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The entrance to Maelstrom.
Attraction type Interior Boat Ride
Theme History of Norway
Opening date July 5, 1988
Closing date October 5, 2014
Vehicle names Boat
Vehicle capacity 15
Ride duration 4:47 minutes

Maelstrom was an attraction located within the Norway pavilion in Epcot.

Attraction History

When an attraction for the Norway pavilion was originally being developed, Imagineers wanted to give the pavilion EPCOT Center’s first thrill ride. Named “SeaVenture”, Norway’s attraction would take guests through a 946 ft. flume ride [1]. Along their journey, guests would encounter mythical creatures such as trolls and gnomes as they searched for the Rainbow Bridge to Valhalla [1]. The attraction’s thrill was to come from a new ride system, developed by Imagineer Dave Van Wyck[2], which allowed Imagineers to reverse the direction of the boat during the ride [1].

During the development of SeaVenture, the Sherman Brothers were called in to create a song for the attraction, although this was never used. According to Imagineer Paul Torrigino:

"Bob and Randy were talking about getting the Sherman brothers to write a song for it, and one day they got them to come in for a meeting at the model. I was really excited to meet them and we explained the ride concept to them. They were very interested and were ready to go off and write a song." [3]

Although SeaVenture was now fairly well developed, NorShow (the Norway pavilion's sponsors) wanted their country's attraction to be more of a travelogue, which would show all that Norway had to offer, as opposed to a mythological adventure [2]. They also gave the Imagineers a list of things that they wanted included in the attraction including: Vikings, a fishing village, a polar bear, a fjord, and an oil rig [2]. In order to meet the demands of sponsors, Imagineers eventually decided that the ride would take guests on a time-traveling boat tour through Norway's history. The attraction would now begin with a Viking scene, before going through Norwegian folklore and ending in modern day Norway [1] [3]. With this new concept in place, plans for a Sherman Brothers song were scrapped [3]. Adding to the attractions appeal however, would be various drops and visual effects. The new designs also called for a full scale replication of a North Sea storm, which would include wind, waves, rain, thunder and real lightning [1]. In order to create the lightning effect, Imagineers initially hoped to use a large Tesla coil. When Imagineer Jim Mulder attempted to use the coil however, it became clear that it would be unsafe for guests and the idea was scrapped [4].

During its development, the name of Norway’s attraction changed from SeaVenture to Maelstrom. Construction began on the Norway pavilion on May 27, 1986 and the ride was installed shortly after [1]. Although the rest of the Norway pavilion opened on June 3, 1988, Maelstrom's opening was delayed. According to an Orlando Sentinel article reporting on the pavilion's opening, the attraction was delayed by unspecified technical issues [5]. Although Disney would not elaborate on the attraction's problems, it was Maelstrom's North Sea storm scene that caused the delay (due to guests getting soaked or even tossed out of the boat) [6].

Finally, on July 5, 1988, Maelstrom opened to the public [7]. At its opening, Imagineer Randy Bright noted that:

"Norway will present several firsts for this organization as a ride. It's the first ride that actually goes backwards, and the first ride that will utilize Audio-Animatronics in a black light environment." [6]

Following Maelstrom's opening, the attraction saw a relatively small number of changes. Over time, the smoke effects in both the Troll scene and the reverse scene were toned down. Furthermore, the wave and rain effects in the North Sea Storm scene were also diminished.

Maelstrom permanently closed on October 5, 2014 in order to make way for a new attraction titled Frozen Ever After [8].


Imagineers that worked on the development and creation of Maelstrom included:

Randy Carter- Producer [3]

Bob Kurzweil- Ride Designer [3]

Dave Van Wyk- Head Engineer [2]

Joe Rohde- Concept Art [3]

Paul Torrigino- Production Designer [3]

Jim Mulder- Special Effects [4]

Ron Bowman- Interior Construction [9]

Attraction Plot

Maelstrom began with guests boarding a Viking longboat and sailing off into the distant past of Norwegian folklore. After being set in motion, the boat ascended up a lift, which was surrounded by hieroglyphics. On top of the hill, a large mask of Odin was seen. As guests approached the mask, light radiated from Odin's only eye and wind howled in the background. Odin then spoke to guests saying:

"You are not the first to pass this way, nor shall you be the last. Those who seek the spirit of Norway face peril and adventure. But more often find beauty and charm. We have always lived with the sea, so look first to the spirit of the seafarer."

Heeding Odin's advice, guests would then enter a scene which depicted a coastal Viking settlement, where various Vikings were shown preparing their boats. After seeing the settlement, the scope of the scene was expanded and guests witnessed Viking ships sailing off into the distance, as a nearby man blew a horn to announce their departure.

After traveling through the Viking village, guests entered the next scene which depicted a Norwegian forest. As the boats traveled ahead, a large three headed troll emerged. The troll had been angered by guest's intrusion in the forest (which he called Troll Country) and he then cast a spell on the boat, telling guests to go "Back! Over the falls!". At this point in the attraction, the boat began to move backwards and guests went down a small decent.

After the drop, guests found themselves in Norway's polar region. Here, their boat floated past a polar bear menacingly standing on its hind legs. Continuing backwards, guests headed towards the pavilion's exterior waterfall, giving them a view of World Showcase. Just as it seemed that the boat would go plunging down the waterfall however, a large tree-stump troll rose up, and changed the direction of the boats once again. At this point, guests fell (forward) down a 28 foot drop, before finding themselves in the middle of a North Sea storm. As wind and rain howled around their boat, guests came dangerously close an oil rig. Eventually however, the boat passed through the storm and arrived safely at a harbor in a small fishing village. Before unloading, guests heard one last narration which concluded that, "Norway's spirit has always been, will always be, adventure!”

When Maelstrom initially opened, after disembarking from the ride, guests would be held in an intricately themed nighttime plaza while waiting to enter the Spirit of Norway theater, which was located in the attraction's exit. In the years before the attraction closed however, the doors to theater had remained open, allowing guests to enter and exit the theater at will [10]. This also gave guests the option of skipping the film altogether.

Fun Facts and Trivia

  • The boats used as ride vehicles in Maelstrom were designed to look like those in the time of Eric the Red [7].
  • As guests went down the attraction's largest drop, they could see a cruise ship sailing nearby. This was there due to the fact that Norwegian Caribbean Lines was once one of the pavilion's sponsors [11].
  • In the village that served as the attraction's unloading area, guests could see that the buildings had company signs on them. These companies were the original sponsors of the pavilion before their contract expired [11].
  • One of the buildings in this area had the address '129'. This was done by Imagineer Paul Torrigino whose birthday is January 29 (1/29) [9]
  • The large polar bear found in the attraction was sculpted by Peter Kermode and covered in fur by Helena Hutchinson [2].
  • The trolls in Maelstrom were also sculpted by Peter Kermode [12].
  • When Maelstrom opened, it featured Walt Disney World's largest smoke machine system used to date [1].
  • 5.7 million people rode Maelstrom in its first year of operation [2].
  • The Maelstrom boats were some of the last work done by Imagineer Jack Ferges before his retirement.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 The EPCOT explorer's encyclopedia: R. Pedersen - Epcyclopedia Press - 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6
  4. 4.0 4.1
  5. Vaughen, Vicki. “Norway Pavilion Opens -- Without Viking Ride.” Orlando Sentinel , 2 June 1988
  6. 6.0 6.1
  7. 7.0 7.1
  9. 9.0 9.1
  10. M
  11. 11.0 11.1
  12. 12.0 12.1