When it comes to Disney rides, the detailed storytelling is what makes them so special. Thankfully, the same care and imagination that Disney Imagineers spend on building rides goes into creating the shows in Walt Disney World. For that reason, you will experience some of the highest level of entertainment found anywhere in the world, right here inside the Disney theme parks. Today, we are covering what many consider to be the best of the best of those shows.
This month marks the long anticipated sequel to the animated Disney Pixar film Finding Nemo. Unless you have been hiding inside a sea anemone for the past 15 years, then you are familiar with this beloved classic. Its sequel, Finding Dory, will be hitting theaters June 15, so I thought we would take a few weeks to cover all of the Finding Nemo fun that can be found in Walt Disney World. You might say you are like Marlin, searching for Nemo in the big world of Disney, and I am your Dory, helping guide you along the way. Well, like Dory minus the short term memory loss, hopefully.
Now, who’s ready to explore? They say you should save the best for last, but I just couldn’t wait to talk about the inventive musical version of the Disney film found over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Who’s ready to learn about the details that make this show a can’t miss experience?
Well then, let’s get started with our…
Know Before You Go Essential Facts
- The show is located in Dinoland U.S.A. in Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Fastpass + is offered
- The fright factor is 0 out of 5
- Guests may remain in a wheelchair/ECV
- Audio Description, Reflective Captioning, Assistive Listening and Sign Language are available
- The show is 40 minutes long
- The show opened on January 24, 2007.
Those are the facts, now onto the fun!
There is a big blue world awaiting you at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. A world full of familiar characters like Nemo, Marlin, Dory, Crush, and Mr. Ray. However, in this world, the characters come to life in a whole new way. Welcome to Finding Nemo – The Musical, an incredibly creative combination of elaborate stages, giant puppets and Broadway level performers. If you have never seen this show before, it is hard to truly appreciate the talent that is on display here inside a theme park. The way these actors and singers bring the big blue world to life is second to none. Before I get too far ahead of myself though, let’s swim back to the beginning of the theater and the shows that came before.
Some may remember another musical at the Theater in the Wild named Tarzan Rocks! As the name suggests, this was an upbeat rock concert version of the Disney film Tarzan. The film’s award winning soundtrack was brought to life through booming rock music and high energy acrobats, skaters, and stunt performers. The show opened in 1999 and ran till 2006. What you probably don’t remember, I know I did not, is that there was a show in place even before Tarzan Rocks!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in April of 1998, and to kick things off, the Imagineers relied on a classic tale of man and animal. The show was titled Journey into the Jungle Book, and featured favorites like Mowgli, Baloo and King Louie singing and dancing as they retold the timeless story. While this show only ran for about a year, I find it fascinating that it was the first in the theater’s history. Mainly because this past week saw the launch of the first nighttime show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Originally, that show was scheduled to be Rivers of Light. However, due to some delays, Imagineers came up with a fill in show called The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic. This new nighttime show is based off of the most current live action film from Disney to share the Jungle Book title. Now, Rivers of Light should still be on the horizon for later this year, but someday there will be a trivia question reading, “The first show inside Theater in the Wild in 1998, and the first nighttime show on Discovery River in 2016 were both named after this Disney film?” You just got ahead of the game for some future Disney trivia! Okay, I may be getting a little off topic, let’s get back to the Theater in the Wild.
Like many rides or shows at Walt Disney World initially do, both Journey into the Jungle Book and Tarzan Rocks took place outside. That meant some pretty warm performances for both the crew and the audience. Imagine wearing an ape costume while flipping around in the muggy Florida humidity. I bet those poor guys smelled like they legitimately came out of the jungle after each show. Well, after 7 years Disney decided it was time to stop swinging from the branches and start swimming with the fishes. They went to work enclosing the theater and at the same time, installed some serious upgrades to the theater’s technology. All the upgrades were made specifically with the new Finding Nemo show that was in the works. With an air conditioned, indoor theater, decked out with a state of the art stage and lighting complete, it was time for everyone’s favorite clown fish, Nemo!
Along with a top of the line facility, Disney decided they were going to gather the most talented team possible to bring the big blue ocean to life. For the first time, Disney was taking an animated film that wasn’t a musical and turning it into an original musical production. To help achieve this massive challenge, Disney hired some big names from Broadway. Fourteen original songs were written by husband and wife team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Robert won a Tony Award for “Avenue Q” and Kristen is known for composing the a cappella musical “Along the Way.” Michael Curry was the leading puppet and production designer who co-designed the famous puppets from the Broadway version of “The Lion King.” A quick aside, if you get the chance to see “The Lion King” traveling show take advantage! That show is an experience you won’t forget. All right, back to Finding Nemo – The Musical. To direct the talented cast and crew, Disney recruited Tony Award winning Director Peter Brosius. Clearly, the names mentioned here show how serious the team was about putting together a Broadway caliber show. So what did the all-star crew come up with? Well, that is a two part answer. The first part, some fun upbeat music. The second, some visual pageantry that is a feast for the eyes.
Rather than just describe in words what you can expect, I want to give you a little taste, a preview if you will. So, I’ve asked our talented editor, Darrell over at Golden Spiral Media, to cut a little from several songs in the show and piece them together for your listening pleasure. Let’s take a few minutes and listen to what Nemo and friends have in store for you…
Ah, the big blue world sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Well, hearing this musical is only half of what you can look forward to. The other half, and arguably the even better half, is the colorful staging and puppetry that takes place on a grand scale. Rather than try to describe the unique combination of man and puppet, please take a look at the pictures below to see the symbiotic relationship.
All right, there is a little taste of what makes this show a righteous combo of sight and sound! Hopefully, we have convinced you not to miss this on your next Disney trip. If that is the case, let me give you just a couple of tips when planning. The Theater in the Wild is air conditioned and will hold up to 1,500 guests. For that reason, I don’t recommend a Fastpass+ for this show. You can usually opt for the standby queue and still get a pretty good seat if you get to the show 15-30 minutes ahead of time. One thing to keep in mind, if arriving early, the queue is outside and the shade is sparce. Like most areas in the Animal Kingdom, the heat and humidity can get a little oppressive when you aren’t moving around. So, I don’t recommend arriving earlier than 30 minutes. If you do, you may have some cranky kids and adults.
Once you make it inside the theater the kids should have a great time waiting for the show to begin. There are bubbles of various sizes on each side of the stage. Nemo will begin swimming in and out of the bubbles, giving kids a reason to pay close attention to see where he pops up next. Adults can enjoy the cool theater, even if the hard benches aren’t that comfortable.
Currently, the show is being performed 7 times a day starting at 12:00. Each show begins at the top of the hour with the last performance starting at 7:00 pm. The theater is technically located in DinoLand U.S.A., but it is really in its own little spot between DinoLand and Expedition Everest. With the isolated location and limited showings you need to plan out your visit to Finding Nemo: The Musical. With animated projections, dynamic puppets, and original music you will want to make these fish your friends. Their heart warming story and humorous adventures will have the whole family saying, “Dude, that was totally awesome!”
Well, that is all the time we have for today. Thank you so much for joining me again. Hopefully today was as much fun for you as it was for me. Next week we will be discovering more of the Nemo fun awaiting us at Walt Disney World. Until then, have a great week and make each day a ride worth taking!