• By: Ali Matthews

Disney On Ice Will Melt Away Your Winter Blues

This is a tough time of year. The holidays are done, we have eaten our Valentine’s Day chocolate, Winterlude is over, and even the snow, now slush, has lost its sparkle.

Luckily, the magic of Disney is now in Ottawa at the Canadian Tire Centre to wash away the winter blues!

From February 23 – 26, Disney On Ice: Passport to Adventure is transporting fans of all ages to the timeless worlds of Disney’s The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan and of course, Frozen. Featuring an international team of award-winning figure skaters and dazzling effects, this is a treat for the whole family.

I was lucky enough to catch the opening show on Thursday morning to witness the magic first hand, with my own 3-year-old and 1.5-year-old subject matter experts.

Before I even get to the show, we have to talk about the fans. Walking into the Canadian Tire Centre was entertainment all in itself. The early show meant the crowd was packed with preschoolers, and these kids brought it. Almost every Disney princess made an appearance. Predictably, little Elsas and Annas were everywhere! But we also spied Ariel. Minnie Mouse, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Tinker Bell and Elena of Avalon.

When you finally tear your eyes away from the kiddie cuteness, you are greeted by Disney swag as far as the eye could see. T-shirts, key chains, figurines, journals, stuffed dolls, glowing scepters and hats – all decked out with the the characters featured in the performance. For those wanting a Disney-themed snack, there were snow cones in collector cups, popcorn in a Disney bag, and cotton candy with an Olaf hat attached.

The light up scepters and dolls were a clear hit with the crowd and the snowcones and popcorn seemed to be compulsory. (For the record, I bought a scepter and the popcorn -both were magical.)

When the lights dimmed and the show began, it was nothing short of spectacular. The journey started with a rendition of ‘It’s a Small World’ with what I assume was the full cast, decked out in glittery white and blue costumes representing many different cultures from around the world.

Near the end of the opening showcase, Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald and Goofy show up to guide guests on their journey around the world, starting with the savanna to meet the characters from the Lion King.

Each ‘location’ would run through the musical hits from their associated film while loosely following the original story line and also featured at least one ice dance pair or solo.

To my surprise, there was very little in the way of sets – usually a small structure on the ice (if necessary) and some use of an upper balcony. This however, seems to have been consciously done to ensure the focus was on the skating and the amazing talent on the ice.

Throughout the morning the performers were excellent, hitting their marks seamlessly and the acting was big and fun. The ice dance with Simba and Nala was a highlight – plenty of lifts, jumps and even a few inversions that made everyone hold their breath in anticipation. Also, Pumba.

Following the Lion King, we were taken to London, England, where we met the whole crew; from Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and the lost boys, Captain Hook and his crew, to Wendy, her parents, her brothers and even Nana the dog.

Peter Pan seemed to be the longest running act of the show and it was easy to see why. Peter Pan and his shadow put on a fabulous synchronized performance, Tinker Bell charmed, and, of course, the flying! The pirates and lost boys also played a big role with their own songs and encouraging plenty of audience participation to trick Captain Hook and revive Tinker Bell. You could tell the cast was having just as much fun as the audience.

After intermission, we dove under the sea to visit the world of The Little Mermaid. The costumes for this location were the most memorable. The renditions of “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl” brought with it so many happy and colourful fish, birds and mermaids that you could feel the energy in the stadium go up a notch.

If the energy was already at a 10 when Ariel married Eric, then it went past 11 when we made our final stop in Arendelle and the world of Frozen.

When the set for Arendelle was taking shape and even before Anna took the ice, you could feel the anticipation. Even my own 3-year-old subject matter expert suddenly became eerily calm and focused as if to make sure this was really happening.

Anna, Elsa, Hans, Kristoff and Olaf did not disappoint. On top of the amazing skating, costumes, music, and set, there was artificial snow and even some pyrotechnics. The joy in the room was contagious and kids were belting out the words to every song. True to her character, Elsa was flawless on the ice. It was truly a grand finale to a fun and memorable morning.

The true magic of Disney On Ice goes beyond the costumes and sets, but to the talented individuals who bring the characters to life. We were lucky enough to talk to Moris Pfeifhofer of Niederglatt, Switzerland and Samantha Scribilo of Kenora, Ontario who play Peter Pan and Tinker Bell to get an inside look of life as a Disney On Ice performer.

Ottawa Life: Being a professional figure skater and actor is quite the unique skill set. How did you both come to be part of the Disney On Ice team? How long have you been skating together?

Samantha Scribilo: I have been skating since I was 5 years old and I have always loved to perform. I joined Disney On Ice in 2009 and have been skating with them for 7 years. I have been performing the role of Tinker Bell with Moris as Peter Pan for 5 years now. 

Moris Pfeifhofer: I started skating with Disney On Ice 5 years ago. I started figure skating when I was 6, so basically I skated all my life. And 5 years ago I applied for Disney On Ice and got this amazing job. Ever since then, Samantha and I are performing together in every single performance.

During a Disney On Ice performance you not only have to perfectly execute amazing skills on the ice, but also play the part of arguably, the most beloved Disney power couple, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell. What is the greatest challenge of acting together on ice?

Samantha: Moris and I have always been close on and off the ice. Sometimes when we are performing we have too much fun and forget we are working. I see that as a challenge but also as a positive because like Peter Pan and Tinker Bell we have such a strong friendship it helps bring the characters to life.

Moris: I would not call it a challenge because we really like each other, so its super fun to work with each other, sometimes we almost forget that we are actually working. 

As a Disney On Ice performer and playing iconic characters Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, you must have the most adorable fans. What is the most memorable fan encounter you’ve had on tour?

Samantha: Of course I love to see the kids’ reaction when they see Tinker Bell on the ice. I also think its super cute when we are leaving the arena to overhear the kids talking about how much they loved the show.

Moris: I love when the kids are dressed up as Peter Pan, and sometimes their outfit looks almost as good as mine! I get emotional sometimes when I see how they are enjoying the show. Its a fantastic feeling!

Samantha, as an Ontario native, have you been able to introduce some of your international cast members like Moris, to Canadian culture? Like poutine?

Samantha: I have really enjoyed exposing my friends to the Canadian culture. This is one of my favorite parts of the job – just like when we perform internationally my friends like Moris expose me to their cultures. I have loved the opportunity to show my friends around the area, like taking them to my favorite restaurants and sharing my favorite Canadian past times with them.

Finally, you have been lucky enough to be at a tour stop in Ottawa while the Rideau Canal is open. Any plans to take a skate while you are here?

Samantha: Yes, I plan on skating on the Rideau Canal. I am most looking forward to introducing Moris and other friends to some of my favorite Canadian snacks as we skate, like Beaver Tails.

Moris: Yes, I can’t wait to skate on the canal, I saw pictures and it looks gorgeous. I’m really excited to perform here in Canada.