LOS ANGELES — The Walt Disney Company, scrambling to capitalize on unrelenting consumer interest in anything related to “Frozen,” has disclosed plans for an ice skating spectacular based on the blockbuster film that will begin touring arenas in September.
The Disney on Ice production of “Frozen” will be the skating equivalent of a touring Broadway musical, requiring a cast of 39 performers and nine tractor-trailers to move from city to city. Feld Entertainment, which holds the license for Disney on Ice, said patrons could expect a blizzard created by 20 snow machines, a stage inspired by a six-sided snowflake and towering video projection panels that, among other things, would simulate the movie’s jagged North Mountains. The tour will start in Orlando, Fla.
“Frozen,” with its Broadway-style score and modernized princess story (no prince saves this day), has become a once-in-a-generation juggernaut — the kind of movie property that rains profits for years through tie-ins and reminds Wall Street of the value of the high-risk film business. A winner of two Academy Awards, “Frozen” has taken in more than $1.2 billion worldwide since its November release and is still playing in countries like Japan, where it has been No. 1 for the last 10 weeks.
The soundtrack has sold more than 2.7 million copies in the United States alone, and DVD and digital download sales have been among the best Hollywood has ever seen. As for merchandise sales, most major retailers did not see “Frozen” coming, keeping advance orders light and quickly selling out of themed items as a result. (Disney itself was caught off guard; it initially played down the movie’s music, for instance, worrying that children had grown too sophisticated for musicals.)
The speedy arrival of a Disney on Ice version of “Frozen” indicates the degree to which the entertainment giant is now racing to take advantage of the movie’s popularity. To meet retail demand, Disney Consumer Products has airlifted “Frozen” apparel from Chinese factories, forgoing cheaper but slower ocean transport. The company also has a fleet of new “Frozen” apps on the way and is developing a New York stage show and concepts for theme park rides.
“This is definitely up there in terms of our top, probably, five franchises,” Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, told analysts on May 6 in response to questions about how long “Frozen” fever could last. “So you can expect us to take full advantage of that over the next five years, I would guess.”
Feld Entertainment has produced Disney on Ice tours since 1981 in the United States and since 1987 overseas. Nicole Feld, a producer of the “Frozen” show, said her company had practically begged Disney in recent years to focus more intently on animated movies that include full-blown musical numbers, a crucial skating show ingredient. “It’s harder to create these live experiences than most people think,” she said. “What works live is not necessarily what works on film. You also can’t have a lot of dialogue in an arena setting.”
She said that performing “Frozen” as a live event “will make kids and their parents feel like they are actually trekking up those mountains and experiencing the storm inside Elsa,” referring to the film’s tormented princess.
Patty Vincent, the director of “Frozen” on ice, noted that the Feld creative team has closely collaborated with John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and the film’s directors and producers. “Their input has been extraordinarily helpful as we try to exceed the very high fan expectations,” Ms. Vincent said. “They helped us with Elsa’s style of movement — balletic, vertical — and how it differs from Anna, who is more playful and horizontal.” (Mr. Lasseter said in an email that “it means so much to us that they’re creating the show with all of the heart, humor and beauty of ‘Frozen’ that audiences fell in love with.”)
Disney on Ice shows are typically made up of vignettes from various Disney films — a “Pinocchio” sketch here, a “Toy Story” number there. But the “Frozen” tour, in part because the movie’s story already involves ice, will be 98 percent based on Elsa and her princess sister, Anna, along with pals like Olaf, a wisecracking snowman, and Sven, a loyal reindeer. Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse will bookend the show. Rehearsals begin in July and tickets go on sale Tuesday.
Disney on Ice will have six different shows touring the United States for the 2014-15 season, including “Frozen.” Nine skating shows will tour overseas. More than nine million people attended a Disney on Ice production in 2013, according to Feld Entertainment, which is based in Ellenton, Fla.