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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The last shop in the Puffin’s Roost arcade features more Norwegian 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.
The exterior of Puffin’s Roost was modeled after structures in 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.