You don’t often see international politics come into play in theme parks, but there’s an interesting brouhaha brewing between Walt Disney (DIS) and Norway.
The back of Disney World’s Epcot in Florida is the World Showcase, where select countries host, staff and help finance pavilions that feature restaurants, stores with imported goods and attractions. Norway is one of the only two Showcase countries to feature an actual ride, but the days of the Maelstrom boat journey through Vikings, trolls and polar bears may be numbered.
Sources tell industry rumor hotbed Screamscape that Maelstrom will soon closeto make way for a ride related to “Frozen.” A news report out of Norway details the country’s reluctance to continue funding the pavilion, and says that Maelstrom may close as soon as October to make way for the new ride.
The report claims that Disney has offered Norway the opportunity to pay roughly $9 million to update and maintain the pavilion as a promotional platform for the country — instead of the hit movie.
First, a Loss of Retail Space
The Norway zone has been busier than usual since “Frozen” was released in late November. Earlier this year, the pavilion’s flagship store lost prime retail space to make room for “Frozen” merchandise and a meet-and-greet area with the film’s two princesses.
“Frozen” is Disney’s first animated release since “Toy Story 3” to crack $400 million in domestic ticket sales during its initial theatrical run. The only other Disney movie to do that — “The Lion King” — broke through $400 million in cumulative ticket sales on subsequent re-releases several years later.
Disney was taken off guard by the movie’s success, leaving it scrambling to cash in at its theme parks.
Disney was taken off guard by the movie’s success, leaving it scrambling to cash in at its theme parks. An official meet-and-greet area for Anna and Elsa was set up at the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland. Earlier this month, several related attractions opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida, complete with a parade, skating rink and nighttime “Frozen” fireworks show. Guests are handed fans featuring Olaf — the whimsical snowman from the movie — as they enter the park, and an Olaf carrot cupcake is available for purchase.
However, before all of these “Frozen” tributes popped up elsewhere, the decision was made to feature Anna and Elsa in the Norway pavilion. It was a quick and easy fix, and long lines of families with daughters decked out in Anna and Elsa princess dresses made Norway the most popular World Showcase pavilion in a park that drew 11.2 million guests last year, according to Themed Entertainment Association.
However, the movie is set in the fictional land of Arendelle. Animators went to Norway to flesh out Arendelle with a bit of Scandinavian sensibility, but one can sympathize with the aggravation in Norway as it’s compelled to help bankroll a pavilion that’s doing more to promote an imaginary country than its own rich culture.