Arendelle Is Going to Be Awesome.
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.
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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!
Disney parks twitter just announced November 2023 as opening date for World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland. No specific day offered, but imagining it’s either Nov 19 or Nov 27, the 10 year anniversary of the original theatrical release (19th was the LA premiere, 27th broad release).
Arendelle in HKDL looks amazing – and I’m glad they were able to add what looks like two great new attractions to a park that could use some additional attractions to bolster it’s line-up.
Also, while I’m very happy that they’re building Arendelle at WDS in Paris, I have to admit that I’m slightly disappointed that with this very ambitious and time-consuming expansion to the park, really only one E-Ticket will be added (the Frozen ride – which I’m assuming will be a clone of Frozen Ever After, or at least HKDL’s version). I’m hopeful that they will fill out the rest of the area around the lagoon with 1-2 mini-lands (even if it’s not a Star Wars-themed land) and add a couple of other E-Tickets in the process. While the lagoon/promenade looks spectacular, and just what the park needs, I also feel that the park is in dire need of quality attractions… and if you’re pouring this much money and time into this expansion, I would hope that there would be more than just one E-Ticket.
Hi Tom, Where exactly is the new land located in Hong Kong, I am having trouble visualising where it has been built.
Hey I know this is an old comment
But arendelle will be behind the fantasyland station between Toy Story land and it’s a small world
Hoping Arendelle makes it to Disneyland, too.
Same. There were pretty strong rumors of it back in 2018-2019, but those seem to have fizzled out. Still, if this is a hit–and it very much appears that it will be–I’ve gotta imagine those plans are revived.
Sure, but where could they possibly put it? You know they wish Walt could’ve afforded another 500 acres…
It was previously slated for the plot where Fantasyland Theater is located–between the current Fantasyland, Toontown, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
There’s a strong case to be made for expansion occurring there. Not only would more Fantasyland be good for absorbing crowds, but connecting the above-mentioned lands would be HUGE for crowd flow (if done correctly).
Is that area big enough? Looks pretty small but I agree could be a huge traffic shifter. The RR tracks are there too…
Perhaps a Tokyo-sized Frozen Kingdom version instead of the full-sized Hong Kong version of Arendelle?
That gives the family and me a reason to go to Hong Kong Disneyland. The Arendelle frozen world certainly looks amazing.
Can’t wait to get back to this park. It’s a gem.
This sounds awesome! I saw the mural at Paris when we were there right at the beginning of the virus nonsense two years ago and yes, that park is terrible now. Hopefully the new versions of FEA won’t suck like Ruins of Maelstrom does.
We did laugh when we saw Phasma in the parade spewing French. She’s just not intimidating in the least and I don’t get why she is popular at all. For whatever reason, there just hasn’t really been a successful female antagonist in the SW universe yet. Nothing like the glorious Maleficent!
You bring up a good point and one of the reasons why I dislike this abomination so much, the projected faces. They were horrible right from the start! They look cheap and janky. But the new land’s scenery looks spectacular. I love DLP park.
Hi Tom, I love Hong Kong Disney as it is in my backyard (Australia) and we have visited several times. Grizzly Gulch is my favourite ride ever and I absolutely love Mystic Manor. Can you please explain where this new land is placed within the park as I can’t visualise where they have built it? As always love your work.
Why can’t they build something like this at WDW in THE UNITED STATES? I’m not going to Hong Kong or France to see a Frozen-themed land, even though it may be cheaper to do than a trip to WDW, lol.
Being a Dad of boys- we have never seen Frozen.
The land definitely looks cool though. The ride also sounds amazing- I am absolutely Jealous that DW Orlando isn’t getting this.
“Then there’s Avengers Campus at Disney California…which, well, it exists.” Ditto. Walked through it for the very first time last month. We said “That’s it??”
Hong Kong Disneyland is the one park I haven’t been to yet, and is my top priority. These photos of the outstanding work being done on the new Frozen area reaffirms my plan to go in late 2023. I’m deciding between Oct, Nov, & Dec and thinking the later I go the better, to ensure that it’s open. I am soooo excited for the entire park!
Will no one speak for or against the (still-ongoing worldwide!) buildup of rides and other attractions based on Pixar animated classics? I blame the fact that most of them simply do not look as good as Arendelle does (so far, so it will probably look even better when complete!) because a lot of that design work was done many years ago, before Pandora and Galaxy’s Edge. Quite frankly, those are the only modern Disney lands that are as singularly specific in theme and all-encompassing in quality as this appears to be. Most Toy Story Lands, in contrast, look as interesting as their name and much of the designs look the same as leaked images from 20 years ago when Dino-Rama was cutting edge (Pixar Pier? sigh).
I figured that this was possible based on the world designing of Pandora and Galaxy’s Edge, and I knew that both of those had built on the similar unitary attraction/lands of Harry Potter. I admittedly was more fired up for the Zootopia-based land because of the decades of experience of Imagineering has in theming Disney animated theatrical castle environments gave me every confidence they could still do so. (Royal Sommerhus is beautiful, and not just a cheap and easy thrown together meet and greet building.) I lowered the bar too much relying on past success, because Arendelle looks just as amazing as those four existing lands and not Fantasyland Again*. I think it was because itt reminds me of the World Showcase pavilions that were nearly as important to my enjoyment of Epcot Center in the 1980s as Future World was. While much smaller, the country pavilions are as all encompassing within them as any Harry Potter land is, with the sole exception of being able to look outside most of them to the central lagoon. That being said, because of everything else being produced by Disney in between, it truly feels revolutionary and not nearly revolutionary. I only hope the move towards entire lands for one property cycles back into smaller areas like World Showcase so we don’t have only one or two of them, though I suspect that (once again!) Tokyo will show how it can be done.
* Like many themed lands, Fantasyland at both WDW and DL not only incorporates different stories at each attraction but at least a couple of outside environments rather than a single unified look. It’s wonderful for variety, as Fantasyland can encompass old European charm/frights with Dumbo circuses with “it’s a small world,” but it doesn’t provide that “land as attraction” that Imagineering is going for here where you’re transported to another specific place by the land rather than a single ride. Before World Showcase, I think the Squares and the Main Streets probably did that kind of thing best because they didn’t have a lot of rides and other attractions competing for head space.
Per Pixar, I think it’s pretty simple:
1. For a 15 year period (roughly 1995-2010), Pixar was crushing Walt Disney Animation in terms of compelling stories, characters, world-building, stunning animation, and (not coincidentally) box office receipts. The generation bringing their kids to parks now were raised on Toy Story and Finding Nemo, not Hercules and the Emperor’s New Groove.
2. Pixar also never shied away from sequels so stories/worlds/characters keep pushing their way into minds/hearts. Until Frozen 2, Disney (somewhat perplexingly) always tended to diminish their animated features through low-quality direct-to-video sequels or cheap-looking TV shows.
Or in other words, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, Monsters Inc., and The Incredibles are FRANCHISES. The Lion King is a great film that spawned a “cheapquel”, a cheap kids’ show, and a remake. Tangled is similarly a great film that spawned a low-budget show and an animated short.
Also franchises? Star Wars. Marvel Cinematic Universe. Notice where Disney is putting its investment.
This is fantastic, but unfortunately, my visits to these international parks will be slim to none. Why can’t WDW and Disneyland incorporate more lands based on Disney animated films, and steer away from the continuous Marvel and Star Wars additions/expansions? Both are fine in their own right, but they’re NOT Disney, and they’re not at the heart of what Walt Disney represented. They deserve their own separate parks!
Tom, I share your enthusiasm — I wish we would see additions on this scale in the US parks (Galaxy’s Edge was pretty much a decade worth of CapEx for expansions, I guess).
The setting/iconography of the Frozen series lends itself perfectly to a theme park land — and I’m baffled at how many people WOULDN’T consider Frozen worthy of “classic” status. Historical context is important here as most of the animated Disney “classics” hadn’t even developed or released when Disneyland was built. They even created a centerpiece castle based on a movie (Sleeping Beauty) that wasn’t released until FOUR YEARS after the park opened! And that movie didn’t land with audiences or critics — including Walt himself. It’s become an iconic film with time but it’s not the most engaging or interesting to sit through. Don’t even get me started with Alice in Wonderland (which has TWO rides at Disneyland despite it being widely panned by audiences, critics, and…again…Walt). I have nothing against those films — but the point is that the Disney parks were always going to highlight the most recent IP from the studio — not museums or time capsules to honor films that weren’t even considered future classics during their time.
Some of the more recent Disney Animation Studios releases are as well-made and delightful and artistic as almost anything the company has produced in its 100 years and I agree that the parks need to be doubling down on these films, not shoehorning them in as walkthroughs, meet-and-greets, and glorified restroom facades.
To be fair, the Tangled Toilets are the nicest restrooms in the Magic Kingdom by far. 🙂
I think a problem is that development timelines for attractions is far longer than it was in Walt’s day, while studio output is so much higher. So that makes it hard to “pick” which films get attractions.
At least in recent years WDW and DL have hit upon the idea of expanding the parks rather than trying to shoehorn in attractions only through replacement. Want a Winnie-the-Pooh dark ride? Well, we have to replace Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
There’s probably an interesting discussion about attractions that have become iconic in their own right like WDW Mr. Toad and its two tracks upping the craziness and DL Alice, which keeps getting minor and major plusses over the years. They were/are great rides regardless of the films they were based on and were/are not mere historical pieces that can easily be bested. The parks are not museums where a new exhibit can be easily rotated out in a few months or years if they aren’t as good, like Pooh on both coasts. Walt chose Alice in Wonderland as the only new animation based feature attraction for DL after the first year or so because he knew that attractions and features are two different experiences. (Eisner forgot that at some point, but it’s not like Pinocchio’s Daring Journey is terribly good, besides never being cloned I suppose.)
To synthesize Kevin and Aaron’s points above, I think the modern Disney company has become way too hesitant to invest in any IP-themed lands/attractions in the US parks that aren’t a “sure bet”. But per the Mr. Toad analogy, the IP doesn’t really need to be a mega-hit or culturally iconic if the attraction experience is great. An Arendelle village and sleigh ride would have sounded pretty awesome regardless of whether Frozen was a modest success or a global phenomenon. And conversely, a phoned-in attraction won’t usually catch on regardless of its source IP (Aladdin was a smash, Magic Carpets ride not so much). This is just emblematic of how the modern Disney company is run — the power is not in the hands of dreamers/visionaries like Walt (or Eisner) but businessmen who are purely looking at ROI to drive every decision.
Tron is sort of a weird outlier in this discussion….I would love to survey the guests in line for Lightcycle Run to see how many had actually seen more than a snippet of the original film (or its sequel for that matter). I don’t think the number would be high. It makes no sense to invest in that IP at surface level, as I can’t imagine there’s a lot of customer demand for more Tron stories (despite a Tron 3 movie in development).); the only real explanation is that unlike most other modern Disney/Pixar films it’s a somewhat natural fit in Tomorrowland (not to mention a clone of an already-designed ride).
“Arendelle: The World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland looks amazing.” That was my first thought, too. Particularly with the natural topography of the area behind it Well done!
Bring back the magic of the MK castle with the gorgeous icicle lights and magic of Elsa freezing the castle !!!!! That would be joyous !