|(Jeff Krause on Flickr)|
"Nor shall you be the last..."
Ever since Maelstrom, the hidden gem and signature attraction of the Norway pavilion at Epcot was closed and replaced with Frozen Ever After (an attraction that at best can claim but minuscule relevance with the real country whose pavilion it occupies), I have deeply missed the true spirit of Norway's presence in World Showcase. In the first part of my musings on Maelstrom, I shared my profoundly wonderful memories of my search for the spirit of Norway. Now, it is time to explore and conquer the problems that froze the Maelstrom over solid.
The Challenges to Conquer Before The Maelstrom Can Churn Again
|(Sam Howzit on Flickr)|
A Note About Frozen
|This film was most definitely NOT my cup of hot cocoa.|
First Impressions Matter, or How to Fix a Queue
|(Special thanks to Jack Spence for permission to use his photos)|
|(Sam Howzit on Flickr)|
|(Elisfkc on Wikimedia Commons)|
One minor but important fact that needs to be contended with before the Maelstrom can start churning again is that its original queue was awful. I mean, REALLY awful. Bare wood-accented teal walls lined with Norwegian flags and a map of the ancient Viking world was the only theming (besides the mural) in an otherwise purely basic switchback queue. The massive mural above the loading area, filled with people and scenes from Norway's past and present, was a wonderful thing to admire and study before boarding a longboat, but sadly the only highlight of a queue that otherwise did nothing to impress and build up anticipation before the Maelstrom began. Now maybe such an underwhelming queue made the cool but short ride that followed afterwards more impressive by comparision. But the fact remains that a solid introduction to a ride via a queue, taken to incredible heights in the design of WDW's Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain queues meant the simply themed queue line of Maelstrom left a lot to be desired.
|(Simo Rasenen on Wikimedia Commons)|
Luckily, there is a relatively easy solution. The original concept art for Maelstrom's load area presented a spectacular scenic backdrop. Imagine traveling through one of Norway's great forests, passing through majestic stands of ancient trees, and the mighty Scandinavian mountains towering above you in the distance as you board a Viking longboat. This was the original plan for Maelstrom's queue and load area, one which would make up for the short indoor line by offering an incredible backdrop that instantly transports you to Norway and hints at the grand adventure waiting for us once our boat sails into that mysterious cavern.
A Longer Search for the Spirit of Norway
In the above picture, I have drawn to scale the original layout of Maelstrom, including more general locations of the original load, unload, and theater. Note the sizeable expansion space (also to scale and carefully designed within the currently under-utilized backstage space behind the Norway pavilion) that I have attached to the back side of the original building. In the third and final part of this series about Maelstrom on Haunted Serenade, I will fill in that expansion space with my fully fleshed out idea for what a new, improved version of Maelstrom could be like.*
*This is no longer the case. As well as concerns about the accuracy and feasibility of the expansion space as shown on my layout board above, I have come to the opinion that a major expansion of the showbuilding would fundamentally transform Maelstrom and cause it to lose some of the nostalgic charm it possessed. A full explanation of my reasons for not creating or using an expanded building are explained in the next and final part of this series.
The Spirit of Norway: Restoring a Neglected Film
|(michaelg83 on Flickr)|
With these humble but powerful words, the Spirit of Norway film began to reveal the final part of the true spirit of Norway to guests. When the film first debuted with the rest of the pavilion in the late 80s, it was faithfully modern - the latest fashions and technologies made cameos in the film - yet reflected the ancient, primal spirit of Norway as well. But as time passed, the vignettes of modern Norway, along with the technology used to present the film, began to age. More and more guests grew tired of being held inside the fishing village in Maelstrom's unload area, waiting for the next movie to begin. An increasing number of these guests began to walk straight through the doors of the theater, skipping the film entirely rather then spending the few minutes it took to see it. Eventually, the theater doors were permanently held open, a blessing for those many guests who would rather skip the film, but an irritation for those who still wanted to see the film. But if the "modern" sections of the film aged badly, the rest of it remained as fresh and inspiring as it had been in the late 80s, and in my opinion, it was an underrated gem of a film, sadly neglected in its lifespan more than any other film in World Showcase. I would return the film to the Norway pavilion as a complement to the Maelstrom attraction, and give it the update it badly needed. I would use the blueprint of the update of China's Circlevision 360 film, retaining much of the same narration and footage of the original film, but with a complete upgrade to the film and sound technology, and the addition of modern segments to the film to reflect the changes in Norway's culture since Michael Jackson's "Bad" era (yes, it was THAT long ago). At the same time, to address the failure of both holding guests within the fishing village and perpetually open theater doors, I would construct a bypass path that would allow guests who did not wish to see the film to skip it without waiting or distracting from the experience of the film. In this way, I would restore the last and critical part of Epcot's representation of the Spirit of Norway.
|(Dennis D on Flickr)|
UPDATE (June 2018): In the several months between the publishing of this post and the next part of Reawakening the Spirit of Norway, much of the ideas presented here have either been altered or changed completely in the final post. Part Three of Reawakening the Spirit of Norway features a presentation of my ideal plan for the resurrection and improvement of Maelstrom, some of which is much different than the ideas I originally presented in this second installment. I hope you enjoy the plan I ultimately ended up going with in Part Three.