The Happiest Place On Earth

Inside "World Of Frozen," Disney's New Magical Attraction

The land opens on Nov. 20 in the Hong Kong park.

At Disney's World of Frozen in Hong Kong, park guests can meet Elsa and Anna.
Hong Kong Disneyland

When Frozen became Disney Animation Studio’s first billion-dollar hit in 2013, the powers that be at the company’s Experiences arm took note, and quickly. Josh D’Amaro, the Walt Disney Company’s Chairman of Experiences, and Frozen writer and director Jennifer Lee knew what needed to be done. Within three years, teams of Imagineers were hard at work bringing Anna and Elsa’s Kingdom of Arendelle to Hong Kong Disneyland. Now — finally — they’re opening up the gates.

World Of Frozen, opening on Nov. 23, is the first of Disney’s three Frozen-themed areas coming to parks across the globe (the Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disney Sea lands are both slated for 2024), and continues a $1.4 billion expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland that began in 2016.

Within the land, guests can ride Frozen Ever After (a new iteration of the boat ride that already exists at Walt Disney World’s Epcot in Orlando), and Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs, a “junior” coaster geared towards younger fans that may not be ready for the park’s more thrilling attractions. Park-goers can eat at the Golden Crocus Inn, which serves a selection of Nordic-inspired dishes, and visit Northern Delights (the “oldest sweet store in Arendelle”), a dessert shop selling Olaf-shaped soft-serve, among other treats.

Hong Kong Disneyland

The space is a love letter to the people who made the franchise what it is today, and that’s not just the millions of children who have proudly worn Elsa dresses in the last decade. World Of Frozen was built with the Disney Adults in mind. Disney bounders, a community of (mostly) adults who create outfits meant to resemble iconic characters without actually dressing in a costume, inspired many of the more-subtly themed knits and accessories available to purchase in the land. If you want to take your Disney bound to the next level, there’s a service that allows guests to have their hair styled like Anna or Elsa, and for anyone looking to bring a bit of the Frozen fun home, you can mail letters to friends and family that will arrive postmarked from Arendelle.

Hong Kong Disneyland

D’Amaro and Lee joined Bustle in Hong Kong Disneyland’s Arendelle to discuss World Of Frozen, honoring fans’ feedback, and the happy accidents and plot devices that went on to create some of the franchise’s best-loved moments.

Bustle: When did you know that Frozen needed its own dedicated space in Disney Parks?

D’Amaro: I remember what seat I was sitting in when I first experienced [Frozen], how clear the message was and how strong the music was and how immersive the environment was. When you have a story like that, and then you get a reaction from the world like you did, there's not a question that we're gonna start to think about [it].

What were the most important aspects to get right in order for people to truly feel like they're spending the day in Arendelle?

D’Amaro: When you come underneath the bridge into this land, you immediately feel like you've been transported somewhere almost separate from the park. And by the way, if you go back 70 years, this is exactly what Walt was going for. Leave the world behind and come into this world of fantasy. So I think you need that. There needs to be this transformational element that says “I'm somewhere else.”

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Jennifer, as the creator of this story, how did it feel for you “stepping in” to World Of Frozen for the first time?

Lee: I keep saying I'm in shock, but I mean it in a good way. It's this feeling of wonder, it's not something you could ever imagine happening. You can't plan for that. I was telling Josh how we came up with the Clock Tower: we needed something to give us an excuse to do the robot. Wandering Oaken’s was a solution to a costume change at first and then turned into one of my favorite characters. I really feel like I feel like I'm on this journey that just keeps growing.

Hong Kong Disneyland

Even the secondary characters are actualized here. You mentioned Wandering Oaken, but there’s also the Love Experts, Elsa’s Snowgies, and Bruni the fire spirit.

Lee: What I love so much is the Snowgies came out of the [question,] “What would Elsa's sneezes look like?” It was Marc Smith, our Director of Story on Frozen 2 who was just like, “I feel like it's like she sneezes and little tiny snowballs come out of her ears” and we just started there. They [had] to be deliciously innocent and mischievous and funny. And there was just something about them not having arms that made them move so funny.

If I could spend every waking moment [at Walt Disney Imagineering], I would.

The Imagineers did a spectacular job bringing those intricacies to life in Frozen Ever After, I’ve never seen so many Snowgies in my life.

D’Amaro: If I could spend every waking moment [at Walt Disney Imagineering], I would.

Hong Kong Disneyland

How much influence does the online community and fandom have on the execution of projects like this?

D’Amaro: [People say,] “Everything you do, somebody's got a point of view on. Isn't that a pain in the neck?” And my answer to that question is absolutely not. What a blessing that people actually pay attention to what we're doing. They're part of this as much as we are.

Lee: I completely agree with you, not just as a storyteller but also as a child who grew up on Disney. I think about what technologies we didn't have [then] and how often the Disney experience for me, as a kid living in Rhode Island, was just at home or at the movie theater. The idea that now, more and more we're able to build a community connection is just a beautiful thing. It gets personalized in a way that when I grew up wasn't possible. This idea that there is this community space through stories that are all about hope and escape and seeing the best and silliest parts of ourselves, I just think it's important.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.