Disney on Ice has been going strong for over 40 years, and when you see the show in person, you understand why. It is currently touring the UK with a brand-new show celebrating Disney’s 100th anniversary with spine-chilling acts that will have you frozen in wonder!
Disney on Ice is very much a family show but it also attracts millennials and Zoomers who grew up watching the movies and want to see them brought to life – with the added magic of ice-skating. Whilst last year’s tour was hosted by Mickey and Minnie, this tour was presented by two performers playing stereotypical, annoying American teenagers. The hosts dominate the beginning of the show, but they only appeared sporadically after that – thankfully. No disrespect to the actors, who do a great job of playing their characters, but the writing is questionable.
Mickey and Minnie also make a few appearances, accompanied by Goofy and Daffy. A 100th-anniversary celebration would not be complete without Walt’s most iconic character! There is a tantalising tribute to Toy Story, complete with a Hannah Montana number. It is the crossover nobody knew they needed. This tour wanted to honour as many Disney films as possible to properly celebrate 100 years of wonder. The first act blitzes through various Disney Princess films, from Moana and The Little Mermaid to Mulan.
Whilst the tour is a brand-new show, there are a few numbers which were also performed last year, albeit under a new direction, because the show would not feel complete without them – such as ‘How Far I’ll Go’ from Moana and ‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin. The first act closed with the Disney Princes and Princesses dancing to Tina Parol’s ‘Live Your Story’, a song which closed last year’s show.
The second act is opened with a tribute to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia, with numerous performers dressed as brooms accompanying Mickey, whilst clips from the film play on the screen at the back of the stage. Fantasia is not as well-known as many other Disney films but it holds an important place in Disney’s history so it was honoured in both this show and Disney 100 The Concert, where The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was shown onscreen whilst the orchestra recreated the gorgeous music.
After a Finding Nemo performance, there are two longer performances, each made up of several individual segments. The first is unsurprisingly Frozen, the most iconic Disney film in a generation, which had also been honoured last year.
‘Let It Go’ features a simple staircase decorated with a snowflake pattern, a giant snowflake that opens up above, smoke, and pyrotechnics. It is one of the more visually striking performances of the show, and the ice skating is perhaps the most impressive of the entire show (Ashley Cain, who plays Elsa, is an Olympian and US Champion).
The penultimate section is made up of several numbers from Encanto. It was great to see a newer film, one which champions representation and diversity, spotlighted.
The show is closed with a huge group number to Tony Ferrari’s ‘What We Got (Mickey’s Birthday Song)’. It os incredible seeing all of those iconic characters swinging past each other in what can only be described as the Disney multiverse!
This skill of the acts this year surpasses last year’s show, especially with all of the awe-inspiring aerial acts. The show might be called Disney on Ice but often the performers were flying above it! The performers glide along the ice and then go swinging above it, sometimes clinging on to material rather than rope. I have no idea how they do it. Disney magic, I guess!
The Little Mermaid sees Ariel on a rope with Eric swinging it from below whilst Tangled has the central pair flying around a tangerine-coloured cloth (representing Rapunzel’s long hair) in three different routines. The second routine has Flynn down below as if he is getting ready to climb Rapunzel’s hair. It is wonderfully thought-out.
The Encanto section features Luisa and a donkey swinging on straps to ‘Surface Pressure’ and Isabela being lowered down on a swing during ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’.
The performers are professional ice skaters, not actors or singers, so they mime and lip-sync to voiceovers and songs. It can look a bit awkward but you spend most of the time watching the performers’ bodies, not their mouths.
Whilst the costumes are stunning and the special effects (smoke, fire, bubbles, pyrotechnics, etc.) help create Disney magic, the show could be more visually striking if it had more substantial staging and sets. Last year’s show felt bigger, with Cinderella’s carriage and Sleeping Beauty‘s Maleficent turning into a fire-breathing dragon.
This year, a chunk of the budget seems to have been spent on the giant snowflake (which had only four spikes), even though it is only used at the end of ‘Let it Go’ and thus feels like a bit of a waste. The simple staircase featured in the number is not what you’d expect from a Disney production.
The souvenir programme, titled Disney on Ice Around the World, features images of various Disney on Ice productions, and it will make audiences bitter that they aren’t being treated to the spectacular numbers seen in other productions. Whilst some of those numbers can feel like style over substance, and we were instead treated to spellbinding circus acts, a balance of both would have felt more magical – especially in a production celebrating Disney’s 100th anniversary.
Disney on Ice presents 100 Years of Wonder runs at the O2, London from December 21 to 31 2023, the final stop of its UK tour. Next year will see the return of Dream Big, which visited AO Arena last year. It tours the UK from February 22 to March 24 2024.