How Disney's 'Frozen' actor Dan Plehal transforms into reindeer Sven on stage

Disney's 'Frozen' is on stage at the Academy of Music through April 7.

Alicia Vitarelli Image
Friday, March 29, 2024
Actor Dan Plehal's incredible transformation into reindeer Sven in Disney's 'Frozen' at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia
In Disney's 'Frozen' on stage, actor Dan Plehal transforms into Kristoff's reindeer friend, Sven. It's an incredible, physical feat of strength, precision and emotion.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Disney's "Frozen" is on stage right now at the Academy of Music.

From Elsa's icy snow powers to talking snowmen and magical trolls, theatrical wonders are definitely at work!

I had a chance to meet the actor who transforms into Sven, Kristoff's reindeer friend. It's an incredible, physical feat of strength, precision and emotion that was simply amazing to witness.

"We've got a full Broadway production here," says Dan Plehal, the actor who plays Sven. "The gorgeous sets, the incredible costumes, the magic you'll see on stage is honestly mind blowing."

We first met Sven in the 2013 animated Disney classic "Frozen."

"Sven is so cool and so weird. Sven is one of two main characters in the show that are inhuman. When they were creating the show, they had to figure out how to put a reindeer and a snowman, Olaf, on stage. They opted for these gorgeous puppets," he says.

Plehal's training for this kind of physical role began here at Pig Iron Theatre Company.

"Right after I graduated college, I moved to Philadelphia and started my theatrical career here," he says. "A big part of that was training with Pig Iron and really leaning into this realm of physical performance that became so special to me."

The Sven costume weighs about 50 pounds from head to hoofs.

"I'm sort of up en pointe on my toes," he says, stepping into the costume.

We got to watch the transformation in real time.

"I'm on stilts for 10 minutes at a time, which is just wild," Plehal says of the physical demands. "At the same time, I'm trying to bring life to this animal, to this creature, because he's interacting with scenes. I basically have lines, even though I physically never speak. You can still tell what I'm sort of saying. Kristoff speaks for me."

Once he's fully in costume, he says there's limited vision and limited hearing.

"We do our best," Plehal laughs, saying he leans into his cast for support.

Sue McLaughlin is the puppet supervisor.

"One of the nice things about this puppet and this costume is that he controls everything," she says, showing off some buttons and levers they've built into the Sven costume.

The role is so demanding that two actors alternate performances.

"Frozen" is on stage at the Academy of Music now through April 7.

For more information and tickets, visit