Welcome to Disney Extinct Attractions. My name is Cole Geryak, and this week I’ll be your scuba guide on our tour below the ocean.
Tonight, the Main Street Electrical Parade finally returns to Disneyland after a 21 year disappearance! I’ll be at the party that Disneyland is hosting tonight, a special ticketed event to celebrate the parade’s return. (Fingers crossed it isn’t rained out.) I go back to school on Saturday, so today is my last day at Disneyland, and there is no better way to celebrate than by watching the first Electrical Parade back.
For the past six years, the parade played nightly at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. But tonight, the parade finally gets back to its roots in Disneyland, though we’re going to stay in Walt Disney World for our attraction of the day.
EPCOT Center opened 35 years ago on October 1st, 1982, becoming the second park at Walt Disney World. As you probably know, the park opened with two different lands, known as Future World and World Showcase. World Showcase contains pavilions representing many different countries from around the globe, while Future World has pavilions of its own that hold attractions related to broad topics such as land, imagination, and transportation. Each of these pavilions functions as a mini land of its own, with multiple experiences in each area relating to the topic.
But the Imagineers behind Epcot weren’t quite finished at opening day, still having a few more pavilions that they wanted to add.
With pavilions based on land and energy, the Imagineers had left out another key to life, water. Originally planned as an opening day Future World pavilion, planning stalled as the Imagineers could not quite decide on what they wanted to do with the area.
One of the initial ideas for an attraction in the pavilion took a more mythical look at water. The attraction would have begun with guests meeting the Greek god Poseidon. Guests would have then hopped into clear glass vehicles that moved through a giant aquarium. Along the way, giant monsters would have attacked you, with the attraction having a very action-adventure feel to it.
Unfortunately, those plans never really materialized, but Epcot still got a water-centric pavilion, The Living Seas. Opening on January 15th, 1986 (meaning it celebrated its 31st anniversary last Sunday), the major draw of the entire space was the 5.7 million gallon saltwater aquarium. Upon its opening, the aquarium was the largest saltwater aquarium in the world (though it has since been surpassed by one in Georgia). Still, it shows the power of Disney to create experiences people have never seen before, even gigantic aquariums.
The Living Seas was a pavilion unlike any other because it used a linear narrative to connect four unique attractions into one all-encompassing experience. So now sit back and relax as I take you through those very parts.
Your journey began with a film known as The Seas, which you can actually find below. You enter the building and are loaded into one of the two theaters.
The preshow gives you a full overview of the elements, especially rain and storms. It also puts you in the right mental headspace to move further through the exhibit towards the Hydrolators.
The Hydrolators will transport you from the sea level of Epcot to well below the Earth and the level of Sea Base Alpha, home to many exhibits and animal enclosures. But now you climb aboard the Hydrolators yourself as you move down to the next level.
After disembarking from the Hydrolator, you move through a small queue to board your very own Seacab. In your Seacab, you pass by the giant walls of the saltwater aquarium and see all types of marine life. But you cannot wait for your journey to end, so you can finally play around in the Sea Base. So look below to complete your journey and reach Sea Base Alpha.
So now that you’ve gotten a tour of The Living Seas, here are some of my thoughts on the project as a whole. First, I really loved the preshow. I thought it did an amazing job setting the tone for the entire venture and actually provided a lot of valuable and interesting information.
I also thought the Hydrolators were absolutely fascinating. The floor would rumble and you would see projections on the windows to make you feel as if you were actually taking an elevator deeper down into the earth. (It was actually very reminiscent of the elevators in the queue for the Escape to Gringotts in Universal Orlando for those who have ridden that attraction.)
To be honest, I felt that the least exciting part of the attraction was the Seacab portion (ironic because its replacement was based entirely on that portion). True, it’s very hard to get a gauge on that part of the attraction because seeing marine life in the aquarium is much better in person. With that in mind, I’m sure it was a cool experience to ride through the biggest saltwater aquarium in the world at the time.
Now you may be wondering why I didn’t talk too much about Sea Base Alpha. The reason I strayed away is because most of the exhibits that made up the area still exist today, now known simply as Sea Base. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself as first we have to talk about sponsorships.
United Technologies was the pavilion’s original sponsor, providing their support until 1998. At that time, Disney seized the opportunity to make some changes to the attraction, starting with the removal of one of the preshow theaters so that people could progress directly to the Hydrolators. The woes continued for the attraction when the Seacabs closed for good in October 2001.
To this day, it’s still not entirely clear why the Seacabs were closed, but guests visiting the Sea Base could be reminded of them every day as they were still visible from the constructed walkway.
With the fate of this pavilion not the brightest because of the continual removal of parts of the experience, destiny stepped in with a little film called Finding Nemo. One of Pixar’s highest-grossing films ever, this film provided the characters that The Living Seas needed to flourish again.
The changes began with the addition of Turtle Talk with Crush, a new immersive experience that allowed guests to interact with Crush in real-time. More changes occurred over time, with the preshow and Hyrdolators being removed to make way for a whole new Omnimover attraction that closely followed the story of Nemo and his friends and family. The Living Seas officially closed in August of 2005 to reopen in 2007 as The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
But not all traces of The Living Seas are gone as the space still houses one of the largest saltwater aquariums in the world as well as the Sea Base. Both of these parts are used as an active research facility, just as the plants seen in Living with the Land are cultivated to help with vegetable research. Luckily, this research should help keep the space around for a while longer as it continues to serve a greater purpose in the Epcot ecosystem.
And that brings our journey of The Living Seas to an end, but not without the promise of a bright future for the animals still living there, and also not without some clues as to next week’s post.
- These attractions shared an operating system, but debuted over 50 years apart from each other.
- Both attractions were in the same resort, but they appeared in different parks.
- These attractions required guests to help with their vehicle’s movement.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post. It was a lot of fun learning more about The Living Seas because I always thought it was just the Seacabs, so it was enlightening to learn there was so much more.
That one is for my Game of Thrones fans out there. Thanks for reading and have a magical day!
Cole Geryak is a college Disney fan making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.