The Best Stage Show at WDW: Finding Nemo – The Musical
There are few concrete truths in this mixed up, crazy world, but one of them is that Finding Nemo – The Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the best stage production at Disney World. In fact, I am so certain that I will not even explain my reasons…thanks for reading!
What!? You are dubious of my claim!? Okay, I’m about to drop a Nemo-shaped truth bomb on you.
Let’s start at the beginning: Many Disney parks productions are called “Broadway quality” by people who apparently don’t understand how good Broadway level shows actually are. In actuality, Disney’s productions are “very good theme park quality.” Finding Nemo, however, is actually of Broadway quality, and that starts with its creator.
No, I don’t mean the fine folks over at Pixar, even though they did a wonderful job creating the world in which Nemo, Marlin, Dory, Crush, and others inhabit in the motion picture. While a story is essential to great musical theater, the show is nothing without great music. If you are a fan of the movie Finding Nemo, you probably remember that it is not a musical.
To add the music for the 40 minute production, Disney went out and got Robert Lopez…yes, THAT Robert Lopez. Okay, you probably don’t actually know who he is, but odds are you have seen some of his work. Lopez co-wrote two of the most innovative Broadway musicals of the past 20 years: Avenue Q and Book of Mormon (and if you don’t know them, you should be warned that they are most certainly not Disney and not safe for work). He has also contributed songs to South Park and The Simpsons, and he wrote the wonderful musical episode of the sitcom Scrubs.
Lopez has also done quite a few family friendly projects, as well, such as Wonder Pets, and he has created music for Phineas and Ferb and the most recent Winnie the Pooh movie. Lopez has been nominated for an Emmy and has won three Tony awards, a Grammy award, and a Daytime Emmy. This guy is a pro.
The result is four original songs (with a few reprises and such) that are catchy, enjoyable, catchy, well constructed, fun, and really catchy (I am a lock to be singing “Big Blue World” for hours following a viewing). The songs expertly mix humor, drama, and tension, all while pulling tidbits straight from the well loved movie the show is meant to represent.
The music is not the entire show, though, for the characters have to be represented, as well. Since these are non-human characters, putting their likenesses on stage was no small challenge. The result is a mix of puppetry styles, with all of the main characters being directed by their puppeteer/actors live on stage. The idea of seeing both the large puppets and the puppeteers at the same time seems like it would be jarring and distracting, but it adds quite a bit to the performance. Seeing the actors deliver their lines, sing, and emote really drives home the characters joy and pain…sunshine and rain (whoops, broke into a Rob Base track there).
The mechanics at play in Finding Nemo – The Musical are just as fascinating as the show itself. The actors having to also be puppeteers is one thing, but the complexity of the multitude of puppets using wires and poles and the creativity of the sets and ancillary characters really has to be experienced to be understood. As you can see by some of the pictures, this is not a sock puppets and cardboard stage production.
I have taken people to see this show who range in age from 8 weeks to mid-60s, and not one person has not enjoyed it (okay, the 8 week old slept, but he loved it at 1). It is a wonderful show with amazing talent and great music. It will make you laugh, and it will tug at your heart. What it will not do is disappoint.
Thanks for reading!
26 thoughts on “The Best Stage Show at WDW: Finding Nemo – The Musical”
I completely agree – we LOVE Finding Nemo! Great for the adults in our group and my young kids. We sing Dorie’s “la-la-la…” song almost daily! 🙂
Your arguments are very sound, and I can’t really say that anything you’ve said is not true. However, I must say that I enjoy “The Festival of the Lion King” more. I know they didn’t have to come up with the songs and no actor has to play a dual role, but the show is just. so. good, especially the older male singer – just killer.
Just have to say, Aladdin at DCA is Broadway quality, too. The wide berth they give the actors who play the genie to be topical and push the limit for a theme park with the ad-libbed humor, the sets and processions, the (happily returned) flying carpet? When I used to live in New York (my hometown), I saw plenty of Broadway that was pretty awful compared to this show.
I too would rate FotLK higher than Nemo. While Nemo is clearly a more technically advanced show, I find that the story drags on about ten minutes longer than it ought to, and I find the music of FotLK more enjoyable.
Does this mean that I need to convince anyone else to agree with me? Of course not – you’ll enjoy what you enjoy. But I have to disagree with the absolute, non-negotiable claim in the first line of the article.
Completely agree with Nicholas! Finding Nemo does drag on a little too long. Festival of the Lion King left us wishing it was a little bit longer – but in a good way. We wanted Nemo to be over a little sooner – but not in a good way.
I know they work really hard on the production and the puppets are amazing, so I can see how people enjoy it. I’m glad we saw it, but I’m not sure if we would see it again. We can’t wait to see Lion King again!
Thank you for the post. Looking forward to seeing this in June. Do you have advice on where the best seating area would be for 11-yr old that hates being behind someone blocking her view when trying to see stage performances?
The best seats to avoid having an obstructed view are the first row in the rear section, that way the large aisle is directly in front of you. Those seats go early though (probably 30-45 minutes), and I personally don’t like to get there that early.
Where I like to sit is in the front section on one of the sides, but an aisle seat. Sure you are not looking straight on, but looking across the aisle ensures no one will block your view and those seats are often still available 10-15 minutes before showtime.
Nemo is the best!!!! I can care less to see lion king again.
Sorry I disagree – I think Festival of the Lion King is a far superior show. I go to see it every time we visit AK, I’ve seen Nemo once and that was enough. I love the idea of nemo and the puppetry is very skillful and the overall effect amazing – but its the songs that I don’t like! The music in my mind just doesn’t fit. Maybe its because its not supposed to be a musical! If they did the show without the music, just tell the story – I’d go and watch it again and again. Sorry ….
Love,love,love Nemo and don’t think it is fair to compare it to FOTLK. One tells a story and the other just highlights some songs from the movie and talent (tumblers, fire eaters). I would call that more of a “revue.”
I agree – FOTLK is great, but it is not a “stage show”
I wish we could have the Hong Kong version of FOTLK. Their version actually tells the story along with the great music. I’m always watching it on youtube!
We attempted to see Nemo when my son was two. He lasted all of about five minutes before we had to sneak out the exit. The same happened with my nephew who was three at the time. I haven’t been able to convince him to try it again, and he is six now. We did love the Lion King though.
“Let’s start at the beginning: Many Disney parks productions are called “Broadway quality” by people who apparently don’t understand how good Broadway level shows actually are.”
YES THANK YOU! I thought I was the only one who knew this! I almost fell of my chair when I heard the B&tB show at Studios described as “Broadway quality”.
The original Disneyland show that ran in the early 90s was closer to “Broadway” than the WDW version. Some of the staging in New York was directly recognizable to those who had seen the DL show, and several members of the creative team worked on both shows.
My guess is that the talent pool in Southern California is more conducive to top-level productions than is Central Florida.
Was the Disneyland show “Broadway quality”? No, but it was pretty darn good.
Not even close. I admit that it has Broadway credentials, but its a terrible Broadway show. I loved Aladdin in DCA and Festival of the Lion King much more. I saw Nemo a few years ago and we haven’t gone back because I’m scared of ruining the show from laughters during “Where’s My Dad?” It’s the worst song I’ve ever heard.
As for Big Blue World, you can hear it on Nemo & Friends and it gets stuck in my head from that which is cool with me.
“Where’s My Dad?” . . . . one of the main reasons we did not like Nemo….
My father, my sister, and I saw Finding Nemo the Musical four years ago and did not like it at all. We had some free time at Animal Kingdom this November and decided to see it again. It was such a waste of time. The Tarzan show that Finding Nemo replaced was so much better! You can’t compare the musical talents of Phil Collins to the song “Big Blue World”.
Taylor, thanks for the funniest comment I’ve ever seen on Touringplans. I’m going to start going around saying “You can’t compare the musical talents of Phil Collins to [insert work of art here]”
Oh wait, you weren’t being facetious?
To quote Hedwig, we are talking to Phil Collins’ people…but then again, aren’t we all?
We heard this before we visited in February, which is why we bothered catching it. I think my entire family would have rated is as……okay. We LOVED Festival of the Lion King, however, and joked about just staying in our seats to catch it twice in a row! I kept waiting for Nemo to end. It was cute enough, but ‘cute’ and ‘entertaining’ are not perfectly synonymous.
Brian- I saw the title of this blog and I immediately said YES!! I couldn’t agree more with your premise. As is evidenced by this comment stream, there seem to be two camps- FN and FOTLK. My feeling is those who are fans of musical theater find Nemo more enjoyable. Those who are luke warm when it comes to musical theater will probably prefer Lion King. I’m of the Nemo camp obviously. I find lion king to be a well done theme park show but it wouldn’t be a must do for me every time like Nemo is. I tend to tear up more than once while watching Nemo.
I agree that this is no where near Broadway quality. I love Broadway plays, but, sorry, but I can’t stand Nemo. I was thrilled to death when our son, who was 1 at the time, started crying and I “had” to take him out. Very shortly after, my husband and other two sons came out after me–all thrilled to also leave the show. I know several people who have seen this once and thought it was more than enough. It’s just too slow and too much of rendition of the movie. It lacks so much in uniqueness, it’s boring. And way too long. And, I can’t say there isn’t much I don’t enjoy at Walt Disney World. This and Stitch are the things I truly rate low.
Have to say Nemo was pretty boring for our family. DD saw it at 5 and 6 and didn’t want to go again at 7. Fine by the rest of the family. We live in Stratford, ON and regularly see full-scale productions at the Stratford Festival. The Disney shows are fine as far as theme park shows go, but not something I want to repeat on annual visits. Lion King has better music and singers and is visually more interesting, IMO.
I agree, Brian, but you left out one vital thing to love about the Nemo show: the seats have BACKS on them! LOL This gives Nemo an edge over FOLK for sure. We always do FOLK early when our aching backs can handle the bleachers and save Nemo for later in the day when, after a long, hot day of walking, the cool auditorium with seat backs are positively delicious. Otherwise I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite between the 2 shows.
Agree with you 100 times over, Brian. Consider also, it is a show you can see nowhere else in the world (well, except YouTube I guess). The talent, the music(love AveQ and Mormon!!), the amazing Puppets sweep me off my feet every time. The JellyFish alone are worth the wait, but then there’s Crush (and his amazing voice) and the enormity of Mr Ray and Bruce. Cmon, who doesn’t lose their breath when the Nigel shows up? It’s just lovely (And I loved the Aladdin show, FoLK-not even comparable for our family)
BEST. MUSICAL. BY. FAR! (at Disney World, anyway!) I am continually watching replays of it from YouTube and have downloaded the soundtrack to my iphone! Counting down the days until I see it again.
The only way Disney could top that would be a FROZEN Musical at Disney!?? Or should we even DREAM of such???