Frozen: A Musical Invitation – an interview with Matt Walker (Executive WDI Music Studio) and Yaron Spiwak (Producteur)


Music is an essential part of the magic of Frozen: A Musical Invitation. We were pleased to talk about this attraction with two of its creators: Matt Walker, who is in charge of music for all Disney Parks around the world, and Yaron Spiwak, a Sr. Music Creative Director on his team. 

You have both worked on many different Frozen projects for Disney Parks and Disney Cruise Line. To you, what makes Disneyland Paris’ Frozen: A Musical Invitation special?

Matt Walker: Frozen: A Musical Invitation is about moments from the film that are beloved by our audiences. And what’s unique about it is that you’re able to re-live them and really participate. It’s very immersive, very inclusive on the part of the audience. That was wonderful to take the music of the film and make it very much a part of this whole experience for the guests.

Yaron Spiwak: Be it the Frozen 2: An Enchanted Journey parade, the Frozen segment in Mickey and the Magician a few years ago, Frozen – Live at the Hyperion at Disney California Adventure Park or the shows for Disney Cruise Line, no two versions are the same. Each show really gets what’s best for it and we give it a lot of love and care so that people enjoy a different vision of the film each time. Frozen: A Musical Invitation is a unique combination of techniques from our movies, attractions and stage shows, which makes this attraction really special.

What was your role on this project?

MW :We were involved every step of the process, guiding and supporting the team from development and kick-off through the recording and final installation.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”13971″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]How did you start out working on it?

MW: We started working on this show about a year before the opening of the attraction. Yaron has been working very closely on other Frozen projects since the film’s release. That made him the perfect creative and producer for this project. Then, we asked Jonathan Barr to be our local music producer. Because it’s essentially a piece of theater, you need to have an expert in music to be in the room and help the directors.

YS: Jonathan worked with show directors Françoise Baffioni and Matteo Borghi and the team on a day-to-day basis and did a really great job. Jonathan is a great musician and has been working for Disney for many years. For this specific project Matt and I recommended on Andrew Cottee (who works with John Debney and Joel McNeely on a show called The Orville). We had heard great things about him and we thought he might be perfect for the project. He has a very contemporary flavor but a very classical orchestration style. Then we matched him with another musician named Marco Paguia who is a music director on Broadway and worked on the Disney Cruise Line Frozen show. Together, they designed what would be best for each scene of our show in Paris.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”13972″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]How did you develop the music for the show together?

YS: It was a very close collaboration, and in the end, it’s hard to say who did this or that. It was great teamwork. We started to scout out the best moments in the film’s score and then, with some of them, we made our own edit that would fit the show and recorded it. And then, for the final installation, Jonathan worked in collaboration with mixer Stephen Morrow, who has a lot of experience to fit the music to the attraction.

That’s what’s so great about Walt Disney Imagineering: you’re really collaborating and everyone is holding on each other. You’re not just working in the studio alone and delivering. You’re creating something new and exciting together.

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”13973″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]How did you adapt the score to the needs of the attraction?

MW: Frozen: A Musical Invitation is an immersive theater, multi-media experience. Because of that, it does draw from all our different backgrounds: live performance theater, attraction and film. It’s one of the things that makes this job fun.

YS:  One of our first challenges was, when you first enter the room, we had to find a way to recap the movie for guests and we needed to do that without using any dialogue. So, we created this medley that encapsulates a lot of the songs in a way that’s both poignant and heroic which gets guests excited to see the show. Andrew and Marco did a great job, and the first time the show directors heard it, they got very emotional. I did, too. You’re back into the story the same way as with the montage sequence from Up. For that moment, we’re using film scoring techniques. It’s music and picture, and it’s magical.

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After that, we use music just like we do in the attractions for a seamless transition from room to room. You’re entering this special kingdom and you have to be in character the whole time. Once the show starts, it’s a live performance where we use techniques from our stage shows like Mickey and the Magician to showcase the singers.

How did you stay true to the original music?

MW: For any of our projects, like Frozen: A Musical Invitation, where we partner with our colleagues at the film studio, it’s very important for us to produce music that belongs and feels authentic to the original film. As in any other productions that we do for Disney Parks, the first step is determining what the creative needs are for that production. So, we would sit with the creative team in Paris to discuss their needs. For example, how can we take the beloved music of Frozen and re-arrange it, re-record it so that the guests have the same experience they had in the film and even take them to a higher level of immediacy and intimacy?

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Secondly, from the music standpoint, we either engage the original composers and songwriters, or we have access to not only the recordings but the scores themselves. In this case, we researched heavily the original Christophe Beck as well as the Dave Metzger orchestrations because we knew we wanted to start there as our base, they’re already fantastic. And then Jonathan Barr, Marco Paguia and Andrew Cottee began to adapt those for the needs of the show.

Were the original songwriters involved in the project?

MW: Absolutely. If we are going to experiment and take a beloved copyright from one of our writers, we make them part of the process as well. We want to make them feel as enthusiastic and excited as we are about our project. When I showed Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez the recording of Andrew Cottee and how he adapted the arrangement of “Let It Go,” bringing even more fever to the piece for this particular production, they were moved to tears. It was a beautiful experience. What Yaron and Jonathan produced with Andrew Cottee was really respectful of the original piece and felt like it belonged in that world, but also brought something new and fresh to the performance.

It seems one of the highlights of the production was recording at Abbey Road Studios in London.

MW: Being a project for France, geographically of course, London made sense. It was easy for our show directors and show producers to get there. And then you have the fantastic British musicians and the legendary recording studio of Abbey Road. Since we were going for this almost magical, ethereal quality of different moments in the score, when we were able to book Studio One at Abbey Road, the world’s largest recording space, we knew we were in for a phenomenal treat. It was great to see the directors’ and the producers’ eyes light up when they heard the music for the first time live.

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YS: To make sure that everyone knows what to expect, we work first with synthesizer mock-ups. It’s all generated by computer. And to hear the same thing you heard so many times played by real instruments is really magical. I always think of recording sessions like a holiday. You work so hard for so long and then everything comes to life. It’s very emotional for everyone in the team. Andrew Cottee did such a great job of making it very familiar but at the same time very contemporary and lively. I think that’s what we all responded to.

MW: Andrew Cottee works very closely with a gentleman named Tom Croxon who reached out to an incredible collection of demographically diverse and outstanding musicians. There was almost 70 of them. Their sight-reading abilities and their ability to bring life into the performances is what leaps out when you’re listening down in the control room.

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YS: We were able to get very specific people like a lute player and a dulcimer, which is a string instrument very close to Norwegian traditional folk music, to stay as authentic as possible to the original score. Also, the orchestra plays in a lot of Disney movies. And that’s what’s also nice when we use them. They know the cinematic sound, and they can play so many different styles. That’s one of the joys of working with them.

The music for Frozen: A Musical Invitation was produced by WDI Music Studio, which is a whole new music department at Imagineering that you created, Matt, after being Senior VP of music at the Walt Disney Studios. Can you tell me about it?

MW: Music is a rich tradition at Disney Parks. It has been an essential element from the very beginning and it’s part of our DNA. When Bob Weis, the current President of WDI, approached me and discussed the possibility of creating a music department, I jumped at the chance. To be able to take music – my background is originally in film and theater – and approach how we score the music for our experiences seemed like a perfect path to pursue. So, I created a music department selecting some of who I believe are the best music producers in the world to help me create, design, produce and install the music for our attractions, experiences and live entertainment.

The wonderful thing about having worked on film during all that time is the relationship with the talent and the experience of taking music and scoring a moment. That’s what we’re doing at Imagineering. Music is there to enhance the emotions and support the story that we’re telling. Because we’re essentially storytellers. We’ve been asked to raise the bar of the music across the globe in the parks. Every project that we take on, we approach with the goal of trying to create something unique. That’s how we approached things at Disneytoon Studios. No matter what the film, we tried to bring in the best talents and produce it with love and care and put hours and hours of energy into the production.  And I think that’s also how we work with the parks. There’s such an opportunity with music to help entertain our guests and create those unforgettable moments for them.

Also, what’s so great about creating this new music department is bringing talent that you really know as well as contemporary fresh writers like Pinar Toprak (Captain Marvel). Having John Williams come in and write fresh new themes for our Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge project was such a joy. We also recorded it at Abbey Road, this time with the London Symphony Orchestra.

YS: And it even won a Grammy!

MW: Absolutely! It’s a joy to be able to work with that level of talent from the composers, artists, musicians as well as the writers’ point of view.

Musically, what can we hope for in the future at Disneyland Paris?

MW: The level of creative investment at Disneyland Paris is incredibly exciting. I think it is a park that continues to push the envelope creatively. Regarding music, and without giving too much detail, I can’t tell you how excited I am about the future and all the plans that we have to create even more incredible experiences for our guests!


Seasoned Artists: The Nature & Environment team

It could easily be thought that winter is a fairly quiet time for our Nature & Environment team but, quite the contrary, instead of resting on their laurels… they are busy planting them! 

 Did you know that the best time of the year to plant shrubs is when it’s cold outside? November is the ideal time for planting as it allows the roots to become established before the ground freezes. Such are the secrets of our gardeners who set out to prune shrubs one last time toward the end of the fall.    

As temperatures drop, our Cast Members renew the flower beds of our green spaces, replace the sick or aging plants and find new species to decorate our resort.  

Rhododendron, laurel, viola: you may not be familiar with those words –they refer to floral species carefully handpicked by our teams for their beauty, flowering, color and size. Just like painters with their brushes, gardeners set up flower beds and shrubs based on the project they’ve been assigned, the location and season, for a complete change of scenery.  

 For instance, the team worked throughout the night to transform our parks in honor of the Frozen Celebration: blue and orange are a must this season! 

“Even the floral decorations in windows require a great deal of thinking. The shrubs we use are just the right size so that they still allow a perfect view on the parks and shows from within.” Johann Pois, Nature & Environment Manager 

disneyland paris warehouse

Disneyland Paris Donates 15 Tons of Food to Solidarity Associations

In its perpetual spirit of solidarity and during temporary closures, Disneyland Paris has donated 15 tons of excess food inventory to local and national associations like Secours Populaire Français and Restaurants du Cœur, as local communities are more in need than ever during this unprecedented time.

 This large-scale donation operation was accomplished thanks to Disneyland Paris Cast Members who were mobilized to identify, collect and redistribute fresh products – including salads, fruit, dairy and more – as quickly as possible.

The donation is just one example of Disneyland Paris’s longstanding corporate social responsibility commitment to reduce food waste and support those in need within the local community.

Throughout the year, many other initiatives are implemented by the resort to raise awareness and engage guests and cast members, including information signs in buffet restaurants and collection organic food waste from meal preparation in all of its restaurants.

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Magic Keepers: Nurses at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris First Aid nurse Sophie is always ready to assist the limited number of Cast Members, known as our Magic Keepers, who continue to work onsite. She and her colleagues prepare the distribution of masks given daily to our Cast at the resort, and they also ensure that first aid locations are well stocked and properly equipped for workers.

On this International Nurses Day, we want to say a big thank you to our nurses here at Disneyland Paris, and to all health professionals around the world for their incredible work every day.

magic keeper maintenance

Magic Keepers: Maintenance

Emmanuel and his fellow Cast Members are responsible for maintaining attractions and vehicles at Disneyland Paris.

They check technical equipment and buildings each day, an essential role to ensure everything continues to be in good working order at the resort, in preparation for guests and reopening.

Emmanuel and his fellow Cast Members are passionate about taking care of the parks and looking forward to welcoming guests again soon!

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Magic Keepers: Cleanliness and hygiene

Géraldine and her fellow Cast Members continue to ensure impeccable cleanliness and hygienic conditions for Magic Keepers still working at Disneyland Paris, managing the cleaning services in backstage areas.

This is just one of the many responsibilities she and her team have in addition to regular park visits so the resort stays spotless for when it can welcome guests once again!


Background Music on Center Stage

It may go unnoticed at first and yet, it is an integral part of the Disney parks experience. Background music, played across Disneyland Paris, has the unique ability to immerse guests in a world of fantasy.

Above all, Walt Disney and his Imagineers were filmmakers. It’s fitting that they imagined Disneyland Resort just like they would a movie, with a scenario, settings, actors – Cast Members and guests – and staging. In the same spirit, it felt natural to create a soundtrack.

Imagineers were meticulous about creating a special soundtrack – traditionally referred to as BGM (Background Music) – which plays an instrumental part in theming. At the very beginning, this type of music was played live by several bands across Disneyland Resort. However, attractions aside, quite a few pre-recorded soundtracks could already be heard in the park. For instance, guests would go through Sleeping Beauty Castle and enter Fantasyland to the sound of “When You Wish Upon A Star,” a classic musical invitation to dream. At the entrance of Frontierland an old banjo tune would play, while indigenous drums and jungle sounds would foreshadow Adventureland. As it traditionally runs for a few short minutes, BGM plays in a loop, in the same spirit as “Muzak” which began playing in American stores in 1934.

In the early sixties, a few outdoor attractions and queues at Disneyland Resort were given their own background music. American composer Buddy Baker – famous for “Grim Grinning Ghosts”— created a new arrangement by adding small bell sounds to “I’m Wishing” from Snow White (1937) for the Wishing Well area at Snow White Grotto. Certain loops could also change depending on the time of day or year. Throughout the year, the organ at Swiss Family Treehouse played Baker’s famous “Swisskalpolka” from Swiss Family Robinson (1960), except during the Christmas season when it played seasonal carols. Nowadays, this still applies to Main Street U.S.A. as a special background music can be heard during end-of-year celebrations.

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As time went on, background music was played throughout the park, starting with Main Street, U.S.A., but it raised the question of theming. Just like in a movie, music is critical to ensure that stories remain consistent. Oddly enough, the very first tracks played on Main Street, U.S.A. recalled pop music from the 1960s, like “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel, prioritizing emotions over historical accuracy.

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In 1970, radio host Jack Wagner – the official voice of Disneyland Resort for many years – offered to create a soundtrack in keeping with the theming of the land. Inspired by Disney music of the time, most notably arrangements made for marching bands, he designed a loop reminiscent of the turn of the century. Disney entrusted Wagner with the creation of BGM for more than 40 areas at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort which remain references to this day and inspired Imagineers for the background music at Disneyland Paris, which in turn was used in the U.S. parks. At Disneyland Paris, background music works in the same way as music would in a film, although it is up to guests to create their own scenario throughout the park.

Just like there are several types of music in films, there are various types of BGM. Some are used to introduce a story and bring guests on a journey to a far-off place or another time period thanks to themes and sounds reflective of times past. In the movies, it is notably the case for The Princess and the Frog (2010) and Lady and the Tramp (2019) – both featuring music inspired by New Orleans Jazz reminiscent of the 1910s and 1920s. On Main Street U.S.A., “Ragtime” can be heard. This musical style enjoyed its peak popularity at the turn of the century, the time period depicted throughout the land. Musical masterpieces ranging from Scott Joplin to Arthur Pryor are played, as well as more recent musical scores from Pollyanna (1960) and Up (2009) rearranged to be consistent with the time period.

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Music has the power to transport people to different places based on the choice of instruments, like China in Mulan (1998) or Scotland in Brave (2012). This is apparent in Adventureland where ethnic music is played by African percussionists at the Hakuna Matata Restaurant or by oriental ensembles close to Adventureland Bazaar.

Other film soundtracks synchronize with the action depicted on screen. In Toy Story 2 (1999), when Buzz jumps on the floating platforms in Zurg’s lair, he does it to the tune of Also sprach Zarathustra, the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. More recently, American composer Michael Giacchino referenced James Bond in The Incredibles (2004) by drawing inspiration from the classic arrangements of the famous franchise. At Walt Disney Studios Park, the BGM at Place des Frères Lumière includes dozens of film scores and music from animated films at Toon Studio. In Frontierland, the score of western classics such as The Magnificent Seven (1961) immediately takes us to the mythical Wild West.

Film scores are most often completely original, written for a specific production. At Disneyland Paris, that is the case of the soundtrack at Discoveryland – written especially by pianist and composer David Tolley.

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”14093″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]There are many other things to be said about background music at Disneyland Paris. Don’t worry – we’ll tell you more about it soon enough![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


Magic Keepers: Vehicles maintenance

Stefano, head of the resort’s own automobile garage, is in charge of maintaining all backstage vehicles that continue to circle around the resort for their daily duties.

Those include security, fire and rescue, and Poney Farm teams grooms among others.

A pivotal supporting role to allow the pursuit of essential activities.

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Magic Keepers: Nicolas Duport, Medical Doctor at Disneyland Paris

Dr. Nicolas Duport joined the Disneyland Paris team earlier this year, currently serving as a Medical Doctor for the resort. In his role, he is responsible for proposing preventative health measures that aim to benefit the health and wellness of the resort’s cast members. Alongside his colleague, Dr. Cyril Warmberg, they coordinate closely with health, safety and security teams to ensure safety remains the top priority at the resort.

Dr. Duport received his master’s in epidemiology and public health at the University of Nancy I, followed by his doctorate in medicine at the University of Paris VII. He also received his diploma of specialized studies in public health and social medicine in 2003. He previously worked for Santé Publique France, the French equivalent of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as a scientific project manager for nearly 15 years. He also received his qualification in occupational medicine at the University of Reims earlier this year before starting his role with the Disneyland Paris team.

“There are many things unique to Disneyland Paris that I find really exciting, including a diversity of professions, a complete medical team of eight doctors working together within and to support a commercial business – which is very rare in France – and the chance to use all of my specialties in one place,” Dr. Duport said.

At Disney, safety is an important tenet and it starts with our cast members. Meet some of our team members who are helping shape, monitor and implement our enhanced health and safety measures >> Disney Parks Blog


Disneyland Paris donates more than 1.5 million euros in food and medical supplies

During the exceptional closure of Disneyland Paris, teams working behind the scenes, assisted by Disney VoluntEARS, mobilized to help local associations and healthcare institutions, donating more than 100 tons of food, protective gear and other medical supplies with a market value of more than 1.5 million euros.

These donations are part of the company’s ongoing commitment to giving back to the community and were made possible thanks to the tremendous dedication of Cast Members working behind the scenes, as well as Disney VoluntEARS, who volunteered during their free time to help those most in need.

Many fruits and vegetables, proteins, snacks, dairy products, drinks, sweets and other delicacies were redistributed to national associations such as Secours Populaire Français, the Red Cross, Restaurants du Coeur and local social grocery stores such as Oasis à Serris, helping to bring a little comfort to those in need.

Disneyland Paris also donated protective medical equipment such as masks to the Seine-et-Marne prefecture, who redistributed the supplies according to the needs of the department’s hospitals. In addition, Hospitals and EHPADs in the Île-de-France region were able to benefit from donations of protective equipment, such as rain ponchos, distributed to healthcare professionals in collaboration with Fondation Hôpitaux de Paris – Hôpitaux de France.

Disney VoluntEARS also participated in the distribution of protective masks to the community of Serris, a town near Disneyland Paris, and helped schools upon reopening, by helping teachers in activities and offering children magical moments with fun workshops.

To ease the daily life of children hospitalized during confinement, the Disney VoluntEARS also created small educational tutorials from their homes, which were transmitted to patients via partner hospitals. These videos were accompanied by supply kits to practice the tutorials.  Additionally, several thousand toys were distributed to children in hospitals.

These actions are all part of Disneyland Paris’ social responsibility approach, in place since its opening in 1992 to support associations and neighboring local authorities working with children and families and to protect the environment.


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