Yesterday, I ventured on to EPCOT and rode the new Nemo ride twice. This being one of the most anticipated additions in recent EPCOT Center history, I was very much looking forward to seeing this..given the fact that it carries the Pixar name and also because many fans agree that Lasseter is good for Disney. However, besides the movie hits he has produced for Disney Studios, the same magic remains to be seen in the parks.
With lowered expectations... I made my way to the old Living Seas pavillion, now re-named "The Seas with Nemo and Friends". Right off the gate, it's a good start..compliments of the wacky seagulls from the movie doing their thing on the rocks at the entrance to the pavillion. "Mine! Mine! Mine!"... very cute. Just don't sit there too long or you will get very very tired of this after a brief while.
I proceeded into the building, to find that not much else has been done to the design of the walking area of what used to be the first introduction into the Seas, with the look at old diving bells and equipment and such. This portion of the queue now looks like we are on a beach area somewhere... with some cutesy signs and a lifehouse, plus plenty of grass. Not much else here...
Suddenly... we are underwater and in a switchback line that covers what used to be the introduction or waiting area theater and hydrolator area of the old Living Seas show. At first, it appears we are below water under a dock of sorts.. and then later on (in the former hydrolator room) we now look up and see the underside of a boat. Cool little detail.. but still... it misses something... like better underwater theming...
Finally, we make it to the boarding area of the ride, where we climb aboard clammobiles for our 3 mins (or so) journey into the Sea in pursuit of Nemo. The ride appears to retell the story as seen in the movie, which I liked a lot. We follow Marlin in search of Nemo, meeting up with Dori and encountering several mishaps along the way. We also get to ride the australian undercurrent with Crush and Squirt, and finally get to see the cast of Nemo swimming in the main tank as we conclude the ride. Cute enough, and I will echo the sentiments of many here.. The ride is a solid C-Ticket that aims to entertain without going out of it's way the way like other D or E rides do. An adecuate addition to EPCOT that will delight many for some years to come.
With that now out of the way... here come my honest opinions on this new ride. You may stop reading now if you wish since you won't agree with me at all...and there are spoilers ahead as well.
First up. Credit where credit is due. My congratulations to whoever decided to NOT offer Fastpass service at this ride. KUDOS!! May every new attraction build from this point refrains from the stupidity of Fastpass service. I don't remember a line for a major addition moving so quickly since... since... FP came along!
Here in the Nemo ride... once you enter the building, the wait time was 12 mins max (and I know because I waited from the moment I went indoors) The queue moved quickly and stopped briefly enough to allow me to soak in the few details there were. So again... KUDOS for not offering Fastpass. The first portion of the queue.. in the beach area was nice enough but really didn't give us much to do but read a few signs with some clever jokes on them, which were funny but it's nothing we have not seen before in one way or another. The transition from being on a beach to underwater was simply...unconvincing and poorly executed. To me it felt more like the real thing which was.... walking from one room to the next, plain and simple. I overheard the guest in front of me commenting on the whole underwater scene as being like.. under a canopy of trees.. and after hearing of that perspective.. I would have to agree. There was no feeling of going under water or anything... the whole concept felt mishandled and vague, but that is just me I guess.. The few accents of water, like the ones to simulate water around the boat and pillars are cute enough but too few to get the illusion job done, and the projected ones made it look more like we were in a sandstorm rather than being underwater. The old projected underwater effects were much better in the old waiting area before going in the movie theater to see that deluge movie... Even worst are the plain walls in these rooms, with minimal paint on the them... very lacking feel in setting up the story. So as for the queue as a whole...? Meh! But at least the line moved quickly thanks to the lack of a FP line.
Now on to the ride itself... The clam mobiles are cute to say the least. But small in seating size. I witnessed (with a bit of embarrasment I may add) some guests trying to fit thru the very small door opening and getting accomodated into the seat, which I believe have only capacity for two guests of regular size at the very max. I did like the fact that each clam mobile has a slightly different color front and that makes for a most entertaining color palette as the clam mobiles go by. I also caught a glimpse of the handicapped vehicle which is HUGE and would probably bring the ride to a stop for loading those guests who will not/refuse to/fake they can't/or can honestly not walk or leave their chairs. The space to board on the moving platform does not appear to give ample space to accomplish this scenario without stopping the ride. Yet, both times I rode, the ride never stopped, which I appreciated. GO Ride Snow White at the MK and see if you can ride thru it without ever coming to a stop before the end of the ride now a days...
As for the Nemo ride show itself... some of the scenes and sets are well done. However, like all of the classic rides at EPCOT since 1982, the Nemo ride is also guilty of stopping the sets' illusions at visible distance where guests can see where the sets end and the safety margin (aka plain old walkways or walls) begins. Of course.. Disney has to provide enough space for emergency evacuation and I understand that, but seems to me some other attractions can camouflage this much better, and most EPCOT rides suffer from this. Oh well...
As for the ride itself, I liked the fact that the ride's storyline mirrors the movie plot to some point or another. Some of the scenes were nicely set up, while others could have been a bit better executed.. like for example, the bland jelly fish scene. Hanging fabric can only be so scary with the help of black lighting.. Hmm... To make this even more jarring... some of the best scenes in the ride follow the Jelly fish portion... Just imagine how much better the Jelly fish scene would have been if a jelly fish came close and touched one of our clam mobiles.. and give us a faux jolt... with the added effects of vibration, flashing light and electric sound for just a second or so. It would be a cheap thrill but a thrill non-the-less. We need more moments like that in Disney rides.
My little disappointment with Nemo comes from the fact that the ride relies heavily on projected video images of characters throughout and hardly has any Audio Animatronic figures to add an edge and elevate the experience to a higher (and decidedly more expensive) look and feel to the ride. Maybe that is the reason why I find the very best scene in the whole ride to be the attack on Nemo by that fierce looking fish, which is simply stunning to look at, as Nemo races around to avoid being eaten by the big bad fish. Simply spectacular scene to see. I guess I would not have minded some video scenes but frankly, there are way too many...and as nice as the sets surrounding those digital screens may be, the video images become tiresome and repetitive after a while. All it takes is for one of those TV monitors and projectors to go out, and the whole scene will be ruined. But hey... I guess it would be cheaper for Disney to fix such and that is the bottom line that drives Disney (and every corporation) now a days.
Finally... I have to add KUDOS to a couple of areas of the ride... As already mentioned, the attack on Nemo is the best scene in the ride IMHO, but also, the shark's lair scene that follows has a certain 3D quality to it that made it special to look at above the other similarly executed scenes in the ride. Likewise, the long tunnel portion of the ride as we enter the real tank in the building, which is where the fabulously enjoyable sequence with Crush, Squirt and Nemo riding the australian undercurrents.. is also quite well executed with the help of projected images in sync. It was effective enough to make me feel as if I was going along for the underwater high speed ride myself.. Great scene and one that I know I will enjoy everytime I ride even if again... it's only a projector in use here.
The most anticipated portion of the ride of course, being the projected images of the Nemo characters "swimming" along with the real fish inside the tank are likewise very well executed and realistic. The only drawback here is the partial blockage of the windows into the aquarium due to the equipment used for the scenes being in need of conceiling from the audience.. but still, the effect is convincing. It would have been even better if the original floor to ceiling height of the windows had been kept for this grand finale, and I can only imagine this trick being used with even greater effectiveness at DL's submarine ride next year. I can't wait for that one to open!! The final window, with the starfish begging us "take me with you!! This song plays forever and never ever stops!!" is a hoot and a fun way to finish the ride. Personally, I feel for the sympathetic starfish as I hated the song myself. It's as corny as all of the other songs ever written for EPCOT's classic rides. Glad to see Disney being consistent about something...eh?
So in conclusion... The Nemo ride does entertain and I am sure the kids will definitely love it. I liked it as well but with reservations about it's technical aspects, simply because in the spectrum of things, I have come to expect EPCOT's Future World pavillions to offer at least a D or E-ticket experience, and I felt that more could have been done to make this particular attraction much more stunning and delightful...and a "must see" everytime for EPCOT guests, concidering how successful this film has been for both Disney and Pixar. It fell a bit short of that expectation for me.
Still... I'll give it a 3*** and 1/2 stars out of 5. Go check it out.
Here are some photos from my visit, but due to the constant motion and low lighting conditions inside the ride, it was difficult to catch some of the highlights in photos.