Six months after the premiere of “Frozen,” Disney’s Oscar-winning, blockbuster animated film, an adoring public just can’t get enough of the princess sisters from the icy kingdom of Arendelle.
The success of “Frozen” swelled Disney’s second-quarter earnings to four times what they were last year, thanks in part to stellar home video sales and a chart-topping soundtrack. “Frozen” merchandise flies out of Disney stores as quickly as it arrives; a “Frozen” skating spectacular from Disney on Ice is set to tour rink arenas in the fall; and a Broadway musical is in the works.
But for “Frozen” fans who travel to Orlando, Fla., to visit Princess Fairytale Hall in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, only a face-to-face meeting with Princesses Anna and Elsa will do. “It is not unusual for the line to quickly grow to two hours plus within 10 minutes of park opening, and it builds from there,” said Deb Wills, founder of the popular Disney planning site AllEars.Net. “Common wait times throughout the day range from three to five hours.”
“Frozen continues to be extremely popular with our guests at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and the princesses, Anna and Elsa, are among the most popular Disney characters our guests want to meet,” said Christi Erwin Donnan, a spokeswoman for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
That’s quite an understatement, Disney experts say. “Whenever Disney introduces a new character into the parks – and particularly a new princess – it instantly becomes the most popular character around,” said Ricky Brigante, owner of InsideTheMagic.Net, a website that has covered Disney and other theme parks for nine years. “But the popularity of Anna and Elsa has gone above and beyond the character meet-and-greets that I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely a phenomenon.”
“Right now, especially for families with little girls, ‘Frozen’ is really the No. 1 requested thing,” said Susan Kelly of Travel Magic, a Disney vacation planning specialist for over 15 years. “I’ve even had clients say, ‘If we don’t get FastPasses for the Anna and Elsa character experience, I’m going to want to cancel our trip or change dates.’”
The only way to guarantee a meeting with Anna and Elsa at Disney World is to book a character experience through FastPass+, the attraction-reservation system that recently replaced Disney’s old paper FastPass system. Guests staying at an official Disney resort can book the new, electronic FastPasses 60 days in advance through the My Disney Experience website or smartphone app. Park visitors who aren’t staying at a Disney resort can reserve a meeting time 30 days in advance.
But snagging FastPasses is easier said than done. Even two months out, landing those coveted FastPasses to meet Anna and Elsa can prove extremely difficult.
One strategy is to book your vacation through a travel planner like Kelly, who routinely books FastPasses for her clients. She says persistence is key because people can and do change their FastPass times.
“Stick to it. We’ve had good luck finding FastPasses within a couple of days of arrival,” she said. If it’s a must-do for just one child in your family, she recommends searching for the minimum number of FastPasses. “For a family of five with one little girl, for example, try for just two FastPasses and you may have better luck.”
For those who still can’t get FastPasses, there’s a big benefit to staying at a Disney property. Several times a week, Disney resort guests can gain entry to the Magic Kingdom one hour early by taking advantage of the “Extra Magic Hour” perk. Getting to Princess Fairytale Hall before the floodgates open can shorten wait times considerably, Kelly said.
If merely seeing the princesses, rather than meeting them, will do, the easiest way to get your “Frozen” fix is to watch the new Festival of Fantasy parade that moves through the Magic Kingdom every afternoon. “Anna and Elsa were a last-minute addition,” Wills said. “Little girls start screaming when the ladies appear at the back of the first float.”
There will be a similar experience starting next month at Disneyland in California. “Disney is going to add the Anna and Elsa characters to a pre-parade experience, because the only way to see those characters currently is to wait in the very long line to meet them,” Brigante said.
This summer, a cruise might be just the ticket to meet Anna and Elsa, who will appear for meet-and-greets on three of the four Disney ships – the Disney Magic, Wonder and Fantasy. “We were lucky to have Princess Anna on our ship last fall when the film first came out and it was a thrill to our guests,” said Christian Abbott, cruise director on the Disney Dream. “Since then, the movie has just exploded all over the world and we offer screenings of ‘Frozen’ on the ship with singalongs.”
Looking ahead to next year, there will be additional opportunities to have a “Frozen” experience, as both Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney launch itineraries to Norway.
Suzanne Rowan Kelleher is the family vacations expert at About.com.