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A look back at 40 years of Disney on Ice

by Brooke Geiger McDonald

Walt Disney World isn’t the only Disney entertainment property celebrating a major milestone this year. Since 1981, Disney on Ice has been bringing Disney music, characters, and live entertainment to audiences across the world. In honor of the 40th anniversary of Disney on Ice’s very first show on July 14, 1981, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, Kenneth Feld, reflected on how it all got started.

Disney on Ice Happy Birthday Donald
Photos courtesy of Disney on Ice

Feld created Disney on Ice after recognizing that traditional touring ice shows like Holidays on Ice and Ice Follies weren’t appealing to families and younger audiences.

Walt Disney's World On Ice Program Book (1981)
Walt Disney’s World On Ice Program Book (1981)

“I knew in order to succeed, we needed to bring families in,” Feld said during a virtual roundtable interview.

Feld calls the first show concept a risk, citing the challenge of integrating numerous Disney characters without diminishing the quality of the ice skating.

“We wanted to have as many Disney characters in one show as possible. The only place you could see more Disney characters would be if you were going to Disneyland or Disney World.” But, he said, “We didn’t want this to be just a kids’ show, so the integrity of the ice skating was very important.”

World-class ice skaters, including some former Olympic medalists, have brought credibility to the ice skating from day one, and the creators’ commitment to quality Disney storytelling has brought the heart.

Feld recounts an emotional moment during the first-ever performance on July 14, 1981. Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney-Miller, attended with her husband, Ron Miller, then president of Walt Disney Productions. After the show, Disney-Miller remarked to Feld, “My father would have loved this.”

“That was a moment for us and it really spoke volumes,” Feld said. “It was something that really pushed us to continue to make sure we always had the quality and the Disney ethos in every single show and everything we do.”

Linda Fratianne also joined the virtual conversation with Feld as part of the 40th anniversary celebration. Fratianne is a two-time world champion, four-time U.S. champion, Olympic medalist, and was a featured skater for the first 10 years of Disney on Ice. Fratianne, who grew up visiting Disneyland as a child, said she didn’t hesitate to say yes when she was asked to join Disney on Ice. “It was the dream job for me… something I absolutely loved doing every night,” she said.

linda fratianne
Linda Fratianne in Walt Disney’s World On Ice (1981)

40 Years of Disney on Ice — An Infographic History

With performances spanning 68 countries and six continents during its 40-year history, Disney on Ice has brought countless Disney characters and stories to audiences across the globe. Here’s an infographic showcasing Disney on Ice through the years and across the world.

40 years infographic

A Look to the Future

Looking ahead, Disney on Ice has plans for the 2021-2022 season with tours on the horizon for the U.S., the U.K., and Abu Dhabi:

USA Tour

  • Disney On Ice “Let’s Celebrate”
  • Disney On Ice “Dream Big”
  • Disney On Ice “Mickey’s Search Party”
  • Disney On Ice “Mickey and Friends”
  • Disney On Ice “Into the Magic”

Abu Dhabi & U.K. Tour

  • Disney On Ice “Find Your Hero”
Coco Disney on Ice

Tickets are available for upcoming Disney on Ice performances in various cities, including Pennsylvania in August and and in Oklahoma City in September. Disney on Ice: “Mickey’s Search Party” comes to the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. on Sept. 3-5. You can sign up for ticket presale alerts here.


Have you ever seen a Disney on Ice performance? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!

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1 comment

Marilyn Moyen July 15, 2021 - 11:06 pm

I have taken my 1 grand daughter since she was 3 (now 8)and her Sister 3 years old, only once and then Covid shut it down. They both are asking WHEN will it come again to Calgary Alberta? Best monet I could spend on them! They love it!

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