I have to start off this post with a confession: until November 2012, I had never seen this show! Everyone who found this out groaned at me and told me I was missing out on one of the best live entertainment shows at Walt Disney World, and geez were they right! I can’t believe I waited so long to finally see Finding Nemo the Musical but once I did I was hooked.
Located within the Animal Kingdom in Dinoland (despite being situated seemingly closer to Expedition Everest in Asia rather than the Dinoland attractions) Finding Nemo the Musical is housed in the Theater into the Wild, a massive and immersive theater which really shines while showcasing the world of Finding Nemo. The theater originally featured the show Journey into the Jungle Book from 1998-1999 and then Tarzan Rocks from 1999-2006. At the grand opening of Expedition Everest, the musical was announced and the theater went under a renovation to become home to a new musical. Officially opening on January 24, 2007, Finding Nemo the Musical has played five forty minute shows every day since and it definitely a must see in the Animal Kingdom.
If you want to snag an up-close seat, be sure to arrive to the theater at least a half hour early. But don’t worry if you can’t make it there with so much extra time- every seat in the house offers great views. In addition, don’t be intimidated by a large line waiting to enter the theater before each show, the inside is huge and seats hundreds. Once you are seated and waiting for the show to begin, be sure to look all around you at the amazing set and interactive screens placed in bubbles surrounding the stage. If you inspect those bubbles enough, you may even find a Hidden Mickey! Shortly before the show begins, Nemo himself begins to appear at random in those bubbles allowing guests in the audience to…well…find Nemo. It’s a great way to help pass the time as you wait for the show to begin.
Once the musical starts, it becomes quickly apparent that this is no ordinary musical. It is larger than life in many ways and features not only amazing actors, but amazing puppeteers as well. Each actor is paired with a character portrayed with a puppet. The actor then delivers their own personal performance as well as controls the puppet to appear as though they are truly alive. This multi-dimensional approach adds so much to the show, and I love being able to see how the actors can so closely mirror the characters that are literally swimming just above their heads. Make sure you notice how the puppets also never remain still; they are constantly being moved to look as though they are swimming in place or drifting with the tides. Some of the puppets are manned by one actor, whereas others are so large it takes a team to operate them. While Nigel the pelican is by far the largest character in the show (he almost reaches the ceiling!), my favorite character is Crush who is so large that an actor can comfortably perch on his back and look very small doing so.
In addition to the actors and puppets, there are beautiful props as well as animated backgrounds giving the entire theater an additional level of depth and convincing you that you have entered the sea and are swimming right there alongside your favorite characters. There are also fourteen original songs that were written just for Finding Nemo the Musical. Some of my favorite songs are “Just Keep Swimming,” “Go with the Flow” which is performed impeccably by Crush, and “Big Blue World” which can also be heard over in the Living Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot on the attraction bearing the same name.
At the end of this musical, I guarantee that when the lights come back on, you will look around and realize that you were so immersed in the show that you had completely forgotten you were in a theater and not underwater. Be sure to stick around for a few minutes after the finale not only to let the crowds dissipate a little, but also to take in a great little addition. Within those same bubbles where Nemo was swimming earlier will appear my favorite part of the entire Finding Nemo world- the seagulls. Belting out “mine, mine mine!” they provide one last great laugh to guests as they exit out of the theater.
From the amazing music, acting, and puppets to the immersive environment within the theater, I can’t believe that it took me so long to finally see Finding Nemo the Musical. It quickly has become one of my favorite things to see throughout Walt Disney World and I often find myself singing “Big Blue World” in my head. One thing is for sure, if you are in Animal Kingdom you have to go see the show!
Do you love Finding Nemo the Musical? What is your favorite scene from the show? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!
Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.