Although I wasn't able to give the building the farewell it deserves, this news with permission granted from D-Troops HQ...
The Living Seas Rehab - August 31 - Late November (27th? 30th)
Essentially, the Living Seas will be shut down for two major change phases.
Phase one: August-November 2005 - the refurbishment of main Seabase Alpha
Phase two: 2005 - ? 2006 - the change to the current preshow areas
In November, guests will likely be routed through the current Living Seas exit area and into the Living Seas seabase. It is likely that the hydrolators will be removed as this will most likely serve as the main entrance to the building. A brand new sign will be erected, perhaps with a similar splash effect but with some nice modifications.
It is my guess that the main modules - Find Nemo, Bruce's Sub Shack, and Turtle Talk with Crush - will likely remain. Further "modernization" and "Nemofication" will likely be brought into the upper modules, as well as the manatee areas on both levels. New carpeting, new painting, the works. Nemo and friends will definitely step in with film/character-inspired artwork that will appear throughout the building.
I find the rumor of the hydrolators closing as unfortunate. Think about it - how much imagination went into creating and building them. You'll find posts today of people asking if they actually went up and down - it's so effective and required a lot of know-how and brain power. What I *really* want to see in this project is new brain-power and a great way for us to "enter the sea" (and not an aquarium). So for that, we'll have to wait a few months.
Okay, so it's November 2005, and you find yourself loving the new Living Seas. But that's only half the building open for you. . .
In 2006, the Finding Nemo ride will likely open to guests. Because the new fiscal year is coming up, it might be that new money will be pumped in for this project alone, making the entire building's budget just right for good show quality. It is rumored that the old ride track (Sea Cabs) will be replaced with about 80-100 ft. of new track added. Already, crews have probably already begun knocking down walls in the preshow area in order to clear space for queue area and other story elements for the ride. The inspired artwork and artifacts in the first queue line may not make it, but perhaps ONE of the two theaters (perhaps the one unused right now) may stay intact for some form of theater show or preshow film for the ride. At least one will likely be demolished. The track for the ride might extend into what was the pavilion's gateway into the hydrolators/preshow at the building's closing.
It is undetermined if the ride will keep the current vehicles, or if they will have totally new ones (for safety reasons), and this could help explain the "new track" rumor. Because the Nemo hollograms will likely have audio, will vehicles be dispatched individually or in groups? Who knows, maybe the Rocket Rods will find a home disguised as sea exploration vehicles. But that came out of "the blue." The ride (which was at one point going to be a walk-through in more recent concepts) will be INSANELY popular... so will Fastpass be brought on? There's room for the setup...
Show quality? I doubt we'll find a single speaker stickin' out in sight. At The Land, the planning began with Soarin' (which began construction in August of 2003) and THEN the Land pavilion (January 2005) and most of the funding was not in the food court/atrium area, but rather in the Soarin' section, which turned out absolutely brilliant. Even the roofing is pristine and adds to the show quality. But because so much was pumped in there, it seems like the team was crunching for budget, which might account for the visible speakers and cheaper fencing materials, as well as the generic theming of Seasons. (The larger portion of the atrium/food court budget went into knocking everything old out and replacing the floors!)
Here at The Living Seas, it's rumored that the old Spaceship Earth rehab funds (SSE originally scheduled to close this year at some point in time) are being pumped into the project. And then a new budget for 2006 will clear the way for better show quality and enjoyment of the ride, ensuring a good, solid refreshening throughout the whole building. As for Spaceship Earth, a new sponsor might be able to fund that refurbishment -- hopefully!
But overall, great things might be coming out of this project. I once again stress the need for Disney to address the actual, factual, and perhaps even historical aspects of sea and man's interaction with it. Nemo and Dory and pals can be great hosts, but they need to be telling an important story about the seas and mankind's quests -- Epcot has a dedication plaque. The design team is a great one I hear, and so long as the facts are hosted by the fantasy, the Living Seas message can be translated to guests in a more effective means than ever!