The Maelstrom has been one of the most popular attractions at Epcot since it first opened in 1988. Inside, guests travel on viking longboats through the history and mythology of Norway.
The ride starts by traveling up towards a Nordic representation of Odin. A voice begins to describe the spirit of Norway. As the boat gets to the top of the lift hill, a village of vikings is seen to the right. Scenes of these seafarers beginning to go out on the seas show the oceanic ways of ancient Norwegians. Then the boat travels to troll country, where a three-headed troll appears and sends guests backwards over a waterfall. Puffins and Polar Bears are off to the side as the boat now appears in a more serene, forested area. But, another troll sends the ship over another waterfall. The bottom has guests pass by what seems to be a massive oil rig with stormy waves crashing in the night scene. The unloading dock is located in a small fishing village to give a calm conclusion to the flume.
After unloading, guests are invited to watch a short film expanding on the Spirit of Norway. The movie depicts multiple scenes of Norwegian life, concluding that the spirit of Norway resides in its people.
The attraction is the signature feature of the Norway pavilion in the World Showcase. It’s entrance and queue have no outstanding marks, except for the massive mural on the wall by the actual load area. It portrays features of the ride, but also life in Norway and its diversity thereof. A Hidden Mickey was located in a viking ship in this mural – one viking’s helmet is really mouse ears!
I remember when the attraction and pavilion opened. It’s the most recent out of all the pavilions of World Showcase (though it technically was not the most recent attraction). The way I remember its opening was with the Disney Channel. About every chance the television station got, it would advertise Maelstrom through behind the scenes looks.
The backwards motion of the boats always got me. It was a unique feature of the time it opened, and even still today. Not many flumes, or even attractions, have a backwards portion of a ride. Though the animatronics were not very sophisticated, they were well done and amusing. The Polar Bears are lifesize! The trolls are menacing! It was a very fanciful attraction.
The conclusion of the ride was actually a little frightening to me. The darkness of the room felt like we were really on the seas looking up at a huge oil rig. Waves crashing made it feel like a storm was all around. It was a breathtaking sight!
The Spirit of Norway – the film seen upon exiting – wasn’t the most exciting part of the whole attraction. In later years, it was made into an option to watch. Many times I would opt to exit rather than stay and watch, though it was only 5 minutes long. Still, it had some great moments showing life in the country.
Maelstrom was one of my favorite attractions at Epcot. I didn’t ever miss riding it when I would visit the park. Maybe it had to do with how much it would be showcased on the Disney Channel. It was the first attraction I researched…well, as much as young kid can research a Disney attraction. But, still, any piece of information, photo, or video I could find about the attraction I would grab. It’s been one of my most video recorded out of Disney rides.
It did have a lot of quirkiness about it. I mentioned the film that was at the exit. It wasn’t the best climax to the whole attraction. It had this weird mix of dramatic, adventurous scenes, and very calm and serene scenes. They were spliced together with the same mix of dramatic and melodious music. The trolls were more funny than scary.
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