Attraction Archaeology: Maelstrom

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For those who haven’t heard, Epcot is undergoing the biggest Disney Park transformation in history! Future World is in the process of becoming three themed neighborhoods, along with adding a new restaurant, pavilion, and several new or re-imagined attractions. In addition, World Showcase is gaining Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a Mary Poppins attraction, and more. However, Epcot is no stranger to change. So for today’s installment of Attraction Archaeology, we’re taking a look at an attraction that underwent an overhaul of its own. Yes, today’s post is all about Maelstrom!

What Was Maelstrom?

You are not the first to pass this way. Nor shall you be the last

Maelstrom was a boat ride at Epcot’s Norway Pavilion showcasing Norway’s culture and mythology through scenes, backdrops, and audio-animatronics.

Courtesy of RetroWDW

Even though Epcot’s World Showcase opened with the park in 1981, the Norway Pavilion was added later and opened to guests in 1988. Maelstrom’s original name was SeaVenture. The sign even appeared over the attraction’s entrance when the pavilion was still under construction; but at some point before the attraction’s opening, the name was changed to Maelstrom.

Courtesy of Yesterland

Once aboard a Viking ship, guests encountered the eye of Odin, sailed through a Viking village, and then entered troll country. It’s in troll country where something unusual happened. The trolls, displeased by the trespassers, send the Viking ships moving backwards!

Courtesy of Yesterland

At one point, it looked like the Viking ships would sail backwards and over the waterfall outside the attraction! A rock troll then made an appearance and sent guests forward and down a 28 foot drop into a stormy North Sea surrounded by oil rigs.

Courtesy of Yesterland

To end the voyage, guests arrived in a fishing village which is where they disembarked and had the option to watch the film “The Spirit of Norway.”

Where Was Maelstrom?

Maelstrom was located at the rear of the Norway Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase in the space currently occupied by Frozen Ever After.

Why Did It Close?

The reasons for closing and replacing attractions are complex, and we may never know the full stories behind why they happen. What we do know is Maelstrom was tired and a little… strange? Granted, that’s what made it endearing; but it didn’t stand a chance against the phenomenon that was 2013’s Frozen.

Since the Frozen film has a Norwegian motif, Epcot’s Norway Pavilion was the perfect location for an Anna and Elsa meet-and-greet following the film’s success. After five hour plus lines to meet the famous sisters, Disney announced Maelstrom would close for good October 5, 2014, and be replaced by a Frozen-themed attraction.

Frozen Ever After
©Disney

While many fans and Epcot purists resisted the idea of fictional characters from a fictional kingdom invading the cultural and educational Norway Pavilion, in the end they had to let it go. (Sorry, but you knew it was coming.)

Frozen Ever After finally opened June 21, 2016, along with the nearby Royal Sommerhus, a themed, indoor meet-and-greet location for Anna and Elsa.

Where Can You Find Remnants of Maelstrom Today?

Fortunately there are a lot Maelstrom remnants and tributes to dig up at Epcot’s Norway Pavilion today. To start with the obvious, Maelstrom’s Viking ship ride vehicles are the same ride vehicles used in Frozen Ever After. The ride track is basically the same too. The exterior waterfall is still there as well; however, the rock opening which once allowed a peek inside the attraction is now closed up.

Fans of Maelstrom may notice the light from Odin’s eye now shines behind Elsa’s ice castle towards the start of the ride. Also, in the ride scene featuring Elsa singing “Let It Go,” look up at the ceiling for a swirling light effect. It’s the same from Maelstrom when the trolls sent guests boats backwards. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, those cute Puffins from Maelstrom survived and still call this attraction home! Be sure to look for them towards the end of the ride.

Next door at the Royal Sommerhus, pay special attention to one of the hanging tapestries. It shows the Maelstrom trolls and that swirling light effect still present in the attraction!

Courtesy of RetroWDW

My favorite tribute to Maelstrom can be found in the queue for Frozen Ever After. Tucked in the rafters of Oaken’s Tokens and Sauna is a statuette of a polar bear standing on its hind legs. It’s an ode to the polar bear from Maelstrom which stood in this same position.

While I enjoy what the Disney Parks have to offer now, I also enjoy discovering relics and tributes to the magic and memories that came before and their presence in the parks today. Did you ever experience Maelstrom at the Norway Pavilion at Epcot? If so, please share your experiences!

Savannah Sanders

Savannah has been visiting Disney World since she was a year old and has gone back almost every year since. In the real world, she teaches high school history and government and enjoys writing about all things Disney. Savannah can be reached on Twitter @DisneyParkSavvy.

3 thoughts on “Attraction Archaeology: Maelstrom

  • November 2, 2019 at 6:40 pm
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    I enjoyed Maelstrom for many years and even liked the outdated movie well enough to view it each time I rode. The village at the end of the ride was very picturesque. I miss the ride but am looking forward to taking the Frozen ride on my next visit in 2021.

    Reply
  • November 3, 2019 at 4:43 am
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    This was my favorite ride in of WDW as a child. I was upset when I heard it was replaced with a Frozen theme. I do get the reason though and have to admit FEA is still a decent ride.

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  • November 3, 2019 at 11:39 pm
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    I remember bolting through the theater after getting off Maelstrom as a teenager to avoid getting trapped in the film – it was lovely, but a bit much to endure after EVERY ride! Now I sort of miss the film, if I’m honest. I do think Anna and Elsa are a natural fit for Norway, and to be honest Frozen Ever After is a more coherent ride than Maelstrom, but I still miss the eye of Odin, the quirky little trolls, the near-plunge back into daylight over the falls, and what I at least recall as substantially shorter lines (I may be wrong about that last one).

    Alas. The only constant is change, and Epcot here and now is living proof of that.

    Reply

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