a shop, and restaurant serving dishes with a Nordic touch. In addition, guests will get to meet their favourite Characters during a royal Meet & Greet they will remember forever.
To access this new Arendelle area in the Walt Disney Studios Park, guests will walk along a promenade surrounded by lush landscapes, including a mixture of themed gardens and green walkways.
This fantasy world will be perfect for daydreaming or enjoying entertainment, and will serve as the transition between the new themed areas that will surround the future lake, and will completely transform the WDSP’s atmosphere. While arguably lacking in substance, we still consider this a win for Walt Disney Studios Park, which is largely a sea of concrete at present. More lush, green spaces and water will be welcome additions. But we digress–the purpose of this post is excitement for Arendelle!
These aren’t the first Frozen areas announced for the Disney parks. Back in 2015, the Oriental Land Company (owners and operators of Tokyo Disney Resort) shared that company’s aggressive 10-year plan to spend 500 billion yen on its two existing theme parks, including a Scandinavia port-of-call on an expansion pad in Tokyo DisneySea.
That Scandinavia port would have featured Arendelle castle and village on the left, with a mountain, waterfall, and woods to the right. It was expected to feature multiple attractions, restaurants, and retail. It would’ve been the eighth port at Tokyo DisneySea, in a way bringing to fruition the unbuilt Glacier Bay.
As you might guess based upon the use of past-tense, the Scandinavian port was never built at Tokyo Disney Resort’s second gate.
Instead, a mini-version of this area called Frozen Kingdom is being incorporated into Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea, which is the larger Frozen, Tangled, and Peter Pan expansion of the park.
Rather than using Tokyo DisneySea’s last expansion pad, this huge development is utilizing a parking lot between the two parks in Japan. While formidable, Fantasy Springs is not a standalone Arendelle land like its counterparts in Hong Kong or France.
Prior to this, Disney just released new progress photos from Hong Kong Disneyland:
Arendelle: The World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland looks amazing. The level of detail on the architecture, the orientation around a Bryggen-style wharf, and the way the land looks with the natural landscape behind it all suggests that this is going to be something special.
It looks like Arendelle is going to be awesome–the latest “game changer” land for HKDL that has already had two such additions with Mystic Point and Grizzly Gulch. Those two lands are home to Mystic Manor and Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, respectively, which are arguably two of the top 10 Disney attractions in the world. (Mystic Manor is in my personal top 5; Big Grizzly makes the top 15.)
Honestly, this really should not come as a surprise. I know it’s difficult, but if you can set aside its placement in World Showcase and replacing the cult-favorite Maelstrom, what Imagineering did with Frozen in the Norway pavilion at EPCOT is pretty impressive.
I don’t just mean Frozen Ever After, which remains one of the most popular rides in all of Walt Disney World years later. The adjacent expansion with Royal Sommerhus is really well done, and thoughtfully integrated into World Showcase, too. (When you contrast Frozen in Norway with the butchered Pixar Pier reimagining only a few years later, it’s even more impressive.)
Obviously, none of that is perfect and I’m not suggesting it is. Rather, that this was the outcome when Imagineering was tasked with making lemonade out of lemons by turning a weird boat ride about trolls into Frozen Ever After in an existing World Showcase pavilion. It shouldn’t be shocking that they’re doing a much better job when given a blank slate, healthy budget, and creative freedom of building Arendelle from the ground up.
More than anything else, I’m shocked at just how strong the themed design and details of Arendelle: The World of Frozen appear, and based solely on construction photos of the unfinished project at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Ultimately, as the title of this post suggests, we’re really looking forward to all of the upcoming Arendelles, but especially the one at Hong Kong Disneyland. That park doesn’t get nearly enough attention, despite quietly adding some excellent areas and attractions that are among the best in the world, breathtaking scenery, and a charming and quaint atmosphere that’s now almost entirely absent from every other Disney park in the world. (Granted, part of the reason it hasn’t gotten much attention recently is because it’s been nearly inaccessible for most travelers the last few years, but we’re looking forward to revisiting it soon.)
In addition to that, we’re also really looking forward to more new lands and attractions based on Walt Disney Animation Studios films. Don’t get me wrong, as I love Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is also awesome. Then there’s Avengers Campus at Disney California…which, well, it exists. As much as I enjoy some of those, it feels like it’s been a while since Walt Disney World or Disneyland got an original, brand-new attraction based on an animated classic. (To each their own, but Frozen absolutely qualifies as a new-classic in my book.)
It’s unlikely that this fully-fledged Arendelle will ever be built at Walt Disney World given Frozen Ever After’s presence in Norway, but Disneyland is still a possibility. Pre-closure, there were rumors of Arendelle expansion replacing Fantasyland Theatre–but those have fizzled out since. While I think Arendelle looks awesome, I’m not sure it versions of it need to exist in Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and California. Nevertheless, I hope it’s a huge success and Imagineering uses this type of land as the template for unique awesome animated additions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, too.
What do you think of these Frozen lands and Arendelle areas? Does this expansion look like something you’d like to see at Walt Disney World or Disneyland? Would this be enough to push you over the edge and convince you to visit the parks in Paris, Hong Kong, or Japan? Any other thoughts or speculation to add about the project? Please share any questions and comments you have!