The Seas with Nemo and Friends opened at Epcot in 1986 as the Living Seas Pavilion. The original version of this Walt Disney World attraction took guests to the depths of the ocean via hydrolators to an underwater research facility known as SeaBase Alpha. Up until 2005, the pavilion featured the world’s largest saltwater tank, home to 3,000 oceanic creatures representing 200 species. Between 2003 and 2007, the pavilion began to transform to the Seas with Nemo and Friends as the Imagineers added Turtle Talk with Crush, replace the original seacab omnimover ride with an updated Finding Nemo experience, and replace the hydrolators and preshow with an expanded queue and ride experience.
In this podcast episode, we discuss the history of The Living Seas Pavilion, including early concepts and its ultimate transformation to today’s attraction experience.
Special thanks to Martin Smith for lending audio recordings to this episode. Be sure to check out Martin’s full Living Seas video and subscribe to his YouTube channel.
What is your favorite memory of The Living Seas or The Seas with Nemo and Friends?
[Intro music plays Matt in and continues to play under him]
Matt: Hello and welcome to the Imagineer Podcast, your unofficial guide to all things Disney. I’m your host Matthew Krul, and you’re listening to episode 131 of the Imagineer Podcast. In today’s episode we’re going to head over to Epcot at Walt Disney World and talk about The Seas with Nemo and Friends which was formerly called The Living Seas. This pavilion has been a part of Future World since 1986, a few years after Epcot opened its doors and we’ll chat a bit today about the history of this pavilion including some original concepts that were developed for The Living Seas pavilion and why it was ultimately delayed from an 1982 opening to 1986, chat about the history of this pavilion, how it came to ultimately be The Living Seas and how overtime it evolved to eventually become The Seas with Nemo and Friends this episode also includes some binaural audio experiences including a listen back to the original Living Seas pavilion for those who might remember this attraction, or perhaps didn’t get the chance to experience it, as well as a binaural audio recording uptodate of the Seas with Nemo and Friends. Before we dive into the episode I do want to give a special thanks to our sponsor, WDW Magazine, the premier magazine focused on Walt Disney World you can learn more and subscribe to their print and digital editions by clicking on the links in the show notes or finding the link over at ImagineerPodcast.com at the end of the show I’ll come back and tell you a little bit more about how you can connect with the Imaginer Podcast on all your favorite social media channels and how you can help to inspire and create the future of this show. So grab some headphones, pull up your favorite armchair, and enjoy this episode of the Imagineer Podcast.
[Music fades out]
Matt: In the early days of Epcot, Future World was split into three distinct areas: Future World East, Future World West, and Future World Central. According to the The Imagineering Field Guide to Epcot, written by the Imagineers in 2006, Future World East placed its focus on natural sciences and industrial technology, including such pavilions as the Universe of Energy (now the home of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind), Wonders of Life (soon to become the Epcot Play! Pavilion), Horizons (which is now home to Mission: SPACE), and World of Motion (now the home of Test Track). Future World Central, the core of this area, focused on communication and modern inventions, producing such pavilions as Spaceship Earth and the now defunct Communicore pavilion, which was later called Innoventions. Meanwhile, Future World West, the home of the Imagination Pavilion, The Land Pavilion, and the Living Seas Pavilion (which is now called The Seas with Nemo and Friends), focused on the natural environment and the realm of creativity. Tying it all together, the original version of Future World was designed like the human brain: Future World East, the industrial side, acted much like the left brain, as it was designed with an analytical, logical, math-oriented focus; Future World West, the natural environment side, acted much like the right brain, as it was designed with a creative, emotional, artistic focus; and Future World Central, the core, acted as the unifying area that brought the two sides together, showcasing how communication and technology, with a bit of imagination could help create the future. The retheme of Future World, which transformed Future World East into World Discovery, Future World West into World Nature, and Future World Central into World Celebration, follows a similar spirit of design and embodies the current pavilions in the same kind of way.
One of the pavilions mentioned, which is now a part of World Nature, is The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Formerly known as The Living Seas, this marine-focused attraction feels like it has been a part of Epcot forever, but new Disney fans might be surprised to learn that the pavilion was not an opening day experience. Although it was intended to open with this part of the park on October 1, 1982, concept changes delayed the pavilion’s construction and opening. As a result, construction did not begin until 1983. Three years later, on January 15, 1986, the pavilion opened to the public with a dedication ceremony hosted by Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Disney President Frank Wells, and Harry Gray, the Director of the Board for the pavilion’s sponsor, United Technologies.
For the first 20 years of its existence, the pavilion was called The Living Seas. While it inevitably became a scientific-, future-focused pavilion, the Imagineers had originally intended for the pavilion to include a bit more history and mythology. In fact, early promotional footage for Epcot dating back to 1978 described how the Living Seas pavilion would include a thrilling journey where guests would set sail with some of history’s greatest explorers, experiencing moments of peril and triumph along the way. The pavilion would also include a dark ride attraction where guests would join Poseidon to the depths of the ocean, exploring the continental shelf and great barrier reef. The latter attraction would exit at SeaBase Alpha, an underwater, bubble-like facility where guests could view live marine life and dine at an underwater restaurant.
To learn more, here’s a brief clip from 1978 promotional content for Epcot. This clip, and a few additional pieces of audio you’ll hear in this episode, are provided courtesy of Martin Smith, who has some absolutely incredible videos about Disney history up on YouTube. In fact, I’ve been watching his videos for over a decade now, so I’ll be sure to include a link to his YouTube page and his Living Seas video in the show notes. For now, let’s step back in time to hear what was played in this old promotional footage.
[Clip begins with music playing under audio throughout]
Announcer voice: A pavilion of the Seas, here guests sail through moments of peril and triumph with the great explorers who charted the seas for civilization. In another adventure Poseidon the Sea Lord will challenge visitors to journey through the ocean depths, from the continental shelf to the great coral reef. Finally arriving at SeaBase Alpha, an authentic ocean environment, with live marine life, an undersea restaurant, and a showcase of oceanographic exhibits and displays.
Around the time that Epcot was in its final development, the Imagineers made the decision to modify The Living Seas pavilion. With Future World’s design taking shape, the team shifted from a blend of mythology, history, and science fiction to a blend of research and education, while still maintaining a bit of science fiction.
In its new design and new location in Future World, the Living Seas would transport guests to an underwater research facility, keeping the name SeaBase Alpha. The journey to this facility would begin inside the pavilion. Guests would walk through a queue that switched back and forth around past and present oceanic equipment. For those who have never experienced the queue, it actually reminded me a bit of Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris, taking a historic look at the future. At the end of the switchbacks, guests would enter a preshow loading area similar to the one found at the Universe of Energy. In this loading area, guests would watch a brief montage introducing them to the experience. And in the same spirit as the original concept for the attraction, a narrator explained the history of humanity’s relationship with the ocean, discussing the achievements of explorers from the past, our quest for greater knowledge, and technology that has emerged as a result of deep sea exploration.
At the conclusion of the montage, guests would load into one of two preshow theaters, each accommodating about 100 people. This 7-minute preshow, appropriately named “The Sea”, provided an educational overview of the Earth’s oceans, discussing how the seas were formed over billions of years and giving viewers a small taste of how little we truly know about this part of our planet. The film itself was directed by Imagineer Paul Gerber, who played a large role in Epcot’s development. In fact, Paul not only directed The Sea but also Symbiosis, which was the original film shown at The Land Pavilion (which is now in the same theater that shows Awesome Planet), and the original Norway film that played in the Maelstrom post-show in World Showcase. In addition, The Sea’s narration was recorded by Hope Alexander-Willis, who not only lent her voice to this attraction but also later played Lady Caroline in the 2001 Disney film, The Princess Diaries.
In the final moments of the film, the story shifted from the history of the ocean to a brief introduction to SeaBase Alpha, inviting guests to journey to the bottom of the ocean to this deep sea facility. At the end of the preshow, a new set of doors would open to lead guests to one of three hydrolators, a portmanteau combining the prefix hydro (meaning water) and the word elevator. In other words, a hydrolator not surprisingly is just a water elevator. While the technology involved was incredibly simple, the Imagineers created a very realistic illusion that guests were descending hundreds of feet to an underwater facility. Inside each hydrolater were two sets of doors, one where guests would enter and another on the opposite side where guests would exit. On the other walls of the hydrolator were glass windows revealing a rock shaft filled with water. After the doors closed, the lights would dim, the floor would drop about an inch rather suddenly and begin to shake, and the rock walls would move upward along a rotating conveyor belt to give the illusion of descent. The shaking floor gave guests the impression that the hydrolator was pushing against extreme water pressure, which created bubbles along the rock wall. Meanwhile, the rock wall acted a bit like The Haunted Mansion stretching room, providing the illusion that guests were moving downward. At the end of the experience, the floor would rise back about an inch, pressurization sound effects would engage, and the exit doors would open to reveal SeaBase Alpha. In reality, guests merely walked into a room and walked out the other side about a minute later, but as a kid, I can tell you that I was 100% convinced that I just descended hundreds of feet to the bottom of the ocean, even though I had just walked into the pavilion and I knew it didn’t make any sense, I was so convinced that that was what took place. The hydrolators were an integral part of the experience. Although they’re no longer a part of the attraction today, you can find a tribute to this extinct experience over at Space 220, where guests board a Stellavator and experience an updated digital version of this technology as they ascend to a space station 220 miles above Mission: SPACE. You can also find a similar version at Disney’s first-ever immersive storytelling resort experience, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which has an arrival and departure experience that makes it seem like guests have been beamed up to and beamed back down from the Halcyon.
Upon exiting the hydrolators, guests would find themselves inside SeaBase Alpha. At this point, each family would have one of two choices: board an omnimover attraction, or head straight to The Living Seas exhibits. Those who chose the former option boarded a seacab, which some might remember looked a bit like the Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin XP-37 rockets without all the Buzz Lightyear theming (and of course without the blasters). Surprisingly, this omnimover experience was incredibly short, much shorter than today’s attraction experience. In fact, the omnimover only moved guests about 400 feet, moving along two perpendicular glass tunnels through the aquarium before dropping guests off in the heart of SeaBase Alpha, this same exit point found on today’s omnimover experience is the one where guests would also be dropped off on the seacab experience. Other than providing a relaxing view of marine life, the seacabs were less like a ride and more like a short mode of transportation, as the entire experience lasted just about 3 minutes. Nevertheless, the omnimover seacab ride helped to add to the attraction’s overall guest capacity: between the preshows, hydrolaters, and seacabs, the Living Seas could accommodate nearly 2,500 guests per hour.
When guests exited the seacabs, or bypassed the experience via a short walkway, they would find themselves immersed in the same pavilion you can experience today, two floors of marine life exhibits where guests could learn more about the ocean and its inhabitants. In terms of story, SeaBase Alpha was composed of six separate exhibits, each one referred to as a module. These six modules included ocean systems, earth systems, marine mammals underwater viewing, undersea exploration, ocean resources, and marine mammal surface level viewing. The pavilion also included a central observation deck in the middle of the pavilion’s largest tank.
Speaking of exhibits, the Living Seas is home to over 3,000 sea creatures representing 200 different species, including sharks, rays, dolphins, sea turtles, angelfish, seahorses, manatees and many more. Up until 2005, the Living Seas also featured the largest saltwater tank in the world, with the main tank extending nearly 50 feet high and 200 feet in diameter, holding 5.7 million gallons of saltwater.
After exploring the exhibits, guests wishing to exit the pavilion would head back to the surface through one of three more hydrolators, which were placed in the same location as the exit of today’s pavilion experience. Much like the descending hydrolators, guests would step inside and experience the same process in reverse, seeing the rock walls descend and feeling the floor shake to provide the impression that they were resurfacing back to sea level. When the doors opened, guests would find themselves back in Future World ready to head to the next attraction.
Before we head back to relive this extinct version of the Living Seas, I also want to briefly mention the music. The main Living Seas theme was composed by Imagineer George Wilkins, whom I interviewed back in Imagineer Podcast Episode 86. George not only developed the Living Seas theme but also the main theme to Horizons, the songs played by Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe at the Magic Kingdom, and countless additional music loops and songs at Disney Parks around the world. Meanwhile, Imagineer Russell Brower, whom I interviewed in Imagineer Podcast Episode 80, was George Wilkins’ protégé and extended the main Living Seas theme into an hour-long area music loop. Russell went on to develop countless music loops across Disney Parks and in his post-Disney career went on to win three Emmy awards. The music this pair created for the Living Seas pavilion perfectly encapsulated the vibe of the experience, and it’s one that I fondly remember.
At this point, I’d love to take a step back in time and relive the Living Seas. This audio experience is courtesy of Martin Smith, whom I’d like to thank not just for providing us with this audio but also for his amazing work documenting Disney attractions so fans can go back and relive them again and again. If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend you check out his content online, and I’ll be sure to include a link to his work in the description of this episode so you can check it out. One thing worth noting is that the entrance rotunda narration is not the original voice but a soundalike, as neither of us was able to find a clear and complete recording of the original audio. Needless to say, Martin put together an amazing recreation of what would’ve, what guests would’ve heard back in 1986. The audio also includes the preshow, the hydrolaters, and the seacabs. After we finish this ride-through, we’ll come back together and discuss the transformation of the Living Seas to the Seas with Nemo and Friends. So, without further ado, I encourage you to sit back, relax, and enjoy The Living Seas.
[Music continues to play under clip narration]
Male Narrator: Ladies and Gentlemen United Technologies is proud to welcome you to The Living Seas. In a few moments you will be entering the Earth’s greatest frontiers, the oceans. Before your adventure begins, consider for a moment the accomplishments of those courageous pioneers who have come this way before. It was their insatiable curiosity and engineering skill that parted the waves for today’s subsea explorers. Throughout history we humans have faced many challenges on our quest to understand The Living Seas, to overcome darkness, pressure, and lack of air. We developed diving barrels, aqualungs, and submarines, tools which gave us a closer look at our underwater world. With new knowledge, we built new tools, robots, and manned submersibles, each advance in technology brought about the opportunity to explore further and learn more transforming vision, curiosity, and wonder into practical knowledge. This tool building process has created a rich bounty of new ideas from microchips to robotics, from rocket powered spacesuits to computerized sailing ships, virtually every aspect of our lives has been enriched by human innovation and United Technologies is proud to play a leading role in aerospace electronics and in providing systems for intelligent buildings, committing the technology we’ve created today to the exploration of new frontiers tomorrow. So come with us now to discover The Sea, a resource so precious that our own existence depends on its health and wellbeing, a realm shrouded in mystery, yet possessing enormous potential for humanity, and now from around the world, the men and women of United Technologies invite you to join us, as we cross the threshold into the future of The Living Seas.
Female Narrator: Good morning everyone, ocean exploration has come a long way. We now have a better understanding of man’s involvement with the sea, but when did the oceans form, how did they form and what possibilities lie ahead? The answer to these and other questions are about to surface in a dramatic film simply titled “The Sea.”
Film Female Narrator: Try to imagine, just for a moment, that somewhere in the endless reaches of the universe, on the outer edge of a galaxy of a hundred thousand million suns, deep within a cluster of slowly forming planets, a small sphere of just the right size lies just the right distance from its mother star, cooling in the coldness of space, try to imagine. [Sound of volcano erupting]. Now that sphere’s creation continues as countless volcanoes spew clouds of gas and steam into the sky of melted mineral formations. And then that cloud covered planet waits, and waits, and waits, until finally those clouds of gas and steam condense and rain upon that planet. [Sound of lighting striking, thunder roaring, and rain falling]. Rain, upon that planet Earth. And they rain, and rain, and rain, the deluge. [Rainstorm sounds continue] A deluge of such magnitude that the world’s greatest waterfalls flowing together for more than a million years would only just begin to approach its results. For when it finally stopped [rainstorm sounds stop, and there are the sounds of a few water droplets falling], the seas had been born. Seas that would make this planet unlike any other within the realm of our knowledge. For it was there, sheltered from cosmic radiation that the means to support life on Earth was able to emerge. Tiny single celled plants, fitoplankton, that capture the energy of the sun and convert it into the most basic of life sustaining elements, oxygen, creating more than half the Earth’s supply. But more than that, those same seas interact with that same solar energy and the Earth’s rotation to serve as the engine that drives all the world’s weather. Yet these phenomena occur in only the first few hundred feet of seas that average greater than two miles in depth. And it is there in those depths in an endless night, darker than the darkest night on land, that we are just now beginning to explore an amazing world. There, amid raging underwater storms and firey underwater volcanoes, mountain ranges that dwarf the Himalayas and gorges four times deeper than the Grand Canyon. There two miles deep in that darkness – an amazing world. [Sounds of radar occur periodically] A world where the cold sea pours deep into the mountains’ warm core through immense cracks in its surface and then rises back to the ocean floor as a super-heated, mineral-laden fluid emitting what to us would be lethal concentrations of poisonous chemicals. Yet, incredibly, around these strange vents, exotic life forms flourish. Life forms that have astonished biologists by finding the needs for their survival, not in photosynthesis and the sun, but in the chemicals of the earth itself, chemosynthesis. An ecosystem like none other on earth. Until now, scientifically inconceivable. Yet there, nevertheless, deep beneath the sea waiting for our discovery. Waiting in a world where we’ve spent less time than on the surface of the moon. A world we’ve only just begun to explore with tools we’ve only just begun to imagine. [Radar sound ends] Tools with which we’ll go where no one has gone before. Searching these seas for the knowledge they conceal and the resources they hold, for answers to our past, and keys to our future. What kind of future will it be? Try to imagine, just for a moment, a future of amazing technological creativity, a future of incredible adventure and discovery, a future of remarkable awareness and understanding. Try to imagine. For we welcome you now to take the first steps into that future. We welcome you to The Living Seas. We welcome you to SeaBase Alpha.
Male Navigator Narrator: SeaBase Alpha to surface control. All hydrolators pressurized and prepared for boarding.
Male Control Narrator: 10-4, SeaBase. Hydrolators now boarding for departure to Visitor’s Center at sub-level 5. Control clear.
Male Navigator Narrator: 10-4, Control. SeaBase Alpha clear
[New Audio Clip Beings]
Male Staging area Narrator: Surface control, this is guest area staging vehicle number one
Male Control Narrator 2: GBSA number one go ahead please
Male Staging area Narrator: Passengers from hydrolator number two ready for departure to SeaBase Alpha Visitor’s Center
Male Control Narrator 2: All conditions read go for departure, contact base on 027 for arrival sequence
Male Staging area Narrator: Roger, GBSA
[New clip section begins with many guests voices talking]
Female Hydrolator Narrator: Ladies and gentlemen, please choose hydrolator one, two, or three. Then, when the hydrolator doors have opened completely, take small children by the hand and watch your step as you board and please move all the way into the hydrolator to allow room for others.
Male Hydrolator Announcer: Hydrolator Number 1, descending to SeaBase Alpha.
Male Control Narrator 3: Roger, Number 1. Notify when cleared at docking port.
Male Hydrolator Announcer: Docking port cleared. SeaBase Alpha, hydrolator on approach. Hydrolator Number 1 in lock-out chamber, pressurized and prepared for guest arrival.
[New audio clip begins]
Male Surface Control Narrator: Surface Control to CG5, come in CG5
CG5 Narrator: CG5 Aye
Male Surface Control Narrator: We need final check before dive
CG5 Narrator: Surface control hatch is shut, blowers are on, grounds are normal, no echo on the fathometer,
SeaBase Narrator: SeaBase to Surface
Surface Narrator: Surface Aye
SeaBase Narrator Please update status on incoming hydrolators,
Surface Narrator: Hydrolator 1, 2, and 3, currently loading passengers for descent to GBSA1 at SeaBase Alpha
Hydrolator Control Narrator: Hydrolators now descending to SeaBase Alpha
[New audio clip with many guests talking in background cast member and Male Announcer talk over each other]
Male Cast member: All the way down, watch your step please, all the way down folks, watch your step please, watch your step please, all the way down folks, watch your step please, have a great day
Male SeaCab Announcer: Please take young children by the hand, and watch your step as you step onto the platform. The platform is traveling at the same speed as your vehicle.
Female SeaCab Announcer: Please take young children by the hand and watch your step onto the moving platform. The platform and your vehicle are traveling at equal speed.
Male SeaCab Announcer 2: Please take young children by the hand, and look down, as you step onto the moving platform.The platform is traveling at the same speed as your vehicle.
[New Clip Whale calls in Background]
SeaBase Announcer: Control, this is Base. We have incoming SeaCabs on final approach to visitor’s center.
Control Announcer: Roger, Base. We have radar contacts with SeaCabs. Will advise upon arrival.
Commander Fulton: Ah, ladies and gentlemen, this is Commander Fulton. On behalf of our crew, I’d like to welcome you to SeaBase Alpha. I hope your descent from the surface was enjoyable. Right now on final approach to the visitor’s center, your SeaCab is passing through part of our beautiful coral reef community.
Commander Fulton’s Female Assistant: (Buzzing sound) Commander Fulton, you have a call on line 1.
Commander Fulton: 10-4. Ah, we have quite a variety of marine life living within our base of operation which is the largest of its kind in the world. Down here, we see everything from sharks to dolphins, lobsters to pufferfish. You might even spot a moray eel or two lurking beneath the coral. But, not to worry. They all get along just fine – even with our divers. Anyway, we’ll see you shortly. Enjoy your visit to SeaBase Alpha.
[New Clip Begins with lots of guest noise in the background]
Commander Fulton: Ladies and gentlemen, this is Commander Fulton of SeaBase Alpha. Now, in just a few minutes, your SeaCab will be arriving at our visitor’s center – the final destination on your journey into the sea. In the meantime, if you’ll look out to your right, you’ll see part of the coral reef community that surrounds us down here. At any given time, there could be more than 6,000 fish, crustaceans, and marine mammals living within our immediate base of operation which, by the way, is the largest of its kind in the world.
Female Base 3 Commander: (Buzzing sound) Commander Fulton, this is Base 3. We’re ready for you at diver lock-out.
Commander Fulton: 10-4. Code 14. SeaBase 1 clear.
Female Base 3 Commander: 10-4 Base 3 clear.
Commander Fulton: Ah, ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid I’ll have to cut my vocal a little short, but I do hope you enjoy your visit to SeaBase Alpha.
Male SeaCab Announcer: Please gather your belongings and step out to your right. Your vehicle and the moving platform are traveling at equal speed.
Female SeaCab Announcer: Please collect your belongings and step out to your right. The moving platform is traveling at the same speed as your vehicle.
[New music audio begins and continues to play softly under Matt]
Matt: As you can probably tell from the audio, The Living Seas was truly an Epcot original, something that carefully blended Disney entertainment with future-focused education. Still, as times change, so do guest preferences and business needs. In 1998, United Technologies pulled its sponsorship of The Living Seas. Losing a sponsor can sometimes mark a turning point for an attraction, and in the case of this pavilion, that’s exactly what happened. Not long after the sponsorship ended, Disney started to scale back the pavilion experience. In 2001, one of the two preshow theaters was decommissioned and replaced with a bypass corridor. In that same year, the SeaCabs were closed down altogether. From that point on, guests could opt to view the preshow or head straight from the rotunda to the hydolators. Once inside SeaBase Alpha, guests could explore the exhibits or simply head straight to the exit hydrolators. With these changes, the pavilion lacked a true attraction and felt more like a mini-aquarium with a unique arrival and exit experience. Fortunately, there was a movie already in development that would save The Living Seas and provide an updated experience for families of all ages.
On May 30, 2003, Pixar’s imaginative oceanic film, Finding Nemo, debuted in theaters. The film generated $70 million its opening weekend and went on to earn over $900 million in gross box office sales. The story about a timid clownfish battling the dangers of the ocean to rescue his captured son won the hearts of fans of all ages around the world. It also added such lovable characters as Nemo, Marlin, Dory, Crush, Squirt, Mr. Ray, Bruce, and many more to Disney’s portfolio. The film drew new inspiration for the Imagineers, who got to work right away. As early as December that year, the team started to add Finding Nemo characters and designs to the pavilion’s exterior and interior spaces.
About a year and a half later, on November 16, 2004, Turtle Talk with Crush opened at The Living Seas as a part of Imagineering’s Living Characters Program. According to the Imagineering Field Guide, “When introduced to the incredible characters from the Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Pixar animated film, Finding Nemo, the Imagineers saw an opportunity to tap into a brand-new group of storytellers who could take our Guests to school on the amazing oceanic world that is their home. We looked for ways to integrate these characters into the show in a way that would enhance the improved important environmental message of the pavilion. Now, they welcome us to SeaBase Alpha and serve as our guides. Mr. Ray returns to his familiar position as teacher; Bruce, Chum, and Anchor tell us about sharks and turtles; and Dory passes along whatever bits of information she can remember.”
Turtle Talk with Crush put The Living Seas back on the map at Epcot, allowing kids and adults to enjoy a fully interactive experience where they would have the chance to meet Crush, ask him questions, and even share some of their own knowledge with the beloved 150-year-old sea turtle. The experience was so popular that the Imagineers had to rethink the guest flow for the attraction, changing locations and carving out a new queue to accommodate guest demand. Turtle Talk with Crush proved to Disney and the Imagineers just how influential Finding Nemo could be to bring guests back to the Living Seas pavilion. They knew that they had to do more.
On October 20, 2005, the Living Seas temporarily closed to rework the interior. The Imagineers redesigned the queue experience, and they got to work on a new omnimover ride for the pavilion, one that would extend the length of the original SeaCabs, integrate the characters from Finding Nemo, and become the main attraction for The Living Seas. This redesign required the Imagineers to remove the rotunda, one of the preshow rooms, and the hydrolators, allowing room for an extended queue to accommodate guest demand and for a longer attraction experience. And with the hydrolators no longer being a part of the descent experience to SeaBase Alpha, the Imagineers by necessity had to remove the hydrolators at the exit of the pavilion as well.
Just a few months later, in November 2005, The Living Seas reopened with a temporarily modified experience. To allow guests to view the marine life, the now removed exit hydrolators were replaced with glass doors, becoming the temporary entrance and new exit for the pavilion. Until the main attraction was complete, guests could use this entrance and exit to access the exhibits.
The following October in 2006, the main Finding Nemo omnimover attraction opened its doors and the pavilion was renamed to The Seas with Nemo and Friends. A few months later, in January 2007, Turtle Talk with Crush reopened in its new location, one of the old preshow theaters, marking the end of the pavilion’s 15-month refurbishment.
In the current version of the pavilion, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, guests wishing to experience the omnimover attraction first enter the pavilion through the main entrance, passing a group of very vocal seagulls along the way, just like the ones from the film. You might also notice that the original George Wilkins-Russell Brower area music has been updated to Thomas Newman’s gorgeous score from Finding Nemo. Entering the pavilion, guests weave around the same switchbacks from the original queue experience, but in the updated story, guests are now navigating their way along a boardwalk toward the pier. Entering the next room, guests travel underneath the pier and make their way under the surface of the water, an illusion created through carefully designed lighting, props, and sounds. Moving through a few underwater environments, even passing underneath a boat just like the one Nemo is dared to swim to in the film, guests make their way toward the boarding area, the same one originally created for the SeaCab ride, except instead of boarding SeaCabs, guests board clammobiles, and as a fan of Horizons, another extinct experience at Epcot, I love how the Imagineers brought back the same kind of feeling by positioning the clammobiles 90 degrees to the right of forward motion, having guests move through each show scene sideways.
Another element I love about The Seas with Nemo and Friends is how much this attraction is designed with young kids in mind while still entertaining adults. The ride experience is gentle, accommodating riders of all ages, and the story is a tamer version of the film. According to the ride story, Nemo has gone missing once again, but instead of Nemo being in any kind of real danger, guests catch quick glimpses of the lovable clownfish simply off exploring. The first show scene takes guests to Nemo’s home, a coral reef. We hear Marlin explain that he’s trying to find his son, Nemo, and he quickly recruits Dory for help. Meanwhile, we see Mr. Ray and Nemo’s classmates looking for him, too, although Mr. Ray assures us that Nemo will probably turn up any minute now.
From the coral reef, we turn a corner and find ourselves face-to-face with a group of jellyfish, a fun infinity mirror effect that makes it seem like there are hundreds of jellyfish in front of us. Moments later, we find ourselves in a pitch black environment and quickly come face-to-face with an anglerfish chasing after Marlin. This effect is achieved using a glow-in-the-dark anglerfish animatronic on the end of a black Kuka Robotics arm, which makes it seem like the fish is swiftly swimming its way through the dark water.
Emerging from the darkness, we find ourselves in front of a shipwrecked submarine, where Bruce and Chum, the friendly but dangerous vegetarian sharks from the film, are looking for Nemo, too. Much like the coral reef scene, much of this sequence utilizes screens hidden within practical stage sets.
Rounding a shallow turn, we enter a long tunnel surrounded by a tubular screen that envelops guests’ view. Along this stretch of the track, we join Crush, Squirt, and their sea turtle companions for a ride along the EAC. Nemo seems to have joined them, and Crush tells our young clownfish that everyone’s looking for him. The sequence includes both a tame EAC flow-through and a more dramatic EAC spiral sequence that makes it seem like guests are rotating and accelerating through the water.
As we exit the EAC, we find ourselves in the middle of the pavilion’s aquarium, moving past glass exhibits to view hundreds of marine creatures. This grand finale also includes an impressive projection effect that makes it seem as if Nemo and the gang are swimming in the live aquarium among the fish. Meanwhile, the hit song from Finding Nemo the Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, In the Big Blue World, which by the way was written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the same composers from Frozen and Frozen II, invite guests to go explore the exhibits ahead.
From here, guests disembark their clammobiles and make their way to the middle of the aquarium, where they’re able to explore and enjoy the same exhibits as the ones that once existed with The Living Seas, many with a Finding Nemo twist to encourage young explorers to learn more about the ocean and its many inhabitants.
It’s also worth noting that the pavilion has another experience worth enjoying, one that has existed since opening day in 1986: the Coral Reef restaurant. This table-service seafood restaurant provides guests with the opportunity to dine with a view, as a large aquarium wall makes up one side of the restaurant. This dining experience has been a part of Epcot for nearly 40 years, and it’s certainly one worth visiting at least once. As always, dining reservations are recommended, and you can find the entrance to the Coral Reef just behind the right side of the main attraction entrance.
While The Seas with Nemo and Friends isn’t quite the same experience as the original Living Seas, I sincerely look forward to visiting this pavilion every time I visit Epcot. The main attraction is one of my favorites at the park, and one I personally cannot wait to experience with Maggie on her first trip. Joanna and I also love visiting the exhibits and we often spend about an hour inside this pavilion. In fact, if the attraction has a long wait, you can completely bypass the ride and enter through the exit doors to the aquarium. It’s a pavilion we love to explore, and one that’s especially perfect if you need to cool down on a hot day or spend time indoors during a rainstorm. Needless to say, I sincerely hope the pavilion is one that will be enjoyed for generations to come.
At this point, I’d love to take you with me for a ride on the Seas with Nemo and Friends thanks to some binaural audio I recorded in 2019. We’ll wander through the queue, board our clammobile, and do our best to help Marlin and his friends find Nemo. As with all binaural audio recordings, I strongly recommend wearing headphones or earbuds to get the best audio experience, but of course, listening in your car or on speakers is still a great way to enjoy this part of the podcast. Either way you choose, let’s journey together to the big blue world.
[Audio plays Matt out and new clip begins]
[Guest cans be heard talking]
Matt: See if Matt can guess that
Matt: Or not
[Tens of guests continue to talk over each in background]
Female Cast Member 1: Step please, all the way down; step please all the way down, watch your step please, all the way down
Female Cast Member 2: Two to three per shell please, two to three per shell
Female Cast Member 1: Watch your step please, watch your step, watch your step
[Sound of clammobile door closing and background music begins]
Marlin: Nemo, I am not going to lose you again, do you hear me?
Marlin: NEMO! Nemo where are you son?
Marlin: Nemo, oh no not again, NEMO!!
Mr. Ray: Ooooh, let’s go explore, explore, explore, let’s go explore the big blue world!
Pearl: Hey Mr. Ray, we can’t explore without Nemo!
Mr. Ray: I’m sure we’ll see him any minute now.
Mr. Ray: Ooooh, science is great there’s so much to know climb aboard explorers it’s time to goooo!
Dory: Oh Fabioooo!
Marlin: No, that’s why we’re trying to find him!
Dory: Find who?
Marlin: [Exasperated sigh] Nemo, where are you Nemo?!
Dory: Who’s Nemo?
Marlin: He’s my son, you know that!
Dory: I do?
Marlin: We went on a huge adventure together which you don’t remember at all.
Dory: Is he orange with white stripes and looks kinda like you only smaller?
Marlin: Yes, have you seen him?
Dory: Seen who? Hi I’m Dory . . .
Marlin: Stop playing games!
Dory: Games, I love games! Oo I’m thinking of something pink and bouncy that looks like a balloon!
Marlin: AHH! Jellyfish!
Dory: Right okay now I’m thinking of something pink kind of balloon
Marlin: It’s jellyfish!
Dory: You’re good, and now I’m thinking –
Marlin: Jellyfish! And the next one, jellyfish!!!
Dory: Okay, Mr. Smartypants
Marlin: Dory, do something!
Dory: Hey snatch off!
Marlin: Swim away!!!
[Dory and Marlin scream]
Dory: Like I’m scared now.
Dory: Wanna piece of me huh, huh, doo doo, doo, [makes teasing sound]
Marlin: Stop fooling around!
Dory: Can I get a little light up here, it’s kind of dark.
Dory: It’s echoey in here –
Dory: Echo, echo.
Marlin: Dory, do something!
Dory: Hey snatch off
Marlin: Swim away!!!
[Dory and Marlin scream]
Dory: Like I’m scared now
Dory: Wanna piece of me huh, huh, doo doo, doo, doo,
Marlin: You’re not helping!!
Dory: [makes teasing sound]
Marlin: Stop fooling around!
Dory: Can I get a little light up here, it’s kind of dark.
Bruce: Say g’day to your old pal Bruce
Marlin: HELP!! Dory, do something!
Dory: Hey snatch off
Marlin: Swim away!!!
[Dory and Marlin scream]
Bruce: I wonder if clownfish taste funny
Dory: Like I’m scared now [makes teasing sound]
Marlin: Stop fooling around
Bruce: Nemo, why don’t you drop by for a little bite? Oh what a beautiful little bite, little clownfish where are you? Swim over and say g’day to your old pal Bruce. Fish are friends not food.
Nemo: – EAC before
Crush Ride Announcement: Whoa, you’re like totally stopped, well coo-coo-kachoo here’s lockin’ in, stay in your seats while the Crush-man sees what he can do to get you movin
Bruce: Nemo, Nemo, why don’t you drop by for a little bite? Oh what a beautiful little bite,
Crush: Go with the flow!
Bruce: Clownfish where are you?
Crush: It’s the Crush-man with totally awesome news, stay in your seats cause you’re about start ridin’ it again, dude, rock on
Bruce: Fish are friends not food
Nemo: But I’ve never been in the EAC before
Crush: Just put your fins out and gooo with the floooow
Squirt: Right behind you Dad! C’mon Nemo!
Nemo: Sure Squirt!!
Crush: Welcome to the EAC little dude.
Nemo: This is awesome!!
Squirt: Grab shell Nemo! It’s the EAC
Crush: Righteous, righteous!!!
Nemo: This is fun!!!
Crush: Totally, but everybody’s looking for you.
Squirt: When your dad couldn’t find you he was all like woah and then he was like woah, now you’re here so like wooah
Nemo: But I saw jellyfish, anglerfish, and shark
[Characters indistinguishably talking over each other as the Big Blue World plays in the background]
Pearl: Look Mr. Ray, here comes Nemo
Marlin: It’s Nemo
Dory: [In time with the song] We’re ready to gooo [speaking voice] Ready to go, let’s go!!
Nemo and others: [singing] The big blue world
Dory: Hey I’m blue
Nemo and others: [singing] I’m gonna go explore
Marlin: Not too far
Nemo and others: [singing] In the big blue world
Mr. Ray: So much to discover
Nemo and others: [singing] I‘ve never seen before, so many creatures, swimming round the sea, in the big blue world
Squirt: Watch this!
Nemo and others: [singing] All of them, out there for me
Nemo and others: [singing] In the big blue world, hanging with all our friends
Dory: I love friends
Nemo and others: [singing] In the big blue world sharing just never ends
Dory: Never ends never ever never never never never never ever never never never stops
Peach: Help! Find a happy place, find a happy place, find a happy place
Mr. Ray: Explorers, alright explorers class dismissed tiny explorers up front and stay together as a group, [singing] oh life was kind to the big blue sea filled with wonder and new stuff to explore [singing ends] see you next time! Hey explorers . . .
Female Cast Member Three: Watch your step, all the way over please
Female Cast Member Presenter: [Indistinguishable words] Can you see what that is there? [Indistinguishable words] That’s actually a plastic bag. I know we’re probably all guilty of it [Indistinguishable words] But in the ocean when it’s floating around it looks a lot like a jellyfish. And sea turtles love jellyfish, it’s a really good source of protein and keeps their bellies really full, so they’re gonna go ahead and eat that and it will actually make them really sick. So we can help our sea turtles, all of our animals out by using reusable bags [indistinguishable words] the more reusable bags we make, we use, the less bags that get made and the less bags that get found in that ocean, that was a good notice for everyone, so thank you
[clip fades out and music begins to play]
Matt: And with that we close out episode 131 of the Imagineer Podcast. I sincerely hope you enjoyed this look back at the history of The Seas with Nemo and Friends including the previous attraction experience, known as The Living Seas, it’s an experience I fondly remember as a kid, The Living Seas happens to be my dad’s favorite extinct attraction and one that he fondly remembers, and I of course today, really enjoy heading over to The Seas with Nemo and Friends and as I mentioned in this episode, I’m very excited to experience The Seas with Nemo and Friends with Maggie on her first trip because so far she loves all things that are related to the ocean and she loves watching Finding Nemo and Finding Dory and Little Mermaid and any other film that has to do with the water and sea life so I’m really excited to share that experience with her on her first visit. I of course want to turn this conversation over to you and hear what your favorite memory is from either The Living Seas or The Seas with Nemo and Friends, you can go so far as to share an experience from both if you had the opportunity to experience both attractions as always you can send me your answers and feedback in many different ways, the best way is just to reach out on social media and share your answer in a post either on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or LinkedIn, just tagging Imagineer Podcast or on Twitter @ImagineerNews or even better, join our Facebook Group which is The ImagiNation also called The Imagineer Podcast Disney Fan Communityand talk about the subject not just with me, but with other members of this listener community as well, it’s also just a great place to come together and ask questions and share ideas and geek out about all things Disney and you can find the link to that location and all others social media channels in the description of this episode or over at Imagineerpodcast.com and as always if you have any feedback, even if you want to send me your answers directly in an email, you can reach out to me in a direct message or at matt m-a-t-t, @imagineerpodcast.com. 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Last but not least as always, I want to encourage you as always to go after your hopes and dreams whatever they might be, life’s too short to put your dreams on hold and I really as someone who’s been doing this now for five years can tell you that the journey itself is worth the effort, so whatever it is you’re dreaming of doing go for it, make that dream come true, and remember as always that inspiring quote from Horizons, if you can dream it you can do it, thank you so much for listening to the show and we’ll see you again in a future episode of the Imagineer Podcast.
[music plays out]
Female Narrator: In just a few moments, you’ll be on your way up to Space 220 aboard the Centauri Space Station, enjoy the ride.
Male Controller: SB2 you are clear, initiating in 3-2-1, lift-off
Female Narrator: You’re riding aboard the Mark-5 Stellavator, the latest in space elevator design and technology, today you’ll have a spectacular view of Florida and the Eastern Seaboard. Enjoy the ride I’ll come back in a bit with arrival information
[sounds of increasing elevation on a track]
Male Controller: SB2 we’re on our final approach
Female Pilot: Roger that
Female Narrator: If you look above, you’ll see Centauri Space Station coming into view, once we dock, gather your belongings and exit through the open airlock, a Space 220 agent will be waiting for you
Male Controller: SB2 clear for arrival
Female Pilot: Gravity generator active
Male Space 220 Controller: Air lock activated
Male Controller: Docking complete