You are not the first to pass this way, though you may be the last. If you have visited Epcot any time between July 5, 1988 and October 5, 2014, chances are high that you have boarded a viking ship and sailed off in search of adventure and TROLLS! This beloved ride has been operational for 26 years, but will close suddenly next month for a controversial retheming. Unsurprisingly, Disney will be taking the opportunity to cash in on its highest grossing film of all time with the most recent update; Frozen.
It was bound to happen. The unconventional princess story of sisters Anna and Elsa is set in Norway, and the tale lends itself to the ride’s existing landscape; but I can’t help thinking, does EPCOT need to be “Princess-ified” to be fun for kids? When The World Showcase was opened in 1982, the intention was to set up a sort of permanent World’s Fair with 11 pavilions each featuring the culture of a different country. Some might argue that the park’s “adult” focus is too boring for kids. I have met many adults that tell me that when they went to EPCOT as kids they dragged their feet around, threw tantrums, and complained until their parents eventually took them back to the Magic Kingdom. Those same people have grown to love EPCOT as adults. (And I don’t think its just because you can drink there!) Is it so absurd to imagine a theme park that is focused on making grown-ups happy? There’s nothing wrong with mom and dad putting on a nice outfit, getting a fancy dinner, then taking the whole family on a viking ship together, laughing and screaming when you think your boat is going to fall over a waterfall-backwards. Its sad to think that this charming original flume ride, which inspired so many people to laugh together will be replaced because of a well-known catchy tune and a familiar face to toddlers.
Its not as if kids (or Princesses) are unwelcome at EPCOT. There are plenty of opportunities to meet and greet with princesses in their appropriate pavilions (Snow White in Germany, Mulan in China, and Belle in France). However, in recent years, other changes have been made to make the park more “kid friendly” like the re-theming of the once educational “El Rio Del Tiempo” boat ride in Mexico which was updated to a Three Caballaros theme in 2007; complete with silly songs and animated characters. Despite this, the park has stayed mostly true to its cultural message; and other World Showcase pavilions are relatively untouched. The re-theming of the Malestrom is troubling as it was the last remaining ride in the World Showcase to hold true to the original cultural message of the park; something the Disney Blog was proud of just 2 years ago; before “Let It Go” became an unexpected sensation and worldwide phenomenon. But oh how times have changed. Things were simpler in 2012. We had never heard of Frozen, and there were no Disney characters in Norway; there were only viking ships, trolls, fishing, oil rigs, and a giant polar bear! Norway’s history, industry, and mythology can’t compete with a billion dollar princess empire, despite an outcry of love for the Maelstrom on twitter and other social media sites; so farewell King Olaf II. It is time to make way for Olaf the Snowman.
For those that are a bit heartbroken like me, You can view this ride-through online:
The only thing I would like to add is that I wish Disney would understand that there are fans of these attractions that would make the trip back with a bit more notice. The public learned of the Maelstrom closing on September 13th, and the final day of operation will be October 5th. With just under 4 weeks, notice I can’t make it back. I would have liked to have given her a proper viking funeral in my memories.
I rode you every single time I was in EPCOT, usually twice. I rode on full boats, and I rode you all alone in the middle row. I always rode you during the fireworks at the end of the night before I got a Cloudberry Horn from the Kringla Bakeri. I laughed every time I saw the Trolls pop up, and I screamed every time I went down the drop. I can recite your script by heart, and I’ll remember you always Maelstrom; even if I don’t get to ride you ever again. Kids of the future would have loved you, I’m sure of it. Farewell, good friend.