x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Frozen out in quest to track down an elusive Disney Elsa doll

The US$39.95 singing Elsa doll from the Frozen movie is the holy grail of presents for little girls worldwide. But it is so popular that it's unavailable even in the world's biggest Disney store.

Elsa the Snow Queen in the Disney film Frozen. Disney / AP Photo
Elsa the Snow Queen in the Disney film Frozen. Disney / AP Photo

Disney’s Frozen is the most successful animated film in box office history, with US$1.14 billion earned worldwide. Its mix of catchy tunes and magical princesses has fuelled demand for its merchandise and second-quarter revenues, with some Disney stores limiting customers to a maximum of two items per visit and related dolls and costumes being sold on eBay for huge premiums. Sean Cronin battles the crowds at Disney World in Orlando to get his hands on a coveted Elsa doll with little joy.

Before the doors open at the world’s biggest Disney store in the Florida theme park, the shoppers are already waiting outside.

Most are there to buy one item. But all will leave disappointed.

The US$39.95 singing Elsa doll from the Frozen movie is the holy grail of presents for little girls worldwide. So much so that they are almost impossible to acquire anywhere on the planet right now.

It is either a case of marketing genius or logistical incompetence.

Even here in the very heart of the magical kingdom, where everything is possible if you just believe, Elsa is nowhere to be found.

Cinderellas, Barbies and Little Mermaids abound, piled high in a variety of costumes. But Elsa is absent.

In a corner of the sprawling store in Downtown Disney, among the tennis racket-sized lollipops and Mickey Mouse hats, a small stand has all the Frozen merchandise there is left to buy – a few overpriced T-shirts, a writing pad and a story book.

A sign warns shoppers, somewhat redundantly, that purchases of Frozen products are restricted to five per person.

“Where’s the rest of it?” I ask, while circumnavigating the tiny table of tat in about three steps.

“China,” comes the curt response from a shop assistant, who it seems has been asked the same question one too many times.

The perma-smiling Disney sales staff have a sort of pepper-spray politeness about them.

It was clear they had little patience to explain to yet another tourist why the entire inventory of Frozen merchandise in the world’s biggest Disney store could be accommodated in the bum bag of one of the seven dwarfs or Dick Whittington’s knapsack.

It was a cruel blow and the end of a long journey. I had come half way around the world in search of Elsa.

A Siemens press trip to Orlando provided the cover. Now it was only a matter of time before the Germans would track me down and drag me back on to the bus.

The quest had been for nothing. Defeat and mandatory viewing of superior German engineering lay ahead.

But the real interrogation would come later in having to explain myself to my four-year-old daughter on her birthday. That reception would be even frostier than the film – the highest-grossing animated move of all time, and one with the most irritating of theme tunes – “Let it go, let it go”.

Since getting that cursed DVD, every car journey has included a tuneless rendition of it from the kindergarten occupant of the rear car seat.

The singing of the three-word chorus has been relentless, repeated over and over and over again like a Guantanamo interrogation technique.

Without the doll to distract her, who knows how long she would persist in her incessant and tuneless warbling? Weeks? Months? Then the sequel would be out. And the ear-splitting cycle would begin again. “Let it go, let it go …”

The solution appeared like an epiphany.

Cinderella in her blue dress was a dead ringer for Elsa. Only the box betrayed her true identity.

With a bit of icing sugar dusted over her pretty little frozen head during the general confusion of a kids’ birthday party, nobody would be the wiser.

There may be no genuine Elsas left in North America – but there could be a sugar-frosted Cinderelsa. And she would be lickable – a deal-clincher for your average four-year-old.

The resemblance was uncanny. Both blondes, broadly the same dress sense, big eyes, pouty lips, pert nose.

Elsa, being more independent-minded, may struggle with the household chores. But otherwise they could be twins. If they were to find themselves in some sort of imaginary fairytale police line-up, it would be hard to identify the suspect.

Even better: because Cinders is reduced to $14.99, I’m $25 up.

Then came the doubt.

What if the deception was somehow exposed? Would it trigger trust issues in later life? Would all future disappointments evoke that birthday in the summer of 2014 and crystallise around it? Would the rest of my days be fated to seeking redemption for the lie?

What would Walt Disney think? Was I polluting his magical kingdom of low-wage East Coast retirees?

There was that, but there was also that$25, I reasoned, while reaching for the Cinderella box on the shelf.

Then from somewhere, someplace, perhaps a factory near the industrial region of Guangzhou province, came a voice. Faint at first, then louder, then annoyingly loud.

It was Elsa. She was singing to me. Again.

“Let it go,” she said. Let it go.

And I did.


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