Under the Sea: More Ebbs than Flows

Despite all the “new” in New Fantasyland, I didn’t feel like it
added a whole lot to do in the Magic Kingdom. – Scott, Beers and Ears

A few weeks ago, the above quote caught my eye in Scott’s recap from New Fantasyland and his Be Our Guest restaurant experience. Even though it’s now been 6 months since my last trip to WDW and also 6 months since I’ve seen New Fantasyland for the first time, I still feel that very same way. (In fact I said something similar in my “hit or miss” recap from April of this year.)

New Fantasyland kind of reminds me of the World Showcase (which I have a huge affection for). It’s beautiful, it’s vast, and it’s a lot of fun to walk around in (especially at night), but when it comes down to it, there isn’t much to do there. Except to spend more money on eating and drinking.

Perhaps, my biggest disappointment, months and months later is the Under the Sea Adventure ride starring all of our pals from The Little Mermaid animated film.

Under the Sea Walt Disney World Front

When I was 4 years old, I had a very very emotional reaction to this movie, friends. I still remember my mom coming downstairs to me crying at the end of the movie when (spoiler alert) Ariel was waving goodbye to her dad. I feel like I tell this story a lot. Then there was the “swimming like Ariel” game in the pool. She was my girl! She was my princess!

Years and years later, my expectations were incredibly high for this attraction. It’s the first of the movies in the Disney Renaissance to have a moving vehicle ride. Many many adults my age who loved this movie want to love this attraction too. They are invested in how it’s presented. I can guarantee it. So I’m not exactly sure what went wrong but I’m going to try to figure it out.

Someone who hasn’t seen the movie wouldn’t understand the story of “Under the Sea”.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Scuttle is not the most reliable narrator. He thinks he knows but he really has no idea. It’s doubtful that Scuttle was the choice of narrator because he was scatterbrained. If that was their tactic though, kudos to them! The ride starts off with Scuttle introducing the story of Ariel and Prince Eric, and then we really don’t hear from him after that. So what’s the point? Good question.

What’s left of a series of scenes that jump from one musical scene to another without connecting the dots at all. They didn’t want to make Ursula TOO scary (even though she is terrifying in the film). We completely lose the emotional significance of Ariel leaving the sea and her entire family for love. Even the friendship between Ariel and Flounder, and Ariel and Sebastian is totally missing. (Along with some great sound bytes.)

I kind of use my dad as a lithmus test when I go on any park attraction because more than 90% of the time, he has not seen the movie. (He’s more of a park fan than a movie fan.) I can pretty much guarantee he does not get the full scope of what is going on in this story.

An easy fix? Removing Scuttle or even inserting him a few more times would help to streamline the story a ton and really improve a guest’s understanding of what is going on.

Key scenes are missing.

Setting up Ariel as a curious, non-rule follower would have been a great opening. (Scuttle could have easily said this.) Showing Triton’s disdain for the human world? That would have made this a true dark ride. It’s strange that the company who manufactured a movie that does feature some scary moments is apprehensive to showcase them in something called a DARK ride.

Prince Eric scene Under the Sea Walt Disney World

Without any of the above scenes, we don’t understand WHY it is such a big deal for Ariel to fall in love with someone like Eric and how much of a shake up it is for these two worlds. What is really at stake here?

Someone stole Ariel’s voice.

Why oh why are they not utilizing the voice talents of Jodi Benson? Ariel never speaks during the duration of this experience. How is that possible? It certainly feels stiff and less playful without her just talking.

Where is the pizzazz?

Is Under the Sea just missing that spark? Yes, I think so. With Peter Pan, you are flying through the air along with Pan and you feel part of the story. (My mission to you: go on Under the Sea and then Peter Pan’s Flight and you will see the difference in rides.) The Finding Nemo attraction in Epcot already gave us a spin on clam shells (and even that ride feels like it holds the guest at a distance) and Under the Sea’s execution is not overly creative. (If it was, perhaps all the “missing parts” wouldn’t feel so missing.)

Check out this 1 minute and 30 second review for The Little Mermaid on Blu-ray. In that small amount of time, they set up the story well and you feel something. Why couldn’t this happen for the attraction as well?

Lastly, I never want to be an adult in Disney World who gets off a ride and says “that’s just for kids; I don’t need to do that every trip.” The attraction should be accessible and worthwhile for all age groups. Isn’t that the point?

So what do you think? Was this attraction worth waiting for or is there room for improvement? I would love to hear your opinions.

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A book publicist who loves writing about Disney and books, and sometimes Disney books.

4 thoughts on “Under the Sea: More Ebbs than Flows

  1. Ursula stole Ariel’s voice, duh.

    And wow, a whole article spun off from one sentence in that massive Be Our Guest Restaurant review! I guess that makes me inspiring or something.

  2. I agree with you overall. The whole new addition is good, but not great. The Little Mermaid ride is good, but not great. My biggest gripe is that Sebastian doesn’t sound right. I miss Samuel Wright’s voice as Sebastian, because no one else sounds the same.

    There is lots of good stuff to photograph in New Fantasyland, but I was expecting just a bit more.

  3. Estelle, I couldn’t agree more. I was so disappointed with Under the Sea. I felt like there were a couple of scenes at the beginning that were promising, but then you go into that huge room and it just felt like a warehouse with spinning plastic characters. Just not magical storytelling at all. Then Ursula was such a letdown… so sad, because the queue is a huge buildup.

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