Welcome to the next post of Disney Extinct Attractions! My name is Cole Geryak, and I’ll be your unofficial tour guide today as we go on a magical trip to an attraction from Disney Parks past. But first we have to make a stop in the present because a brand new attraction opened in EPCOT yesterday, Frozen Ever After!
Frozen Fever has truly taken over the Disney Parks since the movie came out in 2013, and Frozen Ever After presents the first ride based off of the popular film. The attraction is located in the Norway pavilion, which the natives of Arrendale have slowly but surely taken over! No new attraction comes without controversy, but to say that Frozen Ever After angered some Disney fans is a bit of an understatement! I’m unsure if that mainly happened because the Frozen phenomenon is simply losing traction or because of a lot of love for Noway’s former attraction. But let’s take a step back now and talk about the origins of the Norway pavilion, before talking a lot more about that former attraction!
EPCOT’s World Showcase, an area that pays tribute to eleven different countries and their traditions, was created with the idea that more pavilions could be added as the park expanded. (I have even heard that there are spaces for eight more country pavilions, though it doesn’t seem like any will be added anytime soon!) When EPCOT opened in 1982, nine pavilions graced the World Showcase with their presence, with a Moroccan pavilion joining the party in 1984 to bring the total to ten.
After Morocco’s opening, the executives at Disney waited another four years to bring another country to the World Showcase. Ideas for this new pavilion originally began with a Nordic pavilion that would have been composed of multiple countries located in the Scandinavian area. Investors from Norway overtook the bidding, however, so the pavilion transformed into an exclusively Norwegian affair.
The Norway pavilion officially opened on June 3, 1988, designed as a Norwegian village. It came complete with a few restaurants, a store, and a beautifully crafted Stave Church, but guests had to wait another month for the real star of the area to open!
Today, EPCOT has thrilling attractions like Test Track and Mission: SPACE, but back in 1988, the theme park had nothing of the sort. The attractions were generally slower-paced, but they perfectly fit the idea of EPCOT being an educational park, as these rides gave guests a chance to digest all the information presented. Norway’s big attraction would also try and educate guests (but about Norway’s history, not technology or the Earth like most of the other rides) in a much more thrilling manner!
Officially opening on July 5, 1988, Maelstrom opened as EPCOT’s first thrill ride, though by the end of its time, it no longer really qualified as one!
Understandably, Maelstrom was extremely crowded when it first opened, but luckily, the queue kept guests entertained, as guests had a special surprise once they got closer to boarding! Once there, they were treated to a giant mural (seen above) that gave an idea of what guests would encounter on their journey through Norway’s history. Guests adventured through Norway, encountering trolls, polar bears, and even oil rigs! Ok, maybe the oil rigs weren’t super exciting, but I just think they were such a funny addition to the ride!
Sorry, I just had to put that picture in there! It just cracks me up that you traveled away from trolls and through a magical cave only to encounter an oil rig!
Speaking of trolls, one part of the attraction that did increase the thrill-level was a backward drop to escape from some of those pesky trolls. I always loved that aspect of the ride as it made it truly unique because I don’t know of any other Disney boat attraction that drop you backwards (again, correct me if I’m wrong because I would love to know of others!)!
The trolls were always my favorite part of Maelstrom as they added a sense of magic to an attraction that otherwise simply informed riders of the history of Norway. (Plus, they looked really cool!) Rather than simply being another version of the Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico pavilion, the trolls helped this attraction have more of a Disney feel to it. Interestingly enough, Disney Imagineers originally wanted the entire attraction to have more of that Disney touch, but the Norwegian investors insisted that the attraction focus on the history of Norway. (More on those investors later!)
But I’ll leave you to judge whether there should have been more Disney involved, or if you thought it had a perfect balance. You can find a video of the attraction right here, and I definitely recommend checking it out, especially if you never got the chance to ride it! I’m interested to hear your thoughts on its Disney level!
Guests exiting Maelstrom had a special treat in store as they exited because they were treated to a special post show experience, not commonly seen in a Disney attraction. Many of the pavilions in EPCOT house short films about the countries they represent, so that guests can gain a greater appreciation for the country they are visiting. “The Spirit of Norway” did that as well, specifically for riders of Maelstrom. The film perfectly completed the adventure through Norway’s history, helping guests who missed out on information due to the thrills of the ride still have a chance to learn about Norway.
Not all guests felt like they were missing out, though, so in 2008, guests were no longer required to wait to exit the attraction until the next showing of the film began, drastically reducing the film’s attendance and ruining the environment for those wanting to watch the film. If you never experienced the film how you wanted to, I found a pretty good version of it right here. I have to admit, the movie is very odd, so if you like weird art houses films, you’ll definitely enjoy “The Spirit of Norway”!
Though this picture shows the construction of Maelstrom, I wanted to show it as I talked about the end of Maelstrom because I thought it looked really cool!
I believe that the end of Maelstrom started as early as 1992, when the aforementioned Norwegian investors sold their stake in the pavilion back to Disney. This sale gave Disney ownership of almost the entire pavilion, with the Norwegian government still contributing $200,000 a year to help with the funding. However, when the government ceased these payments in 2002, Disney gained complete control over the entire Norway pavilion.
When Frozen became the phenomenon that it was, the Norway pavilion was almost sure to get an icy makeover, considering that Frozen has roots in Scandinavian culture. Sure enough, Maelstrom closed less than a year after Frozen was released to make way for Walt Disney World’s newest attraction.
With a wait time that long on opening day, you can’t say that Disney is regretting its decision to get rid of Maelstrom! But EPCOT purists will always miss the days when trolls graced Norway that looked like this:
As opposed to this!
And with that, we’ll disembark from the past, until next week’s post, which you can figure out from these clues!
1. This attraction had to do with an upcoming holiday.
2. This attraction only existed in one park.
3. Many animatronics from this attraction can be found in another attraction today!
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this week’s post! As always, I love hearing back from you loyal readers about what you thought of the post and Maelstrom! Plus, if anyone rode Frozen Ever After, I would love to hear about that, as well! You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you liked what you read be sure to join the blog’s Facebook Group for updates on future posts!
And unlike that lady, have a magical day!