My previous blog discussed the history of the Living Seas pavilion. With waning attendance and no sponsor, the Imagineers had to be creative and transform the area to something today's adults and children would enjoy!
The movie “Finding Nemo” opened in May 2003 and was an instant success. Sensing that the characters from this film could breathe new life into The Living Seas and appeal to children, Disney started re-theming the pavilion in December of the same year. The exterior came first with the addition of a sculpture featuring Dory, Marlin, Nemo, Gill and others. This photo op was an immediate hit and drew large crowds.
“Turtle Talk with Crush” opened on November 16, 2004. Using state-of-the-art computer graphics, “real time” animation was achieved that allowed Crush to carry on live conversations with theater guests via a “window” into the tank and a hydrophone. The show was given virtually no publicity, but within weeks of opening, “Turtle Talk with Crush” was so successful that the Imagineers knew they needed to increase capacity. Eventually, the show was moved to a larger venue. The original screen can still be seen if you know where to look. Each show is approximately 15 minutes in length.
In August of 2005, The Living Seas closed for more extensive renovations. When it reopened in November the pavilion had been renamed “The Seas with Nemo & Friends.” Over the next several years, a number a changes would take place to re-imagine the pavilion. On the exterior, the sunburst was replaced with sea creatures from the Finding Nemo movie. But the real crowd pleaser was the addition of three seagulls who periodically squawk “Mine. Mine. Mine.”
Inside, most of the old scientific displays were replaced with Nemo-themed exhibits and aquariums. In the new aquariums guests could find more colorful and interesting fish than those found in the main tank -- which can be rather lackluster. And to complete the theming, clownfish (Nemo) and the regal blue tangs (Dory) were included.
However, the Imagineers didn’t want to completely abandon the educational aspects of the pavilion so they created inviting displays that provided fun facts about the Nemo gang and the seas in general.
A kid’s play area was also added. “Bruce’s Sub House” features a lot of great photo ops and some fun and educational games.
But the biggest change to the pavilion was the addition of a new ride. The ride, like the pavilion, is named “The Seas with Nemo & Friends.” In the queue, all of the historic sea diving apparatus was replaced with beach scenes.
The old Seacab track was lengthened by 280 feet (using the space from one of the old pre-show theaters and the hydrolators) and new sets were built. Now guests ride in “Clamobiles” and travel through Nemo’s undersea world.
The voyage begins in the coral reefs with Marlin looking for his son Nemo who has become lost again. Mr. Ray and Dory also join in the search. Along the way we encounter jellyfish, anglerfish, and the sharks Chum and Bruce. Next we join Crush and Squirt in the EAC (East Australian Current) for a rollicking ride. The journey ends with guests peering into the pavilion’s main tank and seeing the entire gang swimming with the real fish. The song, “In the Big Blue World” is from the “Finding Nemo – The Musical” shown in the Animal Kingdom.
In theory, everyone must enter this pavilion by riding “The Seas with Nemo & Friends.” But in reality, there is nothing to stop you from entering through the exit. But since the line for the ride is rarely more than 10 minutes, I can’t see a reason to do this.
The last aspect of this pavilion is the “Coral Reef” restaurant. I’ve often wondered why the Imagineers virtually hid this eatery from the guests. If you didn’t know it was here, you’d never stumble across it. I’ve never been able to find a definitive reason why this restaurant was separated from the rest of the pavilion, but I have heard a couple of theories. First, United Technologies thought a restaurant would interfere with the educational nature of their pavilion. I’ve also heard that the Imagineers didn’t think it would fit with the theming of Sea Base Alpha. After all, fine dining establishments aren’t usually standard issue in underwater science labs.
The Coral Reef Restaurant is beautifully designed. From the moment you enter its lobby, you know you’re in for a treat. A number of colorfully-lit glass sculptures line the walls, hang from the ceiling, and create a check-in desk. The lobby also acts as a buffer between the sunny outdoors and the darkened interior.
When you enter the restaurant, you are immediately struck by the four, eight-foot high windows that line one wall and offer views into the aquarium. Each window is framed by tan-colored sand and pebble panels. These panels help offset the dark blues that cover the ceiling and walls. The restaurant is terraced with mosaic encrusted half-walls separating each level. The chairs are made of light colored woods. The table tops are framed with this same wood and have a metal insert with a swirl design etched into them. The carpet has shades of blue and purple and looks like the ocean surf.
The best seats in the house are those that sit directly next to the aquarium windows. When you check in, don’t hesitate to ask for one of these special tables. You will be told if one is available, or given an estimate of how long a wait it will be until one opens up.
To see what other Allears readers think of the Coral Reef Restaurant, check out our Rate & Review page by clicking here.
Is “The Seas with Nemo & Friends” worth seeing? Absolutely! Granted, it’s not as exciting as Soarin’ or as thrill-packed as Test Track or Mission: Space. But it is interesting and can be educational if you take the time to read some of the plaques and signs. In addition, it’s probably the most kid-friendly pavilion at Epcot. When I visited last week I spent over two hours here. Granted, I was doing research and filming for this blog. But if you plan on seeing “Turtle Talk with Crush,” the Lock-Out Chamber demonstration, and the dolphin training, you can easily spend an entire hour here. In fact, to show you snippets of everything offered in this pavilion, my video is 15 minutes long. But trust me; the time will fly by when watching it because there is a lot of cool stuff to be experienced here.
That’s it for The Living Seas/The Seas With Nemo & Friends. I hope you plan to visit soon.
The previous post in this blog was Epcot's The Seas With Nemo & Friends Part 1.
The next post in this blog is Animation Academy at Disney's Hollywood Studios.