The Disney (Soap) Bubble

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If you’re visiting Walt Disney World, chances are you’re living in the Disney bubble, or rather, the Disney bubbles.

Many guests refer to the immersive environment of the theme parks and resorts as the “Disney Bubble,” but what I’m talking about here is actual bubbles:¬†air-filled soap spheres.

Bubbles from heaven.
Bubbles from heaven at the Nemo show.

While I was at Walt Disney World last week, I read a rumor that the Voyage of the Little Mermaid attraction was next on the Disney’s Hollywood Studios overhaul chopping block. (I have no inside scoop on this, but at the rate DHS attractions are kicking the bucket it seemed like a credible threat.) Voyage of the Little Mermaid is a sentimental favorite of mine, so I made an unplanned detour to DHS to get into one last viewing before its possible retirement. After watching Ariel earn her sea land legs, I hightailed it back to my planned tour of the Animal Kingdom and ended up at Finding Nemo- The Musical less than an hour later.

Besides overprotective fathers and songs about sea life, these two shows have one other notable thing in common: bubbles. During both Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo: The Musical key moments are punctuated by showers of tens of thousands of bubbles raining from the sky.

She's swimming in bubbles.

This effect makes some sense in both these shows. Mermaid and Nemo each take place in an aquatic setting. Bubbles are a relatively easy way to convey a sense of the texture of the foamy seas. But while the bubbles did make sense in both locations, seeing the same sensory tool employed in a similar manner in more than one attraction in such a short time span made me wonder whether maybe Disney is perhaps overusing bubbles such that they’re no longer a very “special” effect.

So I started thinking … In addition to Mermaid and Nemo, bubbles are used at Walt Disney World in the following attractions:

  • Disney Junior Live On Stage at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There are bubbles in the Doc McStuffins segment. The bubbles are supposed to be part of a sink overflow storyline, but they’re mostly used to get the preschool-aged audience up on their feet. Oh, and there’s also a flurry of faux snow during the Sofia the First segment and a shower of “gold doubloons” by Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
  • MuppetVision 3D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Miss Piggy’s song is accompanied by a bubble shower.
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic at the Magic Kingdom. Bubbles rain down during the Little Mermaid segment. (Or at least they did. Recently this element has been nonfunctional.)

For those keeping score, that’s three bubble attractions at Hollywood Studios, with two (Mermaid and Junior) within spitting distance of each other. Bubbles are also used in the analogous attractions in the other Disney theme parks. For example, the Disney Junior attraction at Disneyland and MuppetVision at Disney California Adventure have bubble showers. Additionally, bubbles are used in the Little Mermaid segment of Disney Dreams, the stage show on the Disney Cruise Line ship the Magic.

While not really an attraction, bubbles also are routinely used by cast members on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom as a distraction for children (and other guests) waiting for parades and other events. The firing of bubble guns is used as a sales tool at merchandise carts throughout the Magic Kingdom. And many Disney World resort cast members use bubble guns poolside as a way of making their afternoon game time more festive.

Suffice it to say, if you’re in a Disney environment, you’re almost certainly going to encounter some bubble foam.

I get it. Bubbles are low cost — once the equipment is purchased, the only expense is soap and water. They also quickly and clearly convey an ethos of fun. It’s no wonder Disney regularly falls back on them for a speedy dose of merriment.

But there are also downsides to the bubbles at Disney. As I mentioned, the prolific use of bubbles substantially dilutes their impact. A family with a princess age daughter could easily encounter three bubble effect attractions in one theme park within half a day of touring. The “wow” factor diminishes with each application – bubble fatigue is real.

Additionally, not-too-deep dig into the interwebs uncovers a vocal minority of rabid bubble-haters. Some guests are allergic to the soap formula. (This seems common enough that I find it strange there’s no warning language on the attraction signage.) Other guests have had the soap bubbles inflict minor damage to camera equipment and clothing. Others are in a lather because they incurred minor physical injury from other guests accidentally hitting them while reaching to pop a bubble. And my personal pet peeve is that kids screaming about the bubbles inevitably interfere with my ability to hear the show’s music. I’m a curmudgeon; I know.

I suppose that the saving grace for bubbles is that their ubiquitousness has been nearly supplanted by the constant flurries of soap snow surrounding anything related to the film Frozen. For me, the fake snow was nice when I mostly saw it at winter holiday events. Now that Elsa conjures blizzards year round, my response to them has turned icy. If you have a six-year-old girl and you’re at Hollywood Studios right now, you’re likely to have some form of soap fall on you at the Frozen parade, the Frozen Singalong, the Little Mermaid show, the Disney Junior show, and the MuppetVision show. Five showers in less than a day. Let it go?

How do you feel about the special effects use of bubbles? Pro or con? Do you feel like they’re used in the parks too much? Not enough? Let us know in the comments below.

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel at DisneyWorldMoms.com, a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obession - Broadway theater. Erin can be reached on Twitter @MsErinFoster.

4 thoughts on “The Disney (Soap) Bubble

  • August 10, 2015 at 2:29 pm
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    If I’m not mistaken, they’re also used during the Osborne Lights for snow. That may be what you’re referring to with the “winter holiday events.”

  • August 10, 2015 at 6:42 pm
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    Speaking of Effects at Disney.
    How about an article on the smells of Disney? Spaceship Earth, Cookies, Stink Bugs, Popcorn,Chili Dog Breath, The Land, and I sware there’s ocean smell at the living seas, and a special mention to the long gone Horizon’s orange smell.

    • August 10, 2015 at 8:54 pm
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      I guess the Horizons orange smell isn’t actually “long gone” but simply re-located across Future World to Soarin’ (for the orange grove scene)…

      • August 12, 2015 at 7:57 am
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        Boy do I miss Horizons! I always think of it on Soarin’

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