Frozen to Take Over Norway Pavilion

Yesterday, it was reported by The Epcot Explorer’s Encyclopedia Facebook page about changes coming to the Norway Pavilion:

The international program Cast Members at the Norway Pavilion have been informed that attractions and merchandise positions at the pavilion will not exist beyond the end of September. CM’s with contracts in October and beyond are being offered transfers and training in Food/Beverage. Recruitment for Fall/Winter attractions/merchandise has been canceled.

Just word of this rumored change caused a spike in the wait time for Malestrom to 60 to 80 minutes as people assume the rumored changes going to convert the Norway Pavilion into the Kingdom of Arendelle with Anna and Elsa taking over the area.

photo courtesy of wdw info
photo courtesy of wdw info

This information sounds like Disney has come to a decision about the future of the Norway Pavilion.  Disney and Norway had been in discussions about who should pay for any future changes/upgrades/refurbishments to the pavilion.  Norway was balking at paying $9 million for the upgrade to the pavilion.  I wrote an article about this situation a couple of weeks ago:  Who Should Pay for Any Changes to the Norway Pavilion?

The conclusion that I came to was: who ever pays for the changes has the right to make the changes as they see fit.  If Norway paid the $9 millions either directly from the Norwegian government or from sponsors, they have the right to dictate the changes and keep Arendelle out of the pavilion.  If Disney paid the $9 million and they want to change Norway into Arendelle, that’s their right.  Now, it looks like, nothing has been confirmed nor denied by Disney, that Disney is footing the bill.  As a result, they dictate what changes/upgrades/refurbishments are made to the pavilion.  Those who have the gold win.

In my opinion, this is a bad idea

Disney would set a very bad precedent in this case.  The World Showcase is meant for people to tour the world and learn about other cultures that they may not have the means to experience without the World Showcase.  The World Showcase and EPCOT is FOR LEARNING not for promoting Disney movies and tv shows.  Yes, you may find a Disney character or two in a pavilion.  But they do not take over the pavilion.  The country is the star of the show not the film.  This decision now make the film and characters the star of the pavilion.

Disney would holds the remaining 10 countries of the World Pavilion hostage.  If a situation like this arises again, Disney can remind the country about what happened to the Norway pavilion and do they really want that to happen to their pavilion.  Mulan could become the star of the show in China, Snow White and Rapunzel in Germany, The Aristocats in France,  and Aladdin and Jasmine in Morocco.  A battle royale could ensue in The United Kingdom between Merida, Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, and Winnie the Pooh for the rights to the star.

Again, this was not Walt’s intent or even the original purpose of EPCOT.  Disney characters need not enter EPCOT.  I believe in the early days of EPCOT, you could not find characters in EPCOT.  They were only in the Magic Kingdom.  As time went on, the characters started to enter the park as a way to keep children entertained at EPCOT.  I remember going to EPCOT, as a kid, and being bored after about an hour.  There was nothing engaging about the park.  It was big science and history museum.  This was in the mid 80’s.

photo courtesy of wikipedia
photo courtesy of wikipedia

Now flash forward 20 years and I return to EPCOT with my family and it’s an entirely different park.  There were characters to keep my daughter entertained through good portion of the day and the KidCOT stations helped as well.  There was still science and history in the park and it sat side-by-side in a healthy balance with the Disney characters.

Should the Norway pavilion become Arendelle, this balance will have been lost.  Arendelle is a fictional place.  There is nothing historic or scientific about Arendelle.  Arendelle is a fictitious place from a movie.  This makes it better suited for Hollywood Studios or even Fantasyland.

What is this potential decision really about?

This potential decision, in my opinion, is about what a lot of decisions….$$$$$.  Frozen has made a lot of money for Disney.  The Frozen Summer Fun has proved to be a great success in Hollywood Studios.  Disney wants to continue this success and money train going.  There really isn’t room to add an attraction in New Fantasyland especially with the completion of New Fantasyland occurring earlier this summer when the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was completed.  Hollywood Studios also makes sense to put in a Frozen attraction and continue the Frozen Summer Fun into Frozen Fall/Winter Fun.  However, Disney has hinted that a Star Wars expansion could soon becoming to Hollywood Studios.  Disney may not want to add so much so soon to one park.  That leaves Animal Kingdom and EPCOT as landing places for Frozen.

As a result, Disney decides to play hardball with Norway over upgrading/refurbishing the pavilion.  Disney knows that if Norway balks or can’t find sponsors to pay the $9 million, then Disney can turn Norway into Arendelle.  But in doing so, they are completely going against the philosophy that EPCOT was built on.

In conclusion. I see this move as Disney going for short term gains over the long term image and direction of the park. Frozen is and will continue to be popular but for how long. Will Disney be in the position of having really long lines for any new Frozen attractions that come to a new Norway/Arendelle pavilion but then in a year or two after everyone has had the experience the lines and wait times become much shorter. This proposed change should pull away from the Anna and Elsa meet and greet and into EPCOT. However, tearing out one of the things that makes EPCOT unique should not be a by-product of this proposed change.

What do you think about this rumored changed now that is getting closer to reality than rumor?  Answer our poll question.

The Dad For Disney Facebook group will be have a giveaway when the group reaches 500 members and I return from my Disney trip at the end of the month.  The giveaway, at this time, is undetermined.  More details will be announced as we get closer to the giveaway.

I can also be followed on twitter: @DadForDisney

Thanks for reading!

9 thoughts on “Frozen to Take Over Norway Pavilion”

  1. I have to disagree with your conclusion that Disney is playing “hardball” with Norway. Norway has had nothing to do with the pavilion in many years, so Disney has been in complete control of the pavilion for some time. It would be like saying that a guy is playing hardball with his ex-girlfriend who left 10 years ago over the decor of the apartment they shared. She just doesn’t care.

    Can you blame them? The polling of guests at the pavilion and their tourism statistics have told them that the pavilion doesn’t impact tourism to their country. Norway is considered one of the richest countries, if not the richest country, in the world (per capita). You don’t get that distinction from making bad investments. And Norway doesn’t see putting money into the pavilion as a good investment.

    The World Showcase idea has never caught on. Disney had to strike deals with corporations to sponsor the pavilions, paying out hefty percentages of the sales to the sponsors to get them to agree. They still didn’t get enough to fill out all the available space even after scrapping the idea to have it be its own entity and merging it with Future World to create Epcot.

    The bottom line is that Disney is paying all the operating costs of Epcot, but has to share the profits with all the sponsors who are still involved. Epcot is drawing enough guests, from a business perspective. The opportunity to add a big draw to the park, especially to a pavilion in which Disney doesn’t profit-share anymore, is too big to pass up.

    I doubt there was much hardball to any recent negotiations. Disney has always loved getting investors on board to help foot the bill of any expensive builds, so perhaps they threw it out there to Norway that they were going to refurb and Norway could get in on it, for a price. But I don’t think it was a situation where the future of the pavilion was ever on the table to be back in Norway’s (or their sponsors’) hands.

    That last paragraph is my feeling, based upon everything I’ve read about the history of the park, and reading the statements made by Norway’s “Innovation Norway” about the relationship between them and Disney.

  2. While I agree to what you are saying to some extent, and I will miss the Maelstrom of my childhood, it is safe to say that area and ride are becoming outdated. I truly believe that Disney will try to keep much about Norway accurate, but as Baseball Mickey has stated it is all about the money. If throwing in some references to a made up area that still does the beauty of Norway justice is added I don’t feel it’s a failure. In my opinion Disney has always strived to balance, but Epcot just doesn’t do as well.

    I would welcome new blood to Epcot to make it interesting. The Living Seas has the water partitioned so people eating can see the fish while people riding Nemo see a bunch of empty water, animatronics, and holograms. They can do better than that. The East and West pavilions aren’t that interesting, yes you will see some people in there, but there’s no big draw to it.

    Let’s face it, Epcot needs a major rehab to bring people in and keep them there for more than a few pit stops. That is why we are seeing characters and more kids areas. If Disney can keep the beauty alive with a few references to some Disney movie or another I don’t feel that that is so negative. Mulan has a meet and greet there, but that does not detract from the interest of the museum, it adds to it.

    All of this said, I am not looking forward to the entire store dedicated to Elsa and Anna, so I truly hope they find a way to blend it well.

  3. Very well said! I couldn’t agree more. I love Malestrom and would hate to see it go, especially to be replaced by an attraction based on a fictional place – not Norway. If they would decide to refurbish Malestrom and add in a few Frozen characters, similar to how they added characters to Disneyland’s It’s A Small World, I would be all for that refurbishment. But I do not think they should get rid of one of the best World Showcase attractions in favor of the latest film which probably won’t be as popular as it is now after a few years.

  4. I have to say that it’s their park, and as a business owner myself, evolution is what keeps businesses open, and interesting. If it weren’t for “drinking around the world” Flower and garden, and Food and wine, they would have had to have made drastic changes a long time ago. If you look at the success of intellectual properties like Harry Potter and Frozen, you must see that capitalizing on them in a timely manner is the smart move. Strike while the iron’s hot! Make that money so that you may invest it into new and exciting projects for your customers and guests. It is the way of business, I understand that EPCOT was Walt’s idea, but its manifestation is not what he wanted, so to use that as any reason to keep it intact is kind of an empty excuse, however, if you must use that worthless argument, realize he’s dead, and has been for a very long time and he promised that Walt Disney World would continue to evolve and grow long after his passing. Anyone who thinks that anything should remain true to history should go to a museum where attendance does not drive profit.

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