It was while pondering the somewhat bizarre concept of ice skating as entertainment that I realized this stuff has been around for a really long time. The Ice Capades started in 1940 -- and folded in 1995, lousy Gen X-ers -- while Disney on Ice started up in 1981 and is still strangely popular.
I say "strangely" not to make light of the athleticism required to perform your average axel or lute, or to question the majestic entertainment omnipresence of the Walt Disney Company. Ice skating just seems...quaint in an age of parkour and MMA (quick question: who'd win a cage match between the Beast and Merida's dad from Brave?).
Quaint or not, plenty of sons and (mostly) daughters filled out the lower sections of Reliant Stadium Friday night in order to check out "Rockin' Ever After," the latest installment of Disney's "On Ice" revue. It was as one might expect: garish and rather cheesy, but still very well-received.
I will say this, if you have childless friends who are on the fence about having kids, bring them with you to something like Disney on Ice or Sesame Street: Live and let them soak it all in. If they can make it through that without collapsing into a fetal position, they're ready for parenthood.
The show was split into halves. The first featured a Sebastian-led Little Mermaid medley consisting of "Part of Your World," "Under the Sea" and others. The emphasis, as always, was on Ariel and her fishy friends. Though I have to believe the intro featuring Ariel's sister mermaids skating to "Vogue" and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" was a bone thrown to weary fathers in the audience. Thanks, Walt.
Next was a tribute to one of Disney's newer movies, Tangled, featuring Rapunzel, Flynn ("Eugene Fitzherbert") Rider and Maximus the horse, in what might be the most logistically nightmarish two-man costume I've ever seen. As if being a horse's ass isn't bad enough, having to skate mostly blind can't be fun.
As the routines went on, I noticed a general trend in the depiction of the stories themselves. Namely, the villain would show up, menace our heroes and...never be heard from again. On one hand, I understand not wanting to depict Ursula the Sea Witch getting her abdomen punctured in front of all these kids. On the other, haven't they already seen it? Hell, if they're like my kids, they've watched her being sent screaming to hell a hundred times.
But then, the theme of the thing was that of a musical talent show (hosted by Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Donald), so maybe it wouldn't have fit. As a parent, I was just glad they kept things moving along.
We don't watch a lot of Disney Channel in our house, and Mickey hasn't appeared in a movie in decades (Fantasia 2000 doesn't really count), but the kids still went nuts for him. That's brand recognition, homes.
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After a brief zamboni intermission offering more opportunities to purchase a $10 glowing whirligig (whoever invented those buzzing annoyances needs to be flayed by House Bolton) or plunk $20 for a photo with a *cardboard cutout* of one of the princesses (I assume VIP guests go to take pictures with the real thing) came the final two acts. I admit, I considered Brave one of Pixar's weaker efforts (better than either Cars movie, though), but they put together an inspired ice version, complete with Celtic-ish dancing and a pyrotechnic archery competition. Merida was a big hit, which is probably bad news for anyone awaiting a return of Briar Rose or Snow White.
Finally, of course, came Beauty and the Beast. Curiously, the segment was largely centered on Gaston, using "Gaston" and "The Mob Song" (and "Be Our Guest," because duh) and only bringing out the Beast to roar a lot and get reborn courtesy of Belle's love. I'm not complaining; Gaston is one of my favorite villains and probably my favorite Disney character, period.
Explains a lot, really.
It's easy to be snotty about this kind of entertainment, which is admittedly anachronistic and goofy (no pun intended). But the crowd at Reliant Stadium, which numbered in the [n] thousands (I'm about as good as Fox News at estimating crowd size), was any indication, people still enjoy the hell out of it.