Now that we live in Montana, our opportunities to enjoy some Disney magic in our hometown are few and far between. We can no longer go to the World of Disney in Manhattan on a whim, nor do we have great revival theaters that play the classics from time to time. Pixar Studios re-released a lot of its movies to AMC theaters on Memorial Day weekend, but the nearest AMC to us is probably hundreds of miles away. The one tiny mall in our city doesn’t even have a Disney store.
Often when we need a Disney fix, we just pop in a DVD or listen to park music at UAB Magic. We also subscribe to several blogs and post frequently on various Disney-dedicated message boards. But when I saw that Disney on Ice would be coming to our city about a month after we moved here, I suggested we go (read: I begged Danny to take me). I had been to Disney on Ice a couple times as a little girl with my family. Danny had never been and thus, didn’t know what to expect. This was probably lucky for me, as I’m sure I’ll never get him to make the same mistake again. He’s not a fan of ice skating, has no particular affinity for costumed Disney characters, and doesn’t enjoy live Disney shows with low production value (“Voyage of the Little Mermaid” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I’m talking about you).
The show we were to see is called Mickey and Minnie’s Magical Journey. In it, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy go on a whirlwind vacation that takes them to the African savanna, under the sea, to Hawaii, and finally, to Neverland (by way of London). The “Fab Five” (Why have this group of characters been given this nickname? Why not the Super Six? Where was Pluto in this thing anyway?) have little to do with the show other than clumsily stringing together the vignettes that make up the bulk of the production. I suppose this was a good thing, as the individual scenes would have made no sense together without the awkward segues provided by Mickey and the gang.
First up, Mickey and Friends head to Africa. They skate around for a little bit, then Minnie exclaims, “Look! It’s Rafiki!” How the hell does Minnie know who Rafiki is? However it is, it appears that she doesn’t care too much for him. She and the rest of the travelers scurry off so that Rafiki can commence with a watered-down version of Simba’s story that is completely devoid of conflict. It’s not like they can do much with the story in ten minutes, so I don’t blame them for taking out all of the Macbeth-esque elements. Mufasa and Scar aren’t in this version of the tale at all. Instead we’re treated to some mediocre ice dancing from a pair of skaters in spandex cat costumes. I appreciate that skating in big costumes with full masks is difficult and dangerous, but I was definitely expecting more from the choreography of this show. It impressed Montana audiences, though. When Simba lifted Nala off the ground a few inches, the crowd clapped and cheered. I think they should watch some ice dancing on TV this winter and see what they’re missing. Seriously, it snows here like eight months out of the year. You’d think their standards for winter sports (even performance sports) would be higher.
The tour group leaves Africa, and what’s the next logical stop on this round-the-world journey? Why, under the sea, of course! I think that visually, this segment of the show, which was modeled after The Little Mermaid, was the most visually appealing and well-produced scene. We get the traditional story here, complete with bad guy and conflict. We also get some cool choreography and fun costumes. It’s not as good as the Finding Nemo stage show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but it was entertaining. Ariel’s wish for legs is less desperate when she’s on ice skates, but we’re talking about Disney. I suspend disbelief every day for these people.
It’s a good thing that the Little Mermaid segment was refreshing, because next came the Lilo and Stitch scene, and it was a convoluted mess. I guess the same thing can be said about the movie, but the film at least had 85 minutes to eke out a plot line. Boil it down to ten minutes and all you have are some dorky kids and their blue dog dancing along to excruciating pop covers of Elvis songs.
Next came my favorite part of the show: intermission. I was disappointed that the Zamboni wasn’t dressed up like a parade float or something.
The second act of the show was dedicated entirely to Peter Pan. I liked the longer format given to this story as it allowed us to meet more characters and see more of the movie’s original plot. As one might expect, the Princess Tiger Lily subplot was missing, but the rest of the film was acted out almost scene-for-scene. I do have one complaint about the second act: the first time I saw Disney on Ice was a Peter Pan show. That was probably in the late ’80s or early ’90s. It would appear that the “flying” technology hasn’t improved at all since then and may in fact have grown worse over time. It was hugely distracting every time the skaters connected themselves to their flying harnesses, which always seemed to take long enough that even they were frustrated. Then, when they were lifted up into the air, the mechanism that moved the performers moved at a snail’s pace. I don’t know if this setup was due to poor equipment in my local arena or if every show suffers from this bad effect. For everyone else in America’s sake, I hope it’s the former.
The show concluded happily with Mickey and pals coming back to the stage to bid everyone farewell. They were then joined by the rest of the cast (So that’s how Minnie knows Rafiki!) for a final curtain call of sorts.
I should note that the Disney on Ice website says that this show also has a 101 Dalmatians scene, but we saw no evidence of it. I don’t know what happened. The segment wasn’t missed, though. The timing of the show seemed fine without it.
Overall, I thought the show was cute for children. Danny hated every minute of it. I was glad that we went to see it. We canceled a stay at the Wilderness Lodge when it turned out that we had to move to Montana the week our vacation was scheduled, so this was an opportunity to reclaim some of that lost Disney magic. The show wasn’t an exceptionally good production, but every kid in attendance seemed to love it. Speaking of which, we were literally the only people in the audience who didn’t have a small child in tow. It made me feel a little awkward. It was nice that we were the first car out of the parking lot when the show was over, though. We were the only ones who didn’t have to struggle with a car seat. I imagine the experience would be better with children, though. Seeing the delight on their faces was clearly fun for the parents, who were in turn elated.
Have you been to a Disney on Ice production? Did you enjoy it? Let me know about your experience in the comments!