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Retro Neverworlds – The Lost Potties Of Denmark

How do you tell a Disney nerd? This is how.

So, at the Theme Park Review site, they have this swell thread about early EPCOT Center. Of course, its swellness is enhanced by the fact that it says nice things about Progress City, but I digress. The point is, this thread contains thrilling and exciting pictures of something that I’ve been diligently seeking for literally years. And I’m not joking. I nearly jumped out of my seat when I saw this – take a look at this picture from their discussion of the creepy giant characters that used to inhabit World Showcase:

Photo of World Showcase character with future Norway bathroom, 1982That’s racist.

Cute, right? But do you see it? Do you see it?! Let’s take another look:

Photo of World Showcase character with future Norway bathroom, 1982A Scandinavian giantess in World Showcase, 1982. Don’t make eye contact!

Here’s another of the big-heads, but this one seems to be of some vague Nordic origin. I guess it makes sense for her to be standing in front of Germany pavilion. Or, wait… is that Italy? Or the U.K.? Wait, where is this picture taken? Without all the trees and plants grown in – this is 1982, after all – it’s hard to tell where these pictures take place. Do you recognize it? Oh I’ll bet you do!

Norway pavilion with restrooms to the leftEPCOT’s Norway pavilion, present day. Look to the left of the picture, and prepare to have your world rocked.

Boom. It’s the Norway pavilion. Look at the picture of the little girl, and then look at the picture above. The Norway pavilion. But wait, you’re saying – the Norway pavilion opened in 1988! Willard Scott was there! And you’d be right. The building in the pictures from 1982 isn’t all of the Norway pavilion – just the bathrooms. While Norway, Gateway to Scandinavia opened in 1988, its troll-friendly bathrooms have been accommodating guests since 1982. Don’t believe me?

Detail of EPCOT map, 1983World Showcase in 1983. Between Mexico and China lie the lonely bathrooms that would eventually bloom into the Norway pavilion

As you can see on the above map, when EPCOT Center opened in 1982 there was a free-standing guest restroom between the Mexico and China showcases. This was a vestigial remnant of earlier plans, which called for an actual pavilion to be built on this spot. With the rush to finish EPCOT and the trouble lining up sponsors, these plans were delayed. In preparation for the park’s second phase, though, Disney had installed the necessary plumbing infrastructure and were able to open the restroom facilities before their pavilion could even be designed. I’ve known this for years, but never been able to find a picture. Until now!

World Showcase with Denmark pavilion bathrooms, 1982Looking towards Mexico, 1982. Note the little lonely bathroom cottage next door.

What’s really strange is that these bathrooms were not born Norwegian. They were originally intended to be part of a still-unbuilt Denmark pavilion. As late as 1983, Disney was in talks with LEGO to help fund the pavilion. During the development of EPCOT Center, at least two different sites were designated for the Denmark pavilion – one between the current France and United Kingdom pavilions, and another where the bathrooms were eventually built. In this 1979 rendering, you can see Denmark depicted where China stands today.

Walkway to Norway pavilion bathrooms, EPCOTOh Norway bathrooms, why do you taunt me with your elusive multi-national origins?

The path these bathrooms took from their Danish origins to their current Norwegian residence is long and winding. When negotiations for a single Denmark pavilion fell through, Disney pursued a deal for a Scandinavian pavilion that would cover the cultures of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Somewhere along the way we lost Denmark and Sweden, but Norway stuck around and opened their pavilion in 1988. Finally, the nomadic bathrooms of eastern World Showcase had a home.

Disney would flirt with a Denmark pavilion again in the early 1990s, but we didn’t even get a port-a-potty out of that one.

So, I win. Thanks, Theme Park Review! And let this be a lesson to the rest of you – remember to take you family vacation snapshots in front of random bathrooms. It might be important one day!

Note: The pictures of the Norway pavilion in the article come from a random internet search. If one of them belongs to you, let me know and I’ll provide appropriate credit. Thanks!

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