Guests at “Little Mermaid Meet-Up” Enjoy Rare Opportunity to Meet Imagineers, Animators

Michele Himmelberg

by , Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort

Last night, guests at our “Little Mermaid Meet-up” got to see some stories from the Disney Parks Blog come to life, with a rare opportunity to meet Walt Disney Imagineers and Walt Disney animators. They also got to hear some fascinating stories about the attraction that opens June 3 at Disney California Adventure park: The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.

This was the star line-up for our panel discussion: Walt Disney Imagineers Lisa Girolami, Larry Nikolai and Chris Crump from the attraction’s creative team, plus Walt Disney animators Andreas Deja and Mark Henn, who worked on the animated feature film on which the attraction is based. Tim O’Day, a Disney author and historian, served as emcee.

The panelists told us the attraction took nearly four years to create, from concept to finish. Larry revealed that the “Under the Sea” scene has more than 128 characters, “if you count the 50 starfish.” And though it has been “a lot of work,” they also said they’ve had a lot of fun.

The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure Meet ~ Up

After an exciting presentation, with behind-the-scenes video and photographs, the panelists answered guest questions. One question came from Fred, a regular Blog reader: “What was one of the most exciting parts of creating this attraction?”

Chris Crump answered by telling a story about the Ursula character, who stands 12 feet tall and 7.5 feet wide. The team created her at the Imagineering offices, and then moved her into the attraction, calculating carefully to fit her into the allotted space. It was a tight squeeze. “When the hatch opened, I was just looking at her tentacles, hoping … and the tentacles cleared the hatch by about an inch,” Chris said, very relieved.

Our guests mingled with the Disney panelists and enjoyed some fabulous appetizers before the show began in a ballroom at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Guests also got a few autographs signed on their special gift – a beautiful lithograph featuring a portion of the mural that will be inside The Little Mermaid attraction queue line.

The guests – big fans of the Disney Parks Blog – got to meet some of our authors, Erin Glover and Jim Ames. And they took photos with Ariel, the star of the new attraction.

The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure Meet ~ Up

We’ll tell you more about what the Imagineers and animators had to say in another post. Today, we want to share two stories about our guests. They came from down the street in Anaheim and from as far away as Idaho and St. George, Utah.

Samantha and Anastasia, a mom and daughter from El Dorado Hills, traveled from Northern California for the meet-up. Samantha told us why she’s looking forward to the new attraction: “Ariel is the best princess ever. She’s a princess and a mermaid. How can you beat that?”

Logan Kendell and Katrina Maughan drove nearly 400 miles Tuesday from St. George, Utah, stopping on the way to don a suit for the event. Logan is a big fan of Disney and animator Andreas Deja.

When Logan met Andreas, he asked: “What was the first thing you did for Disney?” The animator told him a story about his first year at Walt Disney Animation Studios, working with then little-known director Tim Burton. That was just before Dejas began working on “The Little Mermaid” film – more than 25 years ago . After the panel discussion, Logan and Katrina wished they could stay for the opening of The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.

The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure Meet ~ Up

The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure Meet ~ Up

The evening closed with reserved viewing for “World of Color,” which is located just across the way from the new Little Mermaid attraction. I hope our panelists and guests had as much as fun as we did. Thank you again, Lisa, Larry, Chris, Mark and Andreas for giving our meet-up guests such a great experience last night, and thanks to all of our guests for coming to the event and following us on the Disney Parks Blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post with more insights from the Imagineers.


  • thank you so much for the great event! my mom and i had a wonderful time, and could have sat and chatted with everyone for hours on end!! i hope that this puts me one step closer to my dream of becoming part of the disney team one day. THANK YOU! <3

  • Words cannot express my gratitude and appreciation for being able to participate in the panel, and getting to meet the imagineers and animators. Lisa was such a sweetheart, wonderful person and Tim was hilarious. The food, ppl, everything was wonderful. I hope their will be similar opportunities in the future, Im such a huge Disney fan and cannot wait. 🙂

  • Not only can I still not get over that I got to go to this amazing event, I check the blog today and there’s a pic of me and my friend! It was great to meet Mark and get his autograph. Ariel has been my favorite princess since the movie came out!

  • I had a great time and I’m looking forward to the attraction. I, too, missed out on speaking with the Artists and Imagineers and get autographs on the matte prints. All the same, it was great evening. I espeically liked hearing Ms. Girolami’s story about Mr. Iger and his reaction to the attraction.

  • WoW, Ralph….
    and to think you got in for free. Lucky you

  • Any chance that Ariel will be doing meet and greets at the attraction in the same outfit she’s wearing in the pic above as opposed to the dress? If yes, will it be long term, or just for the summer to promote the ride?

  • WOW!! Thanks for the opportunity to meet such amazing group; my Daughter and I had an awesome time, she can’t stop talking about the fabulous experience…THANKS

    • Hi Sonia. I’m glad you both had fun. It was a rare treat. The Imagineers really enjoyed seeing how excited everyone is for the opening of The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.

  • I entered the sweepstakes a couple weeks ago. I wish I could have been chosen, but with the luck of my family, I knew that wouldn’t happen. Looked like a lot of fun! Is there going to be any more sweepstakes like this in the future? Hope so. 🙂

  • The lines for getting to meet the panelists and having them sign the gift matted print for the evening was cut short. We were promised that they would be back out after the discussion – but we were all hurried out of the room to go see World of Color. That was VERY disappointing.

  • This event was amazing! I had such an amazing time. Thank you animators, designers, and imagineers for all your hard work and creativity! I am honored to have met each one of you!

  • Looks like they all had a great time! Thanks for sharing!

  • This truly was a magnificent event! World of Color was spectacular (naturally) but nothing beats
    being able to speak with the amazing minds that create both the wonderful Disney Parks Blog
    and the upcoming Little Mermaid ride :). The food was good too 😉

    Thank you all for a wonderful time!

    • Thanks Jeffrey! It was great to meet you and Carina, and to hear how much you enjoy the work of Walt Disney Imagineers.

  • THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. My Daughter and I had an Amazing Night. An extra special thank you to Mark Henn for taking the time @ the World of Color Show to autograph her lithograph. It was the only one she got…..but I have a feeling she didnt mind.
    Another Magical time 🙂

    • Hi Gabriela. It’s great to have Disney fans like you and your daughter. Thanks for reading the Disney Parks blog.

  • I can’t wait to come back to DL and CA to see this all come alive. I’ve been watching the blog to see the progress…it’s just amazing…

  • …And thanks for choosing one of my questions!

  • Sounds pretty cool.

    I hope everyone who attended had a great time! 🙂

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