Walt Disney Imagineers Get Creative With Ariel’s Hair at Disney California Adventure Park

We are just a couple of months away from the official opening of The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure at Disney California Adventure park. Walt Disney Imagineers are working hard to make sure you feel transported into Ariel’s world through every detail – the water, the fish, the hair….yes, the hair! Ariel’s hair posed a particular challenge for Imagineers, one they hadn’t encountered before – how do you make hair that’s technically out of the water look like it’s floating underwater? Take a look at their progress.


  • Mechele–
    Yes, as I understand it, the ride will be handicap accessible. No, the ride experience is not actually underwater, although there will be the illusion of being being underwater. 🙂

  • Love it, Love it, Love it. Can’t wait to go.

  • I can’t wait to see The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. Will it be handicap accessible? My mother is disabled and there is some rides at Disneyland/California Adventure that she cannot ride because of the accessibility in getting into the ride. One of them being Nemo’s Submarine Voyage. I hope that The Little Mermaid will be something that she can ride and is not compacted in a small area that you have to climb down into like Nemo’s Submarine Voyage. Also will The Little Mermaid be underwater like Nemo’s Submarine? Thanks from Mechele in CA

  • Not to be rude, but Ursula came out a lot better, her skin is more realistic and less shiny. . perhaps they were capable of that because Ursula is so much bigger than Ariel. . That and this isnt a final shot. . Thanks for the video!

  • Wow! That is amazing. Going in June and I can’t wait to ride this ride!!! The little mermaid is my favorite Disney movie.

  • Thanks for the reply Valarie. 🙂

  • Patrick–
    The hair on the singing Ariel figure is definitely not stiff, her hair does move around a little.

  • I love Ursula! And maybe it will be different with special effects around her, but going from a real looking Ursula to a real looking but rubbery and stiff hair Ariel is kind of disappointing. Still love it! Can’t wait for it to come to WDW!

  • One of the things I love is the fact that the animatronics in this ride are of the same caliber of the animatronics that one would find at the Tokyo Disney Resort.

    Its great to know Disney is giving these new rides big budgets. It gets me excited about the potential of the animatronics that will be at Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land.
    I loved the mock-up of the Lightning McQueen character at the D23 Expo!

  • @Ed, you are hilarious.
    I think this looks great and I would echo that it’s nice to see some new animatronics being added to the parks. Way to go Disney!

  • What a great clip! She looks so life like!!! We are very excited for this new ride to open!

  • @ Ed: Not really needed here….

    She looks pretty darn good! Keep up the good work Imagineers!
    On a side note, this ride, and Star Tours open on my birthday!!

  • I hope you guys are right, and I was thinking this…that, maybe with the lighting, music, and effects she will look good. I do think the way they have made them to move in such a life like manner is amazing, almost creepy actually. Disney seldom lets guests down and I am sure that trend will continue. Glad to hear that this video is not recent and that she may now have lipstick!

  • So just to recap, in this footage, at least one of the figures is not complete yet (the painting has yet to be done) and the figures will look better when the are under their intended show lighting conditions.
    This video is intended to be a raw look behind the scenes. 🙂

  • Ariel looks great and the hair looks incredible. If the hair effect breaks, how long would it have a strobe light on it to simulate movement?

  • Peter and Adrien–
    Good points!

  • Louis–
    Video effects are not necessarily a bad thing. Its all how they are used. In the case of the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, there are physical figures (like sea turtles and eels) in addition to the projected images. Since the main characters are fish, they had to be able to “swim” around in a fluid way that was just not possible with animatronics. I really like the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

    Thanks again for the video Valarie! Ariel looks great and I’m really looking forward to this ride, as well as Star Tours!

  • Well this video was taken Months ago When she was still being tested and adjusted. She’s missing eyebrows and other facial details right now but I assure everyone here she will look amazing whens she’s complete!

  • I think she looks good. Remember that we’re seeing her in the harsh light of a workshop. I’m sure she’ll look much more realistic under the theatrical lighting in the environment she was designed to be in. Thanks for posting the video.

  • Remember, she’s going to be in the ride environment complete with special lighting, so what looks off now will probably look fantastic in the ride.

    I am excited that they are using fantastic new audio-animatronic figures and not relying on cheaper looking flat video screens like some of the recent changes at Walt Disney World (“The Seas with Nemo & Friends”, “Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros” & “Toy Story Mania!”) and the new “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” at Disneyland.

  • Can’t wait to see this ride. Her tail looks just like the one I ran the Princess half marathon in. Love this new animatronics. Walt Disney would be so very please with his imagineers.

  • Ok, so I just compared the Ariel figure in this video with a shot of her from the film, and her nose looks fine here. Her face here looks like it does in the animated film.

    Again, I think she looks great. Thank you imagineers! 🙂

  • …To me, it looks as if Ariel came right out of the animated film into real life.

  • In the film, Ariel had big eyes. So when translating that into the real world, of course it will look a little odd, but it is still accurate because that is how her eyes look in the film.

    Also, I’m willing to bet that the reason she does not have “real” hair is because it would not look right for the cartoon aesthetic that they are going for. Her hair has to be able to “float.”

    I think that the Ariel figures look great. We need keep in mind that in this video they are not necessarily in their fully finished form.

    • You’re absolutely right, Fred! Our friends at Imagineering asked me to point out that what you are seeing in the video is not the final version of either Ariel figure that you will see in the attraction. They still need the addition of their finished skins, figure finishing, show lighting and a few more weeks of testing before they will be finished. We wanted you to be the first to see these works-in-progress by sharing them here on the Disney Parks Blog.

  • As seen in this video, the Ariel figure floating in front of the coral does have color on her lips. It is only the Ariel figure holding the chest that does not yet have colored lips.

  • Amazing animatronics but I agree that she needs some lipstick. Her lips are the same color as her skin, she needs her red lips.

  • Some thing is way off and I hope they are going to fix her…the Ursula looks amazing but this is just bad. Her lips need to be red as mentioned, her nose in the movie is more button like and that hair looks like rubber. I am excited about this ride but if she of all people does not look accurate it willnot translate well.

  • Ariel does look cool but it looks like something is a little off…aren’t her lips a little more colored in the movie? She just looks younger there than in the movie.

  • I can’t wait to see this ride in action. Thanks for posting all these behind the scenes blogs for us. It helps keep our vacation memories going.

  • Jennifer mentioned Horizons and it made me sad! Oh, how I miss the smell of those futuristic orange groves!

  • I’m sure the Ariel figure holding the chest will have her lips painted. The Ariel figure floating in front of the coral does have color on her lips.

  • Agreed, her lips need to be more red.

  • So excited for this attraction! I just hope that maybe they add a little rouge to Ariel’s lips…

  • It looks incredible! Her hair is great can’t wait we will be at Disneyland when it is set open!!

  • very nice! I’m extremely excited to see a good ole AA ride. It seems all disney has been doing a lot of the time is computer effects, etc. To see an animatronic ride through ride like this gives me hope for even greater disney parks! Harkens back to the GREAT AA rides… Haunted Mansion, POTC, Horizons, etc.

  • I’m really looking forward to the Little Mermaid attraction. The details, both inside and outside, share the same detail as The Haunted Mansion. The designers are amazingly creative.

  • Thank you for posting updates on the inside progress of this ride! Would love to see a couple of posts on the inside development of Star Tours also!

  • That looks incredible! I really didn’t expect to see any “real” animatronics in this ride, just mannequins that rotate on a base. Thank SO MUCH for making real animatonics! I feel like I’m 5 years old again.

    I’m eager to see the completed look of Ariel’s hair. I had something way different in kind when I heard her hair would be animated, but this is quite a cool idea. Great job!

  • Wow! Ariel looks so beautiful and real. Walt would be proud!
    Congratulations everyone! Can´t to see the ride ready.

  • Very cool!

    Thanks so much for the video peek!

    The animatronics in the ride are awesome. Like Ursula, Ariel moves very fluidly!

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