Extinct EPCOT: The History of Maelstrom

Of the 12 Disney theme parks around the world, there’s perhaps none with a more devoted fanbase than EPCOT. The park =- which opened as EPCOT Center in 1982 — has long been a favorite of die-hard Disney fanatics thanks to its optimistic view of the future and bevy of groundbreaking attractions, many of which have become classics of the Disney Imagineering canon.

Spaceship Earth

While some like Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land remain, others have gone defunct. Today we’ll be looking at one of EPCOT’s legendary lost attractions: Maelstrom, the former centerpiece of the World Showcase’s Norway pavilion.

A Gathering Storm


The story of Maelstrom begins in the mid-1980s, when the plans for the World Showcase pavilion that would eventually become Norway were solidified. Initially, the area was supposed to be quite different, as plans called for a “Nordic Pavilion” that would “combine elements from various Scandinavian countries” into one pavilion. However, in the end, it was only Norwegian investors sponsoring the addition, so the pavilion became strictly Norway. In-turn, plans for its attraction — initially called and heavily marketed as SeaVenture — were reworked into strictly being a journey through mythological Norway.

The Norway pavilion — which to this day remains the most recent country added to World Showcase — soft-opened to the public in May of 1988 and formally opened with a large ceremony that included King Harald V the following month. However, SeaVenture was not part of either of these festivities. Instead, the attraction didn’t open until July 5, and by then had been renamed Maelstrom. Despite the last minute change in nomenclature, the ride quickly became a smash hit and one of early EPCOT’s most popular attractions.


“Back, Back, Over the Falls”

Maelstrom was a traditional shoot-the-chutes water flume ride. Guests would enter the show building at the back of the Norway pavilion, and find themselves in a relatively un-themed queue dominated by a large mural of Norwegian history. Once they boarded their heavily themed boat, riders would ascend a lift hill with a booming voice informing them that “those who seek the spirit of Norway face peril and adventure, but more often find beauty and charm.” From there, the boats passed by a massive visage of the god Odin before entering into numerous scenes of classic Norwegian maritime fishing villages.


The most fondly-remembered scene of the attraction followed, as the boats entered a marsh that featured a group of trolls. The trolls, angry at the riders “invading” their space, put a spell on the boat, sending them backwards at high speeds, passing animatronics of Atlantic puffins, polar bears and stylized “living trees.” Eventually the boat stopped at the edge of a waterfall – to chants of “Back, Back, Over the Falls” from the trolls. The waterfall could also be viewed from the courtyard of the Norway pavilion, drawing guests outside to the ride.


From there, the boat moved forward again and plummeted down a 28-foot drop. From there, the boat passed by a massive oil rig before dropping riders off at a Norwegian fishing village. Guests exited through a theater showing a 5-minute tourism film, The Spirit of Norway.

For over 25 years, Maelstrom remained one of EPCOT’s premier attractions and easily the most popular in the World Showcase portion of the park. However, the ride’s trolls and polar bears were no match for Frozen.

Let it Go

Frozen was released in November 2013 and quickly became the most popular Disney animated film of the 21st century, breaking box office, Billboard chart, and merchandise records. Disney was quick to capitalize on the film’s success in the parks, injecting small Frozen attractions in various locations, including a meet and greet at the Norway pavilion, despite the film being set in the fictional (though admittedly Norway-influenced) kingdom of Arendelle.

Frozen Ever After takes guest through the enchanted world of “Frozen” inside the Norway pavilion at EPCOT. (Disney/Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Anna and Elsa’s temporary reign over the Norway pavilion became permanent in September 2014, when it was announced that Maelstrom would be closing to be refurbished into Frozen Ever After, a retime of the ride system based on the film.

While Maelstrom has been closed for nearly a decade, and Frozen Ever After reigns as one of EPCOT’s most popular attractions, there are still a large number of die hard EPCOT fans who miss Maelstrom and simply can’t let it go… sorry, we couldn’t resist.




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Do you still miss Maelstrom, or is Frozen Ever After a worthy replacement? Let us know in the comments below.

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3 Replies to “Extinct EPCOT: The History of Maelstrom”

  1. I’ll never step foot on that ride again. It will ALWAYS be the Malestrom to me and that’s how I want to remember it.

    What WDW needs is Retroland where all the defunct attractions can get a new life and let the last generation or to get to experience what we got to experience 30 and 40 years ago.

  2. When we go to DW we would ride Maelstrom several times during a 7-10 day trip. We really miss that ride. With Frozen, we’re good for one time. Next January, we’ll be taking our young granddaughters. Between It’s A Small World and Frozen, I’m going to have “It’s a world of fun” and “Let it go” imbedded in my brain. However, it’ll be a lot of fun watching the faces of my granddaughters.