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Vote of the Week: Should Disney change Epcot's Norway pavilion to Frozen?

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Published: July 18, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Building a new attraction based on Frozen makes too much sense for Disney not to do it. The film soon is on track to become the highest-grossing animated movies of all time, passing Pixar's Toy Story 3, Disney's The Lion King and the previous champ, Dreamworks' Shrek 2. When Disney opened a meet-and-greet with Anna and Elsa in Epcot's Norway pavilion, the hours-long queue of fans forced Disney to move the duo to the Magic Kingdom's Princess Fairytale Hall. But the crowds kept coming, and now Disney's rolled out a special Frozen-themed summer event at the Disney's Hollywood Studios in an attempt to satisfy the crowds.

Anna and Elsa
Photo courtesy Disney

Clearly, guest demand justifies a permanent new home for the entire Frozen franchise, not just a character meet-and-greet and a sing-along show. So the question isn't whether to build a Frozen attraction, the question is... where? We've offered some suggestions on where Disney might have the best opportunity to add Frozen to its theme parks. But speculation continues to focus on Epcot's Norway pavilion, the original theme park home for Anna and Elsa.

The placement makes sense, at first glance. Frozen's fictional kingdom of Arendelle sure looks like Norway. And the pavilion's current attraction, the Maelstrom boat ride, hasn't drawn people to the park in decades, and only started regularly drawing a significant queue due to crowd-shifting under Disney's new MyMagic+ system.

But bringing Frozen to Epcot's World Showcase would mark a significant departure from Epcot's original purpose as a non-fiction theme park. And yet, Disney seems eager to move away from non-fiction themed entertainment, as it builds a new Avatar-themed land at Disney's Animal Kingdom, moves the Lion King show into that park's Africa section, contemplates Frozen in World Showcase, and spitballs more plans for adding Pixar and Disney animation characters throughout Epcot.

Let's not forget, however, that Disney isn't the only party with an interest in what happens at Epcot. Those national pavilions are there because nations and corporations paid a lot of money to build and sponsor them. People in Norway have heard the rumors about a Frozen makeover for their nation's pavilion, and some of them are questioning whether Norway, one of the world's richest countries per capita (richer than even the United States), should put up some some extra money to keep the pavilion Frozen-free. Watch this recent report from Norwegian television:

The report implicitly raises an interesting question, however: Is it better for Norway to have an Epcot pavilion filled with outdated information and cultural stereotypes, or to allow Disney to reimagine it as unapologetic fiction? It is easier to justify abandoning a non-fiction theme when the non-fiction isn't that accurate anymore, after all.

But why must those be the only two choices? What about Norway, or, more likely, a Norwegian company, putting up the cash to renovate the Norway pavilion into something more exciting, more entertaining, and more accurately reflective of Norway today? Yeah, that's not as conceptually easy as just making the whole thing into Arendelle, Florida, but theme park design pros usually rise to a challenge when given the opportunity and means to do it. And Norway is rolling in money, thanks to North Sea oil.

So let's make this our Vote of the Week.


Let's play theme park designer and share your ideas for Epcot's World Showcase, in the comments. And if you'd like to stretch your theme park design muscles a bit more, remember that we are now taking sign-ups for our Theme Park Apprentice game over on the Discussion Forum.

Previously:

Readers' Opinions

From Terri Pierce on July 18, 2014 at 11:41 AM
Yooo hoooo! Big summer blowout!
From O T on July 18, 2014 at 11:59 AM
Walt envisioned what is the current world showcase and almost each and every pavilions movie or representation is outdated. That doesn't mean the public don't want to visits these countries and eat and drink around the lake.
Sure it's easy to "Magic Kingdom" World Showcase and sell the last bit of integrity left behind by Walt to NOT create new and relevant rides in parks where this ip belongs (MK of DHS) and fix the outdateness of WS, I'm sure all the overpriced food, dinks and souvenirs must be enough to handle these costs. If not all parks eventually lose their uniqueness.
From Flavio de Souza on July 18, 2014 at 12:01 PM
Please keep EPCOT free of fictional characters!!! The only place where they should be allowed is the Imagination Pavilion.

From Rob McCullough on July 18, 2014 at 12:12 PM
This is such an interesting problem.
I have no issue with characters who come from a nation's history of storytelling, such as Snow White in Germany or Mary Poppins in the UK, appearing in a World Showcase pavilion.
Frozen is loosely based on a story from Denmark. As such the Frozen characters really have no reason to be in Norway.
It would make about as much sense as building a Pocahontas river rafting attraction at Epcot's Canadian pavilion. The US and Canada are in the same region of the world, but her story is uniquely American.
I am a big fan of Frozen, and believe it deserves an attraction of its own. It's a shame it hadn't been released back when plans for New Fantasyland were in the works. That would have been the obvious location for this kind of story.
So - Why not build a new Epcot Pavilion for Denmark? It could feature other Hans Christian Anderson characters (except for the Little Mermaid, she's already at MK) and it would add something desperately needed at Epcot - A new pavilion.
I love Maelstrom. Yes, it needs some loving and updating, as does the movie at its exit (as do most World showcase attractions). I believe the mission of Epcot should continue to be the presentation of non-fiction themes as the primary goal, but it’s OK to include characters when appropriate. Frozen in Norway just isn’t appropriate.
From James Rao on July 18, 2014 at 12:18 PM
There definitely needs to be a Frozen attraction. Either add Frozen to Fantasyland (is there any more room?), or to DHS (add Star Wars, too!).
From 94.2.247.22 on July 18, 2014 at 12:53 PM
My girlfriend has often said that frozen could be incorporated into blizzard beach, which would explain the snow in the sunshine state alot better than they already do. Anyone feel the same?
From Anon Mouse on July 18, 2014 at 1:13 PM
One word, Akershus. I love this restaurant, but in my last visit, they already appropriated it for Disney Princesses and marketed it as the Royal Banquet Hall. Although the food is still Norwegian, it just has a different ambience to it.

When I viewed the video, it is clear that the Norway government doesn't want to contribute $9 million to the project. The Norway tourism office isn't convinced it is the right expenditure of funds. Norway government officials don't care to be involved. The Norway-Disney employee said the Norway-sponsored rehab funds are returned (not being spent), thus ensuring Disney is already making plans to do the conversion to Frozen. The details are still not entirely clear to me.

The popularity of Frozen means Disney won't let the opportunity to go to waste. There is no time to solicit bids from Norway's government or business sector to fill the void. The only question is how fast can Disney react. Will the rehab be a mere Frozen overlay or will there be a bigger makeover with a new track ride system for Maelstorm.

Then what happens to the other World Showcase pavilions? Will China get a Mulan makeover? Will Germany get Snow White? (Unlikely with the new dwarf's coaster.) Maybe France should get Ratatouille.

Epcot has long suffered from an identity crisis. Maybe Frozen is a way for them to finally come up with a new solution to design and marketing the park.

From 24.5.122.118 on July 18, 2014 at 1:25 PM
There's a ton of room behind and next to Norway to keep the cultural and historic aspects of Norway in its current form intact, while expanding to include and idealized "Arendale" type land or attraction attached to the current pavilion.

So where's the option to vote for doing both?

If the new Ratatouille ride proves anything it's you can have a fictional character set in a real world setting still done tastefully. Why not here?

Personal Note: It'll be sad to see the merchandise get axed though. Norway has some of, if not the best clothing at the Pavilions. It's not all gimmicky or tacky T-Shirts, its clothing you can wear without looking or feeling like a total tourist.

From Daniel Etcheberry on July 18, 2014 at 1:46 PM
Change Maelstrom into Beowulf.
From Robert Niles on July 18, 2014 at 2:02 PM
FWIW, I think the Frozen conversation is a done deal, but I wanted to see if there was any popular support among readers for alternatives.

Ultimately, I think the next question will be: Does Disney still call the refurbished pavilion "Norway," or does it abandon that title altogether and call the pavilion "Arendelle"?

From Anon Mouse on July 18, 2014 at 2:25 PM
For Disney to show respect for Norway, they just won't call it Norway anymore or Arendelle as that doesn't make sense either. You might see Arendelle in the new ride. They will call it "Anne and Elsa's Frozen palace and ride", or something like that. It is disappointing that they will reduce the country count by 1, but perhaps we will get a new country replacement instead.

Akershus will still exist as a character meal with Anna and Elsa as the featured characters with some other popular characters like Kristoff and Olaf. Maybe they will have a "Let It Go" sing-a-long in mid-meal. They currently have a princess processional, which is quite fun.

From James Rao on July 18, 2014 at 4:02 PM
If it is a done deal, Robert, I guess I can live with it. Eventually all the pavilions will probably get a Disney-fied update and the World Showcase will be reborn as a series of fantasy lands from the many popular Disney properties. While not my preference, it is a better solution than having the World Showcase remain stagnant.
From 71.226.212.128 on July 18, 2014 at 3:26 PM
I would prefer a Tangled Kingdom in the middle of the EPCOT lake and re-theme ALL the EPCOT countries to Disney Major Movies. Tangled on an island in the middle, Aladdin in Morocco, Ratatouille in France, Brave could work well in Canada, Arendel could be in Norway, Lion King in Africa, etc. Then you can trave from Kingdom to Kingdom seeing the characters.

My only concern is Walt did not want EPCOT to be a Theme Park, but a vision of the future. But...times do chance.

From Rob McCullough on July 18, 2014 at 3:27 PM
So, let’s say it is a done deal. My feeling is it needs to be a complete recreation of the ride. Maelstrom is such a unique track with the lift at the start, two stops with directional changes and the backwards motion it’s hard to imagine how they would shoehorn the Frozen story onto that building…so I’d like to throw that out to the other folks posting here. If you were Disney Imagineering, and unable to change any of the ride system at all, how would you tell Frozen’s story with the current ride? And…Go!
From 76.94.56.12 on July 18, 2014 at 5:29 PM
Refurbish the Norway pavilion. Keeping it Norway. But re theme maelstrom to a frozen theme.
From 75.89.233.236 on July 18, 2014 at 9:04 PM
Having a Frozen ride in the Norway Pavilion is not a big deal, but don't start doing mythical pavilions in the World Showcase. It would kind of deteriorate the credibility of the whole concept of the World Showcase.
From 86.12.87.107 on July 19, 2014 at 12:38 AM
disney should take a trip to the uk and ride Valhalla at Blackpool pleasure Beach to see how to a dark water ride then perhaps the crowds would go back to Maelstrom...
From grant crawford on July 19, 2014 at 2:24 AM
Why not have their cake and eat it too. Keep it as Norway but have Elsa and Anna be visiting from their "allied nation" of Arendel and have an adventure whilst learning about Norway.

The main popularity if the films is the characters (and the music,oh my god the music..... shudder). Setting the adventure in Norway can maintain much of the visual atmosphere of the movie and having the known characters of Frozen guiding us through the land, learning about Norway and its culture will drag the crowds in whilst still maintaining the core nature of Epcot being about real life.

Norway could only be happy about the increased exposure and would probably be happy to help fund it.

From 184.88.69.148 on July 19, 2014 at 3:46 AM
Let's see princess frozen or Harry potter .. Eventually Disney will decline and tourists will smarten up up about the stale parks .. I think it ( a frozen attraction isn't going to market to anyone over 10) irrelevant either way
From 184.148.180.225 on July 19, 2014 at 4:39 AM
The addition of the Three Caballeros to the Mexico Ride was not too offensive. Their slightly hectic inclusion didn't really affect the experience too much.
But is a Frozen ride going to be a complete replacement to Maelstrom? Or simply going to be an inclusion of the characters, like the Caballeros in Mexicao or Ellen in with the dinosaurs over at the Energy Pavilion?. ie; Anna and Elsa's Trip to Norway.
I could handle an update and overlay.
But the idea of putting a ride in Norway about a fictional country, written by an author from Denmark, is just one step too far down the road away from Epcot's intention of education. WORLD SHOWCASE: "Learn about another country's culture, or at least the culture of countries that are kinda-sorta-similar to that country, that may not be real"

Or better yet: ADD ANOTHER COUNTRY TO THE EPCOT WORLD SHOWCASE. Australia, South Africa, Spain, Brazil, Russia. Put the Frozen ride somewhere else in Disney World.

I love world showcase. Please don't neglect it any longer. But don't dumb it down, either.

From James Trexen on July 19, 2014 at 4:59 AM
Frozen is already the highest grossing animated film of all time. I would really rather see Frozen go to DHS, but it sounds like Epcot is the most likely option. I guess I could live with it, but I do not want to see a lazy rebranding of Maelstrom with just Frozen characters. Sad thing is, Disney could do just that and it would be the most popular ride in the resort. Gut the building of its inside and make a ride that people will truly come out to see.
From Doug Jenkins on July 19, 2014 at 7:57 AM
Build another park. Keep Epcot as it is. But all the World Showcase pavilions need to be refurbished. Disney has plenty of room for another park as they seem to have more new things they would like to do than they have room for.
From Doug Jenkins on July 19, 2014 at 8:05 AM
I disagree with Anon Mouse comment about Epcot not having an identity. I think it's identity and purpose are clear. It is the one park that caters more to the adult than all the others. It makes the adult and pre-adults, think about things and the world. It is the closest many of us will ever get to a trip around the world or meeting other cultures. Refurbish, YES, but NEVER re-purpose. After all, it is the second most popular park, after the Magic Kingdom, which nothing will ever pass.
From Anthony Murphy on July 19, 2014 at 8:53 AM
Well, this is not exactly new for Disney. The Mexico ride turned into the Three Caballeros (in which two of the three are not Mexican).

I think just retooling the ride a bit with some Frozen theming will do enough. However...

YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST TO PASS DIS WAY!

and I hope the trolls don't

DISAPPEAR DISAPPEAR DISAPPEAR

From Anthony Murphy on July 19, 2014 at 8:53 AM
Well, this is not exactly new for Disney. The Mexico ride turned into the Three Caballeros (in which two of the three are not Mexican).

I think just retooling the ride a bit with some Frozen theming will do enough. However...

YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST TO PASS DIS WAY!

and I hope the trolls don't

DISAPPEAR DISAPPEAR DISAPPEAR

From 76.14.28.84 on July 19, 2014 at 4:36 PM
I think Disney should build a Frozen ride in Norway in Epcot. and i think it should be an E-ticket. Epcot could use a big draw. With Avatar at Animal Kingdom and Star Wars at Hollywood Studios, an E-ticket Frozen ride at Epcot would be a great addition.

That being said, I dont think Disney should take out Maelstrom. World Showcase doesn't have a very high ride capacity, and replacing one ride with another ride won't help that problem.

Ideally, Disney could build a major Frozen ride behind Maelstrom. But that's probably not gonna happen.

From Terry O'Neal on July 19, 2014 at 5:46 PM
It's funny how people were against changing Norway to Arendelle, and now that it looks like a done deal, suddenly people are on board.
From 98.85.98.163 on July 20, 2014 at 1:10 PM
Norway is and always will be adventure.

Disney is and always will be milking the last ounce of profit from a property until it jumps the shark.

From Sylvain Comeau on July 20, 2014 at 7:29 PM
No! There have been enough pavillions taken over by a single movie.
However, if they are adding a ride to EPCOT, that would be much needed and very welcome (and about damn time).
From 121.211.207.118 on July 21, 2014 at 1:58 AM
I liked world showcase last time I visited (20 years ago). I think maybe a ton hasn't changed since then....I think the problem is a lot of people have been to the actual countries, unlike in the 70s/80s when I think world travel wasn't as wide spread for Americans. It makes more sense to make a fiction/stylized version of the country to make it more interesting for little kids and for people who have been to the real place so it doesn't seem like a cardboard version of the place, but more of an artsy homage to the country. I think the tourist board of Norway would be ok with a Frozen overlay because they were using Frozen to encourage tourism and it worked. Ultimately, isn't that why the countries are sponsoring the pavilions in the first place? I am biased because I love Frozen, so I think it should definitely go the Norway pavilion. I would say character up Epcot and drive visitors in. Remember, people complained DCA didn't have enough Disney in it. When they dialed that up with Carsland the attendance increased dramatically. Future dream ride in Epcot- since I am a biologist-travel through the human body with Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear (from Inside Out)! I think that would be a great way to get kids excited about learning biology. It would also be cool to learn about the major animal phyla with Ariel (she can go from sea to land) and examples from Disney movie characters.
From Tim Hillman on July 21, 2014 at 9:18 AM
Folks, it's time to end the experiment. As long as Epcot has been around and with all of the resources that Disney has devoted to it, when compared to the Magic Kingdom, it is a failure. Whoa! Some of you are thinking, Epcot a failure? That's right folks because according to the 2013 Global Attractions Attendance Report from TEA/AECOM, Epcot only pulls in 60% of the visitors that the Magic Kingdom does, and that is pathetic in comparison.

Let's stop with all of the silly, self-imposed rules of "What Would Walt Do?" and "Epcot should be a nonfiction theme park" because they aren't working. People go to Disney World for Disney-style entertainment, and Epcot is seriously lacking in the "Disney Style." It's time to throw out the old rules and bring more Disney into Epcot because once DAK adds Pandora and DHS adds Star Wars Land and maybe one day Cars land, Epcot will slip down to #4 in attendance at the Disney parks in Florida.

To keep Epcot relevant and to make it into a reason to go to Disney World and not an afterthought, turn it into a park about exploration and add more Disney style and Disney characters to the park. Add a "Frozen" attraction to Norway. Add a Ratatouille ride to the France Pavillion. Bring Journey to the Center of the Earth and Stormrider over from TDS and add them to Future World, and get rid of that awful appellation (Future World) and call it something more appropriate like Exploration World.

Epcot is a half step (and $500 miilion) away from awesome, but with a little love shown to it like all of the other Disney parks are getting or are going to get, it could be truly amazing.

From 216.53.168.52 on July 21, 2014 at 12:19 PM
Norway was part of Denmark until 1814 and Sweden after that until gaining independence in 1905. So arguing that disqualifies frozen from residing in the Norway exhibit isn't a particular relevant one. The Scandinavian nations still enjoy a special relationship.

As far as akerhshus royal banquet hall is concerned the food is just barely Norwegian. It might be missed if someone didn't tell you it was supposed to be Norwegian

From 2.217.219.220 on July 21, 2014 at 12:20 PM
Bring DisneySea to Orlando and build Arendelle there
From DPCC inc. on July 22, 2014 at 5:27 AM
I think Grant is on to something. Keep it Norway, but use the characters. I have no issue with adding characters to tell a story, such as at Mexico or even the seas. But adding a pavilion that represents a mythical kingdom just doesn't make sense. So, go ahead and add the Ratatoulie ride from Paris. It would draw people to the park, while still keeping it about the country. And as for Frozen, the obvious choice would be to refurbish Blizzard Beach as Arendelle.
From 216.53.141.123 on July 23, 2014 at 6:38 AM
When can Disney truly get hold of all the marvel licenses and future world (about as futuristic as tomorrow land) be revamped as stark expo. Thus allowing future world to have a meaningful theme with killer marvel rides pulling them from universal and then allow world showcase to reimagine itself with kingdoms from Classic Disney movies that can't find homes at MK, DHS or AK. Btw when Iger resigns we need someone focused on ingenuity and architecture at the theme parks again. It's been 14 years of yawn.....
From Robert Niles on July 23, 2014 at 11:44 AM
That would be... never. Universal holds those in perpetuity. Disney would have to buy them back from Universal.

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