The city I grew up in overseas was not a destination for Disney On Ice. So going into this year’s Australian production of Disney On Ice: 100 Years of Wonder, my knowledge was founded primarily on its presence in Hollywood movies, which seemed to often feature a child of a divorced or separated couple devastated when their father didn’t turn up to take them to this production over the Christmas holidays. The ultimate heartbreak for a US tween, apparently.
There’s no question that the show is an evergreen pop culture juggernaut, for many a winter tradition; it’s been performed in over 70 countries since 1984. The ice skater Ryan Santee (who skates as Kristoff from Frozen) wouldn’t even exist without Disney On Ice. His parents were skaters in the show for 10 years and that’s how they met. Canadian skater Kirstie Nelson appears as Princess Anna from Frozen, a surprising step away from her job in chemical engineering, while William and Adriene Ott are a married couple who came to the ice via hockey and figure skating respectively and now skate as legendary lovebirds Aladdin and Jasmine.
Truth be told, I would have been unlikely to ever see the production as an adult, were it not for my ratbags. They’re not Disney fiends, but they definitely have a few beloved favourite films, including Moana, Frozen, Coco and Encanto, the first three of which are all featured in the production.
Yet, I was incredibly fearful going into a 105-minute production (20-minute interval) with a four and seven-year-old, suspecting we’d be walking out early when their attention waned. Instead, they were riveted for the entire show and I had to beg them to take a toilet break during intermission, so scared were they that they might miss the start of the first half. For me, the show was entertaining and fun, but the real magic was in watching the kids ready to burst when their favourite characters skated into the centre of the ring.
They were disappointed Encanto and its characters were not included, and a bit confused by some of the older movies they hadn’t seen, like Aladdin. Even so, they were entranced from start to finish. The parents, however, seemed to appreciate some of the snippets from older productions, though I have to say hearing Robin Williams’ voice booming across the arena as Aladdin’s genie did make my heart ache a touch.
The ice dancing is spectacular and the show is totally accessible for all ages. The famed Disney magic is palpable and the kids can’t tear their eyes away – even kids like mine who didn’t know every character or every song.
In addition to the ice dancing there is aerial acrobatics, gymnastics and even ramp stunts.
The production didn’t feel anywhere near as long as it was and the kids were genuinely sad when it was time to pack up and go home.
The only sad bit for us was the intense merchandise sales throughout the venue. Of course, it’s Disney, we know it’s a profit-making enterprise and has to turn a buck, but it did take the sheen off an otherwise lovely and magical evening.
Disney On Ice
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Prices: from $27
Disney On Ice was performed in Melbourne from 28 June to 2 July. It tours to Brisbane from 6-9 July, Sydney from 12-16 July and Newcastle 20-23 July.