Ariel’s Undersea Adventure Ride at Disney’s California Adventure

James and I went to the soft opening of DCA’s newest ride Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. I had a lot of expectations after seeing preview images, and of course I’m a long-time fan of the movie. I was so excited to see Prince Eric’s castle with Ariel on the front, we rushed up and got in line.

Ariel’s Undersea Adventure – building concept – Prince Eric’s Castle (found on Wikipedia)

I kept telling James what a wonderful hubby he was, waiting in line with me to go on a kiddy ride – but it was more true than I could have ever known. As we filed through the line, the uninspired surroundings was the first clue for what was to come. I kept thinking that the mediterranean-style-gift-shop-entrance look was ok, because the ride entrances in Storyland aren’t all that great. I’m used to big, immersive ones like Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, Hollywood Tower of Terror, and the ElecTRONica experience.

I want to stress I love The Little Mermaid movie, but this ride totally missed the mark. James thought so too, and was even more bewildered than I, so it’s not just a case of I-loved-the-movie-but-the-ride-sucks-blues.

Ariel’s Treasure Trove Scene – with the statue of Eric, implying this is after she saved him. For more pictures from this series checkout

Here’s the basics:

  1. The transports are similar to the Haunted Mansion, with brightly colored clamshells (I had a pink one!) instead of booths. They felt too close together at times.
  2. The animatronics, while smooth, looked weird, rubbery and dummy-like (especially when I had to stare at Ariel blinking and singing at me for a few minutes while the ride stopped due to technical difficulties).
  3. Cool special effects – seeing Ariel playing in her treasure trove above us as we descended under the sea, Ariel’s floating plastic hair, and Ursula’s crystal ball.
  4. Not-so-cool special effects – James said he noticed wires holding the characters up.
  5. The ride’s storytelling came by way of  “hit” songs from the movie – “Part of Your World”, “Under the Sea” (the most inspired part of the ride), “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and “Kiss the Girl”.

My impression is the ride felt rushed, cramped and looked unfinished – lots of bare walls moving from exhibit to exhibit – yes, it felt like I was rolling through a museum! By contrast, The Haunted Mansion has very clever ways to fill the space between each scene with decoration, talking heads, etc. The awesome, 12 foot wide Ursula was my favorite scene, but it went by too quickly. Only a tiny projection on a small wall shows the scene when Ariel gets her voice back in the end, and a thwarted Urusla – a part that was so moving in the movie! If you hadn’t seen the movie it would make NO SENSE, and if you had seen the movie, it’s a big WTF?

I can’t help but think there were too many cooks in the kitchen on this one. It felt very safe and compromised, with no clear concept. I feel similarly about the “World of Color” show, which is basically just one big boring Disney clips show projected on water. Fantastic special effects and sound, but lacking in vision and content. Truthfully, I’ve only made it through 5 minutes of “World of Color” before turning away, so I have no idea how the fire comes into play at the end. “Fantasmic” really blows “World of Color” out of the water – it, at least, has a story line, is live action, and shows off your favorite Disney movie characters in a meaningful way.

Back to Ariel’s Undersea Adventure – I’ll go on it again, just to see if they added anything and to see other people’s reactions to it. LA Times Review coincided with my own (and better written to boot), adding some fun facts and is worth checking out! The ride’s wikipage describes a more robust experience, so I still have hope!


2 thoughts on “Ariel’s Undersea Adventure Ride at Disney’s California Adventure

  1. Well, if you look at the original concept on the Platinum Edition DVD, there was supposed to be a lot more to it. Originally the ride was supposed to go through the entire film. The reason for this is simple, at this themepark there was only so much space. So they had to cut back. And I agree with you about the animatronics, the only problem there was really was that Ariel and the fish glistened like plastic. They should have had rubber skin like Ursula did.

    But just you wait! Next year the ride is coming to the magic kingdom where it will have all the space it needs, and the whole ride will look like Prince Erik’s castle. So…keep hope.

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