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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Frozen Ever After and Norway



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians and author of Jim’s Gems in The easy Guide, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

FROZEN EVER AFTER AND EPCOT’S NORWAY PAVILION

By Jim Korkis

On September 12, 2014, Disney announced the Maelstrom attraction would be closed on and renovated as a new attraction called Frozen Ever After.

Jim Korkis on Frozen Ever After from yourfirstvisit.net

Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, trolls and Marshmallow (the giant snowman) join guests on their boat journey on a “summer snow day” through the frozen willow forest, past Troll Valley and up to the North Mountain to Elsa’s ice palace. The attraction ends in the Bay of Arendelle.

Along the way, state-of-the-art audio-animatronics including Sven the reindeer are in the new scenes as well as elements from the animated short Frozen Fever (2015) including the Snowgies, the mini-snow creatures created from Elsa’s sneezes.

Composers Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez created new lyrics to the original Frozen (2013) film songs they wrote, and all of the original voice talent from the film returned and recorded new dialogue and songs for the attraction.

“The original animated film was heavily influenced by Norwegian culture and the filmmakers conducted extensive research in Norway,” stated Imagineer Wyatt Winter who worked on the new attraction. “Our team began our process in the same manner, visiting places in Norway that heavily influenced our work. While there’s clearly a Frozen twist to our story, honoring the culture and traditions of Norway was always among our guiding principles.”

The official dedication of the Norway Pavilion was on Friday June 3, 1988 but because of glitches in its feature attraction (including drenching passengers in the North Sea scene), Maelstrom itself did not open until about a month later on July 5th.

An Epcot press release at the time described the attraction: “Visitors take a fantasy voyage that departs a modern-day village on a Norwegian fjord and journeys up a cascading waterway into the Norway of old. The trip is aboard small ships patterned after the dragon-headed craft of Eric the Red and his fellow explorers.”

The boats were some of the first concept art work done by Imagineer Joe Rohde for Walt Disney World. It was also some of the last work done by famed Imagineer Jack Ferges who built the model for the ride vehicle ship which was replicated in fiberglass copies used in the attraction.

Originally, the attraction was to be called “SeaVenture” and the concept was more mythological in tone. Guests would be riding along a 946 foot water flume encountering trolls and gnomes and the legends about them. Another proposal was Vikings on their way to the Rainbow Bridge to Vallhalla.

The Norwegian sponsors (NorShow) disliked the concept and wanted the attraction to be more of a travelogue to encourage increased tourism.

NorShow gave the Imagineers a list of items they wanted shown in the attraction that they felt uniquely related to the story of Norway including Vikings, a fishing village, a polar bear, a fjord, an oil rig and perhaps, if there was room, a troll or two.

Attraction Designer Bob Kurzweil came up with the new approach– that it would be a time travel experience through the history of Norway beginning with the earliest folklore and ending in modern day Norway to incorporate everything that the sponsors wanted.

In the first full year of operations over 5.7 million guests rode the popular Maelstrom attraction.

NorShow sold back its interest in the pavilion at a loss to Disney in 1992 but the Norwegian government continued to support the pavilion with a contribution of $200,000 a year for the next ten years. However they dropped all financial support in 2002.

Becoming the sole support of the pavilion, the Disney Company looked for a way to increase revenue and attendance. The unexpected success of the movie Frozen (2013) followed by the over four hour wait by guests to meet Elsa and Anna in the pavilion spurred the idea of an animation overlay similar to the ones done for the Mexico and Living Seas attractions.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for even more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.

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