Celebrating the Art of…Larry Nikolai and Chris Crump

Michelle Harker

by , Manager, Event Programming

Those of you keeping a close eye on The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure attraction at Disney California Adventure park know that we are only weeks away from the opening. So this month, I thought it was fitting to “Celebrate the Art of” Larry Nikolai and Chris Crump, who were kind enough to give me a brief moment of their time amidst their busy schedules for the Disney Parks Blog.

Celebrating the Art of...Larry Nikolai and Chris Crump

Michelle: The newest attraction set to open at Disney California Adventure park is The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. As creative director for the attraction at Walt Disney Imagineering, you played an integral role in character development for this project. Can you share a few things we should pay particular attention to while enjoying the attraction?

Larry: This attraction is so full of detail that there will be lots of things to discover even after riding it several times. On one trip you might pay close attention to our Audio-Animatronics cast and on another you may get swept up in the fantastic environment recreated from the film. The colorful lighting design and the lush musical score might captivate your senses on another trip, though. It’s a very rich show!

Michelle: Bringing this highly anticipated attraction to life must have been a labor of love. What was one of the biggest challenges you faced? What is one of the proudest moments that you will take away from this?

Larry: The animation of Ariel’s hair was quite challenging, as we’ve never done anything like it before – but it worked! So far, the proudest moment was having the honor of showing the attraction to the original animators from the film and having them compliment us on how we have kept the characters and sets so “on model.”

Chris: My role is to help deliver the creative vision using highly advanced systems to coordinate animated figures, scenery, props – essentially all the intricate themed components and behind-the-scenes equipment. Hiding the equipment out of Guest view is a huge challenge, and our team of talented artisans and technical wizards did a great job. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all who collaborated on this project.

Michelle: It must be very fulfilling to realize that your hard work and dedication put forth into this new attraction will be enjoyed by a countless number of Disneyland Resort visitors, including your family and friends. Is there someone special you look forward to experiencing a ride-through of this attraction with?

Larry: Most of my projects for the last thirteen years have been at the Tokyo Disney Resort, so all of my family is looking forward to finally being able to ride an attraction that I worked on! I especially look forward to riding with my granddaughter, Anna, and also my daughter, Jessica, born in 1989 and the same age as “The Little Mermaid.”

Chris: Well, one person stands out – that would be my father and Disney Legend, Rolly Crump. This attraction is really a family experience (similar to “it’s a small world”) and Rolly should appreciate how we were able to have fun with this Little Mermaid story. I hope he comes away feeling that we got it right!

Michelle: As we journey through this attraction for the first time, what do you hope that each of us takes away from the experience?

Larry: A sense of magical wonder and the sharing of a beloved Disney classic between our Guests and their families.

Chris: That you entered the world of “The Little Mermaid” – Ariel and her friends – had a good time, and left the attraction smiling.

Michelle: With so many elements and features in the attraction – from music to characters and even the immersive environments – in 10 words or less, how would you describe The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure?

Larry: It’s a music-filled extravaganza of Disney magic!

Michelle: Around here we like to keep our Imagineers busy. The word is you will be participating in a product release and signing on June 11 to continue the celebration of The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure attraction opening and have worked on some art that will debut at this event. Can you tell us a little bit about the piece?

Celebrating the Art of...Larry Nikolai and Chris Crump

Larry: I really wanted to do a commemorative painting of Ariel that was both a portrait of her and also summed up the attraction in an allegorical way. I couldn’t cram every fish from “Under the Sea” into the composition, but her friends Flounder and Sebastian are there, along with some specific props that reference back to the attraction. Also available will be a print of the concept painting that I did a couple of years ago for the attraction’s 86-foot-long load area mural. Good things come to those who wait!

Want to find out more? Visit www.ArtofDisneyParks.com for more information on the release of Larry’s “Ariel”-inspired painting scheduled to be released June 11 as part of the product debut and signing at Treasures in Paradise in Disney California Adventure park. Also scheduled to appear are artists Noah and Dave Avanzino, who will be on hand for the release of other Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” themed merchandise.


  • I have to wait until June 21st to experience Little mermaid, but I want to express congratulations to all of the Imagineers for once again breathing more magic into the Disney dream!

  • My daughter Ashley gets to preview this awesome ride this weekend! I am so jealous! Chris’ Dad, Rolly, is one of my favorite people and Chris and Larry are so artistic! I have heard great things about this ride!!! Can’t wait!

  • Very excited for this ride…I’ve been waiting for it for years! Can’t wait to ride it in June!

  • Rudi, how are you able to preview the ride this weekend? I will be at the park over the weekend and am bummed that the ride won’t be open for my visit.

  • I love that everything will look, as they put it, “on model.” It’s the best when everything looks like it was right from the movie. No imagination required. My daughter will know it’s really Ariel!

  • We’re friends of Chris’s. Now I know why we rarely hear from him lately. It was the same when he was working on A Bug’s Life!

  • We are headed to Disneyland as our first vacation for our son’s 5th birthday and made sure to extend our stay for this opening! Really excited about the ride. Big thanks for All the hard work of making something so special!

  • I get to preview it this saturay!!!!!!! Im totally excited!!!!!

  • I can’t wait to go on the ride, my 3 year old daughter, Ariel is very much looking forward to it too. I don’t know when we’ll get there, but hopefully it’s this summer. (my husband, 11 year old daughter, Aurora and 9 year old son, Zachary are looking forward to it too!)

  • Very cool. I’m looking forward to riding.

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