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September 15, 2014

Times They Are A-Changin' at Epcot


Maelstrom is defined as: 


  • A powerful whirlpool in the sea or a river
  • A situation or state of confused movement or violent turmoil

Seems appropriate. "Maelstrom" is also an attraction at Walt Disney World's Epcot - at least until its final voyage on October 5. There is quite a storm (or turmoil) currently brewing around this Maelstrom. It's a situation that's becoming far too familiar - another attraction bites the dust. 






I was still reeling from the recent entertainment slashings at Epcot when I was hit with this. (Oh , who am I kidding? I'm still mourning the loss of Push the Talking Trash Can!) For months, rumors had been swirling angrily about the fate of Maelstrom. (If there's one thing I've learned it is this... by the time a rumor is being tossed around like Mardi Gras beads, you can pretty much count on validity.) This one seemed to carry even more weight, because the rumor was that Maelstrom would be re-imagined to feed the cash cow that is Frozen. Considering Disney's shameless and blatant over-saturation of everything Elsa and Anna, I knew they were just chomping at the bit to find a more permanent home for the franchise within the Walt Disney World Resort. 

Frozen was already attempted in Norway through a character meet and greet. Lines for the encounter quickly reached a 3-5 hour "norm", and it was decided that World Showcase was not ready for the Justin Bieber-style phenomenon that is FrozenAs someone who visited Norway Pavilion multiple times during this trial run, I have to admit, I avoided coming in contact with the ever-present mob swarming out of Norway at all costs. Essentially, this entire portion of World Showcase was chaos, and certainly not appealing to those of us not enchanted with meeting the frozen femmes. I truly missed my School Bread during this time, by the way!




As a parent, I understand the desire to extend Epcot's appeal to children. As an adult, I appreciate that Epcot is (and should be) a very different animal than the Magic Kingdom. This was always the intention after all! A few steps have been taken to make Epcot more inviting to youngsters, and I think that's fantastic. I'll admit, my parents would have appreciated having a Kidcot station or the occasional, subtle character greeting to occupy me as a child, but Frozen simply doesn't belong in the World Showcase.


I've been reading through so many opinions on social media regarding the Maelstrom announcement. It really does appear that most who are speaking up are against the change... even fans of Frozen. That's quite possibly not a fair representation of guest opinion, and I know this. Fact of the matter is - Frozen is hot. Another fact - lines for Maelstrom are always nearly non-existent. BUT... do these two facts signal this inevitable course of action?


First consider what Epcot's World Showcase is. It is a showcase of the inspirational cultures that shape our global society - our diverse landscape, recreated in tiny little bits for people of all types to absorb and appreciate in one magical place. The World Showcase consists of pavilions representing very real places, such as Mexico, Morocco, Japan, and Norway (among others). Each of these pavilions exhibit both modern and traditional relics, souvenirs and more. Need I remind you that Arendelle is not real... nor does Frozen even state its setting as Norway. 




I accepted the Frozen takeover of the Stave Church, because they managed to present this tactfully. It doesn't change the fact that the Stave Church is always overwhelmed with guests now, but at least the exhibit was well done. Items used in the film are displayed in their animated images, as well as physical forms, showing Disney's authentic reference points. Try as I may, I cannot accept the loss of Maelstrom. 


Go ahead and say it... I've heard it all. Yes, I know that there is no changing this decision. Disney has not ever truly given much attention or concern to negative comments or reactions to these announcements. If we couldn't save Mr. Toad, I have lost all faith in the power of the loyalist voice. Yes, I also know change is inevitable... but that doesn't mean I have to suffer through it silently. It also doesn't mean that those of us on soapboxes are altogether wrong. 


Epcot - primarily World Showcase - has a different "feel" to it. As this was the intention, it is also laid out in a way that accommodates its original concept. It was never meant to be taken over by strollers and teams of toddlers in tiaras. The fictional inclusions pouring upon this zone from the Frozen bull only serve to be a tipping point that changes the complete design of World Showcase. Authenticity and tribute are giving way to cheap marketing ploys and the demands of over-demanding youth. 


The idea that Walt promoted so feverishly was "plussing", or adding to. The room for expansion is certainly there. Why must every "addition" come at a high-stakes classic cost? Plussing (by Disney's standards) means giving your customers more than they paid for, more than they expect, more than you have to give them. The only thing Disney is working toward plussing is their net worth, and it's coming at the cost of value. We are being led to believe that we are gaining something new, as costs continue to rise and shops continue to expand... but really, we're gaining nothing and losing the experience. Is Disney trying to tell us that an attraction isn't worth keeping if it doesn't command 3+ hour wait times? I shudder to think where that could lead! It's the potential that holds the most threat right now... and all based on one fad.





Those of us against the change all seem to be pushing the same reasons...

  • We want more value for our $.
  • We recognize the concept of World Showcase and appreciate what it offers. Cartoonizing the area is simply unacceptable.
  • Can't we thaw out some area for those of us who are overdosing on the little ice balls by now? We're not all 5 year-old girls, after all!



Walt Disney believed that his parks would never be truly completed "as long as there is imagination left in the world". Throwing a layer of ice over everything does not demonstrate imagination. In fact... quite the opposite. Has imagination left the Walt Disney World Resort?

And while I am on a roll here... the lumberjack show in Canada... seriously??? #Rethink!