Todd DeFeo

Shades of 1998: Mr. Toad, meet the Maelstrom

Maelstrom in Epcot

When it comes time to compile the list of Walt Disney World’s greatest attractions, there are some obvious choices. The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Big Thunder Mountain will be on the list, to name a few.

But, the Maelstrom?

The venerable boat ride through Norwegian culture and folklore has delighted guests since it opened in 1988. The attraction interestingly often has a short line and even offers FastPass, which until recently was reserved for more popular attractions.

Yet, early next month, the enchanting ride is set to go the way of World of Motion, Mission to Mars and, yes, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Walt Disney World officials are Mr. Toading Epcot’s Maelstrom, replacing the attraction with one inspired by the mega-popular “Frozen.”

It’s September 1998 all over again. That year, after a year of rumor, Walt Disney World shuttered one of the most beloved attractions: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in the Magic Kingdom.

Mr. Toad was replaced by a Winnie the Pooh ride and a gift shop. Mr. Toad was relished to the pet cemetery of the Haunted Mansion and an ill-advised t-shirt for sale a few years ago in the Main Street Emporium (and presumably other places).

It turns out Mr. Toad wasn’t good enough for an attraction, but he was good enough for guests’ wallets. Thanks, but no thanks.

Granted, the Maelstrom probably isn’t Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in terms of its popularity among guests. In 1998, people actually protested the decision to close Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride inside the Magic Kingdom.

To be sure, there are certainly plenty who are pleased with the change. The lines to meet Elsa and Anna when a new character meet and greet opens inside Epcot’s Norway pavilion will be long, and that would justify Disney’s decision to sink the Maelstrom.

But, there is a vocal group of Disney fans (also known as Worldphiles) have taken to social media sites and even the official Disney Parks Blog to share their disgust at the decision. One concern is that the World Showcase will turn into nothing more than a cheap attempt to further integrate Disney films into theme parks, if that is even possible.

A #savemaelstrom campaign on Twitter has yielded interesting comments, plenty of dismay and humorous memes, if nothing else. The Maelstrom is doomed; it has sailed its course.

A new generation will grow up never knowing the Maelstrom, just as a younger generation of Worldphiles doesn’t know Mr. Toad. Perhaps, that’s the real travesty.

So, let’s all raise our glasses and take one last shot of Aquavit in honor of Maelstrom. In 2016, we can meet at the new “Spirit of Norway” “Frozen” gift shop.

Perhaps, they’ll sell Maelstrom t-shirts. Perhaps I won’t renew my annual pass this time.

About Todd DeFeo
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.