More Behind the Scenes Stories

Under the Sea with Imagineer Lisa Girolami

Erin Glover

by , Director, Publicity, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Imagineer Lisa Girolami at The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure Attraction

As the senior show producer for The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, Imagineer Lisa Girolami was one of the key people responsible for bringing the world of “The Little Mermaid” to Disney California Adventure park. Lisa oversaw the creative team responsible for the attraction’s development, so she had unique insight to share on how this new experience was brought to life.

Tell us about the guest experience at The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.

“One of the great things guests are going to experience is the actual sensation of going under the water. Guests will start out on the shore with Scuttle but then quickly turn, go backwards and submerge. We’ve got some great effects that are going to make you feel like you’re going underwater. One of the effects is actually on the ride vehicle in front of you. As you start to feel yourself go under, you’ll see the waterline rise up on the vehicle in front of you. I know you’re going to hold your breath in that moment. You’re going to feel the cold around you, you’re going to see bubbles starting to swirl, and you’re going to feel that submersion.”

Tell us about the music.

“The music in The Little Mermaid is fantastic. The songs you hear are the original songs from the film. But we also had Danny Troob, who has been Alan Menken’s arranger, write additional music for us that plays in between each of these scenes. That music is wonderful, and it’s evocative of all the different songs we have in the film.”

Alan Menken composed the film score. Danny Troob, who has collaborated with Menken on many theatrical scores, arranged and orchestrated special music for the Little Mermaid attraction.

Ursula at The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure Attraction

Do you have a favorite scene in the attraction?

“My favorite scene is Ursula’s lair. That’s the first time, in this attraction, that we actually go into black light – from white light into black light. The mood changes and you see Flotsam and Jetsam and you know Ursula is around the corner singing that wonderful song ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls.’ She’s amazing. She’s 7.5 feet tall and 12 feet wide, and you’re right up close to her and it’s my absolute favorite.”

Why build the attraction in Disney California Adventure park?

“We decided to put The Little Mermaid here in Disney California Adventure for a couple of reasons. We picked Disney California Adventure because we are bringing more and more of the Disney characters into this park and she seemed like a perfect fit. The second reason is that, here in Paradise Pier, we’ve created a seaside amusement park. So it felt right to have this under-the-sea adventure in this seaside environment.”

Why build an attraction based on “The Little Mermaid” now?

“We’ve been working a long time to bring this story to life. It’s been more than 20 years since the film was released. And it just seemed perfect at this time because the technology we need to create and tell this story has caught up with us.”

Ariel at The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure Attraction

What are some challenges you faced with this attraction?

“The number-one challenge is creating an undersea environment. For instance, when Ariel is under the sea, her hair has to animate like she’s under the sea. We actually tried to think of Ariel’s hair as an additional character. When she moves in the film, her hair reacts after she does. We actually had to do a lot of extra work there to make guests feel like ‘Yes, we’re underwater and we’re with Ariel,’ and have the hair take on its own personality.”

What was the process for bringing this attraction to life?

“We start in a phase called ‘blue sky,’ where the sky is really the limit, and we think about all the things we can do to bring this movie to life. We go through a concept phase and start to do design drawings before we can bring together people who will help us build all the different pieces. As we produce the pieces, we bring everything together in the facility that will house the attraction. From there we start to put the whole experience together for the guests.”

What’s it like to lead this kind of project?

“Being involved in this attraction is a dream come true for me. I watched the movie when it first came out. I’ve seen the movie many, many, many times since. To be able to create Ariel’s world and bring it to our guests and then get to watch the faces of the kids as they come through here is the best thing ever.”


  • Great interview! I can’t wait to experience this at WDW. Here’s hoping this is part of the Fall 2012 phase of the expansion!

  • It is an amazing ride, but Ariel’s hair is not as amazing as I thought it would be.

  • Is the Fantasyland expansion getting a duplicate or are we getting something a little diffrent? 🙂

  • Mary, Under The Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid is currently under construction at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The attraction itself will be very similar to the DCA version; however, the exterior will be completely different.

  • I wish that there could be one in Florida!

  • Sounds like a fantastically fun ride 🙂

    Looking forward to experiencing it for myself!

  • Thanks for the interview.

    Its a really great dark ride.

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