We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today, Tara Ward on mouse-dancing theatrical spectacle Disney on Ice.
Before you ask, I don’t know why Disney is on ice. It makes no sense, but neither does Aladdin not having nipples, and we all seem to accept that just fine. I can only assume that Walt got drunk one night in his cryogenic ice chamber, looked down on his empire and said, “It’s nice enough, but imagine if we put them all in ICE SKATES”.
Bish bosh bash, Disney on Ice was born, and that’s how me and my six year old ended up in the long queue to enter Claudelands Stadium in Hamilton this past weekend.
I thought the scariest thing about Disney on Ice would be a giant mouse larking it up in skates, but Mickey was nothing compared to running the Disney merchandise gauntlet. It’s the first thing you see when you arrive, a plastic shitstorm of broken hopes and dreams where resistance is futile. Do not look directly at the flashing lights, or you’ll be hypnotised into paying $42 for a blinking snowflake on a stick. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Luckily, kids love plastic shit as much as they love ducks with no pants on, and Disney on Ice is all about the children. There’s a countdown of minutes until the show starts, because Disney knows that moving kids from one place to another is like herding cats, and it runs for two kid-friendly 40 minute segments. Best of all, my seat had a cushion on it (OMG), and you could take beer into the arena. We’re winning, before a single blade has been struck onto the ice.
Experience the magic! Journey to new worlds! “I’m so happy to be here in…HAMILTON!” Mickey said, as he skated out into a packed stadium. The crowd roared. Who isn’t happy to be in Hamilton? It has a Kmart, for crying out loud.
Disney on Ice was a journey through Mickey Mouse’s life, as he chose his favourite memory from time with his friends. If my memories ever come gliding out in public, they’ll be a disappointing vision of sweatpants and early nights in front of the TV, but Mickey is a legend. He had the time of his bloody life as a million Disney princesses and the cast of Inside Out skated by to convince him why they were so awesome.
And awesome they were, because after two minutes of Disney on Ice, I felt all my cynicism magically melt away. After ten minutes, I was a new person. I lapped it up so much my tongue could have been stuck to that ice rink. What happened to my concerns over Disney’s problematic use of racial stereotypes and lack of female agency? What about its over-commercialisation of childhood? What about the $42 flashing snowflakes?
“Let it goooooo,” I told myself, as a troupe of glow-in-the-dark dancing brooms twirled around in a huge circle. I nearly cried at intermission. I didn’t want it to stop.
The stadium pulsed with joy. I didn’t know the kid sitting next to me, but she kept grabbing my sleeve in excitement. “Ariel is an angel!” she gasped, and this was the true power of Disney on Ice. We sat down as strangers and were now BFFs, cheering as Rapunzel soared through the air and waving at Dory as she swooshed past. Dory waved back, her giant googly eyes staring right into my soul. My heart skipped a beat. This is what we came for.
By they time they got to Frozen, I was singing “love is an open DOOOOR” louder than any four year old and mentally signing up to adult ice skating lessons. Snowflakes fell from the sky as Ana and Elsa swept around the rink in unison, while I prayed those snowflakes were not the asbestosy kind like in The Wizard of Oz.
The end was nigh. As Moana skated out to huge cheers from the Waikato crowd, I realised I’d peaked. (In the performance we saw, the song was in English, but the day after, it was in te reo.) The baby behind me started to scream and small children went rogue and tried to touch the ice. During the finale when Minnie and Mickey skated in their finest costumes, the kids mobbed the edge of the rink and my daughter lost it over waving her tiny toy Olaf at giant skating Olaf. Absolute scenes, let me tell you.
As the show finished, Mickey finally chose his favourite memory. It was today, it was Hamilton. “I knew it!” my daughter said, who is also a massive fan of Hamilton. As the crowd of satisfied Disney fans left the building, holding their $45 flashing Maui hooks aloft, my daughter sighed happily. In front of us lay a half-eaten bag of $22 cotton candy. “This will never be forgettable,” she told me. “This was the best time of my life.”
It was the perfect happy ending.
Verdict: More like dreams come true on ice.
Good or bad: Good, but rob a bank before you go in.