When EPCOT opened in 1982 it brought us what was referred to as a “Permanent World’s Fair” dedicated to the celebration of human achievement and technological innovation. But it also brought us the World Showcase, which gives us glimpses into the cultures of 11 different countries. The Showcase originally opened with 9 countries: Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, France, United Kingdom and Canada. Two more were added years later with the Morocco opening in 1984 and Norway being the last to open in 1988. There were 3 other pavilions advertised in EPCOT Center books and other various materials, but they were never built. These were the Spain pavilion, Israel and Equatorial Africa. In this month’s newsletter we’re going to talk about the last pavilion built (and my personal favorite) Norway. When there were plans being arranged for a new pavilion in EPCOT, a group of Norwegian investors came up with the $30 million needed to fund the project. In June of 1988 Prince Harald formally opened the pavilion. The ceremony was broadcast in Norway in one of the longest live satellite transmissions the country had ever experienced. It was a dream and seemed almost too unrealistic until the group of private investors had it built. There were original plans to establish a Nordic pavilion that represented the countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark when the Norwegian company Selmer-Sande and Kloster began work on the pavilion. When negotiations with Sweden and Denmark fell through it was decided that it was going to be a 100% Norway pavilion. On May 29, 1986 Minister Kurt Mosbakk laid the foundation while architect Birger Lambertz-Nilsen was responsible for the exteriors, and Ulla S. Hjort had the responsibility for the design of the interiors. The first years of operation were good years for the pavilion. Norway was the second most popular pavilion in the World Showcase with 4.5 million visitors, but in 1992 sentiments began to change. The investors that contributed two-thirds of the entire production of the pavilion backed out due to disappointing sales and sold their entire stakes to the Disney Company. As a result the Norwegian government decided to give $200,000 each year to EPCOT in a five-year period. It was renewed for another 5 years in 1997, but in 2002 Norway decided not to renew the contract, despite recommendations from the embassy in D.C. to keep the contract. Knut Vollebaek, Norway’s ambassador to the U.S. sad “that is not to say that the Norwegian government disapproved of the pavilion. There were just some forces in Oslo that felt it wasn’t necessary to continue with the support.” He added that he is a great supporter of the Pavilion and that it was so popular with Disney guests that they decided to keep it running even without official support. When the Norway pavilion was being built, the 58,000 square feet Nordic pavilion was designed to look like a coastal village. Bergan, Oslo, Alesund and the Setesdal Valley were used as the inspiration. Being that the sea has played an important role in Norwegian history the designers felt it was important to give it a coastal look.
To Be Continued…
- Well, Look What We Have Here – Imagineer for a Day! - September 10, 2020
- Disney Rewind ~ History of the Florida Orange Bird - August 16, 2020
- Disney Graveyard: Body Wars ~ Do You Remember? - July 30, 2020