Frozen replaces Aladdin

Late Wednesday night, Disney broke the news that a Frozen musical would be replacing the long-running fan favorite Aladdin — A Musical Spectacular at the Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure. This led to feverish debate on the internet and within our own organization. The following is a real debate that took place between LP owner Doobie in the pro-Frozen corner and Associate Editor Kyle in the opposing camp:

When Aladdin opened back in 2003, no one – NO ONE – loved it more than me. In the year I lived in California before moving to Florida, I probably saw the show nearly 100 times. It was the perfect show for the Disneyland Resort as it had repeat value unlike any other, namely the Genie. The show was so good they put a nearly identical version of it on the Disney Cruise Line. But, the show did open 12 years ago. It’s a theater show — theater shows aren’t meant to last forever. Can we at least agree on that much — it’s time for a change?
To your point about repeat-ability, that’s exactly what makes this show so great. I actually just advised a friend who had never seen it to not only watch a video of it but to also watch clips from multiple and various years so they could see as many Genie jokes as possible. Even after 12 or 13 years, the show still stays fresh as a result of these improvisations (if you can call them that).

The other magical thing about the show is that, in my opinion, it actually improves on the film it’s based on. No longer can I sit through the 90-minute movie when this version (with its omissions and changes) tells the story better in half the time. Heck, I’ve heard this version is more enjoyable than the Broadway show even.

While I can agree perhaps it is time to change things up, I don’t think a Frozen show will be able to accomplish either of these things. The closest I think they’ll come is if they have Olaf throw in some Miley Cyrus (or whatever teen starlet is the scandal of 2016) jokes. While this might be fun, it won’t make as much sense as such quips do coming from the Genie given the source material’s affinity for pop culture. Although the press release promises twists, I fear this adaptation will be too straightforward and grow stale quickly.

So we can somewhat agree that it’s time for a change. Frozen made over $400 million in the U.S. and is the 3rd highest grossing Disney animated film of all time. If ever a film deserved a prime spot in a Disney park, it’s Frozen.

Sure, Disney has been a little slow to capitalize on its success shoehorning Frozen here and there creating, frankly, quite a bit of Frozen fatigue. I was in the room of the Disney Parks presentation at the D23 Expo, and, whenever Frozen was mentioned, the response was something between a groan and tepid applause. But that’s all the more reason to step back and create a true Frozen experience.

Even the Frozen ride coming to Epcot is adapted from the existing Maelstrom. But here Disney is (presumably) building a new show from scratch taking full advantage of DCA’s incredible Hyperion Theater. And Disney’s already announced Frozen is going to Broadway, so I’m guessing they’ll put a huge effort into making this a trial run for that. I don’t know what “surprises” they have in store, but there are more ways to make a show repeatable than Genie jokes. Disney has also improved California Adventure to the point where day guests and tourists do want to spend the day there. They don’t have to have an extremely repeatable show that will lure in the Annual Passholders.

See, I think the fact they there are introducing a Broadway show as well just makes it even more confusing. Yes, Aladdin finally made it to the Great White Way, but that was 10+ years after the DCA show opened and nearly 20 years after the film. Theme park shows are only 40-50 minutes while Broadway shows are usually around 2 hours and 30 minutes, so I don’t exactly see them test-running this production for that. However, part of me thinks that the average consumer may not realize that the two shows are different. I’m not exactly sure what that will mean for ticket sales in New York or guest comments in Anaheim, but I think it’s worth thinking about.

Even though the cliche is that Disneyland is all APs, the truth is that there are many “day guests” who return often as well. Before I was an AP, my family and I were just day guests, but we still loved going to see Aladdin because we knew it would be different. For these poor parents who have already had to endure over a year of non-stop Frozen playing in their home, they will now have to watch what will presumably be the same boring show over and over every time they visit the parks. I’m all for making their kids happy but… come on.

The best hope this musical has in my book (save possibly a new song) is the scenery and effects. Second to my love of the topical Genie is the all-too-convincing elephant followed closely by the famous carpet scene. Even the Cave of Wonders is a wonderful piece of scenery. And the “Fosse stairs.” And even the Jafar snake.

Granted, there will probably be a cool Marshmallow in the show, but I’ve already seen that at the short-lived Freeze the Night. My question is: what effects and elements are they going to dazzle me with in this show besides fake snow and lots of clear plastic?


I love Aladdin — Jafar the snake did not dazzle. But to answer your question, I don’t know. Hearing an Aladdin show was coming, I didn’t expect to be wowed by Genies coming down a staircase, but I was. I’m sure Disney can come up with something spectacular for Elsa’s ice castle and other things I haven’t even thought about. I’m already anxious to see it.

And while it’s true the Broadway version of shows often came long after the theme park versions, they sometimes did run concurrently. Aladdin being an obvious example, Beauty and the Beast played in the Magic Kingdom and Broadway at the same time. I do think most guests can tell the difference and would be shocked if one has a significant negative effect on the other. In fact, I think the cross marketing will have a positive effect.

Frozen was a phenomenon that went beyond the $400 million box office. For a time in late 2013/early 2014, Frozen may have been the biggest thing in pop culture. It went well beyond kids, just look at all the “Let It Go” versions on YouTube, they’re not all by kids. I loved Frozen and still do and while I can do without 3 hour queues for a meet and greet and slapped together sing-alongs and even the overlaid boat ride, I’m truly excited to see what Disney brings us for Frozen’s first, from the ground up, major attraction. A modern classic like this deserves this kind of treatment and I expect Disney to deliver!

I’ll give you the final word.

No one can argue that Frozen was anything but a giant smash. Unfortunately, nor can anyone imagine how the Disney hits of the 90’s (like, say, Aladdin) would have fared in today’s world of multimedia and memes that lead to all those YouTube covers you mentioned. But Frozen is still only 20 or so months old. I don’t think I need to mention more than the giant hit that was Avatar to 1) incite more fanboy rage than this announcement did and 2) remind you that boffo box office doesn’t always mean staying power.

Honestly, I too love Frozen and I do actually believe it will be heralded as a classic for years to come. That being said, it hasn’t been proven yet. When Aladdin inspired the show in DCA, it was nearly a decade old — it had a track record. I just feel there are other films in the Disney canon that could be called upon to create a better presentation than the current hotness.

I think we both want the show to be great, and part of me believes it will be. But, speaking of track records, I haven’t been impressed with Disney’s Frozen offerings so far. In their rush to get a touchdown, they’ve fumbled the ball repeatedly (lackluster sing-a-long show, boring Freeze the Night, shoehorning into Norway). Just because it seems that they’re taking a little more time on this project isn’t enough to convince me it isn’t another half-baked cash grab. But, if they can get this right, then I’ll… nevermind

What’s your opinion on Frozen Replacing Aladdin at DCA???

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