First Look: Inside ‘The Little Mermaid’ ride wherein Walt Disney World takes guests “under the sea” on an interactive journey

in Disney, Entertainment, Featured, Magic Kingdom, Movies, Special Events, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

mermaid-ursula

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.

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

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.

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

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.

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Deeper inside Prince Eric’s castle, one queue room tells the story of The Little Mermaid through text and illustrations along the ceiling:

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

(I’m sure these images are out of order below.)

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

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.

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland

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:

32 Comments

  1. OV

    I watched The Little Mermaid on video when it came out and it was ok but I never loved it and had never seen it again. Riding with Ricky in his clam doom buggy I had a hard time understanding the story. Especialy the part after Ariel got her legs, the Ursula scena, was confusing. What is happening to her and by who or how?
    I also think there is something wrong when the exterier and the line is more exiting then the ride itself. It’s like most attractions at Animal Kindom where the lines and the theming on the outside are better then the ride. Still it’s nice and I love the “going underwater” effect.

    1. Daniel

      What a disappointment…they had an opportunity to plus this ride and add the much needed scene of the giant Ursula attacking the ship, or a scene with the human Ursula seducing prince Eric. The entire ending of the film is not represented in the ride…that’s a first for a Disney dark ride! But hey maybe ill visit someday to admire the great cue.

      1. Monty

        Disney has a history of giving Florida the lesser version of an attraction. For example compare Splash Mountain, It’s a Small World, Autotopia/Speedway, Spaceranger-Spin/Astroblasters and the most obvious… Pirates of the Caribbean. Even Space Mountain, the Haunted Mansion and the Jungle Cruise are debatable (as a personal aside I like the Fl Space Mountain better). I can’t think of a Florida version of an attraction the tops the California version (Except for Tower of Terror, and thats not in the Magic Kingdom).

        Knowing all this I half-expected them the throw in cardboard cutouts of Ariel akin to the Florida version of Astroblasters. Glad they didn’t. Still have not ridden the Florida version of the Little Mermaid attraction (hopefully will this Thursday, or December if unlucky), but I believe I will prefer the east coast version because of the superior queue and added detail shown in the video. I would have preferred more Ursula… but I in no way expected it.

        1. Jake

          What on Earth are you talking about? Minus the IMPROVEMENTS, our Mermaid ride is identical to theirs?

          And there is absolutely no debate that Florida has the better Haunted Mansion. Have you never ridden ours or something? And their Buzz is pretty much the same as ours, minus the removeable cannons.

          1. Monty

            Jake,

            Insulting tone aside, thanks for the reply. Florida has a longer Haunted Mansion, but many argue though that California’s is better for many reasons. Some prefer the changing portraits before the omnimovers, some purest hate the new interactive queue at WDW, and I personally believe the exterior is superior out west. Also, Haunted Mansion Holiday sways many peoples opinion to favor California’s. Personally, I agree with you, Florida’s is better… barely, and mainly for the new hitchhiking ghost scene (and yes I’ve ridden both). However, to say there is no debate that the Florida version is superior is glib, and ignores the opinions of many.

            Ok… I may have been equally glib when I said the California version of Buzz is superior without any debate. It is only my opinion, and I was actively looking for superior version of rides in California to complete the list I gave near the beginning of my last reply. Now to give my argument, Buzz is far superior in California for three reasons. First ,the guns are much easier to aim (as you said) and (2nd) the California version has more actual animatronics instead of wood cut-outs, which improves every scene, and tells the story much better. Also (3rd) the California version was made new… hence the track and rooms (although needing to fit in the old Circle-Vison 360 building) we’re custom made for the story. WDW’s version was built upon Dreamflight/If You had Wings old track and through the same rooms the old ride(s) utilized. Which means the Imagineers plans had to fit into grater logistical and physical constraints in Florida than California, and the ride suffered (not much) because of these constraints.

            Also, I said I would prefer the FL version of The Little Mermaid because of the superior queue and added detail. I believe you would call these IMPROVEMENTS. Besides the queue and added detail (like King Tritons Castle painted on the wall and well lit before the “Under The Sea” scene”) the rides are effectively identical (except for Florida’s lack of Mr. Limpet). But that is not to say a superior queue can make a ride better… it very much can. And I believe it will in the Little Mermaids case…

            Now, to get back on topic. Many Californians think they get the weaker versions of rides, Many Floridians think they get the weaker versions of rides. As neither a Californian nor Floridian, I’ll say this; both coasts generally get different versions of the same attraction, which leaves room for debate. Obviously you, Jake, believe the Haunted Mansion is superior, and many would agree with you. Many would not. However, there are some rides in which there is no debate. The Tower of Terror is superor in Florida, Pirates of The Caribbean is superior in California… HANDS DOWN. I personally believe California has more hands-down-superior versions of rides. Especially if you compare castle park to castle park.

            So instead of expecting more Ursula (the single most impressive element of the Little Mermaid ride) I was jokingly expecting card board cut-outs. I would of loved more Ursula in Florida… but I would also love the piranhas from the Jungle Cruise in Florida, or the complete riverboat scene from Splash Mountain in Florida… but I do not expect these things, and I was trying to convey (in my last comment) that nobody should have been expecting more Ursula.

  2. Mickey

    I feel as if they had a great opportunity, and REALLY blew it on this one. (Ride Portion)

  3. Avery

    I think a lot of people are missing the point of this ride, in that it’s not a movie. It’s a ride. The story doesn’t need to flow like it does in a film, mainly because everyone who is riding this ride has most likely already seen “The Little Mermaid” at least once. Look at “Peter Pan’s Flight” or “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” or the Monsters Inc ride over at DCA. Like those rides, I view this ride as more of a tribute to the movie…One in which we can see some of the fan favorite scenes and characters. We get Under the Sea, Part of Your World, Kiss the Girl, and Poor Unfortunate Souls (and Ursula). To me, despite what some view as shortcomings and disappointments, the ride has still instantaneously become the best ride in Fantasyland, and an instant classic in the Magic Kingdom.

  4. Jessica aka chibi-5

    WOW this one has more lighting effects than the california one. if you watch the california ride and this ride side by side you will notice that the lighting in the california ride is just light hitting on the figures but in the flordia one, the light has some shadows as if the light is going threw the water causing some shadows and ripple affects. Also you get to see atlatica right before you enter under the sea, which I have to admit that I am so bummed they didnt do that for cali adventure. also I FREAKIN LOVE what the flordia one did with ursula at the end with her moving, the sound of electity and the flashing of her bones!!!

    oh and it appears that ariel has more stuff her her grotto for the flordia one but I have to say, the animatronics at cali isney are way better. I’m not sure if its just me or not but it appeared that the animatronics in flordia tended to be a bit chopy and fast where as teh cali one was soft flowing movement! all and all I LOVE IT!!! and I hope that the imagineers will add these delightful details to the ride in cali disney!!

  5. Mike

    Ricky does this have fasstpss and do u think it will become fastpass+ also ware is the place to get a fastpass if they have one? I looked and did not see? Don’t u think there be a place for that and the mine train in 2014 that they be close together like the dumbo and barnstormer in SC?

    1. Ricky Brigante

      This ride does have Fastpass, currently being distributed over by Mickey’s Philharmagic. They’re still figuring out how many Fastpasses should be given out per hour or day to keep the standby line flowing. I didn’t see any indications of Fastpass+ there.

  6. Megan

    I am wondering if you know how the preview days will work, we are in the park that week and hoping we can ride it before the grand opening to avoid huge lines.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Beginning November 19, everything will just be… open. It’s technically a “preview” but anyone in the park will be able to experience New Fantasyland. Of course, like any preview, Disney may decide they need to adjust something and temporarily close a portion of it.

  7. Jake

    There is not a single film-based Disney dark ride that doesn’t assume you’ve seen the movie it’s based on. They are all choppy disjointed experiences. Just because the others are 40 years old and “classics” and this one is brand new doesn’t change that fact. This is hands down the BEST ride in Fantasyland. If you find it to be such a failure, then don’t ride it. But don’t act like watered-down summations are something new in a Fantasyland dark ride.

    1. I find that what waters a Disney attraction down is not necessarily the narrative, but the focus of the narrative.

      Strong attractions have the guest as the focus. It’s YOUR adventure flying over Neverland, or going down the rabbit hole, or careening through the streets of London. In the Haunted Mansion the Ghost Host addresses you, in Tokyo’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea you have been enlisted by Captain Nemo, and the fact that you’re a tourist is written into the premise of Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

      Weak attractions have the characters as the focus. You’re just sitting in a cart or a boat WATCHING the adventures of Ariel or Pinocchio or Br’er Rabbit or Jack Sparrow. It’s dull because you’re only a passive observer. In my opinion, it’s a fundamental artistic betrayal of the whole theme park form: I go there to be immersed in an environment and live out my own adventures, not watch disjointed vignettes from a movie I already have on DVD.

      Personally I think this attraction would have been a million times stronger by having Ariel take us on a tour of her home beneath the waves, with the same central “Under the Sea” showstopper, and danger as Ursula threatens to steal our own voices. Basically, a sense that I’m the focus of the ride… I’m the one having an adventure alongside Ariel, much like I’m taking a flight over Neverland with Peter Pan, instead of just watching her adventure.

      1. Chaz

        Well, Corey, is there really anything stopping you from pretending you are a part of the attraction? Is there some mental block surrounding the ride area that prevents one’s imagination from letting one feel as if he or she is having an adventure of his or her own? It’s not as if we as the guests need permission from some audio-animatronic to use imagination. It’s not as if we can’t pretend we’re right beside Ariel while on the vehicle on our own. “Journey of the Little Mermaid” is a great ride and does a fine job at immersing guests in Ariel’s story.

  8. Jessica (FL)

    Very disappointed. They had the chance to make this amazing using the old 20,000 area but FAILED. Thought with Scuttles scavneger hunt we were getting something really incredible. instead we got something from 1985 imagineers instead if 2012. i will never get the 90 mins back from standing in line. the blowfish really blew and under the sea was underwhleming. be sure to bring crackers for the cheese factor. Good for the kiddos tho.

  9. Steve

    I’m an annual pass holder at both WDW and Universal; compared to the new rides Univiersal and IOA have rolled out over the last three years, this one is an epic failure. I’ll echo the sentiments of previous posters; while the queue may have some neat features, its main focus seems to be to distract you from the fact that the ride would have been considered a lame achievement for Imagineers of the 90’s, let alone now. No 3D. No holograms. Just run of the mill animatronics and some video. And don’t even get me started on the sound quality…or more accurately lack thereof. Full disclosure, my enjoyment was further limited by the lack of a ‘no flash photography’ announcement. Kind of tough to enjoy any of a ride when some jerk is firing his flash off every ten seconds. But that’s another story.
    Yes, it’s the best ride in Fantasyland. Look what you’re comparing it to. Dumbo, a kiddie coaster, and It’s a Small World. (BTW, the second the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens it loses the title.). But compared to Forbidden Journey? Or Despicable Me Minion Mayhem? Or the updated Spider-Man ride? Please. It’s schlock. Universal set the bar high when they opened Wizarding World. And Disney went under it. Way under it.

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