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'Frozen' Success Gives Norway A Potential Tourism Boost

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

Tonight are the Oscars, of course, which will be hosted by the musician and actor Common. One film that's up for a couple of different Oscars is Disney's box-office animated hit "Frozen," which has nominations for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song. It's not only the folks at Disney who are hoping for a win tonight, there's also a country full of people who will be taking note.

Reporter Sidsel Overgaard explains.

SIDSEL OVERGAARD, BYLINE: That country is Norway, the inspiration for the landscapes of "Frozen." If you knew that, then you you've just made Per Arne Tuftin very happy. And Norway's head of tourism is already a pretty happy guy.

PER ARNE TUFTIN: So they - they took all the different places and make them into one place, and that is Arendelle.

(LAUGHTER)

OVERGAARD: Arendelle, the fictional setting of "Frozen." While loosely based on the Norwegian city of Bergen, the "Frozen" village is really a mash up of the country's art and architecture, says Tuftin.

TUFTIN: You will find the church from one of the valleys in Norway. You will find something from Trondheim. You will find something from Røros. And all that they took into one city.

OVERGAARD: Production was already well underway when Disney approached Tuftin's office about a year ago with the idea of a joint marketing campaign. The film was released in November and already it seems to be having an effect.

TUFTIN: Our website in the U.S., VisitNorway.us, has an increase in 350 percent of people visiting that site.

OVERGAARD: Travel search engines are also reporting increased interest. For example, Kayak says the number of Americans looking at flights to Norway is up by 14 percent over last year. And Tuftin says internal research is showing another change.

TUFTIN: Most of our tourists, especially from U.S., they're couples. But after this film, we've seen a growth in families with children who want to go to Norway.

OVERGAARD: Whether all this interest translates into actual visits probably won't be clear until the summer. But if Scotland's experience is any indication, the outlook is good. That country embarked on a similar partnership with Disney upon the release of "Brave" in 2012. Now tourism officials there say "Brave"-related visits are expected to bring in $200 million over the next five years.

That said, "Brave" is explicitly set in Scotland and the accents and kilts are unmistakable.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "BRAVE")

OVERGAARD: "Frozen's" connection to Norway, on the other hand, may not be quite as obvious. Yes, the film features the Northern Lights, fjords and a glimpse of some runes, but there is never any actual mention of Norway. There is one minor character with what Americans might consider a Norwegian accent

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "FROZEN")

OVERGAARD: But when I ask Tuftin how he feels being represented by this oafish trading post owner, he looks at me blankly for a second...

You know what I'm talking about?

TUFTIN: Not...

OVERGAARD: No?

...before his face lights up

TUFTIN: Yes. Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

TUFTIN: But I think that he's not only Norwegian, I think he's also - when we seeing him - we think, oh, he must be German.

(LAUGHTER)

OVERGAARD: Well, whether his accent is German or Norwegian, this character's catchphrase certainly speaks to Norway's hopes for the upcoming tourist season.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "FROZEN")

OVERGAARD: For NPR News, I'm Sidsel Overgaard. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

After taking a semester off from college to intern with Vermont Public Radio in 1999, Sidsel was hooked. She went on to work as a reporter and producer at WNYC in New York and WAMU in Washington, DC before moving to New Mexico in 2007. As KUNM’s Conservation Beat reporter, Sidsel covered news from around the state having to do with protection of our earth, air and water. She also kept up a blog, earth air waves, filled with all the bits that can’t be crammed into the local broadcast of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. When not interviewing inspiring people (or sheep), Sidsel could be found doing underdogs with her daughters at the park.