Leave present day Norway to journey back in time to the Norway of old aboard dragon-headed 16 passenger boats. Travel to a 10th century Viking Village and enter the shadows of a mythical Norwegian forest populated by trolls. One of the creatures cast a spell on the boat and you suddenly are traveling backwards into the rapids of the Jutenheimen mountain country.
Just as you are about to topple backwards over the waterfall, the boat moves forward to a rocky passageway in the North Sea where you find yourself in an ocean storm. Soon, you enter the calm fishing village where your boat docks. A door will open into the theater. There is a wide-screen movie that takes you on a tour of Norway and introduces you to its people.
Disney World sets a high standard. Rides are carefully orchestrated symphonies of lighting, sound, geometry, and various special effects that come together to create an impression on the rider. Maelstrom is not like that, it is more like something you see at Halloween from the weird family down the street. You can see how it took a lot of work to make, but you’re never really all that impressed.
This is the very scary troll:
Scary stuff, eh? He’s so scary that all these passengers are afraid to look at him. And when he “casts the spell” and the boat starts going backwards at speeds exceeding a leisurely walk the terror needle goes off the dial.
It also features a deformed polar bear for some obscure reason. Perhaps it’s a warning about the dangers of nuclear power?
When the ride finished, we got out in a faux village. We weren’t clear if it was Scandanavia in general, Norway, Sweden, or perhaps an old section of Minnesota. I was excited to see a storefront for Jotul (Yotul?) stoves, which my uncle used to sell. The village was just lame. We went to leave. That is, we tried to. You see, the exit was locked up. There was no explanation, no sign, simply a locked door. There were some fellow prisoners standing around so we joined them and waited. Eventually a girl came out of the “tourist office” and started speaking. I have no idea what she said because the sound system made her sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. We amused ourselves by using her facial expressions and gestures to guess what she was saying. Our guess was that she was building a rocket ship to get out of Norway and various townspeople were fighting to help her in the middle of her wedding. Five minutes of this, and the doors opened. The next stop was a small movie theatre. Unlike every other movie at Disney, there was not a special theatre that got you in the mood and set the ambiance. Just like your standard suburban movie it featured a dark room with a big white screen in front and a small window in back for the projector.
Most of our crowd, seeing their chance, kept going through the theater and escaped out into the light. We were determined to see it through. I was composing a blog post in my head. The movie did not disappoint. It opened with a small child in a museum looking at a Viking longboat with wonder and awe. He slowly passed his hand over the boat and the scene abruptly switched to scenes of ancient Vikings engaging in sailing. It was unclear if these two scenes were thematically related or the child was having some awful seizure-induced hallucination. The Vikings sailed on. Once in a while one brandished a sword. The scenes started shifting to modern Norway. We saw young men in suits walking confidently down streets, talking on cel phones, typing things on computers, playing tennis, etc. It looked like the generic ads you see for investment brokerage houses. It dawned on us that there was no story, this was simply a “Come to Norway” tourism movie. And not a very good one. It looked like some 3rd Assistant Minister for Tourism had managed to get his hands on $15,000 and made this movie. The writing and direction were done by his cousin, the one who was the backup director for his big high school play in 1991, and knew how to get his hands on some stock footage cheap.
This film and ride were clearly made by the Michael Scott of Norway.