The Little Mermaid ride soft-opens at California Adventure

Disneyland: Have you ridden it yet? What did you think?

From Robert Niles
Posted May 27, 2011 at 2:40 PM
Disney's opened The Little Mermaid ride at Disney California Adventure for a soft-opening in advance of its official debut next week.

I haven't had the chance to ride yet, since I've been swamped covering everything else that's opening this weekend. But I'd love to hear early feedback from any readers who've had the chance to get on the new ride.

From Robert Niles
Posted May 27, 2011 at 5:14 PM
Just got this great report from Theme Park Insider reader Kim B:

I just saw on Facebook that you wanted those who have ridden Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure to send you a note so here you have it.

I loved it. My 21 month old daughter also loved it. I only rode it once (only because it broke down - we got RIGHT back in line), but I was very impressed. I went home and showed my husband a video of the ride that I found online and noticed several things that weren't working when I rode it (some of the projections, the effect of Ariel transforming into a human for one), and it still was a wonderful ride. It is a great tribute to both the Disney dark ride and the movie itself.

Most importantly, it was really fun to ride. The music was a huge part of the fun and very moving, of course. The Animatronics were fantastic - particularly Ursula and Scuttle. I loved the transition to "underwater" with the sound and the projection of the water rising onto the clamshell in front, which I thought was great use of the ride vehicles themselves (and scared my toddler, so the effect was, well, effective). One of the things I thought they did well was creating sort of a proscenium when transitioning scenes, notably going into the ride itself through the sunken ship, and the curtain of willow going into the kiss the girl scene. They included some of the beloved fish from that scene in the movie, like the bass playing the brass, etc. It all made me smile.

I only have a few nit picky things to say about it but they are all really splitting hairs. I felt the catwalk in the room of the under the sea scene was too visible - it needed to be masked better and not as lit. Some of the under the water lighting effects get lost in the brightness of the room. I wish that it would have had hanging kelp in the way the hanging willow is so brilliantly done in Splash Mountain, which would solve the problem and sell the underwater immersion a bit better in that room. The scenic painting on the mural in the load area is all great with the exception of the painting of Erik's ship, which is right by your head when you board. It just isn't as detailed as it needs to be in my opinion. It doesn't look like it was done by an artist, whereas everything else on the mural does. I thought that was weird, and an easy fix. The animation for the CG Ariel projection (swimming with flounder overhead) is a little stiff.

I think the story is clear, at least as much as it needs to be for a dark ride. This, of course is coming from someone who has known every word the movie by heart for more than half my life, and who's daughter listens to the soundtrack and reads the book every day at least twice. I guess if you weren't familiar with the story (and I don't believe there's a person on Earth who isn't), it's not exactly clear that Ariel trades her voice until you see her get it back. Then again, the transformation effect projection didn't work when I went through so I'll have to ride it again so see if that story point is addressed there. We don't see the repercussions of Ariel's making a deal with Ursula, but I don't think we need to. We don't see Snow White bite the apple and fall down either, and I think that still works. In any dark ride the story needs to be able to be summed up in a few lines, and this can be, so a story is told, regardless of prior familiarity.

The exterior is very... DCA. When I finally realized that it looks like an aquarium (which I think is a brilliant conceptual design solution) I liked it better. The building and line aren't SUPER themed, just hints of theme, which is consistent with DCA in general, and the primary thing that bothers me about that park. Most of DCA is themed within a century of modern day, and fairy tales are not. So the building does not scream "fairytale inside" like everything in Fantasyland does, but the harsh reality is that there just wasn't room for it there. The line is shaded for the most part, and feels very (new version of) Paradise Pier. There are sea shells in the pavement, and all of the hardware reflects an under the sea motif.

The ride, like the movie, is a timeless classic. It fully immersed the guest into another world which is what Disney does best, and will keep people coming back to ride it over and over for the rest of their lives.

Thanks Kim! Anyone else?

From Nick Markham
Posted May 28, 2011 at 8:25 AM
Well, I got the chance to watch the POV on YouTube, and I just have to say Disney did a great job. The ending climax was a bit rushed, but it didn't matter. A very good family dark ride.

I think it would be neat if Disney refurbished all of its dark rides in Fantasyland (Snow White, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, etc.) to have the same level of animatronics and effects as Little Mermaid. Not sure if they would due to the whole trying to hold on to history thing, but it would be awesome.

From Robert Niles
Posted May 28, 2011 at 11:22 AM
Here's the video, BTW:

From Thomas Crain
Posted May 28, 2011 at 3:09 PM
See, they had me until the end.

I mean it's the same issue I had with the virtual ride on the DVD a few years back. Everything looks great and then it just...falters.

At least the virtual ride had a decent three act structure. With this, Ursula turns Ariel human, she kisses Eric, Ursula gets mad in the distance, and Eric and Ariel get married.

But enough griping.

On the whole, looks like an outstanding dark ride. Animatronics look great (minus creepy Bride of Frankenstein Ariel in the Under the Sea sequence) and I'd go so far as to call Ursula the best looking AA in the whole of Disney right now (Get well soon, Yeti.)

From Damon Hatton
Posted May 28, 2011 at 4:29 PM
Great video! My only gripes are I wish they had put fish around Ariels hair in Under the sea so she didn't look so odd. And King Triton looks weird, also why are the sea creatures repeated at the wedding scene when they could have easily made Merpeople like in the film. The animatronics though are amazing. Couldn't help but watch it with a huge smile on my face!!

From Kurt Larson
Posted May 31, 2011 at 6:09 PM
Just rode it a few hours ago. It was a nice family dark ride. I especially liked it when our clamshell initially went 'underwater'.

From Scott B
Posted June 1, 2011 at 5:02 AM
Woah, did Disney run out of money on the ride? I just saw the video. Everything was amazing and ends. I was expecting an epic giant Ursula. Oh well, it still looks cute. My daughters will love it.

From Robert Niles
Posted June 2, 2011 at 4:34 PM
I just posted my review on the front page.

From Tim W
Posted June 2, 2011 at 7:19 PM
Here here Nick! It really would be great if they made all the fantasyland dark rides to have the advancement of this. I definitely agree about the ending

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