Every time I visit Walt Disney World, there is a new experience awaiting me. Whether it’s something that has been around for ages, but I never found the time to check out, or something brand new that’s just begging to be seen and done, Disney always manages to keep things fresh and exciting.
During my most recent visit to Disney World, I was finally able to go “sea” Finding Nemo the Musical (I apologize for any puns I make throughout this post, including this one; just go with it). Before entering the “Theater in the Wild” of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in which the splashing spectacle took place, I hadn’t given the show much thought other than my usual excitement in anticipation of the always well-done abridged versions of Disney stories. I really had no idea just how special this show could be.
As I passed through the main entrance of the theater, a wave of new-found enthusiasm rushed through me. The space was larger than I imagined, but the stage, of course, was what called my attention immediately. I slowly soaked in all of the magnificent details of the set as I allowed the blue lights and playfully adventurous music to wash over me. There were bubble structures scattered all across the scene, mounted on the frame of the stage. The most impressive and captivating aspect of this preset, however, was happening within the bubbles, all around the walls, and across the stage: yes, animation. Are you even a little bit surprised? It was subtle, not at all flashy or “in your face.” Every now and then, projections of ripples would flow against the walls on the stage, and Nemo, himself, could be spotted, swimming from bubble to bubble, enthralling his audience before the show even began. It was the perfect touch and seems to be a great up-and-coming tool for set design.
After being mindlessly entertained by the little virtual movements looping for a few minutes, the lights went down, and the forty minutes that followed, confirmed my initial impression that this show would be unlike any I’d ever seen. Despite the fact that it closely followed the film from which it was derived, there were still plenty of new and unique aspects that managed to wow not only the children in the audience, but also the adults. I’m pretty sure my jaw was hanging open throughout the whole of the show, solely from how beautifully the costumes and character design were done. It was presumably a major challenge to capture and display the fluid movement of sea creatures, especially those that have been given life and personality through animation. This task requires not only a masterful method of portraying motion based on animals, but also the incorporation of emotion and expression of the characters. To do this, large puppets that are almost exact models of the characters from the movie were crafted. Some were hand-held (although still quite big) while others involved the teamwork of multiple people. The choreography was also key in re-animating these characters and scenes to ensure that everything went swimmingly (okay, that was pushing it…). The actors wove in and out of scenes so effortlessly that it gave the illusion that the entire auditorium really was under water.
The result was a phenomenal rendition of a now well-known tale that needed some new love, and certainly earned it from me after I saw it. As I have gotten older, I started to appreciate even the smallest of details behind works of art, no matter the form, which only adds to the magic and enjoyment, and it was nice to see familiar faces come to life in a new way!
If you want to read more about Finding Nemo the Musical, check out Caitlin Corsello’s WDW Radio blog post, “Disney from the Twenty Something: Finding Nemo the Musical”!
(Photo © Disney.)
What’s your favorite show to see in the Disney Parks? Which animated Disney film would you want to see brought to life on the stage? Thoughts about Finding Nemo? Let me know in the comments!
Alyssa Schulman is currently a student at Rhode Island School of Design. She was born in Florida but moved to Massachusetts at age 10. Alyssa’s heart has belonged to Walt Disney World for as long as she can remember, but something very high up on her bucket list is to visit all other Disney locations. She intends to pursue illustration in the hopes of being even half as inspirational, or at least entertaining, as Disney Animation continues to be to her.