There's more ice in ICE! this season at Gaylord Palms.
"You'll see 2 million pounds of ice, which is really, really cool," says Jeff Abbaticchio, the Kissimmee resort's director of public relations.
The annual way-below-freezing event at Gaylord Palms is utilizing 1,000 more ice blocks — each one a little larger than a concrete block — than usual this year to create scenes from "Merry Madagascar," a holiday TV special based on characters from the "Madagascar" films.
That means loads of individual leafs and fronds carved of ice, scattered about. And the jungle setting helps forge a great contrast inside ICE! — subtropical look versus arctic feel. The attraction is kept at 9 degrees.
There are 11 vignettes from the animated show, starting with Santa Claus, who has been shot down over Madagascar and has an icy bump on his head to prove it. It's up to our animal heroes, including Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Gloria the hippo and Melman the hypochondriac giraffe to complete Santa's Christmas Eve duties.
Other scenes feature lines of lemurs and a stare-down between reindeer and penguins, a North versus South battle, Pole style.
"There are a lot more characters this year, and it's set on an island, so islands tend to be a lot more colorful. So you've got a lot of greens, you've got a lot of blues, you've got a lot of browns, you've got a lot of bright yellows," Abbaticchio says.
There's more visual variety than in last year's ICE!, which looked almost overwhelmingly green because of the "Shrek the Halls" theme. Ogres were everywhere. (Gaylord has a partnership with DreamWorks Animation, maker of "Shrek" and "Madagascar," that surfaces in ICE! and other resort promotions.)
The popular ice-slide room also is incorporated into the "Merry Madagascar" theme. It has stand-alone icons such as the Statue of Liberty and the Sphinx to represent the around-the-world flight by the "Madagascar" characters to save Christmas.
And there's a new twist to the slides.
"There's a slide where you actually go through a tunnel," Abbaticchio says. "You go underneath Santa's sled with all the characters on it."
Other ICE! notes
•After all the colorful, Madagascar-based merriment, the attraction still ends with its popular icy-clear nativity scene, including a giant angel.
•The Polar Bear Plunge returns Dec. 1. The charity event features brave souls willing to dash through the exhibit in swimsuits.
•This year, there's no SNOW exhibit running alongside ICE! But other holiday events return to Gaylord, including live stage shows and the Gingerbread Decorating With Gingy station.
•Thumbs up to ICE! for simplifying its ticketing structure. Previously, there were dozens of prices, but that has been boiled down to peak and nonpeak categories. If I were running for office or Miss America, simplified attraction ticket pricing would definitely be a key part of my platform.
•But there's a $4 discount for Floridians who purchase online. Go to GaylordPalmsTickets.com and scan for the promotional code.
•It's a fact: 9 degrees is cold. Gaylord requires participants to wear closed-toe shoes and prohibits shorts. But Floridians, which make up the vast majority of ICE! visitors, tend to forget. I highly recommend doubling up on socks, gloves, hats and especially scarfs to cover faces.
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Where: Gaylord Palms, 6000 W. Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee
When: Saturday through Jan. 1. ICE! opens at 10 a.m. daily. Closing times vary, but it's always open until at least 8:30 p.m.
Cost: Tickets range between $13.99 and $29.99