With Ariel being one of the most beloved Disney Princesses, it is no surprised that there have been several attractions and areas created specifically for The Little Mermaid throughout Walt Disney World. There’s the Voyage of the Little Mermaid, which can be found in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as the attraction and meet and greet area we are going to focus on this week. Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid and Ariel’s Grotto can be found in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom and offer guests the opportunity to really become part of Ariel’s world in ways they never could before!
When The Little Mermaid was released in 1989, it immediately became one of the most popular Disney animated films of all time. In 1992, Voyage of the Little Mermaid opened in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or as it was then called Disney-MGM Studios. This was the only full attraction dedicated to The Little Mermaid until The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure replaced Golden Dreams and opened in the Paradise Pier area of Disney’s California Adventure on June 3, 2011. The attraction was such a huge hit that it was decided to build a sister version in the Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland. The Walt Disney World version opened as Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid on December 6, 2012, and has been wowing guests ever since.
The attraction immerses guests from the moment they enter the queue and stare up into the sky at the massive structure that is Prince Eric’s castle. After being greeted by a massive sculpture of Ariel on the mast of a ship, guests are treated to one of the most extensively themed attraction queues that the Disney Company has ever produced. While passing over bridges, under waterfalls, and through caves there are many Hidden Mickeys to be found in the rockwork surrounding the queue, so be sure to always be searching! A great Hidden Mickey can be found midway through the queue only once a year and was specifically placed there by Imagineers. On November 18, each year (Mickey’s birthday!) a Hidden Mickey is formed for several minutes around noon as the Central Florida sun comes through a hole in the rockwork to form a sunny classic Hidden Mickey.
Guests then enter into a cave portion of the queue where there is an interactive game that can be played with a crafty crab. The crab wanders around the cave collecting items and guests get to help him decided whether certain items are trash or treasure. In the next portion of the queue, Scuttle introduces himself as the narrator of the attraction and begins to entertain guests by giving glimpses of Ariel’s story as well as making some pretty funny comments. Finally, along the queue is the loading area which features a massive mural depicting Ariel gazing at Prince Eric’s ship in the sunset.
After listening to the safety spiel delivered by Sebastian, guests board the Omnimover style clamshells which are very similar to the ones found at The Seas with Nemo and Friends over in the pavilion of the same name in Epcot. Scuttle then reappears to officially kick the story off, and soon, the clamshells are rotating backwards and surrounded by rising water and bubbles transporting guests under the sea. Ariel is then briefly glimpsed overhead and soon can be found right next to the clamshells singing “Part of Your World” amongst her treasures is the regal statue of Prince Eric. Be sure to look for Sebastian in this scene as he occasionally pops out of a box to watch what’s going on. The next scene is perhaps the most well-known of the attraction and features the whole orchestra of boogying sea creatures having a blast to “Under the Sea.” Sebastian can be found conducting and Ariel and Flounder are nearby dancing away. There are so many recognizable characters from the animated film as well as great details to be found in this scene.
The party atmosphere quickly ends as the clamshells round a corner into darkness and come face to face with Flotsam and Jetsam. Ursula then appears singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” as she looms over a crystal ball depicting Ariel and Prince Eric. Ursula is an amazing audio-animatronic coming in at seven and a half feet tall and twelve feet wide! She soon casts the spell to take Ariel’s voice and the clamshells pass an animated Ariel turning human and gaining her legs.
Suddenly, the clamshells angle upward and come to the surface again in the middle of the famous “Kiss the Girl” scene where Ariel and Prince Eric are too shy to kiss. Around the next bend is a quick depiction of Ursula’s dramatic defeat and an animation of Ariel getting her voice back and Prince Eric realizing that she was who he was looking for all along. The grand finale comes with a wedding scene featuring King Trident shooting off fireworks along to a wonderful reprise of “Part of Your World.” Scuttle then wraps it up with a conclusion featuring one of my favorite lines from an attraction: “Ariel got to be a pretzel…I mean, princess.”
After exiting the clamshells, guests are treated to one more detailed but very hard to find Hidden Mickey along the exit queue. While walking along the queue, turn back to the right to find a massive Hidden Steamboat Willie complete with hat and wheel. Don’t worry if you have trouble finding it, this one is so hard to spot that I had to finally cheat and Google it to figure it out!
For guests looking to continue their fun with The Little Mermaid, they can stop by next door at Ariel’s Grotto and meet the mermaid herself for pictures and autographs!
Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid is one of the most immersive attractions in Walt Disney World and one of my personal favorites. If you haven’t gotten the chance to experience it yet, be sure to stop by on your next visit to Fantasyland. Just keep in mind that the attraction is under renovation until early March 2015.
(Lead photo from the author’s personal collection. All other photos ©Disney.)
Do you love Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid? Ever experienced the Disney’s California Adventure version or found any of the Hidden Mickeys? Be sure to let me know by leaving a comment 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.