Happy New Year to you all. Welcome back to the history of different attractions at Disney Parks. We will continue to explore the history and development of the attractions. Today we will dive into the history of the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland in California. This attraction has an interesting history as it has almost been shut down numerous times. There is even rumors and speculation that it could be shut down for a complete overhaul of Tomorrowland. Until that happens, It will continue to just keep swimming.
When Disneyland was being designed for its opening in 1955, the original idea was for a glass-bottom ride that would feature real wildlife. Obviously the budget of the brand new park made this virtually impossible at that time. Actor Truman Woodworth once that Walt has everything in this place except a Submarine. Walt took this idea into a meeting when the Imagineers. When they brought up the idea of the glass-bottom boat Walt had said No, we are going to build a submarine and give the people the experience of going under the sea.
Head of WED Enterprises Dick Irvine was tasked with putting together a team to develop the ride. It was headed by Claud Coates and Bob Sowell to come up with the idea. Bill Martin was to create the track layout and Bob Gurr was tasked with designing the submarine vehicles themselves. Gurr reached out to the company General Dynamics Corp for help in the design. General Dynamics is the same company that designed the first nuclear submarine. Walts good friend Admiral Joe Fowler would oversee the construction of the project.
Walt had wanted Gurr to design something that looked realistic just like the submarines that were in the United States Navy. The city of Anaheim had different plans. The city would not sign off on a project that would allow being fully submerged underwater. Gurr then came up with the idea of creating it to where the guests would always be at the same depth but give the illusion of going fully underwater while actually never being submerged. Because of Admiral Fowler, the US Navy had offered to build the eight submarines for Disneyland. But Fowler realized that all the red tape and issues would make it too hard for that to happen. They then decided to go with Todds shipyard in San Pedro California.
Disney was familiar with Todds Shipyard. They had designed and built the hulls for the Mark Twain and the Columbia sailing ship. Each submarine came in at a staggering price of $81,000 for each of the eight vessels. They were 56 feet long and 6 feet wide and could hold 38 guests at a time. the vessels by a single cast member who stood in the middle and was able to look out the ports and control the speed of the vehicle. When all eight boats would be in use, it would be able to accommodate approximately 1400 guests an hour.
After the installation of 126 pneumatic figures, 180 stagnant figures and 9 million gallons of water The Submarine Voyage through liquid space opened on June 14th, 1959. It opened alongside The Matterhorn Bobsleds and the Disneyland Monorail. All three were the first E-ticket attractions at Disneyland. Walt was very pleased with his fleet of submarines and even had 10 live mermaids at the opening day event. They Disneyland submarines are the eighth largest privately-owned fleet in the world. The mermaids were an on and off fixture until the mid-1960s. They stopped using them when a few men tried to swim out to them and also the effects of chlorine on the women.
In 1962 Marc Davis spruced up the ride and added more fun characters and different additions to the show building to create more excitement. The attraction ran for decades with no changes. In 1987 it was taken down for routine refurbishment when it was decided to repaint them yellow and take them away from being nuclear war subs to instead research submarines. At this same time, the attraction was becoming less popular with guests. While still being one of the most expensive rides to maintain.
When it was time to overhaul Tomorrowland for its 1998 upgrade the company had a tough decision to make. What were they to do with the failing and expensive attraction? Disney Imagineer legend Tony Baxter had asked the company to give him a chance and let him figure out what could be done with Walt’s beloved subs. The company agreed, on September 7th, 1998 the Submarines were decommissioned until further notice. In 2003 the idea came up to reimagine the subs based on the movie Atlantis The lost Empire. but before they were very reluctant because the movie did not perform well in the box office. Instead, they decided to go with the popular Pixar film Finding Nemo.
On June 11th, 2007 The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage opened to a huge success. Even today it still has up to 2 hour waits pretty consistently. It takes you on an undersea journey to the world of Nemo and all of his friends and has many nods still left to the previous ride. Although it is still one of the most expensive rides to keep up on the park. It is always the center of rumors abiu tit being taken out for a complete overhaul all we can do now is just keep enjoying one the many attractions that Walt brought to us. Do you think it needs to be replaced for newer? And if so, what?