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The Rides That Came before the Rides You Love

Maelstrom

A few of you may have shed a tear just at the mention of Maelstrom. Formerly the pride of the Norway Pavilion, this attraction underscored the fantastic elements of Norse mythology. The Viking culture was one of exploration, a daring journey into the unknown.

Stories of real adventures evolved into fables about mystical creatures and a complex narrative involving deities. You know many of the characters now because of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Maelstrom debuted long before then, arriving in 1988. The set pieces of this dark ride once entertained guests for being so serious about the subject matter. Over time, people lost interest in the mystical adventures, a tragedy given the tremendous quality of this log flume attraction.

Image: DisneyWhen Frozen became a box office phenomenon in 2013, the fate of Maelstrom was sealed. Perhaps it would have been anyway. The Norway Pavilion’s lack of traffic was an open secret among Disney insiders. When park officials committed to fictional Arendelle, the business side of the decision was logical. The emotional side stung people who grew up on Maelstrom.

Maelstrom was shuttered in 2014, and Frozen Ever After debuted two years later. The latter attraction has become one of the most popular of all Walt Disney World rides. Lines are regularly longer than an hour to this day, sometimes quite a bit more. And I'm a huge fan of Frozen Ever After as a dark ride. The animatronics and sets are wonderful, while the use of music is exceptional. It's just a shame that Maelstrom had to die for Frozen Ever After to exist.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

The way that many theme park tourists feel about Maelstrom is a drop in the bucket compared to my rage over the closure of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Magic Kingdom. It’s one of the best dark rides ever built, a hysterical and surprisingly dark tale of poor decision-making.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was one of the few opening day Disneyland attractions that Disney didn’t build, leaving that honor to Arrow Development. It has stood the test of time as one of the best mood-altering ride experiences. Most guests have smiles on their faces when they exit the wild ride.

Image: DisneyWhile Magic Kingdom hosted an opening day version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride as well, they didn’t feel as married to it. Disneyland risks savage PR backlash when they alter attractions that Walt Disney worked on.  The situation at Walt Disney World isn’t quite the same since he was dead by then.

After 27 years in operation, Magic Kingdom replaced Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. While I like the latter attraction, the Tokyo Disneyland version is much better since it’s trackless. Disney could have copied that one if they had waited a few more years. And they might have saved Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in the process. Ah well, at least we still have the original at Disneyland.

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