First opened at the Disneyland Resort in June 2011, “The Little Mermaid” now finds a second home as a new Magic Kingdom dark ride called Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid. Today Walt Disney World soft opened the new attraction for the first time, along with the majority of New Fantasyland. Though the ride itself is mostly the same as its California counterpart, the approach and surrounding area add a whole new level of detail and theming into this highly-anticipated attraction.
Sitting atop the site once home to the beloved 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride, Journey of the Little Mermaid offers an entirely different type of undersea adventure for theme park guests. Rather than descending into a real lagoon in a submarine, guests now embark on a dry journey “under the sea” through special effects, winding up face-to-face with Ariel, Sebastian, Flounder, and that diabolical villain Ursula, brought to life on a massive scale as an impressively believable Audio-Animatronics figure. Guests glide through familiar scenes while hearing memorable songs from the 1989 animated film, all while riding slow-moving clamshell vehicles.
Video: Full ride and queue of Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid in New Fantasyland
(The ride portion of this video features binaural audio, so wear headphones for the best experience!)
Video: A closer look at Scuttle’s Scavenger Hunt, the interactive queue in The Little Mermaid ride
The journey begins outside in front of Prince Eric’s castle, carefully created atop a rocky terrain, marked by a shipwreck that features the ride’s entrance sign and a figurehead with Ariel’s likeness. The scale and level of detail of this area is staggering, a must-have photo opportunity for all visitors.
The ride’s queue takes guests on a winding path across waterways and through caverns, with Scuttle’s Scavenger Hunt offered for those who want to stay entertained while waiting. Small animated blue crabs help Ariel hoard whosits and whatzits galore for her collection and guests can point to items as the crabs bring them out to help decide if they belong with the rest of the thingamabobs.
The interactive portion ends in a winding room featuring an Audio-Animatronics version of Scuttle, who talks to guests and presents a variety of items the crabs have collected.
Deeper inside Prince Eric’s castle, one queue room tells the story of The Little Mermaid through text and illustrations along the ceiling:
(I’m sure these images are out of order below.)
All of the above is entirely unique to the Magic Kingdom, created by Imagineers exclusively for Walt Disney World. But from the loading area to the finale scene, Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid mirrors the ride that’s been open in the Disney California Adventure theme park for more than a year. Tweaks recently made to that attraction have been duplicated in Florida, leaving both versions essentially identical, and entirely enjoyable. A few minor changes have been made, including an enhanced “ending” for Ursula with some small added visual effects. There’s also no “Mr. Limpett” fish, as was tucked away in the California version of the ride. But it’s largely the same attraction once inside a clamshell vehicle.
There’s no doubt this new attraction will be the Magic Kingdom’s newest crowd pleaser and is sure to draw long lines of excited fans eager to see Walt Disney World’s first dark ride devoted to “The Little Mermaid.” Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid will officially debut with (most of) the rest of New Fantasyland on December 6. Select previews will be offered between now and that date, with a constant preview phase for all park guests beginning November 19 and continuing through the grand opening.
More photos from Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid: