Archive for the ‘20000 Leagues Under the Sea’ Category

Theme Park Headlines – Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage Opens

June 23, 2007

Walt Disney Imagineering Combines Forces with Pixar to Create the Next Disneyland ‘E-Ticket’ Excursion, Based on the Hit Film ‘Finding Nemo’.

By Blake

Originally posted June 23, 2007.

Disneyland’s newest attraction, ‘Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage’, opened June 11, 2007 in the former spot of the classic ride ‘Submarine Voyage’ based on Disney’s film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This timeless ride opened in 1959 four years after the release of the film that inspired the ride. During its 39-year run, the subs voyaged countless guests on an expedition to the depths of the ocean to endure new and exciting discoveries. The classic attraction abruptly closed on September 9, 1998, much to fans’ disappointment.

Now, let’s backtrack to look at the history of Walt Disney World’s attraction ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage’. Due to construction issues, the ride opened October 14, 1971, two weeks after the park initially debuted. It was basically a duplicate of the Disneyland attraction, save a few minor details, and was just as popular as its predecessor version. However, on September 5, 1995, Walt Disney World “temporarily” closed the attraction, assuring fans that it would reopen in the near future. Unfortunately, that never happened, therefore September 4, 1995 was the last day the attraction would ever take guests on its exciting journey. For the next 8 years, the large space the lagoon occupied in the park’s Fantasyland area was wasted. The abandoned subs’ queue line was, for quite some time, known as the ‘Fantasyland Character Festival’ and offered character appearances several times a day with random Disney characters. Meanwhile, the lagoon was left untouched, water still occupying its space.

Around 2003 the Imagineers had wound up throwing away two dearly beloved classic Disney ‘E-Ticket’ attractions that had been adored for years by countless guests. Instead they had two submarine lagoons wasting huge chunks of space in their two most popular theme parks. Then, as if on cue, on May 30, 2003 Walt Disney Pictures released the Pixar film ‘Finding Nemo’ across theater screens worldwide. The film received immense success and went on to become the #1 animated film of all time (replacing the record previously held by Disney’s 1994 classic ‘The Lion King’) and the #1 best-selling DVD in history. The #1 animated film spot was yet again replaced by ‘Shrek 2’ in 2004.


Usually this kind of success for a Disney film calls for multiple direct-to-DVD sequels—but not in Nemo’s case. To their advantage, the Imagineers could use the popularity of ‘Nemo’ to create both small and gigantic theme park attractions. They started with a small experiment called ‘Turtle Talk with Crush.” It was, at the time, a small and overlooked attraction used to test out a new technology involving Living Character Initiative (LCI), a new technique to bring Disney characters alive and make them seem more real. In this case, guests would have the ability to talk to Crush, the sea turtle from ‘Nemo’ through the glass of his aquarium home at Epcot’s Living Seas pavilion. This was such a huge success that it later followed with a duplicate attraction at Disneyland. Since then, Imagineers have worked Nemo and friends into a Broadway-style musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a roller coaster at Disneyland Paris, and several other attractions. But those weren’t the only ways Nemo was implemented into the Disney parks.

This brings us back to the subs. The Imagineers desperately needed to come up with a new way to use the subs or abandon them altogether and create a new ride to take its spot. Obviously, the former prevailed, and in July 2005 at Disneyland, construction walls were hoisted around the sub lagoon advertising an all-new attraction that was to debut Summer 2007—Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

Soon, the entire sub lagoon was drained, demolished, rebuilt, enhanced, filled with water, drained, filled again, and added a new show building and a new fleet of submarines that guests would travel in. On June 10, 2007 a heap of celebrities walked a blue carpet through the California park to preview the new attraction. The very next day, a crowd gathered to view the official grand opening ceremony of the ride and at 12:00pm, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage officially opened to the general public—with a line stretching its way through the park.

So, what happened to the Walt Disney World subs, you ask?

Well, about two years before Disneyland demolished their lagoon, Walt Disney World (in Florida) drained and demolished its sub lagoon. But instead of rebuilding a new and improved waterway, Imagineers instead opened ‘Pooh’s Playful Spot’ on September 1, 2005. When it comes down to it, it’s a playground.

But, before we leave this article . . . I’d like to mention one last bit of trivia to you. The Imagineers didn’t completely abandon the subs while building ‘Pooh’s Playful Spot’ at WDW’s Magic Kingdom. If a small child were paying detailed attention to the play sets he was journeying through (which he probably wouldn’t), he’d notice a small carving above the entrance of the door to Pooh’s tree. What is the carving’s shape?

A submarine.

By Blake; originally posted June 23, 2007. All images (C) Disney/Pixar.
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