Weekend theme park news round-up: Subs, Doc Brown to close

December 15, 2013, 9:29 PM · The new year will bring at least a couple of closures at major theme parks.

Disneyland has announced that the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage will close on January 6, 2014 for an "extended refurbishment."


Fans have speculated that the Nemo refurbishment will become a permanent closure, as happened with Tomorrowland neighbor Rocket Rods a decade ago. But Disney's PR reps are insisting that the attraction is scheduled to reopen in late 2014. The subs are the largest attraction in Disneyland, with a massive show building that extends under the Autopia course. Yet the attraction offers a relatively low hourly capacity for putting through riders, making it one of the more expensive attractions in the park to operate, on a cost-per-guest served basis. That, and the attraction's location in Tomorrowland, have made it a focus of speculation that Disney will choose to replace it with the new Star Wars attractions that Disney's considering for Anaheim.

Over at Universal Studios Hollywood, Inside Universal reports that Doc Brown's Chicken restaurant will close in January, as well. With The Simpsons Ride taking over the old Back to the Future ride several years ago, it makes sense that Universal would make the theme switch with the neighboring restaurant, as well. The Simpsons-themed Fast Food Boulevard's been a huge hit at Universal Studios Florida. Hollywood will be getting Butterbeer as the park is remaking its entire upper lot to bring in its version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Will Doc Brown's closing clear the way for Hollywood to get Krusty Burgers, as well?

Universal Studios Japan also is building a Wizarding World, and the Osaka theme park soon will have a bundle of fresh cash to spend on that, and other projects. A Hong Kong-based private equity firms has invested US$250 million in the privately-held theme park.

Replies (11)

December 15, 2013 at 9:50 PM · I hope they don't get rid of the subs. That's as close as we've got to 20,000 leagues under the sea. (I know, it's not even close to that, but still.)
December 15, 2013 at 10:12 PM · No-one's gonna defend Doc Brown's Chicken? I will.

I don't want it to close. :<

December 15, 2013 at 10:25 PM · For the record, I don't think Disney's lying about the subs. I believe that the intent is to refurb them and bring them back. But I also suspect that if anything goes wrong to inflate the costs of that planned rehab, or Star Wars plans develop to the point where they need that space earlier than planned, that Disney could change its plan for the subs and just leave them closed.

Once we see the water going back into the lagoon, you can assume that the subs are safe. But until then, I do think there's a risk. That attraction is such a notorious money-eater that some people in the company will look for any excuse to close it.

December 16, 2013 at 3:59 AM · Disney needs to play the Submarines rehab very carefully. They've announced specific work to be done, but there are a lot of us that remember the Rocket Rods "refurbishment," as well as the planned (rumored) "refurbishment" of Captain EO a few months ago.

If it turns out that the Submarines don't sail again after this closure, Disney won't have any credibility left when it comes to refurbishment announcements. I really hope they do come back (and if they came back without Nemo, even better -- but I'd rather have them with Nemo than not at all), but every time I see the old PeopleMover/Rocket Rods track still sitting there empty and unused 13 years after the Rocket Rods closed for "refurbishment," it makes me worry about the lagoon sitting full of water but unused again, just like the last nine year run without an attraction in that location.

December 16, 2013 at 8:12 AM · Doc Brown's is the only food spot in USH where you get the most bang for your buck! Everything else is just too over-priced for what you're getting. Looks like I'll be visiting that park even less now as I have no desire to eat their dry burgers or a generic Dodger Dog or even Panda Express. Bleh.

I hate to say it, but I don't really mind if the Subs actually go away. The Finding Nemo theme is ok, but nothing great. I just hope they don't pave over the pond. There needs to be a better way to use that spot. And the Subs themselves may be the actual issue in my book. Looking through a tiny porthole is kind of boring.

December 16, 2013 at 8:34 AM · I don't mind them closing Doc Brown's Chicken as long as if they offer fried chicken at another restaurant.
December 16, 2013 at 9:55 AM · Robert, do you have any thoughts on the reported demolition of the old unused Disneyland Fantasyland Skyway station ("chalet") after the holidays?

Is it sad that Disney hasn't found some other use for the building, in spite of ADA restrictions, or is the building an eyesore and reminder of a long-closed attraction that should be demolished?

December 16, 2013 at 10:35 AM · I miss the subs in the Florida location. It was one of the more unique theme park attractions.
December 16, 2013 at 2:37 PM · I agree with Anon regard Doc Brown. I think if they keep the fried chicken menu (or at least the fried chicken itself) & simply add it too whatever the new (most likely) Simpsons themed eatery is, I'd be happy. And like the Simpsons ride, maybe small Easter egg that connects it to Doc's.

In terms of the submarine.....I'm fine either way. While I'm sure there are groups that love it (as with any older attraction) If a new state of the art attraction opened in that space, I can't see too many people complaining.

December 16, 2013 at 5:53 PM · Jay R said "If a new state of the art attraction opened in that space, I can't see too many people complaining"

Maybe you won't see them, but you'll certainly read and hear them!

December 17, 2013 at 7:05 PM · I read something interesting about the Florida subs years ago on another site. I don't remember when this was, but execs at TDO wanted the subs gone from MK because they ate up too much of the maintenance budget. And the story goes that one day when the Disney CEO at the time (can't remember who it was, maybe Eisner?) came for a rare visit there was a "special sub" timed in the rotation just for him to ride when it came time to ride the subs ride. And the execs made sure he had a sub that had standing water in it and a funky, mildewy smell. And they made sure he got a rough ride that was hellish.

And the CEO left deciding that the subs should be closed. Someone correct my memory if I am wrong because I want to be accurate but this is how I remember the article about this.

It made me think that if not for Finding Nemo and the merchandise that brings in for Disney that the subs would have been closed in California soon after that too. The Consumer Products division saved the subs in my opinion because they wanted that conversion to the Nemo characters to sell more Nemo stuff to kiddies.

I think what's going to end up ultimately happening is this:

* subs get ripped out of Disneyland if Consumer Products thinks Star Wars merchandise sales will benefit from closing the subs and having that space repurposed for Star Wars

* a new Nemo ride gets built in DCA, near the Little Mermaid ride, on Paradise Pier.

This way, Consumer Products gets to drive Nemo merchandise across the esplanade AND they get the big Star Wars merchandise point of sale at Disneyland.

Just my take on what I think will ultimately happen, but it won't be an overnight thing. I bet that the Florida "stinky sub" trick will be used again though.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive