Over several years AmCham’s staff has been in contact with representatives from Disney when they have been in Oslo to recruit Norwegians to work in the Norway pavilion in Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort. These meetings have resulted in some broad conversations about the Norway pavilion. Some of the facilities are original to the pavilion’s opening in 1988 and there’s an opportunity for Norway to update and enhance our country’s perception and appearance to the 11 million* guests who visit Epcot annually. The government of Norway has shown little interest in updating the story of the pavilion. As some may remember, the original plan for the pavilion was for it to represent Norway, Denmark, and Sweden as a Nordic Pavilion. At that time, the government of Norway recognized the incredible opportunity to promote the country and agreed to provide funding for the project. They succeeded in securing the pavilion exclusively for the story of Norway and the pavilion opened its doors in 1988.
The Norway pavilion is one of 11 permanent country pavilions in the “World Showcase” at Epcot. The other countries represented are: France, Italy, Germany, England, China, Japan, Canada, Morocco, Mexico and the United States. The Norway pavilion is very popular with the attraction Maelstrom. Due to the large number of guests who visit Epcot each year, the Norway Pavilion is one of the largest exhibitions that Norway has abroad. In fact, many Americans and visitors from North and South America have their first ”hands-on” encounter with Norway while visiting Epcot.
After the visitors exit the attraction Maelstrom, they are led to a ”post show” area. The post show features a movie that was made for the opening in the late 1980s and accordingly shows computers, cars, fashions and hairstyles from that era. The post show area offers an excellent opportunity for Norway to lift the veil of mystery and invite Epcot visitors to explore the culture and cities of Norway. Needless to say, a lot has changed since the late 1980s and the opportunity to display these changes in an environment as vibrant and entertaining as Disney is truly exciting. Many other countries in World Showcase have updated their pavilions to accurately reflect their modern culture and landscapes. Most recently, the Canada pavilion was refurbished to highlight the rural and urban centers of this vast country. Comedian Martin Short, a Canadian, hosts the film and breaks many ”myths” and ”legends” to accurately reflect a modern Canada. The movie was shot with a special panoramic camera to give visitors a fully emersive, 360 degree experience. The funding for the upgrade was provided by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC). The CTC was extremely satisfied with the results and it has been well received by the visitors.
As an independent, non-profit membership organization working to promote Norwegian – U.S. trade relations, this is a project that fits within AmCham’s framework. Over the past six months discussions with Disney have been highly focused on the pavilion and finding solutions to better portray the story of a modern Norway. Disney is interested and willing to work with partners from both the government and private sectors in Norway to add credibility to the Norwegian story.
The process of updating the post show and creating a new film began in 2003 when a Bergen company, Bug, on its own initiative, approached Disney. They managed to get approval from Walt Disney Imagineering–the creative arm of Disney responsible for the design of all Disney Parks around the world,–to create a new movie in digital 3D. Bug had good dialogue with Disney, and was well on their way to find sponsors to support the project in 2003. However, the project stalled in 2004 due to lack of government support (time from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Innovation Norway).
AmCham met with Ministry of Trade and Industry in May of this year. The meeting went well and senior Deputy was very positive. We were promised necessary funds to enhance the pavilion. The application was submitted May 27th and after numerous reminders, we received our response November 1st. The application was rejected in its present form. The argument was that Bug’s involvement in this would be contrary to EEA rules in terms of bidding and competition. Disney has extremely high standards of quality and innovation. Attaining third-party approval from Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) is a lengthy process and there is no guarantee that any certain company would receive such approval if they apply for it. Any government funding would be a portion of the total sum of money contributed by other, private corporate sponsors.
Creating a new post show experience would take a few years. The pavilion’s 25th anniversary will be celebrated in 2013. This is a great milestone for the Norway pavilion. In its 25 years, it has welcomed hundreds of millions of guests and enchanted them with its mystery and beauty. A wonderful way to celebrate this anniversary would be to update the pavilion’s story to educate, inform, and entertain Epcot visitors with the story of modern Norway.
We are still working with Innovation Norway and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but there have been some indications that this project is not a priority for either of these government bodies. In the meeting with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, we used Expo Shanghai as an example. The total budget was 150 million NOK for an exhibition which lasted 6 months (May to October 2010) and only had 3.4 million visitors. World Showcase at Epcot however is like a stationary, permanent World Expo. There is also reason to believe that the millions of Epcot visitors have significantly more combined purchasing power and more ability to travel to Norway than the Shanghai Expo visitors.
Promotion potential is enormous. As we noted earlier, 11 million guests visited Epcot last year from all over the world. As Disney’s ”discovery park” Epcot is a very unique park that celebrates technology, science, and world cultures. It challenges guests to experience new concepts and traditions in an environment that only Disney could create. Using this platform to promote Norway, our traditions, and our businesses only makes sense. Looking at the numbers, an investment of dollars into the pavilion at Epcot would bring far more benefits for years to come than a temporary exhibition.
In addition, Disney has been extremely responsive to suggestions of new Norwegian brands and companies to include in the pavilion’s merchandise shops. AmCham continues to promote business between Norway and the United States, and is happy to say that Disney will be introducing several new Norwegian brands based on our suggestions. In spring of 2011, Moods of Norway will begin offering products in the pavilion. Other companies are currently in discussion with the Disney merchandise team.
Please contact AmCham’s Tone Nymoen (email@example.com) for further information.
*Numbers from TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) publication.
Source: Norway at Epcot
Published: December 1, 2010