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January 17, 2012

Norway Pavilion in Epcot - Part Two

Yesterday, I provided you with a brief history of the Norway Pavilion and started describing some of the sights. Today I’ll complete the tour.

When the Imagineers and the pavilion’s sponsors got together for the first time to brainstorm ideas for an attraction, they quickly came to an impasse. The Imagineers wanted to present Norway’s exciting history of Vikings and fantasy realm of trolls. But the investors wanted the world to know that Norway was a modern, industrial country. It soon became obvious that some sort of compromise was needed.

A maelstrom is a very powerful whirlpool. Legend has it that these swirling vortexes can swallow ships whole. The Imagineers felt that the name Maelstrom would help set the mood for the voyage that lie ahead.


Maelstrom/Whirlpool

Maelstrom Entrance

Maelstrom Sign


The queue for Maelstrom is rather unremarkable. Norwegian flags line portions of the line and a large map depicting Viking exploration routes is affixed to the back wall. But the most striking detail in the queue is the huge mural located behind the loading dock. Here we see depictions of Norwegian life, both historical and modern.


Maelstrom Queue

Viking Exploration Map


Norway Mural

Norway Mural


I don’t usually point out Hidden Mickeys. I leave this to the expert, Steve Barrett. But in the case of the Maelstrom queue I will make an exception. If you examine the Viking ship on the mural very closely, you can see that one of the warriors is wearing mouse ears.


Viking with Mouse Ears


The boats used on the Maelstrom attraction were modeled to look like ships Eric the Red might have used. The ship’s prow was designed to resemble the head of a dragon, a common symbol used on Viking vessels. The third picture below was taken of an actual brow at the Viking Ship Museum in Norway.


Maelstom Boat

Maelstom Boat Prow

Authenic Viking Prow


Larger-sized people take note. Do not let the cast member seat four of you in one row. If even one of you is carrying a few extra pounds, it will be a tight fit.

Our voyage begins with an ascent up a waterfall. The Norse god Odin speaks to us. “You are not the first to pass this way, nor shall you be the last. Those who seek the spirit of Norway face peril and adventure. But more often find beauty and charm. We have always lived with the sea, so look first to the spirit of the seafarer.”


Viking God


As we reach the top of the hill, we see a Viking woman patiently waiting for her menfolk to return from the sea. As we travel further, we encounter a group of men unloading supplies for the village. And further along, we pass a harbor and a villager signaling ships at sea with his horn. Disney was very careful to portray a Viking’s everyday life rather than their bloody and ruthless conquests.


Viking Woman

Unloading Cargo

Gaurding the Harbor


We travel next to troll country. Trolls originated in Norse and Scandinavian mythology. They are supernatural beings who dwell in isolated mountains, forests, rocks, and caves. They usually live in family units and are rarely supportive or friendly to human beings. In fact, they are considered dangerous. Depending on the legend, trolls can be grotesque and ugly or very human like. But their disagreeable disposition remains constant.

On the Maelstrom attraction, we encounter a three-headed troll. They tell us, “This is troll country. Go away. Be gone. Aye. Cast a spell. Yes. Yes. You disappear, disappear, disappear. Aye. Back. Over the falls.” Their disagreeable nature is all too evident.


Three-Headed Troll


With their warning, our boat begins to sail backwards. First we pass by several polar bears, one ready to attack. As Norway reaches into the arctic region, polar bears are a part of their heritage.


Polar Bear

Polar Bear


Leaving the bears behind we continue our backwards adventure through a Norwegian forest – another area populated with trolls who lurk upwards from the water and rocks. Suddenly, we find our boat at the edge of a waterfall overlooking the outside village below. These are the same falls the trolls mentioned earlier and magically sent us toward. But fortune intervenes and we once again reverse course – only to be faced with yet another waterfall.


Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest

Troll

Waterfall

Waterfall


As you take the 28 foot plunge, be sure to notice the cruise ship sailing in the fjord. Norwegian Caribbean Lines were once one of the pavilion’s sponsors.


Cruise Ship


As we splash down, we find the time period of our adventure has changed. We are now in present day Norway – in the turbulent North Sea to be exact. Lightning flashes, thunder rumbles, and waves crash. Overhead and in the distance we see large off-shore oil rigs.


Oil Rig

North Sea and Oil Rig


We continue our journey and sail into a peaceful seaport. Gulls can be heard squawking and buoys ringing. You may also notice a number of signs adorning the various buildings. These companies were all sponsors of the pavilion before their contract expired. It is also in this picturesque village that we disembark. Our adventure lasted just over four and a half minutes.


Seacoast Village

Seacoast Village

Seacoast Village

Seacoast Village


Something new was tried with Maelstrom. On all past attractions, if a film was to be shown, it was presented before the ride began – as a sort of preshow. A good example of this was the movie seen at the “Living Seas” pavilion (before Nemo and his friends took over).

For the Norway Pavilion, the Imagineers decided to reverse things and place the film at the end of the movie to better continue the modern story of Norway. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out quite as well as they had hoped for. If riders disembarked just as the six minute movie was beginning, they were forced to stand around in the seaport waiting for the doors to open and the next showing to begin. This did not please people. Once the theater doors finally opened, over half of the guests dashed through the hall and skipped the movie altogether. Recently, the Imagineers decided to leave the theater doors open all the time, allowing guests to either exit the theater immediately or take a seat and enjoy the show. And since the movie doesn’t really have a storyline, you can start viewing at any time without losing continuity.


Spirit of Norway Movie

Spirit of Norway Movie

Spirit of Norway Movie

Spirit of Norway Movie


I like the “Spirit of Norway” movie. And I enjoy taking a breather occasionally and watching this creative film. However, I’m as guilty as the next guy and more often than not, skip the movie. However I always feel guilty when I do this. I worry that the Norwegian cast members will think I don’t care about their country.

If you read some of the Disney bulletin boards, there is a lot of chatter about the “Spirit of Norway” movie. This film is almost 24 years old. It no longer depicts the modern nation the corporate sponsors and the country itself wanted to present to the world. Computers are big and boxy. Flat screen monitors are nowhere to be seen. And cell phones haven’t even been invented. Both the China and Canada Pavilions have updated their movies. Many think it’s time for the Norway Pavilion to do the same.

Being only one of two rides in World Showcase, Maelstrom is popular. Lines can be long here on busy days. FastPass is available.

Like all good Disney attractions, guests leave Maelstrom and enter a gift shop. But before you do, be on the lookout for this cute little troll. His sign tells us that the South Pole is 8,157 miles (13,157 kilometers) away and the North Pole is 4,251 miles (6,857 kilometers) away. This charming corner makes a great photo op.


Troll and Sign Post


Puffin’s Roost is a collection of shops, each selling a different assortment of merchandise. The first stop brings us to a clothing mart. Here you’ll find a large collection of winter apparel. Jackets, sweaters, and scarfs are in abundance. Living in Florida, I rarely spend too much time here, but I’m sure the rest of the country could easily find a few items that would be useful back home.


Clothing Store


People probably spend the majority of their time in Puffin’s Roost in this next shop. It’s not because the merchandise is so appealing, but because it features the best photo op in the Norway Pavilion. I had to arrive soon after opening to snap this picture without a group of people milling about.


Troll Photo Op


This section of the store sells Norwegian souvenirs. A large array of trolls is available as well as Viking helmets (plastic) and swords (wood) and other goodies.


Souvenir Trolls

Souvenir Viking Helmets

Souvenier Viking Swords


While looking at the various mementoes, a bit of my childhood came rushing back to me when I found a book from my youth, “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” I hadn’t thought of this book in years and a flood of memories filled my head and thoughts of my 2nd grade teacher reading this tale to her class. I had to fight my instinct to buy the book, but ultimately decided I really didn’t need it. But I was sure tempted.

For those of you not familiar with this Norwegian fairy tale, it goes something like this.

There are three goats, one small in stature, one medium in size, and the last large and strong. On their side of the stream, all of the grass has been eaten. But across a bridge is a green meadow. Living under the bridge is a mean and ugly troll who eats anyone who tries to pass to the other side. The smallest goat attempts to cross first, but is stopped by the troll who threatens to eat him. The sharp-witted goat tells the troll that his larger brother will be along soon and to wait for a meatier meal. The troll agrees and allows the small goat to pass unharmed. When the medium sized goad attempts to cross the bridge, the same scenario plays out with the second goat suggesting the troll wait for his even larger brother. Once again, the troll agrees and the second goat is allowed to cross the bridge unscathed. Finally, the largest goat attempts to gain access to the green meadow on the other side of the stream. The hungry troll meets him on the bridge, this time, determined to have his meal without any trickery. However, the last goat is large enough to easily toss the troll into the stream below where he is washed away, never to be seen again. With the evil troll vanquished, the three goats live happily ever after in their new green field.


Book - “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”


A KidCot station can also be found in this section of the shop. This is where children can relax with some arts-and-crafts and have their Epcot Passport signed.


KidCot Station


From rustic to sophistication. The next shop is beautifully decorated in soft blues and whites. Gingerbread woodwork and glass shelves highlight fine jewelry and perfumes. Showcased here are fragrances by Geir Ness.


Jewelry and Perfume


The last shop in the Puffin’s Roost arcade features more Norwegian souvenirs.


Norway Souvenirs


Although most people enter Puffin’s Roost after riding Maelstrom, there is nothing to stop you from entering through the front door. If you notice, above the entrance is an Atlantic Puffin, a cute little sea bird that is found throughout the North Atlantic, including Norway.


Puffin's Roost Main Entrance

Puffin


The exterior of Puffin’s Roost was modeled after structures in Bergen, Norway.


Norway Pavilion Exterior

Bergen, Norway


Next to Puffin’s Roost is Kringla Bakeri og Kafe. As you can probably make out by the name, this is a bakery and café. Beside a large selection of pastries and other baked goods, sandwiches like Ham & Apple, Roast Beef, Salmon & Egg, and Norwegian Club are available. It is very easy to get a satisfying meal here. But my favorite is the soft pretzel covered in white frosting and slivered almonds. Yum.


Kringla Bakeri og Kafe

Kringla Bakeri og Kafe

Kringla Bakeri og Kafe


The exterior of this shop was modeled after structures found in Setesdahl Valley. Sod roofs were once common in this part of Norway. Before the sod is placed on the structure, birch bark is laid across the roof as the watertight element. The main purpose for the sod is to hold the birch bark in place. In addition, sod is an excellent insulator and its heavy weight helps stabilize the structure.


Setesdahl Valley Dwelling

Kringla Bakeri og Kafe

Sod Roof


Behind Kringla Bakeri og Kafe is a covered area with plenty of tables and chairs. This is the perfect spot to enjoy your treats and escape the sun (or rain).


Dining Area


Near this seating area is a statue of Grete Waitz. This Norwegian marathon runner won nine New York City Marathons between 1978 and 1988, more than any other runner in history. She also won a silver medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a gold medal at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki. Grete passed away last year on April 19, 2011 at the age of 57.


Stature of Grete Waitz


At one time, a recreation of a Viking ship provided children with a wonderful playground. They could swashbuckler to their heart’s content on this imaginative structure. Unfortunately, safety concerns came into play and the ship was dismantled. Now, only remnants of this once glorious vessel remain.


Viking Ship Playground

Remains of Viking Ship Playground


A Kim Possible Recruitment Center is also located at the Norway Pavilion. If you haven’t already tried this interactive game, I strongly suggest you do. Although intended for kids, adults can have a great time as well. Using Kimmunicators, you and you fellow secret agents decipher clues to thwart super villains and activate hidden rewards. That game takes between 30 and 45 minutes to play and there is no additional cost.


Kim Possible Recruitment Center


That’s it for the Norway Pavilion. In researching this article, I learned a few things I didn’t know before. I hope you picked up a few tidbits as well.

As always, I’ve created a video of the pavilion. It’s about nine and a half minutes in length.




January 16, 2012

Norway Pavilion in Epcot - Part One

Norway Pavilion

The Norway Pavilion was the last nation to be added to World Showcase. Its soft opening occurred on May 6, 1988 and its official debut followed two months later on July 5. Crown Prince Harald V attended the ceremony and the festivities were broadcast live to Norway.


Norway Pavilion


The original idea was to create a Scandinavian Pavilion with elements of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden being showcased. As negotiations with the various countries progressed, it was the corporate investors in Norway who eventually came up with the $30 million required at that time to sponsor and build a World Showcase pavilion, thus securing an “exclusive” national showplace. Disney would also contribute one-third of the construction costs. In 1992, the Norwegian investors sold their interests to Disney; however, the government decided to continue sponsorship and signed a five year agreement with $200K annual dues. This contract was renewed for another five years in 1997 but in 2002 it was allowed to lapse. Now, Disney is solely responsible for the pavilion.

The sea has always played an important part in Norway’s history. So it was this aspect of Norwegian life that the Imagineers focused on. The 58,000 square-foot pavilion is designed to look like a coastal village. The communities of Bergen, Oslo, Alesund and the Setesdal Valley were used as inspiration.

The focal point of the Norway Pavilion is the Stave Church. The Disney version is based on the Gol Stave Church in Norway dating back to1212. The first picture below was taken in Epcot, the second of the Gol Stave Church. The similarities between the two are remarkable.


Epcot Stave Church

Norway Stave Church


The wooden statue out front of the Stave Church is that of Olaf II, King and Patron Saint of Norway.

As a young royal, Olaf Haraldsson took park in Viking raids throughout Europe. During his travels, he converted to Christianity and then returned to Norway, where he subdued his rivals and proclaimed himself king in 1015. He unified the country and forcefully completed Norway’s conversion to Christianity. In 1028, angry Norwegian noblemen rallied around Knut the Great (King of Denmark and England) to force Olaf II from the throne and exile him. Two years later, Olaf II was killed in battle while attempting to regain Norway’s throne. Today “Saint Olaf” is regarded as the Patron Saint of Norway and a symbol of national independence.


King Olaf II Haraldsson


Norwegians were excellent woodworkers. This came from their long Viking history of shipbuilding. So when Saint Olaf brought Christianity to Norway, the people used this skill to build Stave Churches. The first of these structures were constructed around the year 1050AD and used post and beam construction with vertical plank walls. Christian designs were intermixed with pagan Viking motifs, such as the interwoven dragon motifs, finials, and beautifully carved doors. Of the over 1,000 Norwegian Stave Churches built in the Middle Ages, only 28 survive today.


Viking Symbols

Dragons

Carved Woodwork


Inside the Stave Church are a number of displays. One features another likeness of King Olaf II Haraldsson dressed in traditional garb. The fabric and clothing styles are based on samples unearthed by archaeologists and the colors are based on naturally occurring pigments from the area. The weapon and jewelry are accurate to the era. A Christian cross can be seen hanging from his neck.


King Olaf II Haraldsson


The Vikings were merchants, pirates, explores, and warriors. Their travels took them as far east as Constantinople and the Volga River in Russia, as far west as Greenland and Newfoundland, and south to the Iberian Peninsula and the Straights of Gibraltar. A map inside the Stave Church chronicles their exploration routes.


Viking Exploration Routes


Another display showcases a model of the Oseberg, a well-preserved Viking ship discovered in a large burial mound in 1904. The ship had 15 oar holes on each side, allowing it to accommodate 60 rowers. It also featured a large square sail that would allow the ship to reach speeds of up to 10 knots – a stunning velocity for the day. Since there were no lower decks, all hands worked, ate, and slept on the main deck, regardless of the weather.

One of the Oseberg’s most remarkable features is its meticulously carved curving prow. The mere sight of a Viking prow struck fear in the hearts of medieval European villagers who called the ships “dragons of the sea,” and associated them with violence, pillage, and plunder.


Model of the Oseberg


The actual ship can be seen in the opening sequence of the “Spirit of Norway” movie presented after experiencing the Maelstrom attraction. As the film begins, we see a young boy standing next to the Oseberg in the Viking Ship Museum in Norway.


Oseberg at Viking Ship Museum


There are several other exhibits within the Stave Church that are worth your time. It won’t take more than ten minutes to read all of the signage and look at the displays.

Disney tries to staff the World Showcase pavilions with individuals from the various countries. If nationals aren’t available, Disney hires people who have lived in that nation for extended periods and are knowledgeable about the land and customs. The Norway Pavilion is no exception and it takes approximately 150 cast members to keep things running smoothly.

Many of the Norway cast members wear a costume inspired by the traditional national folk attire, the bunad. The designs are typically elaborate, with embroidery, scarves, shawls, vests, and a multitude of buttons. Women’s dresses are long and gentlemen wear knee pants. Even today, the bunad is often worn at weddings, folk dances, and on Constitution Day (National Day) celebrations. The Disney version of the bunad is slightly less elaborate for practical reasons as it must be worn daily and laundered often.


Norway Pavilion Costumes


The backdrop of the Norway Pavilion is Akershus Fortress (or Castle). Construction on the real fortress began in the 1290’s and it guarded the City of Oslo. The fortress has never been captured by a foreign army but it did surrender without combat to Nazi Germany in 1940 in the face of a German assault. Today, portions of the fortress are used to house offices for the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. Other sections contain the Norwegian Resistance Museum.


Akershus Fortress


Looking at the above picture, you can see that both natural stone and smooth masonry were used in the construction of the fortress. This is also evident at the Norway Pavilion. In addition, one of the fortress’ steeples has been recreated.


Rock Construction at Norway Pavilion

Smooth Masonry at Norway Pavilion

Fortress Steeple


If you look closely at many of the fortress walls at the Norway Pavilion, you’ll see decorative pieces of iron embedded into the masonry. These were not placed here for adornment, but for construction purposes. In days of old, rock and brick walls were much too heavy and had a tendency of sagging and collapsing under their own weight. In medieval times, buttresses were often used to rectify this problem and fortify the walls. But the use of tie-rods could often accomplish the same thing for a lot less money and labor. In these cases, a long iron rod ran between parallel walls. The decorative caps anchored the ends of the rods in place. This would hold the wall in a vertical position.


Tie-bar Construction

Tie-bar Construction

Tie-bar Construction


The fortress’ military importance has not been forgotten here at Epcot. A number of gun turrets can be seen in the walls and atop the structure.


Gun Turrets

Gun Turrets


The Norway Pavilion has a wonderful stage for live entertainment. At one time, a lively group played folk music and demonstrated festive dance steps several times each day. But alas, their performance was terminated some time ago and not replaced. I have to assume Norway’s entertainment was eliminated due to budget cuts. However, the stage is used in December when Norwegian storytellers recount their customs and traditions during the holiday season.


Norway Pavilion Stage

Holiday Storytellers


A detail I really love at the Norway Pavilion can be found on the turret closest to the China Pavilion. If you take a good look at the structure, you can see that several windows have been closed off with bricks.


Turret

Bricked up Windows


Akershus Royal Banquet Hall was named for the fortress in which it is located. The restaurant is beautiful. The intricately carved wood beam ceiling and arched windows give the main dining room a church-like ambiance. Another dining room is enclosed by whitewashed stone and is reminiscent of an ancient castle chamber. And a third seating area feels like a cozy inn or cottage.


Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Sign

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Entrance

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Main Dining Room

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Ceiling

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Archway

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Dining Room

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Dining Room


Lunch and dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is served buffet-style. The cuisine hints at Norwegian. Breakfasts are served family-style, meaning all of the food is brought to the table and everyone digs in. This meal is definitely American in flavor. All three seatings include visits by the Disney princesses. Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, Princess Aurora, Mulan, and Mary Poppins all make the rounds and pose for photographs. A Disney photographer is also on hand to capture the magic. Note, the princesses appear on a rotating schedule so there is no way to guarantee which royal beauty will be appearing on any given day. These meals are extremely popular and advanced reservations are an absolute must.


Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Buffet

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Buffet

Princess Meet & Greet


I must use this moment to editorialize. “Akershus,” as the restaurant used to be known, was one of my favorite World Showcase eateries. I enjoyed the reasonably authentic Norwegian food, the lovely cast members, and the wonderful atmosphere. Sometime in 2004, Disney decided to start offering “princess” breakfasts here. This would make the Norway Pavilion the only World Showcase nation to offer breakfast or a character meal. The meal was an instant success. As is so typical with Disney thinking, “If a “little” is good, “more” must be better.” So in 2005, Disney started offering princess appearances at lunch and dinner as well – at a premium price.

I totally understand that character meals are a cash cow for Disney and they make children (and their parents) extremely happy. But not everyone is rejoicing at this conversion. By going overboard to please one group of guests, Disney has completely abandoned another group. I have no children and I have no desire to have my meal interrupted by a Disney character. And I certainly don’t want to pay a premium price to be subjected to unwanted table guests.

All I ask is that Disney give up character meals during lunch at the Norway Pavilion. It’s not fair that I can no longer enjoy this restaurant. And as I mentioned in another blog, if the demand for character meals is so great, let Restaurant Marrakesh or Nine Dragons offer a princess meal at lunch. Both of these restaurants could use an incentive to entice diners to their establishments for the midday meal.

Okay, I’ll get off of my soapbox now and continue with my review…

Well, maybe not. I think it’s time for a breather. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.



December 19, 2008

Norway’s Viking Ship is Gone

Sad news. The Viking ship at the Norway Pavilion in Epcot has been removed.

This ship was originally built as a children’s play area, but a couple of years ago it was deemed too dangerous for the little ones. This month it was removed completely.

I wish Disney had kept it. It was nice to look at even if guests were no longer welcome aboard.


Here are before and after pictures.

Viking Ship

Viking Ship Removed

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About Norway

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