It's been more than two years since EPCOT Central examined the sad state of the Norwegian pavilion at EPCOT's World Showcase.
Now, Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has caught wind of the travesty that Disney has made of this country's representation. It quotes a Norway pavilion cast member as saying, "Frankly, I’m embarrassed when I show this outdated film to tourists."
Not surprisingly, Disney proves once again how it is embarrassingly out of touch with actual guest reaction. Disney spokesperson Kim Prunty insists to Aftenposten, "The film is only one of many ways of showing Norwegian culture to our guests, who are generally very happy with what they see at the pavilion."
Has she seen the film? That is, if it's even running.
The theater in which it plays looks like it's Scotch-taped together in places, and the badly scratched 70mm film plays like a time capsule from 1988, barely even hinting at the massive progress that Norway has made in the last 20 years.
Or maybe she's referring to the Norwegian musical group Spelmanns Gledje, which performs at the Norw-- oops, that's right. Disney eliminated that entertainment option a few weeks ago as part of a cost-cutting move.
Maybe Kim's talking about the authentic Norwegian buffet you can find at Akersh-- oh, wait, no, that's now the "Akershus Royal Banquet Hall," which offers such Norwegian delicacies as pasta, hot dogs and cheese ravioli. (Granted, there are apparently still some very basic Norwegian offerings on the menu, but I've yet to hear of childless adults who have attempted to dine there recently.)
Visitors to the Norway pavilion would never know that it is one of the most developed, advanced, peaceful, prosperous and, frankly, beautiful nations in the entire world. If you're at all interested in a basic primer on Norway, check out the well-researched Wikipedia entry on the country.
But whatever you do, don't go to EPCOT. You might find some lovely desserts and a C-ticket attraction (which should be so much better). You'll also find incongruous Disney princesses and you'll have to navigate a sea of strollers, harried parents and screaming children, since the extraordinary Akershus restaurant was converted into all Disney-princess dining a few years back.
There's some blame to be held by the Norwegian government itself. From what I've been told, the government decided not to renew its sponsorship -- which is rather odd, considering how wealthy and prosperous the country is. Given the millions of people who visit the pavilion each year, an investment would almost certainly realize a good return by leading to tourism.
Then again, it's quite possible Disney didn't want the Norwegian sponsorship renewed. If it had been, Disney might actually have to perform maintenance and upkeep on Maelstrom, its barren exit and the rarely changed (but quite good) exhibit inside the stave church -- and they might need to get rid of Middle Eastern Jasmine, French Belle and Cinderella, and German Snow White congregating inside the replica of Norway's oldest fortress.
Norway is an extraordinary country. For fun, here are a couple of pictures I took along the Sognefjord last year. (Yes -- the fascination I had with Norway thanks to visiting the EPCOT pavilion did indeed result in a trip there!)
Norway deserves so much better than it's getting at EPCOT, and it's nice to see that, finally, someone else has noticed.