Tuesday, January 4, 2011

History of WDW: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

The 20,0000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage opened with Walt Disney World on October 14, 1971. As an opening day attraction it was immediately designated as an "E" ticket attraction, meaning it was one of the best that the resort had to offer.

The attraction took guests on an under sea adventure in "submarines" to the depths of the ocean. Guests encountered eels, lobster, and a slew of divers before Captain Nemo (voiced by Peter Reneday) ordered the sub to dive. Once under the waterfall (which happened to be the entrance to the show building) Nemo would navigate through a graveyard of ship wrecks, the polar ice caps, and the lost city of Atlantis before encountering the squid from the films lore.

The "submarines" that were used to guide 12 guests at a time through the attraction were not submarines at all. They were really just boats. They were boats that had a guest viewing level under the water line. These boats never went completely submerged. It would be like being in a ships hull while on a trip. This plus the bubbles that were released in front of the portholes gave the illusion that the sub was diving.

The attraction closed on September 5, 1994 to be "renovated" and "refurbished." That was the last operating day that the attraction would ever have. Without warning the attraction was never re-opened. Now there are many ideas as to what caused the attraction to permanently close, but one thing is for certain, the maintenance company was not upset that the attraction was never returned to operating shape. Legend has it that when Michael Eisner (boooo....!) was looking to save money throughout the parks the WDW crew decided that they could close 20k for good. It was because of the high cost of maintenance that made the attraction difficult to maintain. Between the chlorine to keep the water crystal clear, the constant re-painting of the show building, and the lack of a real wheelchair access it was apparent that this was the perfect time to close it. So that's what was done.

But the story does not end there. Apparently the support the fans had for this attraction prompted Eisner to deploy is newly appointed President Michael Ovitz (are they still paying him as of today?) to check out the ride to see if it was really not worth fixing. Well it seems that the crew at WDW pulled a fast one on this day because before the park opened one day Ovitz rode the attraction. Well the crew choose the worst "sub" they could find and legend has it that they dumped water in the boat to simulate that it was leaking. It was also blowing diesel gas into the air like an 18- wheeler. The attraction took a rough trip through and when it was finished, surprisingly Ovitz called Eisner to tell him that the decision to close the attraction was the right one.

So there it is the life and sad end many peoples favorite attraction. To find something similar to this you will have to travel to Disneyland's Finding Nemo: Submarine Voyage to bring back some memories.

special thanks to 20kride.com for info


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  2. Ooooohhhh man... you just KNEW I would show up for this!

    I would love to know for sure what is true and isn't true about the Ovitz tale. I suppose you would just have to ask uber-agent himself. At its very worst, it still wouldn't surprise me; I heard years back from a tech that it was costing upwards of $500,000 p.a. to operate by 1994. The real tragedy, other than to f**k-over the guests and lie to them for two years, was to simply pull the plug and not attempt to invest money back into it. There are dozens of ways to have kept the ride in tact but at the same time reducing operational costs.

    One thing - 12 guests at a time? Don't play into the hands of all the kool-aid-drinking Disneyites! 20K could piss all over Jungle Cruise's hourly capacity when the crew were on a roll.

  3. oh absolutely that attraction could move people around... and I had heard from someone who spoke to a former CM... that Ovitz tale really happened... though i cannot confirm it completely... apparently the costs for maintenance were astronomical... so thats why when Eisner was looking to save money in the parks 20k was the first casualty... and cries by the fans did nothing to change their minds...

  4. Ops had been looking to get rid of it for quite a while, or at least find a corporate sponsor for it to relieve them of the burden. Why they never tried the subsea companies I'll never know.

    There are two planks to the maintance topic that people always seem to gloss over...

    Firstly, in comparison with Submarine Voyage, 20K was built (somewhat) on the cheap, and that didn't help upkeep as the years rolled on. The subs did themselves no favours in having their uppers built from brittle fibreglass, not steel like California's. A bit more long-term investment at the beginning of its life could have made a whole lot of difference.

    Similarly, you can argue that maintainance costs (paradoxically) were more expensive because it was carried out less often. Something you refurbish every 4 years is going to decay faster than something you refurbish every 2.

    Meh. It's all academic though, isn't it? The old girl's gone at the end of the day. Keep the blog posts going mate, I'm enjoying them.

  5. Thanks for the feedback I appreciate it... I'm trying to keep these pumping out as much as I can...

    Your right on the refurb schedule... They never wanted to put it down for refurb because at the time it was a popular attraction that kept the lines moving... It's sad really they let it go to point that they allowed it to close... If only they could have gotten corporate sponsoring we might not be having this conversation...