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‘Frozen’ characters come to life

The line of parents, girls in pink and sparkly blue princess dresses waiting at the Walden Galleria to meet the grownups dressed as the snowman, princesses and mountain man from Disney’s “Frozen” lasted into the evening.

Slowly, it snaked around the staircase near the Sears store, headed past the hot pretzel stand and toward the cordoned-off photo area with a bit of red carpet and a baby blue snowflake backdrop.

The three hours on Sunday afternoon was well worth it to Danielle Niederhauser and her 2½-year-old daughter, Charlotte, with a tiara in her brown curls and blue sparkly nail polish and silvery shoes that matched her shimmery “Elsa” dress.

“Can I have a smile? That’s all I want. 5, 4, 3, 2 –” said the photographer. He caught Charlotte looking dazed as she stood dwarfed by the tall heroes of the animated story about Princess Anna’s rescue of her sister, Elsa, from her ice palace.

He tried again. As tall Elsa, Princess Anna and mountaineer Kristoff beamed above her, the petite Charlotte shyly smiled.

“That’s the best one we’re going to get right there,” the photographer said before she ran to her mother.

“Thank you!” said her mother, who planned to sing the “Frozen” song with Charlotte in the car as they drove home. The $10 photo was a bargain. At their house in Cheektowaga, Charlotte puts on a different princess dress as soon as she wakes up in the morning. “Frozen” is special for its message about family ties and taking initiative.

“I think it’s important for little girls to have good, strong role models … You don’t need to have a handsome prince to save the day,” she said. “She’s 2. These are the moments we’ll have to remember … It’s not every day you get to meet your favorite movie character.”

The Sunday event billed as the “Ultimate ‘Frozen’ Meet and Greet Party” from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. was one of a series of appearances at malls and schools by “Frozen” characters and princesses Cinderella and “Beauty and the Beast’s” Belle set up by promoter Kalika Dachtler, a 26-year-old entrepreneur.

He started his Rochester-based Fairytale Princesses Co., selling photographs and character events in September after graduating with a degree in international business from SUNY Brockport.

So far it has been a smashing success. “We are booked till March,” said Dachtler, who plays the mountain man Kristoff with furry boots and an ax on his shoulder. “I love it.”

Thousands of people have come to see him and fellow cast members he hired after posting on Craiglist. As they took a break sitting on folding chairs in a makeshift lounge in an empty mall store, the character troupe said the children’s delight was the best part.

“It’s like we’re a boy band,” said Tory O’Neil, who was dressed in a yellow Belle gown. “When we come out, they’re clapping and screaming.”

For families who don’t make it to a Disney theme park, seeing characters close to home is a treat, she said. “A lot of kids can’t afford to go to Disney,” said O’Neil.

They said they take their influence on children seriously and make an effort to model good behavior.

When a child asked Emma Bondi, who played Elsa’s sister Anna, what it was like to punch the prince, she said she had been provoked, but “other than that, it’s really not OK to punch people.”

The excitement of their young fans is the best part of the job. “It’s just so cute seeing their little faces light up,” said Bondi, who is studying criminal justice at Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua.

It was almost 3 p.m. Their half-hour break was over. The characters trooped out of their storefront “lounge” single file. People stopped to smile and point.

As the Fairytale Princess Co.’s Elsa – played by elegant 15-year-old Victoria West – walked past, a little girl broke away from her parents. “Elsa!” she cried hugging West at the knees.

While the characters were gone, the waiting mall crowd swelled with patient parents, children in strollers and fidgeting little girls in blue princess dresses and blue T-shirts with pictures of the doe-eyed cartoon Elsa.

Robin Mowbray brought her 4-year-old daughter, Elahna, because it was free. So far, her 45-minute wait wasn’t too bad.

As the line crept closer to the princesses, her daughter knew what she was going to say to Elsa: “I love you,” said Elahna, whose plastic wand matched her blue Elsa dress.

Alyssa Alsop’s 2½-year-old daughter Madelyn had on a pink T-shirt with Olaf, the bucktoothed snowman. During their four-hour wait, she sat on her dad’s shoulder for a better look at the human-sized Olaf.

“She’s very, very, very excited,” said Alsop, who was buying pictures for all the grandmothers in the family and herself. The $25 price for four was less than she expected.

When it was finally Madelyn’s turn, the photographer did his usual countdown. “Five, 4, 3, 2, 1 – ” Madelyn held her arms near her hips victoriously and smiled. Her mother was pleased. “She did great.” Now they could all go home, have dinner, relax and watch “Frozen” together.