Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is an attraction located in the Tomorrowland area of Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, which opened on June 11, 2007. Based on the characters and settings of the 2003 Disney·Pixar film, Finding Nemo, it is a re-theming of the classic Submarine Voyage attraction that operated from 1959 to 1998.
The original Submarine Voyage was built in 1959 as part of the "new" Tomorrowland. The attraction was loosely based on the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, and its voyage to the North Pole in 1958. It closed on September 9, 1998. At the time, it was reported that the attraction would reopen with a new theme by 2003. On the attraction's final day of operation, Imagineer Tony Baxter told then-Disneyland president Paul Pressler "This is one of the worst days of my life." Baxter was one of many Imagineers who championed to bring the attraction back with a new theme. One of the first attempts to resurrect the subs was to create an attraction based on Disney's 2001 animated film Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and a mock-up was built to test the concept. However, when the film under-performed at the box office, plans for an Atlantis re-theming were shelved. The next year, an attempt was made to re-theme the attraction based on Disney's animated film Treasure Planet, but it too under-performed. In addition, a theme based on Disney's 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid was briefly considered. During this period of uncertainty, the lagoon languished as scenery. At one point, Disneyland executives considered getting rid of the submarines, feeling that they took up too much storage space. In response to this, then-Imagineering creative chief Marty Sklar hired a naval engineering firm to inspect the subs, and it was discovered that they had forty to fifty years of life left in them, thus saving the submarines from destruction.
Eventually, the special effects team at Walt Disney Imagineering developed new projection technology, and around the same time the Pixar animated film Finding Nemo was in development, which had potential for a Submarine Voyage re-theme. Matt Ouimet became the President of Disneyland Resort in 2003, and in 2004 there was new activity in the Submarine lagoon. One of the original eight submarines in the fleet was moored at the old Submarine Voyage dock for inspection by Imagineering. Rumors quickly spread over the Internet that an attraction based on Finding Nemo would replace Submarine Voyage. The submarines were tested to see if new animated show scenes would be visible from the portholes. A mock-up of the new technology was created and a presentation was staged for Ouimet. In spite of the enormous price tag, Ouimet was impressed and the Finding Nemo theme for the Submarine Voyage was given the green light. This was the first major theme park project for Bob Iger, who became CEO of The Walt Disney Company in 2005, as well as the first major project for John Lasseter (chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation, and executive producer of Finding Nemo) in his role as Principal Creative Advisor for Imagineering.
On July 15, 2005, two days before the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage was officially announced at the new Turtle Talk with Crush attraction at Disney California Adventure by then-Walt Disney Parks and Resorts President, Jay Rasulo.
For the attraction the Imagineers used more than thirty tons of recycled crushed glass to "paint" the coral and rockwork in the lagoon. Imagineers also created more than forty colors for the lagoon area such as Yamber (a cross between yam and amber), Mango Mud, Toast, Blue Feint (barely blue), Aqua Jazz, Swamp (dark green/amber), Danger Red, Burning Coal, Split Pea, Earth, Phantom and Peritwinkle.
On January 6, 2014, the attraction closed for an extended refurbishment to make improvements to the rockwork and coral. During this time the lagoon was drained. The attraction reopened on September 27, 2014 with many of the scenes and coral refreshed and repainted.
At the attraction's entrance, guests enter the institute of Nautical Exploration and Marine Observation (NEMO). Three seagulls, perched on a nearby buoy, cry out "Mine! Mine! Mine!" every few moments. Guests board one of NEMO's eight yellow research submarines and set out in search of an active underwater volcano. Through their portholes, guests view a colorful underwater environment. One of the first things guests see is Darla, the fish-killing niece of the dentist in Finding Nemo, freediving amid the coral, holding a plastic bag with fish she has captured.
As the journey continues, guests see a giant sea bass swimming through a seaweed forest. The submarines then enter the ruins of an ancient civilization, which are being explored by the dentist scuba diver P. Sherman. Among the ruins lies a gigantic tiki head, embedded in the ocean floor. The subs then enter a coral reef with many bright reflective colors. Giant clams slowly open and close as the submarines pass. The captain commands the sub to dive much deeper to avoid a surface storm ahead.
At this point the submarine travels through a waterfall and enters the hidden ride building, where guests find themselves apparently moving through underwater caverns. The captain announces that, due to advancements in marine technology, they can use "sonar hydrophones" (an homage to the original attraction), to hear the fish talk. The sub passes through a dark cavern where huge eels lunge toward the submarine, and lobsters can be seen as well. The sub passes Marlin, a clownfish, and Dory, a regal blue tang, as they discover that Nemo has gotten lost again. Farther along the reef, guests encounter Mr. Ray and his class swimming through the coral looking for Nemo as well. The first mate announces that the sub is approaching the East Australian Current, and the submarine enters the current along with Nemo, Squirt, Crush and other green sea turtles.
The sub then exits the current and enters a graveyard of sunken ships, Jacques, a cleaner shrimp can be seen nearby while Marlin and Dory continue their search for Nemo. Bruce, a great white shark, and Chum, a mako shark, swim inside a sunken submarine surrounded by World War II mines. (Anchor, a hammerhead shark is not included in the ride.) The submarine "hits" a mine, causing the mine to explode, resulting in the sub shaking and temporarily losing power. As the sub goes dark, Marlin and Dory are surrounded by small glowing lights, which turn out to be phosphorescent lights on several huge deep-sea anglerfish. After Marlin and Dory escape the creatures, they make their way through a forest of jellyfish.
The submarine reaches the active deep-sea volcano. Gill, a moorish idol, Bloat, a pufferfish, Gurgle, a royal gramma, Bubbles, a yellow tang and Squirt chant as lava flows down the volcano's sides, while Marlin and Dory finally reunite with Nemo. (Deb, a four stripe damselfish is not included in the ride.) The volcano erupts just as the sub escapes and returns to the reef. The fish gather around and celebrate finding Nemo once again. Suddenly, a pod of humpback whales appears, and one of them swallows both Dory and the submarine. Dory swims about trying to understand the whale's vocalizations. After a few moments, the whale shoots the submarine and Dory out through its blowhole. Dory then mistakes the sub for a "big yellow whale" and speaks whale; saying goodbye.
The captain tells the first mate not to enter anything that has happened in the ship's log because "nobody would believe it anyway." He then says, "We'd better take her up before we have a run-in with a sea serpent or an encounter with a mermaid" (references to the original attraction, which included mermaids and a sea serpent). Two rock formations can be seen, one shaped like a sea serpent's head, and the other shaped like a mermaid. The sub then surfaces and reenters the harbor, where a pair of king crabs snap at air bubbles coming from a sewage pipe. An instrumental version of "Beyond the Sea" plays as the submarine docks and the captain thanks the passengers for riding.
The attraction reuses the eight original 1959 Submarine Voyage thru Liquid Space attraction vehicle hulls built at the Todd Shipyards in San Pedro, California. Vertical rollers attached at each end of the keel roll within a submerged guide channel. The original diesel engines were replaced by electric battery-powered propulsion units which are charged at the loading dock by contact-less inductive coils, increasing efficiency and eliminating fuel spills. Guests board through a hatch at either end by crossing hinged loading ramps and descending spiral stairs. Twenty aft-boarding guests are seated facing the starboard side and fore-boarding guests are seated facing port. Each submarine originally seated 38 guests, but removal of the diesel engines increased seating to 40 spring-loaded fiberglass seats. Lap sitting of small children is permitted. 46 on-board flotation devices limit maximum capacity to 45 guests and one helmsman. When the boarding ramps are raised the hatches are sealed watertight (but not airtight) and mooring lines released. Although their viewports are below water level, the "submarines" do not actually submerge when "diving". Descent and submersion is simulated with bubbles that rise across the viewports when the vehicles pass through compressed air released under the hull and waterfalls. Each viewport blows fresh dehumidified air across its glass to prevent fogging. Each cabin interior has 40 viewports framed with dark blue mesh, and a wavy blue stripe painted across the ceiling. The original subs's exteriors were painted navy gray; the new livery colors are bright yellow above water, a light blue 'boot stripe' at the waterline, and a reflection-reducing matte blue-black below the waterline.
The sail of each submarine (from which the helmsman operates) has a control console and a board of indicator lights displaying the submarine's operation status if anything abnormal were to happen on the ride's cycle. Cast members on this ride are trained on how to respond to each abnormality, and are always in contact with other operating positions of the ride. Although the submarine is on a guideway, the helmsman controls its forward and backward movement via a small joystick to regulate these speeds (shown in RPMs, in lieu of the actual propeller which moves the boat) which vary in different sections of the ride. Cast members operating the submarines must guide the submarine through a series of laser sensors, each which activate a different scene for the show. Guiding timers and block-lights are placed throughout the ride to help the cast member properly time each scene. Helmsmen cast members are also able to unlock the watertight hatches via levers in the sail, which is done each time the boat arrives to dock. Each sail also carries a flashlight, opening/closing checklists for the ride's opening/closing crew, and a radio to communicate with other boats and stations in the attraction.
The queue, docks, subs and scenes were all re-themed to represent the movie's Australian harbor, and the captain and his first mate speak with Australian accents.
Marine Observation Outpost (M.O.O.) – Guests see a show on a high definition LCD screen which is similar to the underwater attraction. This alternative experience is provided to accommodate guests with conditions preventing them from boarding the subs. This "virtual" version was filmed from aboard the submarines before the attraction opened to the public, and includes a few minor features that were subsequently removed from the actual attraction.
It is wonderfully themed, with lockers on either side of a large screen HD television. The television streams a video of what passengers see while on the submarine ride. The idea is that the guests in the observation room will experience what the guest on the ride experience.