For more than 20 years, Disney fans have been waiting for a theme park attraction that captures the charm and fantasy of Ariel’s under sea world. Earlier this month, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Under Sea Adventure opened to happy guests at Disney California Adventure Park. I had the opportunity to discuss the attraction with a number of the creative minds who helped bring this attraction to life.
The attraction utizies omni-movers shaped like clam shells (just like the doom buggies inside Haunted Mansion) and guests are taken down…down…down to Ariel’s world beneath the waves. Once inside, guests are treated to iconic scenes from The Little Mermaid. Disney executives have wanted to bring Ariel’s world to life for a long time, but only in recent years was the technology available to take guests under the sea.
“We couldn’t have done Ariel several years ago because the technology to animate her wasn’t there,” said Bob Weis, Executive Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering . “If you look at the size of her throughout the ride she is very tiny so there’s a very sort of new technology that makes her become totally real and animated.”
According to Larry Nikolai, Principal Concept and Show Designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, imagineers honed their animatronics skills in developing the new and improved Mr. Lincoln that premiered at the resort last year.
“We were able to use that new (expressive face) technology used for Lincoln, so that Ariel can lip sync her words in “Part of Your World” and Ursula can lip sync as well. They can change their expressions too and that’s new.
Lisa Girolami, Director/Senior Producer for Walt Disney Imagineering, and her team worked to get every detail of the attraction right…all the way down to the smallest detail.
“Sebastian is our little guy and when we first started designing him we of course wanted him to blink and for his eyes to move around,” Lisa said. “But if you look at the size of his little head we actually couldn’t get the standard mechanics in there to get him to blink. His eyes are very large in his skull and so in order to get the blinks to happen with lids, we just didn’t have the real estate…but to have him not blink and look around was unacceptable because that is much of the life of the character. So, somebody somewhere suggested, we project them.”
Through a year’s worth of work and many, many prototypes and tests imagineers were able to deliver the four life-like Sebastians in the attraction who all feature projected, expressive eyes.
The result of the years of hard work is an enchanting “dark ride” that is just right for the entire family. Here’s what I love about Ariel’s Under Sea Adventure:
- The sound is just the right level as to not overwhelm children.
- The attraction is lively, happy, and really gives guests the feeling that they are deep beneath the surface of water.
- There are ride vehicles that can accommodate wheelchair guests without making them transfer out of their chairs.
- The attraction is cool on hot summer days.
- While Ursula has her own scene, she is not too scary or overwhelming.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a Disney princess? Check out this video with Jodi Benson on what it’s been like to voice Ariel and be a mom.