Disney on Ice skates through Oakland

DisneyOnIce
Feld Entertainment/Courtesy

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A crowd of pint-sized princesses and Mickey Mouses with flashing ears teetered down the steps of Oracle Arena this weekend, all clamoring toward the bright-white sheet of ice glistening in the center of the stadium. As they took their seats, the crowd buzzed in anticipation of the magical night ahead that would be shared with the likes of Ariel, Sebastian, Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater, Tinker Bell, Woody, Buzz, Slinky, Donald Duck, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and more. Yes, folks, last weekend saw the arrival in Oakland of the one and only Disney on Ice.

Originally produced by Feld Entertainment in 1981, this spectacle of famous Disney characters skating, spinning and weaving their way around an ice rink now comes in multiple varieties, each catering to a particular Disney flavoring. According to Disney on Ice cast member Bryan Santiago in a phone interview with The Daily Californian, the “Worlds of Fantasy” show that played in Oakland is unique in comparison to other current Disney on Ice productions because it is composed of a mix of stories — from princess-y to car racing — of a wide enough variety to satisfy any thirst for Disney cartoons.

This variety allows the show to be more meaningful for both the audience members and performers. Santiago, who plays Andy in the “Toy Story 3” portion of the show, feels that the retelling of this story in particular is an experience that allows him to access his inner child, which makes it easier for the audience to connect with the show.

“I get to kind of relive my childhood again,” Santiago said. “It’s a story that a lot of people in the audience can relate to, and it’s a really fun experience to get to redo every day.”

This production focuses on four main stories, which allows for more depth in telling the individual tales of “Toy Story 3,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Tinker Bell,” with an early detour through “Cars.” Though the stories remain distinct from one another, the show’s design presents them as a rather scattered series of tales with just enough cohesion to cover the most obvious plot holes.

Instead of story, the production emphasizes flowing choreography. The fluidity of the skaters and the variation in their choreography as it moves from group pieces to solos and duets pulls all the loose strings of the show together. The skaters maneuver the rink with excellent coordination and manage seemingly unwieldy costumes with grace and the distinctive personalities of each of their individual characters.

On the other hand, it would have been nice to see more “artistic” skating in the show, though this seems to only be possible for skaters playing humanoid characters. It’s quite a treat to see the characters from “Cars” come together and actually drive around the rink as fully functional versions of themselves. Likewise, those skaters in more elaborate getups — playing characters such as Slinky Dog, Lotso the giant purple bear and Donald Duck — can get around the rink quite well. But they don’t have the same level of mobility as characters such as Woody and Andy. So while seeing life-size, and in the case of the toys, above life-sized, versions of the characters is always awesome, some are significantly more interesting to watch perform than others.

In all, this is an engaging production without necessarily being thrilling. It’s a foolproof method of getting your Disney fix when the real thing is hundreds of miles away. It also begs the question: Exactly how completely can Disney access all areas of life? With Disney Cruise Line covering the seas, Disneyland and Disney World covering land and Disney on Ice covering the in-between state of ice, the entertainment giant is literally reachable on all major earthly terrains. It seems it is only a matter of time until a Disney Space Station takes the fandom experience to a whole new world.