Then & Now: Walt Disney World’s Maelstrom and Frozen Ever After

Maelstrom to Frozen Ever After
Credit: Disney Tips

Every Guest at Walt Disney World knows that Disney constantly strives to improve and reinvent attractions so that they remain relevant and reflect up-to-date technology. While there are classic attractions that have been in Disney’s Magic Kingdom since opening day, even those have typically been updated over the years. And many original or subsequent rides have been removed completely to make way for newer attractions.

It’s sad to say goodbye to a cherished attraction, of course, but the good news is that there are always new and exciting experiences for Guests to discover at WDW. Sometimes entirely new lands are created, like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, or Pandora – The World of Avatar. And sometimes it’s a new attraction that rises like a phoenix from the ashes of a former ride. Today, we take a look at EPCOT’s Frozen Ever After and its beloved predecessor, Maelstrom. 

Credit: Zach Riddley

Then: Maelstrom

Maelstrom was a log flume dark ride located in the Norway Pavilion at the World Showcase at Disney’s EPCOT theme park and debuted back in 1988. It took Guests on an adventure through Norway’s mythological past via Viking ships.  If you visited EPCOT before 2015, you may remember seeing the face of Odin as you crested the hill, and the recording informing Guests that “those who seek the spirit of Norway face peril and adventure, but more often find beauty and charm”.

Audio-animatronic figures populated the attraction, including mythological figures from Norwegian folklore, like trolls.  Very angry trolls, in fact, who didn’t like trespassers and would cast a spell sending your ship reeling backward.  The natural beauty of Norway was a main feature of Maelstrom as well, with wintry forest and maritime village scenes, waterfalls, puffins, and polar bears playing key roles.

Credit: Disney Dining

Guests would plummet 28 feet down into a roiling, stormy sea, before arriving safely back in the harbor.  After exiting the ride, if you were eager to learn more about Norwegian adventures, you could watch a 5-minute film that covered activities and tourist attractions in Norway.

A New Era 

In 2010, the hit Disney film Frozen was released, and Elsa and Anna captured the hearts of viewers everywhere.  Interestingly, neither officially holds the title of “Disney Princess”, but we don’t mind because they broke the mold, redefining what Disney Princesses could be for a whole new generation.

Anna and Elsa
Credit: Disney

The Norway Pavilion was the perfect spot for a Frozen-themed attraction, and in 2014, Maelstrom’s last Viking ships sailed into the sunset, making room for Frozen Ever After.  But Maelstrom didn’t completely disappear. Guests will quickly notice that Frozen Ever After uses the exact same ride track, and even repurposed ride vehicles, from Maelstrom. Guests still plunge down a waterfall and even plummet backward at one point in the ride, although now, angry trolls aren’t to blame! 

Speaking of trolls – Guests craving a troll fix can still see a troll in this pavilion – head to The Fjording gift shop on your way out of the ride, and take a selfie with the gigantic Norway Troll that calls the shop home.

Credit: Disney Tips

As often happens when Disney scraps one ride to make room for another, there are pieces from the old ride that make it into the new one. Maelstrom and Frozen Ever After is no different. Do you remember those cute puffins you’d sail past in Maelstrom? Keep your eyes peeled in the last scene of the new ride, and you’ll see the same puffins at Frozen Ever After’s finale.

Now: Frozen Ever After

What can Guests expect when riding Frozen Ever After at Disney’s EPCOT? Norway Pavilion’s revamped attraction, which opened in 2016, is akin to sailing through the animated film as scenes from the movie come to life all around you. The ride marks the anniversary of the day that Anna saved Elsa, thereby ending Arendelle’s eternal winter, and Elsa has declared an Official Summer Snow Day to celebrate.

Credit: Disney

You’ll see all of your favorite Frozen characters, locations, and iconic songs from the film. Oaken waves to Guests from his Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna, Sven drop by to say hello and gets his tongue stuck to an icy pole, and Olaf attempts to sing “For the First Time in Forever”, but being Olaf, has some hilarious mishaps with the lyrics. Anna and Kristoff serenade Guests, and Elsa sings her trademark “Let it Go”. Grand Pabbie and baby trolls, Elsa’s ice palace, and even Marshmallow and the Snowgies from the short film Frozen Fever (2015) all make appearances.  

Frozen Ever After
Credit: Disney Tips

The characters in Frozen Ever After mark the first time Disney has used all-electric audio-animatronics instead of hydraulics for a more realistic, less robotic, look. Anna and Elsa’s faces are more expressive than you’ll see on older attractions, because they’re projection-mapped, using the same technology you can see with Cinderella Castle projections during Disney Enchantment. The designers even worked with the team responsible for the animation in the film to make sure they captured the essence of every character, right down to a simple head tilt or arm movement.

Bottom Line

Change truly is the only constant in life, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  We’re excited to experience the new attractions coming to Walt Disney World over the coming months and years, including TRON Lightcycle Run in Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Disney’s EPCOT Park.  But to make way for exciting new attractions like these, older, less popular attractions sometimes have to make their final bows.

Happily, Disney Imagineers like to retain traces of former rides, keeping them alive – at least for Guests who have eagle eyes – in the attractions that replace them.  This is certainly the case with EPCOT’s Maelstrom and Frozen Ever After. 

About Stacy Milford

Stacy has lived in 4 countries on 3 continents, and travels whenever humanly possible. Passionate about music theatre, dessert, and adventure in the great wide somewhere, she visits Walt Disney World every year, usually during Halloween! Stacy currently divides her time between writing and teaching English as a second language to children in China, and is pretty sure growing up is over-rated.