Replacing Maelstrom: Theme park fandom, place and the Disney brand

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


There has been a great deal of academic work on theme parks and their rides, with much of this research focusing (perhaps unsurprisingly) on the various Disney theme parks. However, whilst parks such as Disneyland and Disneyworld have been discussed in terms of their ideological representations of national identities and nationhood (Fjellman, 1992; Lukas, 2007; Marling 1997; Rojek, 1993), or in relation to the cultural imperialist discourses inherent in opening parks in France or Asia (Haasen, 1998; Yoshimoto, 1994), there has been relatively little research conducted into the audiences and fans of theme parks. Koren-Kuik (2014) has recently discussed how ‘Disney encourages particiapayory fandom in its most complex and wide range form, inviting fans not only to watch movies and television shows but also play, sing, learn, and experience.’, especially through the theme park which offers ‘the consumer/fan a spatial platform which brings ‘all the narrative elements together in the experience of walking or riding through narrativized space’’ (Koren-Kuik 2014, 147). However, there remains little work on fans of theme parks, and even less on both individual rides and fans of specific attractions. As Rahn notes, ‘Disney’s films and their effect on children are frequently scrutinized, as are the theme parks themselves, but little detailed attention has been given to individual theme park attractions’ (2011:87).

This chapter attempts to address this by considering one element of theme park fandom; fan responses to the closure of favourite rides. Whilst Rahn (2011) has discussed the upgrade of Disney’s Snow White ride, little work in theme park studies, tourism, nor audience studies has explored how fans react when beloved rides are replaced. However, this chapter seeks to expand academic work on theme parks by focusing on the replacement of a ride at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT park which removed the popular Malestrom ride from the Norway pavilion in the World Showcase section of the part and replaced it with attractions based on the animated film Frozen. Considering online reactions to this move, and how fans discuss their opposition in terms of the importance of ‘classic attractions’ to the park’s history and Disney’s brand, a desire to remain ‘true to’ EPCOT’s original emphasis upon education and representing real countries in World Showcase, and their own affective attachments, this chapter considers how fans of theme park rides react when these are replaced or updated. Thus, it broadens arguments about endings and transitions in fandom and in relation to fan objects beyond the realm of texts and into the context of fan places and spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEverybody Hurts
Subtitle of host publicationTransitions, Endings, and Resurrections in Fandom
EditorsRebecca Williams
Place of PublicationIowa City
PublisherUniversity of Iowa
ISBN (Electronic)9781609385644
ISBN (Print)9781609385637
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • fandom
  • theme parks
  • place and space
  • endings
  • popular them park rides
  • closures


Dive into the research topics of 'Replacing Maelstrom: Theme park fandom, place and the Disney brand'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this