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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea History Is Celebrated at New Fantasyland Event

Jennifer Fickley-Baker

by , Editorial Content Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

As Imagineer Chris Beatty recently mentioned during our live chat on New Fantasyland, our Imagineers not only bring Disney magic to life in the form of wonderful attractions, but they’re also huge fans of Disney history. I don’t think anything demonstrates this more than the event Walt Disney Imagineering led yesterday in New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park.

Many of you may recognize that the area occupied by the new Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid attraction was formerly the location of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, an attraction that closed in 1994. Here’s the surprise: Before 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was dismantled, our Imagineers saved some of the attraction’s water in carefully labeled bottles and kept them safe at their Florida headquarters for the past 18 years.

Yesterday, those bottles were opened for the first time. In this video, watch as Imagineer Chris Kelly leads a small group of bloggers in returning a piece of the past to New Fantasyland – simply amazing!

Keep an eye on the Disney Parks Blog and follow @WaltDisneyWorld on Twitter for the latest on New Fantasyland. While you’re on Twitter, join in the conversation by using the hashtag #NewFantasyland.


  • My Friend and Co Worker Disney Legend Fred Joerger, had saved many of the Coye fish from the movie after it was completed. He took them home to a huge outdoor pond he created at his house where after 20 years they multiplyed and became very large. They captured new friends in giant bull frogs that talked to the 20,000 League survivors. I would like to think the new owners of his home still have some of them.

  • 20,000 Leagues was the very first ride I went on when I went to WDW for the first time (I was well into adulthood!), and it remains an all-time favorite. I loved going on the Nemo submarine ride in Disneyland this year! I sure wish it could have been kept at WDW. Thanks for recognizing this outstanding ride from WDW’s past!

  • Brilliant! I loved the 20,000 Leagues ride when I was young. Until this year I had not been back to Disney since 1984. The changes are nothing short of miraculous and the park remains awe-inspiring. I think I love the parks even more now, as an adult. Bringing my three year old to the parks for her first visit will always be a cherished moment. Being a Passholder is the most amazing privelege…and new Fantasyland is incredible. The details going into the Little Mermaid Ride are fantastic!

  • It’s moments like this when I wish I was a little older. I wasn’t born until after 20,000 Leagues closed, but my father has such great memories of 20,000 Leagues. *sighs* I guess it will just have to go onto that list of stuff I wish I was old enough to remember, which also includes Kitchen Kabaret and ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. It’s funny, I’m too young to have seen Kitchen Kabaret, but I can sing “veggie, veggie, fruit, fruit.” like a pro.

  • Curtis,
    Images of the Nautilus are imprints in the walls of the queue.

  • That is pretty cool on using the water to tie the two areas, bringing old and new together. What I would like to know is if they made some 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea tribute in the ride somewhere?Like they did with the Nautilus sub as a knot in Pooh’s tree that used to be by the 20K area before it was moved to the new Pooh themed area.

  • I’m still in shock that I was part of this historical event. It was a life changing and magical event for me!

  • I am so proud and thrilled to have participated in this monumentous ceremony merging the old and new Fantasyland. As a keepsake, Disney presented each of us with the glass that held the water from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It is a priceless piece of Disney history that I will cherish forever.

  • I have such fond memories of going on 20,000 Leagues as a child. Now, as an adult, I can’t WAIT to make some more fond memories on Ariel’s attraction. What a cool video and experience for those folks.

  • Jennifer, I wanna see a post of Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid!!!!!!!

    • Hold tight, Jose. We’re working on something special for Mermaid. 🙂

  • Wow, what an honor to be a part of the ceremony. It always amazes me the thought and details that go into everything Disney does. Is there a way, as an annual passholder, to be notified of such events? I check the Blog everyday!!

    • I love hearing that you’re such a big blog fan, Julie! This was actually an event for online media/bloggers only this time. Keep watching – there will be some exciting events coming up.

  • I literally had chills run down my arms when I watched that video. Of course there will always be those of us who are sad when such great attractions from the past are gone, but when Disney cares so much about it’s history to do things like this, it shows what a wonderful company they really are. Whoever thought back then to save some water, and whoever thought presently to do this “ceremony”, thank you for showing us all how much you care about the past, but also the future. I’m sure Mr. Disney would be very proud of this. Wish I could have been a part of this!

    • Thanks for the rave review, Jonathan. I’ll pass it along to our WDI friends.

  • Wow, what a great idea. I’m curious though, Amy Stacey, and Valerie, how did you all get to attend and take part in the ceremony? I thought Cast Member previews were going on now so New Fantasyland isn’t open to the general public, right? Or did anyone in the park get to attend this ceremony? I would have LOVED for this ceremony to have been for the Grand Opening in December or announced so myself and other fans could have attended.

    • This event was for a small group of invited bloggers/media, not guests just yet.

  • I too was honored to be a part of this group that poured the water merging the past & present Fantasylands. And what a cool story to be able to tell, and one day to my grand kids as well.

    • I’m happy to hear that the experience meant so much to you!

  • WOW!! As usual, Disney continues to amaze me. Thank-you imagineers for adding this sentimental touch! I can’t wait to see the new Fantasyland expansion; only 9 more days!!

  • Forward thinking! This was a great idea.

  • What a wonderful story. Takes me back to the opening of IT’S A SMALL WORLD in Disneyland park when Walt and the World’s children poured water from the seven seas into the Small World lagoon. I get goose-bumps when Disney Parks Blog makes me a part of such a fantastic tradition. Thanks, as always, for sharing the MAGIC!

  • I loved this ride as a kid. The vinylmation broke me into 9″ collecting. I’m so happy to see it honored in this way… and to be replaced by a ride honoring my favorite movie as a kid. Can’t wait to be there soon.

    • That’s nice to hear, Konrad.

  • What a wonderful way to link the past with the present! I loved 20,000 Leagues and am so looking forward to experiencing New Fantasyland!

  • When my children were small, we visited Disney World, and my young daughter insisted we ride the 20,000 Leagues ride. After an hour or more wait in the relentless sun, we boarded the sub…very small…very HOT…not nearly enough air circulation. The view from the tiny windows was of plastic fish and other not-so-real-looking creatures. I couldn’t wait to get out, but she absolutely LOVED it!

    So, while my own memories are more of nostalgia for the book and movie that this ride was based on, her delight and her “Let’s go again!” will always be a part of my fond memories for 20,000 Leagues!

  • So great! The new expansion will be so wonderful to see when my family and I get back there again

    • It’s amazing!

  • Wow. After having worked a number of years at 20K, and knowing what is in that water, I hope none of the bloggers had the crazy idea of drinking from any of those glasses! But, it was a nice touch from Disney to do that in honor of the classic ride.

  • Wow, what a unique way to close the circle so to speak and bring it all together. I only rode on the old 20,000 leagues a couple of times but was sorry to see it go, now whenever I visit Disneyland Paris where they have one of the Nautilus ships it’s always a nostalgic moment. Seeing this water being poured makes me smile, it’s so good to know that there’s a genuine piece of Disney park history forever now a part of the present and Walt’s continuing legacy. =)

    • 🙂

  • It’s a lovely gesture, but it’s still too bad that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is gone. Besides the original exhibit at Disneyland in the Fifties, it’s the one 20,000 Leagues attraction I never had the chance to ride. It’s always sad to lose pieces of our heritage, even a theme park ride.

  • I was honored to be a part of this celebration!

    • Luck you!

  • Really wish Disney would bring the new 20,000 Leagues Submarine ride that the imagineers created for Tokyo Disney Seas to Disney World. It’s amazing!

  • I was so honored to take part in the ceremony. It’s a moment I will treasure forever!

    • That’s great to hear. 🙂

  • I loved the old 20,000 Leagues, and can’t wait to see the new Fantasyland. What a fabulous way to link the two.

    • Agreed! I’m happy they were able to capture the moment and share it with us, too.

  • It is this kind of magnificent, forward thinking that makes me love Disney! Thank you to all the creative minds that thought of saving the water for 18 years!

    • It’s unreal, isn’t it? I’m so happy they did something with it and made it special.

  • WOW, that’s amazing that they kept the water for 18 years!! I would love to take a tour of the warehouses/areas where items from old rides are kept!

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