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Armchair Imagineer: The Living Seas

seas - disneyYou know it now as The Seas With Nemo and Friends, but many of us remember it as The Living Seas.

Located in Future World West, The Living Seas pavilion was slotted to open with the park on October 1, 1982. However, it finally opened on January 15, 1986. So, what happened to cause a 3+ year delay? I’m glad you asked.

Originally, the pavilion told a very different story. Your journey would begin with you being caught in a dangerous storm. When all hope seemed to be lost, who would come to rescue you? None other than the King of the Sea himself, Poseidon. After calming the tempest, the ocean god would  then invite you to explore his undersea world. You would then climb into your vehicle, in this case they were clear bubbles not sea cabs or clammobiles, and traveled over half of the pavilion. The ride would have included animatronics and the story involved everything from ship wrecks to shark attacks. Eventually, the Imagineers decided that the ride veered to far into the realm of fantasy, and they wanted to steer it back to reality.

So, exit Poseidon and enter SeaBase Alpha; a high-tech, underwater research station. The focal point was no longer the omni-mover ride, but the pavilion itself. With the kernel of this new idea planted, the Imagineers spent some more time researching (which led to the delay in the attractions opening), and here’s what they came up with:

Guests would enter the pavilion, walking through the queue line where replicas of props and posters from Captian Nemo’s trip 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (unintentionally forshadowing the pavilion’s future inhabitants). They would then watch a pre-show movie telling the story of how the oceans came to be (it rained and it rained and it rained). After the movie, guests would step into the hydrolators for a simulated trip down to the depths of the ocean (as a kid, I completely bought into this effect). There, the sea cabs would be waiting to take guests to SeaBase Alpha while giving them some great views of the sea life in their giant tank. In fact, it was the world’s largest saltwater tank (or as Disney liked to call it, “the sixith largest ocean in the world”) until the Georgia Aquarium opened in 2005.

At the sea base, guests could see and experience various demonstrations and feedings as well as other activities that helped SeaBase Alpha continue its research. Guests could learn about ocean ecosystems, resources and ocean mammals with multiple places to view the sea life. There was even a Diver Lookout Chamber in the middle of the base where a diver wold periodically drop by for a visit.

Next time we’ll talk about when Nemo and his friends took over, but for now: What memories do you have of the pavilion?

 (Photo copyright Disney.)

Chris grew up during the Disney renaissance of animation and took his first trip to Disney World when he was ten. Even though he has loved Disney his whole life, his obsession didn’t start until he began planning a trip for his honeymoon. Right now, his primary job (at least the one that doesn’t pay the bills) is to indoctrinate his daughter with his love of Disney while at the same time convincing his wife to move to Orlando so he can become a tour guide in the parks.