by Ryan Shrout
Millions of guests have taken part in a thrilling Viking adventure over the past 26 years at the Norway Pavilion in Walt Disney World's EPCOT theme park. Today, the flume ride Maelstrom will send off its last ship of would-be vikings to explore the spirit of Norway before the ride closes down to make room for a new Frozen themed attraction.
This is just the latest in a long line of of very unique Disney attractions being replaced or updated to include more of the much loved corporate characters. The Magic Kingdom's old "TimeKeeper" attraction is now home to a Monster's Inc stage show. The much loved "Extra TERROR-estrial Alien Encounter" was lost to the Stitch invasion. The formerly educational El Rio de Tiempo boat ride through Mexico was overtaken by Donald Duck and the Three Cabillero's. Another great educational experience at EPCOT, the Living Seas aquarium, is now largely dedicated to the gang from Finding Nemo. The longstanding Tram Tour at Disney's Hollywood Studios was recently shut down, presumable for a large Carsland Expansion similar to the one at California's Adventure in Anaheim.
Now, certainly there were valid financial reasons for all of these changes, and some of the previously mentioned rides such as the Time Keeper were sort of duds. But that's not the point I'm trying to make. Yes, Disney is known primarily for its characters, and those characters and related merchandise are very profitable. But I for one, very much enjoy the parts of Walt Disney World that are more than mere three dimensional extensions of their films.
Some of the very best attractions Disney has ever created in my opinion created entirely new and unique story lines. Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Pirates of the Caribbean (so good films were based off of it!), Haunted Mansion, and The Jungle Cruise at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT's centerpiece Spaceship Earth and the still very educational Universe of Energy are all wonderful top notch attractions. They immerse the guest and tell a story without needed to be propped by Mickey Mouse and Co.
The late great Alien Encounter in Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland was one of the only truly scary rides Disney has ever imagineered. It was unique and filled a niche that is now largely a void in the whole of WDW. World Showcase at EPCOT was intended to be a place where guests could explore the far flung reaches of the world - but nowhere on a map can you show me the kingdom of Erindale. The fact is that Stitch is no replacement for a truly terrifying alien, and Olaf the talking snowman should not be the spokesman for Norway.
With the loss of Maelstrom, the Impressions de France film remains the only un-modified attraction from Epcot's original line-up, with the audio-animatronic / film hybrid American Adventure also remain largely identical to when it originally opened.