The Voyage of the Little Mermaid is one of my favourite attractions at Walt Disney World. I love the way that it combines film, puppetry, lasers, live action and some great theatrical techniques to bring this much-loved movie to life at the Disney-MGM Studios. It’s hugely entertaining and stands up well for a show that’s been running every day since 1992. We saw it again just last week and thoroughly enjoyed it, as ever.
But there’s one thing that niggles me. Over the years the show has gently been eroded, losing a scene here, a performer there, until now the entire attraction is quite a few minutes shorter than the version that was performed in the early ‘nineties.
It’s still a wonderful place to visit on a hot Floridian afternoon, especially for children, and the adult Disney virgin that visited with us had a ball there, but we remember when it was so much better…
The entire pre-show has been removed, where a nautical cast member would point out some of the maritime delights suspended around the waiting area. They would finally explain how, legend had it, that the trident suspended above the doors to the main theatre actually belonged to King Triton himself. But of course, that was just legend, wasn’t it? At this point the trident would begin to glow and hum with a magical power as the doors opened, pointing the way to the show.
Another section featuring King Triton has also been removed. After Ariel’s first song, a laser projection of the undersea monarch would instruct Sebastian to look after her, and the crab would be seen in puppet form sitting on a rock ledge to the right of the stage. This quite lengthy scene moved the story along nicely, and the entire show seems a little disjointed due to its deletion.
Smaller, but for me almost as significant is the scene where Ariel gives up her voice to Ursula in return for a chance to fall in love. The little mermaid sings beautifully as Ursula urges her on. A series of disembodied arms carried her voice across the stage to the sea witch, but this lovely artistic embellishment has also been removed, simplifying a wonderfully touching scene.
The average park visitor wouldn’t notice these cuts. Neither would they notice Aerosmith asking if “Chris” would bring a guitar onto the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in that ride’s pre-show movie. A cast member playing a studio engineer would answer and take a black Gibson Les Paul offstage to give to the band, but this hasn’t happened for years, the recording studio that waiting guests view is lifeless now.
And most Animal Kingdom visitors will just sit back and enjoy Harambe’s Kilimanjaro Safari, not caring that the animatronic elephant “Little Red” no longer has a uniformed armed guard (in truth another cast member actor) watching over her as she sits in the back of her truck after being rescued from the poachers.
I’m sure that many of you will be able to email me with further examples of cutbacks on the theme park attractions. If I receive enough, maybe I’ll use them as the basis for a follow up article.
And the thing is that it doesn’t really matter. The rides and attractions work perfectly well without these missing sequences. Most people won’t even know what they’re missing.
But we notice, we miss them, we care.
Does that say more about us or the Walt Disney Company?
Disney, theme parks, Walt Disney, Disneyland, Walt Disney World
List Price: $ 18.99