Norway Is Giving Disney the Cold Shoulder Over 'Frozen'

The success of "Frozen" has created animosity between Disney and the Scandinavian nation.

Travel Lookahead 2014
Gene Duncan/Disney/AP
You don't often see international politics come into play in theme parks, but there's an interesting brouhaha brewing between Walt Disney (DIS) and Norway.

The back of Disney World's Epcot in Florida is the World Showcase, where select countries host, staff and help finance pavilions that feature restaurants, stores with imported goods and attractions. Norway is one of the only two Showcase countries to feature an actual ride, but the days of the Maelstrom boat journey through Vikings, trolls and polar bears may be numbered.

Sources tell industry rumor hotbed Screamscape that Maelstrom will soon close to make way for a ride related to "Frozen." A news report out of Norway details the country's reluctance to continue funding the pavilion, and says that Maelstrom may close as soon as October to make way for the new ride.

The report claims that Disney has offered Norway the opportunity to pay roughly $9 million to update and maintain the pavilion as a promotional platform for the country -- instead of the hit movie.

First, a Loss of Retail Space

The Norway zone has been busier than usual since "Frozen" was released in late November. Earlier this year, the pavilion's flagship store lost prime retail space to make room for "Frozen" merchandise and a meet-and-greet area with the film's two princesses.

"Frozen" is Disney's first animated release since "Toy Story 3" to crack $400 million in domestic ticket sales during its initial theatrical run. The only other Disney movie to do that -- "The Lion King" -- broke through $400 million in cumulative ticket sales on subsequent re-releases several years later.

Disney was taken off guard by the movie's success, leaving it scrambling to cash in at its theme parks.

Disney was taken off guard by the movie's success, leaving it scrambling to cash in at its theme parks. An official meet-and-greet area for Anna and Elsa was set up at the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland. Earlier this month, several related attractions opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida, complete with a parade, skating rink and nighttime "Frozen" fireworks show. Guests are handed fans featuring Olaf -- the whimsical snowman from the movie -- as they enter the park, and an Olaf carrot cupcake is available for purchase.

However, before all of these "Frozen" tributes popped up elsewhere, the decision was made to feature Anna and Elsa in the Norway pavilion. It was a quick and easy fix, and long lines of families with daughters decked out in Anna and Elsa princess dresses made Norway the most popular World Showcase pavilion in a park that drew 11.2 million guests last year, according to Themed Entertainment Association.

However, the movie is set in the fictional land of Arendelle. Animators went to Norway to flesh out Arendelle with a bit of Scandinavian sensibility, but one can sympathize with the aggravation in Norway as it's compelled to help bankroll a pavilion that's doing more to promote an imaginary country than its own rich culture.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.‚Äč

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Angela Luckenbill Ho

First they took away the original hot/cold buffet in the restaurant, changed the menu in a bad way and turned it into something for kids to meet princesses, then the musicians who played outside disappeared (yes, DISAPPEAR, DISAPPEAR!), then turned the ride and part of the stores into a Frozen venue . . . I continue to be disappointed in the choices Disney World makes. Don't forget about us adults who've been going back year after year since Epcot opened. We're not all into children's cartoons, we enjoy visiting the "countries" in as authentic a way possible.

November 23 2014 at 7:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This whole story is false... I've worked for the Disney company for over 17 years and my family is from Norway! So I know much about this pavilion at Epcot . Not all the countries are being rented out by those countries. Disney runs many of them INCLUDING Norway pavilion . Which means, they can do what ever they want to. You don't hear any kids complaining .... Calm down adults ... Disney is marketing to the kids and familes!! It's exactly what Walt would want esp considering this story is one that Walt wanted to do so many times! This story is doing what people are complaining about .... Capitalizing on FROZEN!

September 13 2014 at 10:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The movie was boring. Don't know why the kids like it.

July 25 2014 at 12:03 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Norway is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I should know...I lived there for many years. Anything Disney does could never measure up to the rich natural beauty of that northern paradise.

July 24 2014 at 9:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Norway should just let it go while it has the chance to get out of the way of the Frozen glitz with some dignity. Better than Olaf skippering the boat and the polar bears doing a chorus line.

July 24 2014 at 8:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply