RIP Maelstrom – A High Seas Norwegian Adventure 1988-2014

«You are not the first to pass this way, nor shall you be the last.»

25 years and over 125 million Guests later, the Guests and Casts riding the attraction today will certainly be the last to pass this way… I started writing this at 8.10PM Orlando time, and I know that every second I use on this posting leads to the infinite end of Maelstrom. It gets me sad, I thought that this post could be a sort of tribute and goodbye to Maelstrom from me.

Maelstrom opened up on the 5th of July 1988, completing the opening of the Norway pavilion. It was suppose to open up along with the rest of the pavilion (soft opening May 6th, official opening by the King June 3th) but major construction errors delayed the plans. Maelstrom is a unique attraction, cause it was the first attraction Disney ever did that went forward, backwards and forwards again, but the biggest error that delayed the opening was that in the 28ft. drop; you either got soaked or fell into the North Sea. The reporter from the state television channel was among those falling into the water during the official opening.

That Norway was going to include a boatride, was clear from the early plans. The Disney Imagineers thought out different concepts, like a full on troll ride (which the Sherman brothers were going to make songs for) or a viking quest to the rainbow leading to Valhalla. The Norwegian sponsors wanted to showcase more of Norway than just trolls and vikings and give Disney what they wanted to see in the ride. A research team from Disney was invited to Norway to see our country and all its diversities, and the result is Maelstrom; a story of the past history and mythology leading into the future. The whole pavilion was designed with one main purpose; showcasing the «Spirit of Norway».

Willard Scott: Official opening and first ride of Maelstrom
The story of developing Maelstrom, by Paul Torrigino
A very detailed video of Maelstrom, from different POV and the movie
You are not the first to pass this way, but you will be the last…
1990 Maelstrom ride and movie
Last moments of Maelstrom, last ride and last movie

Maelstrom, gone but not forgotten!
All photos taken by Alexander Sjursaether (unless otherwise stated) and can be used freely for non-commercial reasons if credited the photographer.

When you enter the que area of Maelstrom, you are in a great hall celebrating the spirit of exploration and history. I believe I seen original schematics naming it «Spirit of Norway Hall». There used to be a picture of Leiv Eiriksson when you reach the big room, this was removed of uncertain reasons around 2000. But there is also a great mural of the world and Norwegian explorations, from the vikings to modern days. The mural behind the loading area shows Norway history from the early stone-age days to a modern society with oil and cultural identity.

Some persons working on the Maelstrom project:
Designer: Bob Kurzweil             Designer: Randy Carter           Tops at Imagineering: Marty Sklar and Randy Bright             Head Ride Engineer: Dave Van Wyk
Concept illustrations: Joe Rohde            Modelling/Production Designer: Paul Torrigino
Show Set: Maureen Sullivan         Sculpting: Peter Kermode
Figure Finishing: Helena Hutchinson      Special Effects Department: Jim Mulder

Heres one of the original scripts from Maelstrom:
«The guests board miniature Viking Longships to travel through a cave full of ancient Norwegian Petroglyphs, where they are introduced to the Spirit of Norway. The spirit beckons them to follow and discover the true Norway.
YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST TO PASS THIS WAY..
Now as they stare into Odin’s Eye as the lights and haze start spinning around the guests quickly find themselves transported back into the time of the Vikings.
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 they enter the Viking Forest

LONG AGO, NORWAY WAS A LAND OF VIKINGS…THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF OUR LOVE FOR THE SEA.

Then they enter a Viking Village and they watch as a Viking Longship of ages past prepare for an adventurous voyage.

VIKING VILLAGE (TRANSLATED)

VIKING WOMAN:

Are you sure Eric is ready for this voyage?

VIKING FATHER:

Don’t worry, Frida, I’ll tend to the boy. I know how special a first sailing is.

VIKING BOY:

Father, is it true there are sea monsters who can swallow ships whole?

VIKING FATHER:

I’ve yet to meet the likes of one

VIKING WORKMAN ON GROUND:

I remember my first sea voyage…

VIKING WORKMAN IN BOAT:

And your first sea monster, no doubt

VIKING WOMAN:

Erik, don’t forget your rucksack

VIKING WORKMAN IN BOAT:

Frida, you fuss too much. It’s here by me. I’ll see it stowed before we put to sea.

As the mighty Viking Coastguardsman blows his horn, the spirit then warns of the Trolls, called the “Hulderfolk”, the hidden people of Norway.

THERE ARE THOSE WHO SEE NORWAY’S SPIRIT VEILED IN A LAND OF FORESTS AND MYSTERY; WHERE TROLLS STILL PROWL THE WATERS EDGE

The boats continue into a dark, foggy area where sinister shapes lurk in shadows around a still pool. Suddenly, the huge head of a River Troll rises from the water. A Three-Headed Troll appears from the shadows on the shoreline and casts troll magic over the boat.

TROLL COUNTRY 

TROLL HEAD #1

WHAT’S THIS? HOW DARE YOU COME HERE?

TROLL HEAD #2

INVADERS! 

TROLL HEAD #1

STOP! THIS IS TROLL COUNTRY!

TROLL HEAD #3

LOOK AWAY! BEGONE!

TROLL HEAD #1

I’LL CAST THE SPELL! 

TROLL HEAD #3

YES! YES! 

TROLL HEAD #1

YOU’LL DISAPPEAR!

TROLL HEAD #2

DISAPPEAR! DISAPPEAR!

TROLL HEAD #1

BACK! BACK! OVER THE FALLS! (LAUGHING)

This causes the small craft to swing in a different direction. The little boats move backward out of the swamp and down the first drop, free from the dangers of the hungry trolls.

BEFORE RECORDED TIME, NORWAY’S SPIRIT ROAMED THE SEAS OF THE FAR NORTH, AND BEYOND

It becomes cold and wintry, and artic wildlife, such as polar bears and puffins can be seen. The little ships escape a confrontation with a huge polar bear, then pick up speed as they enter raging rapids.

TODAY, NORWAY’S SPIRIT STILL THUNDERS IN HER GREAT FJORDS

The boats finally slow and move past the birch groves of a mighty fjord, then nearly topple backward over a roaring waterfall. At the last instant, however, they are diverted an ancient stone troll.

ROCK TROLL:

HMM…WHAT’S THIS? HOW DARE YOU COME THIS VAY! DOWN TO THE NORTH SEA WITH YOU! (LAUGHING)

The current swings the boats about and the grand vista of Geiranger Fjord, with its famous overhanging rock, is revealed for the first time.

The boats drift forward, passing beneath the rock, then plunge head down a second, even steeper drop than the first. Unexpectedly, they are cast into the fury of a raging gale ripping through the Norwegian North Sea. The boats are tossed and tipped by the force of the storm. Lightning flashes and thunder cracks the heavens open. A towering oil production platform stands strong and silent against the wind and sea. The little Longships move around it and the Spirit of Norway adds.

NORWAY’S SPIRIT HAS ALWAYS BEEN, WILL ALWAYS BE ADVENTURE

The boats then sail into a calm harbor located on the south coast of Norway. A small sailboat is moored at dockside.

The small boats land at the harbor’s dock and the guests walk from the boat to the center of the village.

A village storyteller begins entertaining the guests with tales of his native land. Silhouettes of the village people can be seen in the windows of their homes. Traces of local conversations can be overheard and the personality of Norway begins to emerge. When a dozen boats have arrived and guests disembarked, the finale of the show begins. Four doors located at the rear of the village open up to allow guests to pass through into a theater.»

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Dear Disney

Its now all clear that Disney will close the Norwegian attraction, Maelstrom, at Epcot on October 6th. It will be turned into a Frozen-ride.

As I served Disney as a Cultural Representative for the Norway pavilion for two years I came to love the Norway pavilion and how accurate it is, and since day one I loved working and living in the amazing Disney program. It has really been a life changing event for me, so I have tried to do everything in my power to make the Norwegian government step up and support the pavilion so it can become even better than it is today… Ive been in the news, I talked to several parliament members, Innovation Norway etc. to try get something going. But unfortunately there hasnt been big progress that I know of, but Norway now has a new government with a Minister that have worked in Epcot, so its brighter than it was before.

I love the Maelstrom attraction, I worked there for part of my second program, and really love how much of Norway it showcases in just under 5 minutes. To hear that its now going to turn into a Frozen ride upsets me, and I hope that Disney will take use of its amazing storytelling abilities to make the ride into a showcasing of Norwegian culture and history as well as Frozen. The work Disney did with the Stave Church gallery was quite good, it tells really about the connection between Norway and Frozen in an excellent way. If this is the kind of work that gets done to Maelstrom as well, I will be super-happy about it.

I heard that the plan is to make the old load room into more scenes, and turn unload into load and the theater should be the que area. If the theater is made into the que area (which isnt such a bad idea), I hope that it will become sort of like «The Great Movie Ride» que area, with a preshowcasing of Norwegian nature, culture and history. I certainly hope that Disney wont remove the old movie (that everyone agrees needs an update) and not replace it with something else. I know Disney does a great job with the ques and make it feel like your not waiting in line… But again, my hopes are that Disney wont remove the showcasing of the country the ride is in. I hope Disney can take use of the movie Norway offered Disney for free (Norway, powered by Nature) or make another great quality movie as a que entertainment.

Im sure that Innovation Norway will help with whatever Disney needs from them to make the ride as good as possible. I really also hope the narration of the ride will be done by a Norwegian voice and not Olaf.

For the meet and greet plans, I have told Disney about my thoughts for the location during round table meetings before. I believe Disney should use the place between Norway and Mexico where the viking ship used to be for the meet and greet, if Anna and Elsa should leave the location sometime then you will have room to do whatever else you want there. An ice-bar perhaps?

Disney did a great job on Frozen, its my favourite Disney movie. I hope that you will do the same great job when Maelstrom goes under to be replaced by Frozen.  Im sorry that I have my doubts about the great work Disney does at the moment, but after seeing what the Mexico boat ride turned into I dont want Maelstrom to end up being all about «Find Olaf» and I couldnt sleep well at night if I know I didnt do enough to make sure the ride is in good hands. I hope to still find Northern lights, trolls, bunads, fjords, Norwegian houses and our rich history on my next visit to Maelstrom!

Have a magical day,
Alexander Sjursaether

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Long time, no see

I know! Its been a horrible long time since my last post! Im sorry about that… There has been LOADS of stuff going on. And now I finally have the time to sit down and take some time to update this site… Heres some things that have happened: 

- I have moved from Vista to Commons into a 1-bedroom and went from living with 5 other to 1, my new roomates name was Brett, he´s American and an awesome person. We got along together great, he was very interested in keeping our apartment clean (worked custodial) and I loved it, we got three white gloves in a row (no flaws and very clean apartment award). He left home two weeks ago now and I been living alone, tried to get my best friend, Zach, to move in with me, but my building is being refurbished so I have to move anyway, so Ill move in to him later this week. Cant wait! 

- I had my exams! I had two exams the last month and last week I went down to Fort Lauderdale to take my last exam in political science at the Seaman´s Church. It went great so Im happy to say I got my winter break now! 

- I had visitors from Norway! One of my best friends back home´s sister visited Orlando some weeks ago, so I took her around most of the parks and hung out alot with them. 
I also had coworkers from my theme park in Norway to visit me during the IAAPA-convention and we did all the parks and I got to attend IAAPA, which was awesome. 
I also had a friend from my last program visiting, she worked in the UK pavilion in Epcot and we hung out a lot during my last program and we were great park-buddies… Great memories!

Frozen have arrived in Norway and its amazing! The meet and greet is extremely popular and have around 2 hours of line each day, the new museum exhibit «Norsk Kultur» is pretty good too. I will make posts about it soon… (not months away!) 

Besides this, life is good! Have a great week everyone! 

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Adventures by Disney: Norway

Some days ago it was annonced that Adventures by Disney will have a new destination next year, its Norway.

In the brief statement Disney said:
«Adventures by Disney will head to Norway on a new trip inspired by the soon-to-be released Walt Disney Pictures animated movie, “Frozen.” Our guests will follow in the footsteps of the “Frozen” filmmakers and experience the breathtaking beauty of this magnificent country.»

This is really awesome, and I do hope that this will make Disney and Norway more attentive to the Norway pavilion with maybe updating the movie and general impression of the pavilion. So far it seems like the new government in Norway will have two political parties that supports the Norwegian pavilion. The Social-Liberal party and the Progress Party have both expressed their concern about the state of the pavilion to the current government, without anything happening. Lets hope something will change now!

I so do admire Disney for making a good connection between they´re movies and the real world. Its great that they connect their new movie and the pavilion with a meet and greet and now also with a Adventures by Disney destination.

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Frozen brings hope to Norway pavilion?

Today I found out that Disney and Norway just a few days ago signed a contract to promote Norway tourism with the coming Disney Frozen movie which premieres November 27 this year.

Its no doubt that the filmation of Frozen, based on Danish H.C. Andersen´s story «Snow Queen», is inspired and set to act out in Norway. The Disney film team (which also is behind the movies Pocahontas, Tarzan, Princess and the Frog, Tangled and Wreck It Ralph) had about a week tour in Norway last year to get inspiration to the movie, and after that trip they changed alot of the scenes and some story to fit into a Norwegian setting. You will see buildings from some cities in Norway, Norwegian talking trolls, Norwegian fjords, viking ships, stave churches, lutefisk and Samish joik. Frozen - Copyright Disney

It also seems like the main character in Frozen, Anna, will become a member of the Disney Princess lineup and host a Meet and Greet in the Norway pavilion store Puffin´s Roost.

The agreement signed just a few days ago between Innovention Norway (former Tourist Board which was Norways offical presence in the Norway pavilion until 2002 when Norway cut the funding.) and Disney is hoped to increase the tourist flow and marketing of Norway as a destination in the long run.

The director of tourism at Innovention Norway, Per-Arne Tuftin, says:
«- In the time coming there will be many exiting activities both in Norway and abroad, linked to the promotion of Frozen. Our goal is to use the film as a good starting point to create activities that can give a long term payback for Norway as a tourist-destination.»

Does this give any hope for the Norwegian involvence in the pavilion?
Earlier, Innovention Norway has been pretty negative towards using any resources on the Norway pavilion. Earlier this year they also turned down my application for updated tourist infomation in the pavilion, which would not cost much at all. The answer I got was that: «We will not support any scale improvements for the Norway pavilion.»

In 2011 Tuftin wrote a blog post about what should be done to the Norway pavilion, he stated that:
«Our people in the USA has come to the conclusion that its not profitable to use money to market Norway as a tourist destination towards the guests at Epcot.»    «We are always evaluating the relation between the use of money and the results.»

As I have written about earlier, Disney and Norway have been fighting about the movie-issue for years. Disney says Norway should pay, Norway says Disney should pay since they own and operate the pavilion. Norway has offered Disney to use Innovention Norway´s official Norway promotion video for free, but Disney have refused and insist on making the movie themselves. In 2006 the Norwegian government promised to do something about the movie, but now their response is that its on Innovention Norway´s hand and the government wont do anything.

Maybe this new movie which hopefully is going to be a hit is able to change Innovention Norway´s thoughts on the Norway pavilion? We can only hope. On monday its also parliament election in Norway, and two of the opposition parties (Social Liberal Party and Progress Party) is for using money on a new movie, and the current government seems to be loosing this election… So maybe a new government will be able to fix this issue if Innovention Norway still dont change their minds about updating the pavilion….

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22.07.13

Today its 2 years since the terrorist attacks in Norway happened. Its weird to be back in the US where I was that day two years ago…

On the 22.07.11 I woke up by my roommate telling me there was a terror attack in Oslo, I was like «yeah right, funny»… But got in the livingroom and put on the TV, and on the news channel they had live images from Norway, and then I saw a friend of mine on the TV with glass in his head and bleeding from his head. He was in my political party´s office which were thrashed when the bomb went off… I was so shocked and scared that I knew someone who got killed. I later found out I knew 1 person who was killed at the Utøya camp.

I went to work and we were allowed to read more about it on the news. It was not a fun day at work, but I was proud of the unity of everyone working in Norway that day and the following ones…

Heres my posts about this day in 2011: The terrorist attacks – Memorial
IMG_0305

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Maelstrom 25 years!

Today, July 5th, marks the 25th anniversary of the high seas Norwegian adventure Maelstrom.

The opening of Norway and preview of Maelstrom 1988

Maelstrom is one of my favorite Disney attractions and I love working in the place that gives the Guests so much of Norway in just under 5 minutes. I won´t be working today, so  no birthdaybutton Maelstrom for me…. :(

So heres some Maelstrom history:
Bob Kurzwell was the designer of the Maelstrom-project, while Randy Carter was the producer. These along with Marty Sklar and Randy Bright did most of the negotiations with the Norwegian sponsors, which in the end led to the great Maelstrom ride.

The plan from the beginning was to have a boat ride that would be unique as it would go both forwards and backwards, which had never been done before. Bob had designed the ride to be about the fantasy of trolls and they even had a meeting with the Sherman brothers (who is behind a lot of Disney music) to make a song for the ride. The Norwegian sponsors did not want Norway to be represented just with trolls, they specifically wanted: Vikings, a fishing village, polar bears, a fjord, an oil rig, and yes, maybe a troll or two.

They ended up with the time travel idea, to take the Guests from the early Norway till the present Norway. I know some Guests get confused about it, but when explained it makes sense…

I really love the Maelstrom ride, and the ride and pavilion has gotten some work done on it to make it better, a post about the stuff been done to the ride and pavilion will come within the next few days!!! :)

Funfact:
– Maelstrom was originally called SeaVenture, but right before the opening changed name to Maelstrom.
– The Imagineers looked at a tesla coil to provide real lightening, but as water and electricity is not a good match the plans were dropped.
– Maelstrom did not open with the rest of the pavilion as there was a fault in the design leading the Guests to either get SOAKED or fall out of the boat, which happened to the Norwegian television reporter covering the opening of the pavilion.

SeaVenture Mural painting Troll finishing

Look, its white!

Look, its white!

Unload model Early load model First boat Upramp wall Village construction

Infront of Maelstrom during construction.

Infront of Maelstrom during construction.

Check out these pages for more information about the construction and plans for Maelstrom from Paul Torrigino:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAELSTROM! MAY YOU FOREVER SEND US BACK OVER THE FALLS!!!

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