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Norway was the last pavilion added to World showcase. It opened on May 6, 1988, however it was not given its official opening until a month later. In June 1988 the grand opening was dedicated by Crown Prince Harald in a ceremony that was broadcast live to Norway.
In the planning stages the pavilion was a Nordic Pavilion; not country specific but a broader Nordic experience that would combine elements from the Nordic countries into one exhibit. The three countries were consulted, but in the end investors from Norway raised the $30 million required to create an exclusive national pavilion. So with Norway putting up two-thirds of the construction cost Disney contributed the other one-third and construction began.
In 1992, the private investors sold their stake to Disney. However, Norway's federal government continued to contribute US$200,000 annually for five years to help fund the exhibit because they felt it was still a good promotional tool for their tourism industry considering nearly as many people visit Epcot each year as live in Norway. In 2002 the Norwegian government discontinued payments--against the recommendations of their American embassy.
Along with shops that sale goods from Norway, and the Akershus restaurant featuring Disney Princess character dining, there is also a Viking-boat ride titled Maelstrom. The ride first takes visitors back to a mythological version of Norway's Viking days, passing through scenes of seafarers and Vikings. Guests then enter an enchanted swamp, and are forced backwards down a 28 foot waterfall by angry trolls. Then the Viking-boats quickly float past scenes of polar bears and living trees, before stopping at the edge of another waterfall that overlooks the Norway pavilion's main thoroughfare. Guests are rotated back to a forward-facing position, and as the ride continues, are plunged down into the stormy North Sea. After passing by an ocean oil rig guests reach a quaint harbor where they disembark. After exiting the ride guests enter a post-show theater where they can watch a 6 minute film highlighting the history and folklore of Norway. The Maelstrom attraction was always conceived to be a boat ride, with a section that went backwards. However, the ride's plot line was originally going to be entirely centered around trolls, but the Norwegian investors wanted a ride that included other aspects of Norway.
In the fall of 2014 Disney announced Maelstrom would be closing, and a new Frozen themed experience would be taking it's place. This announcement was met with mixed reviews. Die hard Epcot fans are leery of how quickly Disney seems to be milking the Frozen franchise success, in lieu of what has become traditional Epcot. Other's can't wait to have this new Disney favorite come to life, and draw more visitors back to World Showcase. The new, re-do, of Maelstrom, Frozen Ever After, will likely re-use many of the attractions components, such as layout, track, and ride boats. The Disney Parks Blog has said the ride will include favorite moments and songs from the movie Frozen to give the feeling of stepping into the movie. The premise for the ride is a Winter-in-Summer Day created be Queen Elsa and will include visit's to Elsa's Ice Palace, the North Mountain, and will conclude in the Bay of Arendelle. Frozen Ever After is set to open in 2016. The Norway pavilion will also be expanded and include an Anna and Elsa meet and greet, to go along with the new attraction.
The 58,000-square-foot Norway pavilion is designed to look like a Norwegian village. The village includes a detailed Stave church, and the exterior of its main table-service restaurant, Restaurant Akershus, resembles its namesake in Oslo. The exhibit showcases 4 styles of Norwegian architecture: Setesdal-style, Bergen-style, Oslo-style and Ålesund-style. The pavilion is staffed by young Norwegian college students who spend about 9 months each representing their country and helping to create an authentic atmosphere. Norway does have one 'attraction' that was removed in 2008, a Viking ship play area; once a good place to get out extra wiggles, it became a show piece for a few years after it was deemed unsafe, and eventually removed. A few old ship pieces can be found amongst the bushes.
Pics: Top row--Stave Church with Nordic history displays, Middle Row--Maelstrom entrance and waterfall overlook with ride boat, Bottom Left--Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Entrance, Bottom Right--Old Viking Ship Play Area