ENTERTAINMENT

Sven the Reindeer comes to life in Disney’s ‘Frozen’ at the Eccles Theater

Nov 8, 2021, 3:01 PM | Updated: 3:01 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Broadway touring company of Disney’s “Frozen” is bringing audiences to the Eccles Theatre in Salt Lake City.

KSL’s Carole Mikita was given exclusive access backstage to Sven the Reindeer and the man who makes him move.

When Sven steps out on stage, it is a moment.

Audience members, particularly the younger ones, express their delight.

He is simply part of the magic that is Disney’s “Frozen.”

But bringing Sven to life is an incredible challenge that begins with the actor inside.

Collin Baja is one of two who share the role.

“I also, in a previous life, was a pure dancer. So, I fit the mold of what they were looking for — as someone who’s highly aware of their body, can do a lot of physical acting and can sustain this. Because only by trial and error were they able to, in the audition, to see putting us in the force stilts, in a practice head, see how we could actually bring it to life. And I said yes to it because what a wild challenge,” said Baja.

We had the rare moment that few ever get to see.

Baja begins the costume process with Sven’s feet.

He laces his foot in first and then tightens it with velcro.

“Because all of my weight will be on the small stilt end,” he said.

And with both feet on, Baja explains his downward dog position that he maintains each time he appears on stage.

“I pitch forward, like this, so they’re facing all the way down, where all my weight’s up here,” he said.

Next, Sue McLaughlin, his dresser, and John Farrow, the wardrobe supervisor, zip Baja into Sven’s legs.

Baja said he could not function as Sven without McLaughlin’s assistance.

“If he needs anything — water, towel, anything — because he has no hands available to him most of the show. I’m right by his side,” said McLaughlin.

Baja then zips into Sven’s body.

Since his dressing takes place just off stage, Baja and McLaughlin have developed a signal system.

“We now have taps and non-verbal, verbal communication that allows this to be an easy process,” said Baja.

The costume process now moves to his upper body.

“I will now put on the sleeves and then go into the arms,” said Baja. “On the right one, there’s a chord underneath my handle that I’m controlling the blinking with, and on the left is the ears that I’m controlling.”

Then, Baja tips forward, while McLaughlin attaches Sven’s head.

Before she tucks him in all the way, Baja shows us what he sees.

“You see that my vision is basically about two to three feet out and it’s at an angle that’s down,” he said.

And suddenly, Sven is up and trotting around.

He comes over to KSL’s Carole Mikita, who is completely swept up in the illusion — believing she’s petting a real reindeer!

Just as quickly, Baja demonstrates that Sven can be at rest, crossing his legs on the stage floor, and then suddenly up again!

With all of those energetic movements, Mikita wondered if he had to learn to breathe differently?

He laughed and replied, “Training in altitude helps.”

The Disney stage production is obviously very different from the blockbuster film, but the actors, and certainly the characters, capture the imagination.

“We have things like Sven that come to life, Olaf comes to life. And there are magic moments throughout the show, but it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a magic show. You were watching this great story that’s very immersive that has magic in it,” said John Farrow, wardrobe supervisor for “Frozen.”

Sven the Reindeer comes to life as Collin Baja literally pitches forward on stilts.

“It is also a thrill to see and hear the reactions from children, from adults, from families. Because we keep it a secret in a lot of ways, and so, when they see the show, and they don’t understand how it’s done, but yet they felt a connection to Sven, or they love that connection between him and Christoph, that’s really rewarding,” said Baja.

And in our beautiful Eccles Theatre, Collin Baja shows us why Sven remains a “Frozen” fan favorite!

Sue McLaughlin put it perfectly: “Just the sense of community that this show elevates, I love.”

Disney’s “Frozen” has performances at the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake City through Nov. 13.

KSL 5 TV Live

Entertainment

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks as he joins Ryan Smith, co-founder and chairman of Smith Enter...

Michael Houck and Lindsay Aerts, KSL TV

Smith Entertainment Group addresses the logistics and politics of bringing the NHL to Utah

On Friday, the NHL and the new owners of the Utah NHL team discussed the exciting opportunities that the team can bring to Beehive State.

5 hours ago

Bluey and two other cartoon dogs point...

Cheyanne Mumphrey, Associated Press

Not a toddler, not a parent, but still love ‘Bluey’? You’re not alone

A small blue dog named Bluey with an Australian accent has captured the hearts of people across the world.

9 hours ago

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 04: Taylor Swift attends the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Crypto.com Ar...

Alli Rosenbloom and Elizabeth Wagmeister

Taylor Swift’s surprise double album ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ is daggers wrapped in a lullaby

Take your seat because Taylor Swift’s “Tortured Poets Department” meeting has officially been called into session and, surprise, it’s a 31-song mega double album.

18 hours ago

In this photo illustration, the TikTok app is seen on a phone on March 13, 2024 in New York City. C...

Brian Fung, CNN

TikTok is in the hot seat once again in Washington

On Wednesday, House Republicans added a hot-button bill that could lead to a nationwide TikTok ban to a wide-ranging foreign aid package intended to help Israel and Ukraine.

1 day ago

FILE: Recording Artist Dickey Betts at the press confrence for the Gibson Custom Southern Rock trib...

Steven Wine and Russ Bynum

Allman Brothers Band co-founder and legendary guitarist Dickey Betts dies at 80

Guitar legend and Allman Brothers Band co-founder Dickey Betts has died at age 80. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer wrote the band's biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man.”

1 day ago

Signs are posted for the 2024 Sundance Film Festival on Maiin Street in Park City on Jan. 18. The f...

Collin Leonard, KSL.com

Leaving Park City? Sundance Institute seeks proposals for future location of film festival

The Sundance Institute announced Wednesday it is beginning a process "to explore viable locations in the United States to host the Sundance Film Festival beginning in 2027."

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Sven the Reindeer comes to life in Disney’s ‘Frozen’ at the Eccles Theater