For someone who's always so down on his luck, Charlie Brown has never been cooler.
Cool might be an understatement, actually. The lovable Charles Schulz character is downright cold as he comes to life at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in the one form that might not survive a Florida winter: ice.
"When you see it for the first time, it's just so spectacular," said Craig Schulz, whose dad created the iconic Charlie and his fellow Peanuts. "It's unlike anything you've seen before."
The 1965 tale of Charlie Brown, his dinky Christmas tree and his search for the real meaning of Christmas, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is depicted over nearly a dozen scenes created entirely of colored ice at the Kissimmee resort.
The display, appropriately named ICE!, took 40 days to make. Forty also is the number of artisans and carvers flown in from Harbin, China, where they specialize in creating magnificent ice sculptures. The tent where ICE! is located, near the back of the resort property off the convention center, is kept at a brisk 9 degrees to ensure none of the creations melt.
After all, would it be acceptable for Lucy's psychiatric booth to be dripping? And how would you feel if Snoopy's nose wasn't perfectly rounded?
Both characters, Lucy, who charges 5 cents for her less-than-stellar advice, and Snoopy, the dog who's imagination knows no limits, are both part of the elaborate display. Others in the Peanuts gang get face time (ice time?) as well, including Charlie's sister Sally and his best friend Linus, complete with his blanket.
Craig Schulz said he first saw his dad's characters in ice when a similar display appeared at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in 2009. Seeing them seven years later in Kissimmee wasn't dulled from his previous trip.
"If I wasn't so cold, I would have stayed in there for hours," said Schulz, who visited the display the night before it opened last month. "I couldn't last that long."
Those attending ICE! walk through key scenes of the holiday classic donning a Gaylord Palms-supplied parka. The blue, puffy jacket does well enough to shield guests from the cold, but closed-toe shoes and additional frosty accessories are recommended to stave off numb extremities.
So, yes, Floridians. You'll need to walk through palm trees and sunshine carrying a hat and gloves to ensure the most pleasant experience inside the Gaylord Palms ICE! tent. The cold is worth it as you follow Charlie while he grapples with the pomp and circumstance of Christmas to learn what the holiday truly is about: friendship and spending time with loved ones.
For additional fees, visitors can snow tube, throw snowballs or decorate gingerbread houses at the resort's Alpine Village.
Inside ICE!, however, there's a chance to feel the cold wind in your hair by zipping down ice slides.
Schulz grew up watching his dad create Charlie in his favorite medium — paper and pen — but said there's something special about seeing the characters in a more tangible form. (Note: Folks are asked not to touch the display!)
"You would almost swear they're not ice," he said. "They're sculpted so beautifully and so smooth, it almost looks like a piece of plastic or something."
Scenes dazzle from the precision and expertise it took to build each character, work done with the help of blueprints and a deep respect for the cartoons and what they mean to people.
It might be hard to choose a favorite scene, but Schulz managed to.
I guarantee you'll know it when you see it, but let me paint you a picture first. Imagine Charlie Brown and all his friends gathered around a now-glorious Christmas tree. Charlie Brown has a smile on his face as his friends circle around him, singing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."
The scene, so perfectly detailed that the popcorn garnishing the tree looks good enough to eat, literally gave me chills, even if Craig Schulz knew I wouldn't be able to recall exactly who each character was.
"I'm willing to bet not too many people could name all the characters, but they're there," he said.
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What: ICE! featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas
Where: Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, 6000 W. Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee
When: Through Jan. 1
Cost: $14.99-$29.99 per person; Alpine Village extra