A while before Christmas I booked us tickets to go and see the Disney On Ice Show as an extra Christmas treat. We went down to the O2 at Greenwich between Christmas and New Year and with a stopover in a hotel, made a mini holiday of it. It was a great way to break up the Christmas holiday and I remember the magic of being taken to Disney on Ice when I was little over 30 years ago, so I thought this would be some great memory making.
The show itself is a montage of many different hit Disney films, stretching back to Pinocchio and right up to modern times with Toy Story and The Incredibles. I guess the idea is to offer something for everyone, but I can't help thinking their choice of stories and characters missed the mark for the majority of the audience. I can think of more loved films to have included, and as a parent I was too old to remember many of them, and the younger audience (mostly 3-6 year olds dressed in Disney Princess dresses) were too young to recall the likes of Mulan and Aladdin - I heard lots of children around me asking their parents "who's that?".
However, you didn't need to be familiar with all the shows to enjoy the spectacle and become enthralled by the skill of the skaters.
The costumes were spectacular. I have no idea how some of the dancers even stood up in them, let alone perform on the ice. I spent a lot of time staring at feet to see if they actually were wearing skates because the boots and blades blended in so well with the costumes. Some of the animal characters who were two people to an outfit astounded us in their synchronisation.
The show is hosted by everyone's favourite mice, Mickey and Minnie who are greeted with smiles and cheers every time they appear. It opens with an Aladdin spectacular and a whole rink full of Genie's which is a captivating start to the performance.
Then we have fabulous costumes in the Finding Nemo section, with the smoke breathing Bruce the shark and bubbles falling from the sky to make us feel under the sea. The costumes of all the underwater creatures were just incredible.
Next we moved on to some princess action with Beauty and the Beast and a moving rendition of the touching tale, which moved seamlessly into a whole gallery of famous princesses with their partners all dancing in pairs. There was Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, Snow White and Pocahontas, and this was Ruby's favourite part. So romantic! I'm no Jayne Torville so I can't tell you the technical names but the lifts and jumps these guys did where breath-taking.
We had a quick zip through Toy Story with Woody, Jessie and Buzz and a whole platoon of green 'plastic' soldiers before ending the first half with a tribute to the famous Disney 'It's a Small World' ride. Again, lots of the children around me were a bit confused about this, but it was spectacular dancing, illumination and national costumes from around the world. It's only now looking at the picture I'm realising quite how phallic those arches look, I can't say I noticed it at the time!
The interval came at about the right time for youngsters and it was time to get fleeced for merchandise and refreshments. This was my biggest grumble about the show. I know you've got to expect high prices for official merchandise, but let me warn you, if you want to buy drinks and refreshments, get them outside the arena itself. Everything came with something else so it wasn't possible to just buy a drink. Ruby wanted some candy floss, but the seller insisted you had to purchase it with a plastic gold crown with Mickey ears, and for that a bag of candy floss set us back the princely sum of £9. She also wanted a drink and the slush she chose had to be bought in a grotesque flashing light-up cup with a Mickey gloved-hand straw and scoop, and that robbed us of a further £11. Seriously, I've never paid so much for a bag of sugar and air and some frozen flavoured water in my entire life!
Anyway, after being relieved of the weight in our wallets, we sat down to the second half.
It reconvened with Pinoccio which I'm not sure was the right choice. I think at leaf half the audience had no clue who Jiminy Cricket was and it wasn't really up-tempo enough. When we moved on to Mulan I thought we might be bored through that one too as it's not a film we're familiar with. But I couldn't have been more wrong. It actually turned out to be my favourite part of the show with brilliant dancing, a tension building battle scene, an incredible Chinese dragon, great pyrotechnics and a very clever costume change for Mulan right in the middle of the ice. I'm really not sure how they managed that so seamlessly, it reminded me of a magic show. I was so enthralled I totally forgot to take any pictures.
Finally we had appearances from charters from The Lion King and a slap-stick routine from The Incredibles which left us on just the right note - all smiling and giggling.
All the characters returned to the ice for the finale and to wave a sad goodbye until next time. We've already decided that seeing the Frozen special is a MUST this Easter. Check here for tickets to Disney on Ice Magical Ice Festival.
One of the most surreal sights is to see hundreds and hundreds of mini Disney characters spilling out from the O2 and roads jammed with little girls in princess dresses and boys in Woody outfits, but after fighting our way through the crowds we headed to our hotel, The Holiday Inn Express which was only a 10 minute stroll away from the arena. It was the perfect location for us and we had a very comfortable family room for the 3 of us for £90. We all had a great night's sleep and with free breakfast thrown in I was pretty impressed with the hotel.
That evening we hopped on the bus using our travelcards and headed to Greenwich village, one of my favourite places in London. We had a fabulous Italian meal at Bianco 42, a small independent string of pizzerias. A rather lovely chilled Orvieto and a delicious pizza, the place was cosy and the staff very friendly and attentive to children.
Greenwich is a fabulous place to spend the day, with plenty to do from exploring the Cutty Sark to the wonders of the Royal Observatory. Enjoy the peace of the park and the spectacular views from the top of the hill, or mooch around the many independent shops and vintage boutiques around the market before catching the river boat into central London. If you're planning a trip to the O2, it's definitely worth a stay over.
Disclosure: We paid for all our tickets ourselves and any views expressed are personal.