It's Norway vs. Frozen in a battle for the future of Epcot's World Showcase pavilion

Posted Friday, July 25, 2014 8:35 AM | Contributed by Jeff

A news report out of Norway details the country's reluctance to continue funding the Epcot pavilion, and says that Maelstrom may close as soon as October to make way for a new Frozen themed ride. The report claims that Disney has offered Norway the opportunity to pay roughly $9 million to update and maintain the pavilion as a promotional platform for the country -- instead of the hit movie.

Read more from Daily Finance.

[You don't have to be Norwegian to see them skewering tourists in the news report.]

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Friday, July 25, 2014 8:22 PM

Jeff said:

Now Duffy The Bear... I don't know what that's about.

It's basically Build-A-Bear with over-priced costumes to dress your Duffy Bear as your favorite Disney character. Personally I don't get it but my kids really like it so there's that. For the record we have never bought a Duffy costume but have waited to meet him and get his autograph.

Back on topic, the characters and rides are what brings me to the World Showcase. With two small kids in tow walking around in gift shops with breakables and eating at higher end restaurants doesn't really appeal to me. Seeing my son do a happy dance when he meets Belle, his girlfriend, is another story.

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Friday, July 25, 2014 8:58 PM
Jeff's avatar

The first time I really spent time at WDW as an adult was with my former girlfriend (Cath). You may remember her from some of the podcasts. The result of that trip was about what I would experience with Diana in later trips before Simon was born: Magic Kingdom for a day or less of nostalgia, and the inevitable landing at Epcot most nights for dinner. If you're there on the dining plan, Epcot is where it's at.

As a local, we still go there quite a bit, and it still revolves largely around food. The Food & Wine festival, and to a lesser extent Flower & Garden, are great opportunities to eat and drink quality stuff. Off Kilter, British Revolution and Mo'Rockin are always great. The people working there from various countries are always fun to talk to. I guess it's a theme park that really is just the theme, and for some reason that has always been fun to me. A lot of people, especially in their 20's, don't get it, and that's fine. It has become an after work favorite for us about once every other week (and Simon, unfortunately, loves Journey Into Imagination, and the joy he experiences is only just barely worth it).


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Friday, July 25, 2014 11:06 PM
LJEdge's avatar

I found myself at EPCOT more and more during the time I lived and worked in Orlando. You can't go wrong with a cool october night wandering around the showcase. The bands, Reflections Of Earth, and the overall atmosphere are second to none.

Now if they would just update the myriad of dated attractions (including Innoventions/CommuniCore) in Futureworld...

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Friday, July 25, 2014 11:30 PM

Jeff said:

The first time I really spent time at WDW as an adult was with my former girlfriend (Cath). You may remember her from some of the podcasts. The result of that trip was about what I would experience with Diana in later trips before Simon was born: Magic Kingdom for a day or less of nostalgia, and the inevitable landing at Epcot most nights for dinner. If you're there on the dining plan, Epcot is where it's at.

We tend to do just the opposite. The last two times we went to Disney World were three day sprints. Animal Kingdom, Studios, and Epcot were half day parks for us. Magic Kingdom was a day and a half. There just aren't enough signature rides for kids under 42" at Epcot.

I think the difference is that I did not visit Disney World as an adult before having kids. I have fond memories of Epcot as a 10 year old but they were more of the front half of the park and not the World Showcase so much. Maybe we'll shift our preferences when the kids are a little older.

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Friday, July 25, 2014 11:36 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

My visits to Orlando generally take place during the Food & Wine Festival. I just love eating and drinking my way "around the world" ... the Windermere-based friends I stay with and I always make sure to end up in France, where we buy a bottle of wine to drink while we watch IllumiNations.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Friday, July 25, 2014 11:53 PM
LostKause's avatar

I thought Frozen was a movie for just little girls. Boy was I wrong. It's amazing! Really Amazing. The story is so unique, and takes a few twisty, clever, unexpected turns. It indirectly makes fun of other Disney animated movies, then spins the plot details around to show you that it's not like those movies it's making fun of. The dudes never get to save the girls, even when they really want to. The girls are never begging them to anyways. I found it completely refreshing and I hope that there are many more movies like it in the future.

(wipes sweat off of forehead...) The Norway Pavilion is nice enough, but since Maelstrom is a generic ride with no real IP theme, I say go for it! Make it all about Frozen! That is a great idea. Change is inevitable when it comes to theme park evolution. I would, however, like to see them keep the Norway pavilion and just change the Maelstrom ride though.


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Saturday, July 26, 2014 9:50 AM

Some questions that popped into my head:

1. If Maelstrom is replaced for Frozen is it a re-theme of the existing ride or a completely new ride?

2. What do you do with the theater at the end of the ride? Replace it with more retail space?

3. If Disney decides to change the whole pavilion around and effectively force Norway out, how exactly does that fit in the World Showcase?

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Saturday, July 26, 2014 10:29 AM

The thing that really irks me about when they added Nemo to the Seas ride in Epcot is that it essentially became Finding Nemo part 3. (Part 1 is the movie, part 2 is the show in Animal Kingdom that opened a month or so before.) If they wanted to add Nemo to the ride, I guess I'm OK with that, as it will make the kids more interested in the ride. However, the future world section of the park is intended to be a bit educational, and with Nemo, I don't remember there being much of anything educational about it at all. I think it would have been much better if they took the riders on a field trip with Nemo and taught the riders + Nemo's class about the various sea creatures in the ride. This way, there is some tie in to the movie for the kids, and the educational part of Future World.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014 11:06 AM
Jeff's avatar

Nemo and Crush attractions would have been fine if they didn't practically hide the fact that there's a massive aquarium in there. I always thought the hydrolators and Seabase Alpha were pretty cool.

The problem with these kinds of discussions is that it's easy to say, "They did this and the outcome sucked," when we can still give countless examples of the opposite. Past never really sets precedent when it comes to Disney.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Saturday, July 26, 2014 12:11 PM
OhioStater's avatar

Mulfinator said:

Some questions that popped into my head:

1. If Maelstrom is replaced for Frozen is it a re-theme of the existing ride or a completely new ride?

It sounds as if it would be completely redone into a Frozen ride. The idea of being in the sled over snow sounds like a pretty cool concept.

2. What do you do with the theater at the end of the ride? Replace it with more retail space?

You install a karaoke bar and sing songs from Frozen of course!

3. If Disney decides to change the whole pavilion around and effectively force Norway out, how exactly does that fit in the World Showcase?

Well this is where it seems weird to me. Frozen has nothing to do with the real world, so I don't get how it fits into a Norway pavilion, unless Norway doesn't really care...but it still seems odd. The concept sounds great, but wouldn't it be cooler for Frozen to have its own little section in Fantasyland?

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Saturday, July 26, 2014 2:08 PM
Jeff's avatar

There are too many assumptions being made about what it will be and that it has to be wholesale replacement. That's a lot of conclusions jumped.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Saturday, July 26, 2014 4:44 PM

There's problems with whichever method they choose. If they replace the ride costs will be greater and the window of opportunity to cash in on the movie's success shrinks. That might not be a bad thing necessarily be a bad thing since a character meet and greet has 5 hour waits.

On the other hand if they simply re-theme Maelstrom you have a relatively short water ride. Also the concept of a water ride when everything is supposed to be, um, frozen doesn't make much sense to me either.

Either way I'm interested to see how this all turns out. Having personally spent two hours waiting at Disneyland to meet Anna and Elsa I know my kids will enjoy it if there is a replacement for Maelstrom.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014 9:51 PM

I've only been on Maelstrom a couple of times and I thought it was fun, but the thing that sticks in my mind to this day is that snooze of a movie they make you watch afterwards. And just try to leave. The attendants seem to take it personally or something, and we were met with more than one Norwegian glare on our way out. And here I always thought blondes were friendly.
So in my mind it stands to reason that they are holding fast to entitled ownership of the pavilion, and maybe rightly so.

I tend to agree with those that think Future World and World Showcase should be just that- a way for those of us who aren't jet setters to get a taste of the future or a country's environment, culture, and cuisine, (even though it's in a hopelessly faked up way). Somewhere back in the day when World's Fairs were popular it was common for countries and corporations to sponsor pavilions that provided that same experience to visitors. Walt Disney was in love with that concept- we have it's a small world as a remnant of the New York fair, and he toured the Seattle fair extensively. When I visited the Space Needle last summer I was surprised and taken by how much of that fairgrounds projected what we see at Future World today. Nowadays World's Fairs as we knew them are passé, and EPCOT was Disney's attempt to create a permanent display. While I agree that certain areas of EPCOT are in need of a updating, and Frozen would likely be a slam dunk for the park, I'm not sure that changing the original concept behind World Showcase is the answer.

As Jeff points out, there's not enough information yet, and the decision to update Living Seas with character driven attractions just made things strange. But I guess I'm of the opinion that a ride-only alteration of Norway would not be giving Frozen it's due, and at the same time a complete remake of Norway to FrozenLand wouldn't be in the spirit of the park. It's also a shame that New Fantasyland was conceived before Frozen hit big, it surely would've been an appropriate inclusion. I'm extremely interested now to see how all of this will play out.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014 2:06 AM
slithernoggin's avatar

I have to take a bit of an issue with "a hopelessly faked up way"...

As Disneyland was being developed, Walt Disney brought over to the park project many people from the Walt Disney Studio. Disneyland was designed with a very cinematic approach, which has been pretty closely followed by subsequent Magic Kingdom parks.

As you pass through the tunnels under the Main Street train station, you have a "close-up" -- you see only what the designers want you to see. Exiting the tunnels, you have more of a "medium shot", and as you merge, with other park guests, on to Main Street, you have a "long shot" capped off by a castle.

That approach carried over into the other Disney parks.

Just as Gone With The Wind or Star Wars or Duck Soup* uses the magic of the movies to create a world that doesn't exist or no longer exists, Disney parks** use some of the same tricks and other Imagineer tricks to create a believable, consistent world that park guests can enter into and interact with.

I had the pleasure of visiting IOA with a dear friend, a big fan of the Harry Potter books. She was moved almost to tears when we arrived in the Wizarding World, the physical environment so captured the atmosphere of the books and the movies.

I don't really have much of an issue adding Frozen characters/attractions to Epcot's Norway. They wouldn't be out of place, and they'd certainly be less out of place than Mary Poppins or Belle turning up at Akershus for the Princess breakfast shindigs, as they apparently do on occasion. And I can't imagine the Norway government would have too many issues with being associated with a movie as successful as Frozen.

*What can I say? I love the Marx Brothers.

**And Universal as well, given how many former Imagineers found gainful employment there.

Last edited by slithernoggin, Sunday, July 27, 2014 2:14 AM

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Sunday, July 27, 2014 2:19 AM
LostKause's avatar

Mulfinator said:

On the other hand if they simply re-theme Maelstrom you have a relatively short water ride. Also the concept of a water ride when everything is supposed to be, um, frozen doesn't make much sense to me either.

I disagree. Water is just melted ice. Think Blizzard Beach.


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Monday, July 28, 2014 12:46 AM

Maybe I should edit and change "hopelessly faked up" to "merely representational".

The outdoor amusement business has always and forever been a subset of show business. There's no doubt in my mind that the best theme parks, like many movies, do well in transporting the viewer to another place or time. But the theme park experience is always far away from the reality it represents, and I would take issue with anyone who believes for a second it's real. Themed areas like Harry Potter, and I dare say (in advance) Avatar Land stand a better chance of fooling the audience, as those places were studio produced to begin with and were never real. The friend who puddled up when she saw Hogsmeade was as impressed by the atmosphere as I was, I'm sure, but I bet she eventually noticed the merchandise, the plastic cups, and the cash registers.

It's no secret that Disney designers use visual tricks to pump up effects, and I admit I'm as big a fan of trompe l'oeil as the next guy. I also love the Marx Brothers, but I know those guys will never be my friends. When I meet Lucille Ball, Olive Oyl, or Mary Poppins on the street I'll play along because they're fun to talk to. So I'll give you cinematic, but France? The bottom of the sea? Space? No. And that's my point around EPCOT. They wrap a pre-conceived notion in a small package and present it so we can learn something without going too far away from home. But in the end it's nothing but a fun bunch of hocum.

Which is why my jury is still out on the whole Frozen vs. Norway thing. Is the illusion that is the Norway pavilion worth preserving? Or does it matter if it goes a step beyond the fakery that is already happening there by adding fictional characters to the mix?

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Monday, July 28, 2014 8:29 AM
Jeff's avatar

I don't really think anyone was arguing, "Hey look! I'm in Norway!" I think the point was more around whether the product is a representation of culture or not. Generally speaking, I think all of the countries are, but at least half of that has to do with the people staffing them. Even then, having done the now defunct Segway tour, I also appreciate how much detail and authenticity is wrapped up in the architecture of the structures.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Monday, July 28, 2014 10:23 PM

Jeff said:

Nemo and Crush attractions would have been fine if they didn't practically hide the fact that there's a massive aquarium in there.

The problem with these kinds of discussions is that it's easy to say, "They did this and the outcome sucked," when we can still give countless examples of the opposite. Past never really sets precedent when it comes to Disney.

On the Nemo ride, I pretty much agree with you.

On the second point, its my perception (although I could be proven wrong) that when Disney does a "quick fix" to update a ride to match some other popular media it doesn't turn out to be very good. If they do something from scratch, Disney can often hit a home run. I guess my point is if they just keep the ride as it is, and add the Frozen characters, it probably won't be too good. If they "gut" the ride and more or less start over, it has potential to be very good.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014 12:14 AM
slithernoggin's avatar

RCMAC said:

But the theme park experience is always far away from the reality it represents...

And so are movies. It's not a bad thing.

...and I would take issue with anyone who believes for a second it's real.

Well, I'm not going to take issue with a child, thrilled to have gotten a hug and an autograph from Mickey Mouse. Who else would you be taking issue with? Anyone old enough to have realized (spoiler alert!) Santa Claus isn't real is likely old enough to have figured out Epcot France is not France France, being that it's not in France.

Themed areas like Harry Potter, and I dare say (in advance) Avatar Land stand a better chance of fooling the audience, as those places were studio produced to begin with and were never real.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "fooling the audience."

I'm about as likely to actually experience Hogsmeade as I'm likely to wander the Atlanta of Gone With The Wind, the London of Poirot or the New York City of Annie. That Atlanta, that London and that NYC were no more real than Hogsmeade.

The friend who puddled up when she saw Hogsmeade was as impressed by the atmosphere as I was, I'm sure, but I bet she eventually noticed the merchandise, the plastic cups, and the cash registers.

She 'puddled up' for the same reason I was blown away watching the first Lord of the Rings movie: the spectacular achievement of bringing those worlds "to life", whether on a movie screen or in a theme park, not because she was so gullible as to think she was actually in Hogsmeade.

I'm sorry, I'm not following what you mean about noticing merchandise, plastic cups and cash registers. These are theme parks. They sell things.

Last edited by slithernoggin, Tuesday, July 29, 2014 2:00 AM

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014 6:42 AM

You took issue with me over saying EPCOT was a way to "get a taste of the future or a country's environment, culture, and cuisine, (even though it's in a hopelessly faked up way)." And not to pick an argument, I agree whole heartedly that visual effects, detailed theming, and quality entertainment are the things that make a theme park great. I also know (or would hope) that nobody in their right mind actually believes they're really in Norway. (or Hogsmeade for that matter.)
I'm confused by your cinematic references and what they have to do with it, but that's ok. It's all fake, and I'm trying to say there's nothing wrong with that. It's an established convention.
My point was that EPCOT was designed to teach and entertain in that way, and am still wondering if a Frozen remake ruins the intended concept of EPCOT as World's Fair, or if change like that is inevitable. As far as Nemo and Crush go, I guess I'd allow that if it works at all a pavilion at Future World is the best and most "believable" place to make that kind of change.

And before I get totally up in arms about it, I'm willing to wait and see how Disney and the country of Norway work it out.

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