Maelstrom & Frozen…What If?

Over the last few days I have been reading rumors stirred up once again concerning the dark ride “Maelstrom” that is located in the Norway pavilion of the World Showcase at Epcot. It appears that Maelstrom will be out of operation in August of this year as some folks who have attempted to reserve a fast pass in August have been unable to do so. Thus, the speculation has begun – is Maelstrom going to be closed due to normal maintenance and perhaps updating, or is something new coming along? Something that might take Disney’s hottest property, Frozen, and turn it into a themed attraction.

What many people might not know is that the art directors for Frozen decided to base Arendelle, the fictional land of the film, on Norway. Thus, the beautiful Fjords and even the Stave Churches were inspired by the Scandinavian country. Of course, trolls play a big role in the movie and, if you have ever taken a ride on Maelstrom, you will no doubt remember the presence of trolls along your ride. So it is pretty easy to see how rumors would begin to circulate about a new attraction due to the similarities the ride already enjoys with the film.

So what does The Beast (me) think about this possibility?

Rex and I first experienced Maelstrom  in the summer of 1997 during our first visit together to Epcot. We were certainly not blown away by the ride, but there were some charming elements that touched a nostalgic place in my heart. Rex tends to poke fun at me for my appreciation of Maelstrom (as he does for my love for Spaceship Earth), but I think he secretly enjoys the ride as well. Although I am certainly not opposed to seeing a fresh attraction built around the wonderful film Frozen, here are a couple of things I would be concerned about:

1. The educational element. I know, I know, who in the heck cares about education when on vacation at the Walt Disney World Resort? Well, that is part of what makes Epcot such a special place. The World Showcase is precisely that – an opportunity for families to experience certain aspects of world culture that they might never be able to experience again. After all, when was the last time you considered planning a family vacation to Norway? To have a dark ride coincide with the educational element in a way that is fun and engaging is a great positive for the pavilion. You actually do learn a good bit from the attraction, from the weather to the geography to the oil reserves to the mythology, that would potentially be lost on an attraction themed specifically to the Frozen characters. I would hate to see that. I believe one of the greatest aspects of Epcot is its potential to make children fall in love with learning.

2. The classic effects. Maelstrom has some tried and true special effects that helps create its charm. There are no high definition 3D images bouncing around you, but there are gorgeous water effects, wonderful animatronics, and a solid soundtrack. At one point your ride boat turns around and sends you backwards for a little ways before turning you back forward and sending you down a small hill. These classic but fun elements might be lost on a Frozen attraction.

3. The Tradition. Epcot has done away with several classic rides over the years (the most heartbreaking is still Horizons). Although their replacements have in many instances been improvements for the park, Epcot still needs to hold on to a few attractions that are steeped in history. Obviously, Spaceship Earth isn’t going anywhere. Maelstrom, I think, could be another example of a great little ride that generation after generation gets to experience.

4. The Script. “You are not the first to pass this way, nor shall you be the last.” Need I say more?

I suppose it is possible for Disney to recreate the attraction with a Frozen theme and still maintain some of the elements mentioned…it would just be much more difficult. Is it possible to simply “add” a Frozen touch to the attraction as is, similar to how Captain Jack Sparrow was added to Pirates of the Caribbean? I don’t think so…the ride really isn’t long enough and has too much of a secular feel to it (such as the fairly large oil rig scene) to simply add in touches of Frozen. I believe it would need to be re-imagined all together.

I am more a traditionalist than my brother Rex, but I am very willing to see attractions go when their time has come (Terminator 3D anyone?) In this case, I’m rooting for Maelstrom. Rides of its kind are few and far between. – Join The Journey!

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