Are the Subs Sunk?

by David Koenig, contributing writer

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."

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.


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 Judge for yourself.



  1. By MyTwoCents

    If I want rumors, I'll just go to MiceAge and rumormonger Al Lutz.
    I want facts and fair opinions supported by solid research...both of which are getting harder to find on this site.

  2. By bumblebeeonarose

    I thought that video was funny. It was better than most of the other Disney Side videos I've seen.

  3. By Jeff Kober

    Thanks David for what I believe is a more balanced view of the facts. I wouldn't blame the company for taking the time to figure out what they want to do with the subs. It's part of a huge piece of property that holds many possibilities. I think there are many ideas--and even monies to support those ideas. It's just trying to figure out which idea and direction is best.

    If the subs go away in place of something really amazing, it will be sad, but we'll go on. I miss Adventures in Inner Space, but I would rather have StarTours any day. There are clearly gaps (Innoventions) but I find the parks as a whole so much better and so much more exciting than they were 20-30 years ago. I think the organization is moving in the best direction possible.

  4. By DwarfPlanet

    It's to bad they brought the subs back in the first place. I love seeing them and the lagoon from the outside for nostalgia but I find them very uncomfortable and a slow ride to get on and off of. I wish they had built a Nemo dark ride with new tech screens and more comfortable clamshell cars in the first place. Then again they keep talking of what to do with the People Mover/Rocket Rod tracks. Maybe it's time to just close that section and have a total makeover like they did with Carsland across the plaza.

  5. By David Koenig

    Dwarf -
    Your idea of a Nemo dark ride is basically what they did at Epcot's Living Seas... and it's far less popular than the Submarine Voyage. And I think it's precisely because Disneyland's vehicles are an "adventure" getting into and sitting in. Not nearly as accessible or comfortable, and that's their charm!

  6. By spectromen

    Thanks for the update. I'd really like to see it reopen simply because the lagoon is so gorgeous aesthetically. The ride hasn't been the same since the original was yanked out, sadly, but the water element is something I do hope they retain regardless of what's coming next.

    As far as the Clamshell ride not being as popular, I wouldn't be too sure. That omnimover can pull in so many more guests per hour than the Subs can; if the Subs were an omnimover I suspect they'd never have ANY line whatsoever.

  7. By danyoung

    I don't have any problem with that other site posting a "rumor" that the subs are going away forever. But I have a big problem with their adamant crowing that their info is correct, in the face of growing rumblings that it's just not true. And then there are the readers who have decided that it's all a done deal. Here's a thought, folks - read the rumors, remember them, but wait to see what's going to actually happen before panicking!

  8. By GusMan

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    Here's a thought, folks - read the rumors, remember them, but wait to see what's going to actually happen before panicking!

    ^^^ This.
    The key thing is that no plans are ever solid at Disney till the first guest experiences it. Even then, its subject to change.

  9. By David Koenig

    I'm now hearing Captain America may not debut until the last week of March. Stay tuned!

  10. By RStar

    Oh silly people! Everyone knows if they take the lagoon out, that the Matterhorn will sink!

    As sad as it would be to see it go, it would be much better if they could do something with the whole of Tommorowland. And if that means paving over the lagoon, then so be it!

  11. By BlossomNoseMurphy

    Hooray! If they are fixing the subs then I can't wait for the Gungan Submarine Voyage re-theme! What Tomorrowland really needs is more Jar Jar synergy!

  12. By LtPowers

    Convos with My 3 Year Old usually plays off of the incongruity of what the toddler says coming out of a grown man's mouth. The Disney Side promotion is a thus a bit out of character for the series, but it sure looks like they had fun making it.

    Powers &8^]

  13. By disneyfanoc40

    My pan for Tommorowland and that surrounding area would be this. Get rid of Innoventions, build like a marvel comic based attraction like a America Sings type show but with the X-men,Avengers,Spider Man, etc. But make it a little scary. Leave the Autopia..But scrap the area where the Motor Boat Cruise used to be, build some new attractions over it. Put back the peoplemover with an updated travel through of the old "Tron", it doesnt have to be tron, but you get the idea.Keep the subs.

  14. By Disneylandfanguy

    For anyone who missed it, it was announced this week on the official Disney Parks blog that Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is indeed reopening (on September 27, 2014);

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