Description And Comments

The Palace of Fine Arts dome (former home of the Whoopi Goldberg-hosted Golden Dreams film) has been incorporated into an impressive new lagoon-facing facade modeled on early 20th-century aquariums. The seafoam-trimmed building, which is topped by a statue of King Triton, conceals Disney's newest old-school attraction. Opened in 2011, the basics of The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure are similar to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion: A continuously loading ride system transports you through a series of elaborately themed, darkened scenes with sophisticated special effects.

In this case, the Little Mermaid attraction takes you to the bottom of the ocean in clam-shell cars, where the ride recaps Ariel's journey from her father's undersea kingdom to marrying Prince Eric. After Scuttle the seagull recaps the back story for you, your vehicle descends backward beneath the simulated sea surface with a spritz of cool air. Assuming that you haven't drowned, you'll then meet a cutting-edge animatronic Ariel (featuring "floating" hair); party down "Under the Sea" with Sebastian the crab; and be menaced by a 12-foot wide, 7 1/2-foot-tall undulating figure of Ursula, the evil sea witch. The adventure is all set to newly orchestrated versions of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's classic songs, and original animator Glen Keane and actress Jodi Benson both returned to lend their talents.

The ride greatly benefited from a 2014 upgrade, which added additional figures and enhanced the 'Under the Sea' scene with vibrant 'black light.' However, though the ride is colorful and kinetic, it still suffers from shortchanged storytelling, especially in the unsatisfyingly abrupt finale. While it's a welcome addition to DCA's short roster of kid-friendly indoor rides, anyone expecting a modern-day classic to compete with Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean (as the reported $100-million budget might suggest) may come away somewhat disappointed.

Touring Tips

As one of the park's newest attractions and one that's suitable for most small children, The Little Mermaid can attract long lines as soon as the park opens on peak days. (On a positive note, this should reduce some of the early-morning demand for Toy Story Midway Mania! and Cars Land) This attraction does not have Fastpass. However, the Omnimover ride system is capable of efficiently handling more than 2,000 guests per hour, keeping lines moving swiftly even on busy days. If you find the line prohibitive, check back in the late afternoon, when you will often be able to walk on with little wait.

The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure Wait Times

This chart shows you roughly how long you'll wait for The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure when you visit on a day with a given Disney California Adventure Crowd Level. The blue bars represent the average "peak" wait time (that is, how long the line will at its busiest). The bottom and top black lines represent the range of peak wait times to expect (for you fellow nerds out there: it's the 5th percentile and 95th percentile of peak wait times). Please note that these are estimates, and for a better forecast for your travel dates, see The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure Wait Times.

Special Comments

Pleasant but underwhelming.

Special Needs

Disney Dish with Jim Hill

That Fish is Knotts Supposed to Be Here

Keep a sharp eye out as your clam-shell cruises through the "Under the Sea" sequence in DCA's The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure. When you get to Ariel, look behind you to your right. There, hidden in the grass, you'll find a beautifully sculpted version of the cartoon character that Don Knotts voiced in The Incredible Mr. Limpet, a live-action/ animated feature that Warner Brothers released in 1964. When I asked the Imagineers why they thought it was OK to feature a Warner Brothers character inside a Disney theme park ride, their response was, If you'll look closely at one of the crowd scenes in the animated feature, you'll notice that Mr. Limpet is in the 1989 version of The Little Mermaid as well.

Additional Resources

Other Attractions in Paradise Pier

Touring Plans with The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure

What is a Touring Plan?