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Are the Subs Sunk?

Rumors about the permanent closure of Disneyland's Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage have been swirling about ever since Al Lutz broke the news last summer. But, at least according to the cast members I'm hearing from, "All the rumors of the subs being closed for good are just rumors."


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The attraction's current, protracted closure, which began January 6 and lasts until at least September 26, was long overdue. In the early years, the subs regularly shut down for two-to-three-month "dry rehabs." (In fact, in the ride's first 10 years, the lagoon was drained and refurbished at least three times—1961, 1964 and 1969.) The lagoon leaks water constantly (its original bottom would lose 40,000 gallons a day) and has to be resurfaced periodically. The sun and chlorine quickly weather and fade underwater components.

And then there have been a spate of recent mishaps that has necessitated a longer, more immediate rehab. According to one cast member, "The reasons for the subs shutting down so quickly were that a piece of the cavern ceiling fell into the water and blocked a sub, one of the tracks was coming loose, and another sub almost caught fire from overheating. Fortunately, no guests were on board. There are a lot of problems with the attraction. But the chunk of the ceiling falling was the last straw."

Nonetheless, considering how expensive and time-consuming the attraction is to maintain, the length of the rehab—nearly three times that of traditional dry rehabs—suggests management is in no hurry to reopen. "The subs take a long time to rehab," said a longtime Facilities manager. "My opinion is that they should get rid of them. High maintenance, possible safety disaster. Could easily put in a couple of more attractions, merchandising, food, etc., with the room they have. As the old saying at the park goes, ‘Even the third shift custodian knows that!'"

Yet, publicly, Disney has been adamant that the subs will resurface before the end of the year (insisting even more forcefully than a previous administration's promise that the subs would never disappear in the first place).

If you're handicapping, ride operators give the attraction, on average, a greater than 75 percent chance of reopening. And what gives them extra insight is that maintenance had ordered a lot of spare parts for the attraction—something they certainly wouldn't invest in if the ride wasn't coming back.

Marvelventions

Ever since its carousel theater started rotating again in 1998 as the poster child for an underwhelming New Tomorrowland, Innoventions has struggled to draw sufficient crowds to justify keeping the doors opens. But, due to corporate sponsorships, Disney had no choice and had been counting the days until it could pull the plug, occasionally dropping in temporary exhibits to minimize the empty corners.

That all changed last April when the Iron Man Tech Hall of Armor exhibit opened. Attendance skyrocketed and got a further boost last fall with the addition of a Thor: Treasures of Asgard meet-and-greet. Both exhibits were supposed to be temporary, but now have no official end date.

Expect the same for the new Captain America meet-and-greet, tentatively slated to open the last week of February. Cap will be situated near the Iron Man and Thor sets.

And what's next for "Inno" (cast member shorthand for Innoventions)? Sources indicate Iron Man will be the next Avenger that guests will be able to meet. He is expected to arrive no later than Christmas of 2014.

Must-Not-See TV

In every cast member breakroom, there's a widescreen television broadcasting in-house programming called "Cast TV." The program includes trailers for upcoming Disney films and TV shows, videos for special events, traffic alerts, and witless videos. "We think it is another way for the company to brainwash us with their propaganda," says one employee.

He has particular disdain for one video, part of a "What's Your Disney Side?" series. It's introduced as, "A trip to Disneyland with my 3-year-old daughter, as re-enacted by me and another full grown man." Yes, that's the plot. It shows the couple carrying around a dude with a five o'clock shadow, who's squeezed into princess mouse ears and a child's red Minnie Mouse skirt, as they watch the parade and eat ice cream. They ride Pirates together, the Teacups, and Dumbo.

On its own, the video came across to some cast members as disturbing, rather than funny. It turns out the video is part of a web series called Convos with My 3-Year-Old and can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1_B3rVycKI. Judge for yourself.



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(Send an email to David Koenig)

David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999) (All titles published by Bonaventure Press).

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.