June 25, 2024

Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Journey is One of Disney’s Best Rides Ever.

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Anna and Elsa's Frozen Journey is a boat ride in Fantasy Springs, the new $2 billion port-of-call inspired by Arendelle, Peter Pan's Never Land, and Rapunzel's Forest from Tangled. The area is the most expensive




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Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey is a boat ride in Fantasy Springs, the new $2 billion port-of-call inspired by Arendelle, Peter Pan’s Never Land, and Rapunzel’s Forest from Tangled. The area is the most expensive expansion in Disney history and a worthy addition to Tokyo DisneySea, the best theme park in the world.

Now that Disney and Oriental Land Company have pulled back the curtain and released photos and video clips from the new rides, the one garnering the most attention and ‘wow’ reactions (at least from what I’ve seen) has been Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey. During the media preview of Fantasy Springs, I had the chance to ride each of the new attractions several times. I’m still not 100% confident about my own Fantasy Springs favorite, but it’s probably this.

I’m much more confident that Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey is going to be the #1 attraction of the Fantasy Springs expansion with most guests. It takes a modern fan-favorite movie and adapts it into a meaty 6.5 minute boat ride with a fantastic queue, memorable music, impressive Audio Animatronics, and how did they do that?” special effects to make for a highly repeatable ride. Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey is basically the recipe for a ride that’ll resonate with diehard Disney fans (e.g. readers of sites like this one).

Before we get started, I do want to note that this is NOT a spoiler-free ride review. There will be photos of the queue, pre-show, and multiple scenes of Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey. We’ll also be discussing some of the design decisions, making this a bit inside baseball. If you want to be blown away by your first ride-through, this definitely is not the post for you.

If you’re looking for spoiler-free planning advice or tips & tricks for experiencing Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey or Fantasy Springs as a whole, those will be coming separately once the new port-of-call is actually open and we have the chance to experience it as normal, paying guests braving the chaos and crowds. Look for that in the second week of June. For now, everything is going to be spoiler-heavy.

If you’re simply wondering whether Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey is worth your time, the answer is in the title. In case it’s unclear, this ride is a masterpiece. Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey is a top 5 attraction in Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disney Resort as a whole. The better questions are whether it’s #1 in the Japan parks and top 5 or 10 in the world. That’s what this review seeks to answer.

At its core, Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey is essentially a classic Fantasyland ‘book report’ boat ride. It puts you in the middle of a condensed retelling of the movie, focused on the journey of the two sisters (hence the name!). It’s not like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or other attractions with original stories that surprise.

If you’re looking for a comparison for Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey, I’d actually go with Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast over at Tokyo Disneyland as opposed to the existing Frozen Ever After rides (it shares obvious bloodlines with those…they’re all the same movie and it’s to be expected that there’s overlap–but that’s “too easy” of a comparison). If you’ve experienced that attraction, I suspect you’ll have a very similar reaction to the new Frozen boat ride.

It feels like Imagineering used the same template for Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast and Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey, and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. They started with the tried and true ‘book report’ style, but instead of simply playing it safe (a la the Little Mermaid dark rides), they found ways to push the envelope and make two truly wowing attractions. There are a lot of other commonalities beyond that, which we’ll discuss in turn.

Like Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast, the queue for Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey takes guests through various rooms in the castle. In this Frozen attraction, the Library, Family Room, Playroom, and Greenhouse are all represented. The environments are unsurprisingly lavish and detailed, with plenty to see for what’s sure to be a lengthy wait.

Each room also features dynamic effects that are activated from time-to-time. For example, Olaf waddles along the roof of the Greenhouse (my favorite room) as the Northern Lights are visible in the distance. In the Playroom, there’s a music box featuring moving dolls that appear along with songs from the film.

Unlike Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast, there’s no pre-show in Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey. The opening act, as a whole, is better in Enchanted Tale. While both have top tier queues, that one is a bit more impressive, as is the arrival and entering Beast’s Castle. With Frozen Journey, the entrance is a bit understated, as the facade of Arendelle Castle serves as the restaurant next door.

Here are photos from the queue of Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey:

I had the chance to attend a creative roundtable and speak with Imagineer Daniel Jue, the lead creative for Tokyo Disney Resort, about Fantasy Springs. He first explained the decision to make Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey a retelling of the movie, which was done because TDR guests respond to attractions that forge an emotional connection; in this case, that’s best done via familiar music from the film. And those songs are best presented in the context of their original story.

This is arguably one of the strengths of the movie retelling attraction genre–many guests bring with them additional context from those films, allowing for key moments in the attraction to function as callbacks to the film, making for easier emotional connections.

In my view, perhaps the biggest parallel between Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast and Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Journey is the choice of ride system. That might sound odd given that the former is a trackless dark ride and the latter is a boat ride, but hear me out. In the case of Enchanted Tale, guests sit in teacups that spin and dance in unison with the music, adding an extra dimension to the attraction.

In Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Journey, guests board boats that move forwards and backwards–repeatedly–to match the emotion in the music and movie scenes. Jue compared the boat to a camera in a movie, calling the attraction very “cinematic” in presentation. He also said it was calibrated like a Swiss watch, with every story beat precisely timed with the boats.

There are a lot of examples of this, from isolating Elsa to careening through “Love is an Open Door.” My favorite, though, is how the boat gently glides through the Anna portion of “For the First Time in Forever,” only to pause and linger on Elsa during her portion while Anna is still visible in the previous room. It gives more weight to Elsa’s discomfort and unease, contrasting that to the buoyancy of Anna in the prior scene.

This is a pointed presentation of the two characters and their relationship, and I can’t think of another time that a Disney attraction accomplished a juxtaposition like this. It’s a little thing, but it packs a powerful punch and is probably my favorite scene in the ride as a result. It’s a cinematic presentation, indeed.

This is just one example. Rather than being a series of disconnected vignettes, Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey has transitions between scenes and uses just about everything from the Imagineering playbook to convey the story of the sisters.

While it may seem like 6.5 minutes is plenty of time for that, the ride actually feels longer because so much is crammed into the experience. Some scenes are over in a blink, others are given time to marinate so the emotional gut punch hits harder. It’s masterful, and mostly thanks to that ride system.

Going into Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Journey, I knew that the boat would move forward and backward. I liked the idea not from any real storytelling perspective, but honestly, for the novelty of it. Disney does this on a few other attractions and it’s often a gimmick that adds to the fun. C’mon, who doesn’t like a surprise backwards boat ride?!

I left thinking the movement of the boat is absolutely essential to the attraction’s success and the defining feature of the attraction. And this is an attraction with several wow moments–none of which are as integral as the ride system. It’s what makes you a participant in the story (as chief cinematographer, I guess?) and actively engaged instead of passively watching.

When discussing ride systems, Jue said that those chosen for Fantasy Springs were picked to enhance the storytelling, and effort was made not to utilize technology that would draw attention to itself and away from the attraction. This struck me, as there have been plenty of instances of Imagineering embracing the opposite approach–the technology tail wagging the dog, so to speak. Disney having an impressive piece of technology to use, and then working backwards from that to wrap a story around it.

Although Jue didn’t mention it, I suspect the same approach were taken with the Audio Animatronics and other effects in Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Journey. The buzz around the ride is the incredible effects and lifelike AAs, which blur the line between movie and reality. And there are several such scenes!

Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey uses Imagineering’s newest A-1000 Audio Animatronics generation. These debuted with Hondo Ohnaka in Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, and have been used in other recent rides. (There will be several of these amazing Audio Animatronics in Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Magic Kingdom and Disneyland.)

They are a notable upgrade from the projected faces a la Frozen Ever After at EPCOT and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. There was a time when those were cutting edge technology, but they just haven’t aged well.

These A-1000 AAs really help bring Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey to life. It’s not just the Audio Animatronics or the abundance of them, though. It’s how they’re integrated into the environments and every inch of every scene has been carefully staged and meticulously designed. I noticed new details with each ride-through…and even more details I hadn’t perceived in person while editing these photos.

There’s just a tremendous amount to chew on during the attraction that it really feels like floating through an animated movie come to life in fully dimensional form. I got a similar feeling walking through Cars Land for the first time, but Radiator Springs Racers didn’t quite manage that with bringing the characters to life–just the land and the setting.

Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey is the first ride that brings it all together, making you feel like you’re part of the movie unfolding in real-time.

Equally as impressive to me is the Audio Animatronics in the attraction that are more basic and only have limited range (some are probably more accurately classified as figures rather than AAs). This isn’t meant to be backhanded praise. To the contrary, I think this is brilliant. It’s not criticism that is making the rounds in fan circles because it’s almost imperceivable. Since there’s so much in each scene that grabs your attention, you don’t realize some figures are not advanced–your brain blurs them together with the advanced ones (it’s science, I guess).

A good example of this in motion–well, not really–is Disco Yeti at Animal Kingdom. There are so many guests that still swear up and down that yeti took a swipe at them, but he didn’t–it’s an illusion. And speaking of which, the yeti is also a good example of this in the first place, because that Audio Animatronics was a colossal waste of money for something that can only be seen for a fraction of a second. In a park that has plenty of problems and needs more, the yeti should never be fixed. Budgets are finite and that’s a poor use of both (down)time and money. Sorry not sorry.

To continue with the comparison we’ve been making here, I don’t think Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast does quite as good of a job with matching Audio Animatronics quality to the scene. To be sure, that ride has a lot of wow moments and amazing AAs. But it also has a couple of Belle figures that are under-animated in extended scenes that could use more visual interest.

Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey never has that problem. Every Audio Animatronics figure is of the exact caliber it needs to be and the pacing is perfect.

Here’s my ride-through video so you can watch for yourself…but again, I’d really not recommend that if you plan to visit Fantasy Springs:

Here are more of my photos from the attraction:

Ultimately, Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Journey is an incredible attraction. Literally nothing is wasted, mismatched, or gratuitous. Every single scene, every Audio Animatronic, every effect–everything–is exactly what’s called for in that moment. It’s cleverly staged, and not a moment of that 6 minutes and 30 seconds runtime is superfluous. Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey is like a symphony, with every element of the attraction coming together in perfect harmony.

The ride goes above and beyond, delivering not just emotional resonance or technical wizardry, but both. The wow moments are unexpected and leave you wondering how the Imagineers did that, again and again. And even though there’s the built-in emotional foundation from the film, that’s never used as a crutch–which is not something that can be said for a lot of book report rides.

Just about every attraction has room for improvement, and I manage to nitpick pretty much everything. I’m sure if you asked the Imagineers who worked on Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Journey what they wish they could’ve done differently, they’d have an answer–an effect or scene that got cut for time or budget. As a fan looking in, I’m personally at a loss for what that could be. This is a “no notes” ride for me.

This is where the similarities to Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast end. Although I praised that and consider it a 10/10 attraction, I also said it wasn’t without faults and that the sum of the parts is more than the whole with that. Somehow and against all odds, Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey is the opposite. Despite having a lot of formidable parts, the whole coalesces into something greater than the individual wow moments. Although it’s not my #1 attraction in Asia or even Tokyo DisneySea, it’s pretty close. From my perspective, Anna & Elsa’s Frozen Journey is flawless–a modern masterpiece of Imagineering.

Planning a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea Trip Planning Guide! For more specifics, our TDR Hotel Rankings & Reviews page covers accommodations. Our Restaurant Reviews detail where to dine & snack. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money post. Our What to Pack for Disney post takes a unique look at clever items to take. Venturing elsewhere in Japan? Consult our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan and City Guide to Tokyo, Japan.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Journey? Have you experienced this attraction or Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast at Tokyo Disneyland? What are your thoughts on either this or that–good and bad? Where does this ride rank relative to other next-gen Fantasyland attractions? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!




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