Frozen lovers will recognize EPCOT’s Frozen Ever After attraction right away, but do you know the classic Disney history which inspired some of your favorite scenes? Back in the 1970s, Disney Legend Marc Davis devised a now-abandoned Fantasyland dark ride at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park.
The Enchanted Snow Palace would have adapted Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” something Disney had infamously tried to do for film since the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. Unfortunately, with the pressure to add more thrill rides to the Walt Disney World Resort and build EPCOT Center, Disney Parks scrapped Davis’ passion project… but it would not be the end for the stunning concept.
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Here are five similarities between EPCOT’s Frozen-inspired attraction in the Norway Pavilion and Davis’ unused ride:
Driven By Music
First, Davis conceived the ride “as a musical adventure through the icy kingdom of the Snow Queen,” set to the Nutcracker Suite and an original score by composer Buddy Baker, which certainly would have created a sweeping, cinematic tone if Fantasia (1940) is anything to go by! Likewise, by reworking the classic soundtrack from the film, Olaf introduces the ride’s premise: Elsa wants to “give us all… a snowy summer day,” with adapted renditions of “For First Time in Forever” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” driving the storyline to completion.
Introduces Smaller Characters First
As Frozen Ever After embarks, Guests immediately enter the frozen willow forest where they discover Olaf in the film; accordingly, Guests encounter sidekicks Olaf and Sven before anyone else, followed by the Trolls, then Anna and Kristoff. Similarly, Davis’ ride was filled with charming animal animatronics enjoying a winter’s day: penguins, rabbits, walruses, polar bears, and snowy owls, to name a few.
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Furthermore, concept art by Marc Davis depicts hulking giants made of ice and snow, likely referencing Norse and Danish mythology, engaged in interactions with delicate frost fairies and charming “Snowballs,” bearded gnome-like creatures with fluffy white bodies. If this all sounds familiar, it’s likely because you’ve experienced the part of Frozen Ever After featuring the gentle giant, Marshmallow, who protects Elsa’s North Mountain and a hoard of Frozen Fever’s adorable Snowgies.
Elaborate Ice Magic
Inspired by the famous frosty fairytale, of course, both versions of this ride feature ice magic – specifically, elaborate structures intricately crafted from snow and ice. In fact, these breathtaking set pieces have some elements in common, such as
Throughout the Guests’ cruise, both rides’ storylines build up to a grand culmination of the entire journey: a final encounter with the Snow Queen herself. Of course, in Davis’ version, she is an ethereal and ambivalent queen, elevated by her supernatural mystique to a realm untouchable by ordinary Guests, making the rendez-vous itself a rare sight to behold. In contrast, EPCOT’s version emphasizes a communal element between the Guests and Elsa, where everyone is equal in celebrating Arendelle and invited into her Ice Palace as her kingdom’s friends, her powers no longer a reason for her to stay apart from others.
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BONUS: Interactive Elements
While Davis planned for Guests to exit the Enchanted Snow Palace in a flurry of real snow, as any true EPCOT fan will know, Maelstrom/Frozen Ever After’s ride track ends with each boat “pushed” backward through the fog into a 28-foot drop… and yes, you do get wet!
All in all, it’s clear how the brilliant mind of animator and Imagineer Marc Davis impacted the Frozen film and facets of its now iconic EPCOT attraction, Frozen Ever After, with dreams of his own dark ride.