As a little girl in Russia, Marina McCourt loved to watch Disney characters like Ariel in The Little Mermaid and Belle in Beauty and the Beast.
Now, the figure skater who calls Apollo Beach home twirls in Belle's blue dress and golden ball gown for children around the country, bringing the "tale as old as time" to life.
She's a part of Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic, coming to the Amalie Arena starting Thursday. More than 50 characters including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Tiana and Elsa will skate to some 30 songs including Let It Go, You've Got a Friend in Me and Hakuna Matata.
"It's a great time for everybody," said McCourt, 32, who also performs as Nala in Can You Feel the Love Tonight? from The Lion King.
She loves how the audience sings along to every song.
"It's so great to hear them. They know every word."
The Tampa shows are the final ones this year for this Disney on Ice tour, bringing McCourt and her husband, Corey, the show's stage manager, home. They return home to Apollo Beach during their break.
"We ran and joined the ice show and never looked back," said Corey McCourt, 37, a New Jersey native. "I've got myself a real Disney princess."
Marina McCourt, whose mother was a figure skating coach, learned to skate at 4. She joined Disney on Ice, owned by Palmetto-based Feld Entertainment, in 2002. She has performed as Belle and Nala since 2011.
"I had no idea where my life would take me," she said. "You can do what you love every day with costumes and music and making people happy."
Although he grew up across an ocean, her husband felt a similar itch to travel. He moved to Tampa in 1999 and started with the ice shows soon afterward as a licensed novelty vendor.
He trained to be part of the crew and worked his way through carpentry jobs to become stage manager six years ago. Now he supervises 16 people and keeps track of "everything that goes in and out of the show," from lighting to equipment.
The couple met on the tour and married in Savannah, Ga., four years ago. While Marina rehearses choreography and costume changes, Corey and his staff work around challenges such as adapting the show to venues that are smaller than others.
"You never know what's going to happen," he said. "It may be that we have to bring and make the ice."
Both relish seeing their hard work turn into enchanting entertainment.
"We're just bringing Disney to them," Marina McCourt said. "Bringing all this magic."