When you watch a “Disney On Ice” show, what do you see?
Your heart embraces classic Disney characters that children have loved for decades, such as Cinderella, the Little Mermaid and Snow White. Your senses are bombarded by flashy colors and extravagant costumes, tied together by timeless story lines. And your mind appreciates the flawless skating with a breathtaking mix of grace, precision and athleticism.
But chances are, few fans attending the show actually see people. Have you ever wondered about the individual stories beneath all the masks, and behind all that skating expertise?
When “Disney On Ice Present Worlds of Fantasy” hits the rink Friday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, skater Margot Haglund will continue to live out her childhood dream. Now a resident of Naples, Fla., at age 23, Haglund has been skating since childhood, in upstate New York.
“I had a lot of older skaters that I looked up to so much that were on the Disney path,” she says. “And they would come home from break and just rave about the show. I was able to see shows when I was little, and I remember sitting in the audience and thinking, “Oh, I would love to do that someday!”
Today, Haglund is part of the Disney family, which draws skaters from all over the world.
“We have people on our cast from so many different areas – Europe, all across the United States, Canada,” she says, “and even though we’ve all grown up in different locations and had different coaches, everyone has the same baseline of training. And so when we all get together, it’s really magical, to use that word. You become sort of a family, and no one is the same or has the same story, so it brings a lot of variety to each Disney cast.”
Although Haglund is a redhead and therefore has always identified with Ariel of “The Little Mermaid,” she plays the role of Vidia, the Fast-Flying Fairy, in the “Tinkerbell” portion of the show (“It’s a coming-of-age story of Tinkerbell finding her personality and growing up,” she says). Haglund is excited about all four sections of “Worlds of Fantasy,” which also includes “The Little Mermaid” and “Toy Story 3,” but she says that “Cars” offers something different from the usual princesses and other humanized figures skating around.
“They’re animatronic cars that speak and drive around the ice, and it’s really exciting for all the kids,” Haglund says. “The cars are the characters – their faces move, and they’re very interactive with the audience, and I think that’s a very special experience that’s unique to Disney. You can just tell that the audience’s faces just light up the minute all those cars come out of the curtain.”
Many of the skaters on the Disney tour began their careers with visions of Olympic glory, but Haglund kept her aspirations in check.
“Every girl dreams of the Olympics someday, but I set goals that could be more realistically attained,” she said. “So my goal was always Nationals – that was always the place I wanted to be in my competitive career.”
But a serious injury during the Junior Nationals competition threatened to derail her career entirely.“I fell on a jump and kind of twisted weird in the air, and ended up breaking my collarbone,” Haglund said. “That was the only major issue I ever had from skating, but I got through it, and I learned a lot, and it’s amazing how you can bounce back from something like that. It was probably almost half a year before I could get back out and do what I wanted to do on the ice. But luckily I was young, and I was in shape, and I think that helped my body heal faster. But those months were rough – I didn’t like the healing process!”
The accident changed the way Haglund would approach training, she says, because it made her more aware and aligned with how she was feeling, both emotionally and physically.
“I really saw it as a way to kind of listen to your body,” she said. “At that particular competition, I was very nervous, and I had trained really hard for it. And it was a good way to keep in check for me about how much I could handle, and what I’m ready for. I think it was my body’s way of saying I needed to slow down a little bit.”
It was a wise principle for Haglund to learn at such a young age, and it helped her realize her dreams.
“It’s really surreal sometimes,” she says, “because I’m in the show, and I have these moments of being like, ‘Here I am!’ What a gift.”