Walt Disney Co. said Wednesday it will
retire one of Disneyland's oldest rides, the venerable fleet of
yellow submarines that have taken millions of passengers on
underwater journeys, without ever fully submerging the vessels.
The 39-year-old Submarine Voyage will close
following the Labor Day weekend, to make way for a new, snazzier
attraction that will debut in 2003.
It may be months before the company decides
exactly what it will install at the submarines' Tomorrowland
location, said spokesman Ray Gomez. One option involves using
Atlantis as a theme, he said.
The company is closing the submarine ride
because surveys show that customers want "something more
exciting," Gomez said. Still, he admits that some people may feel
sentimental about losing an attraction that Walt Disney called
"the eighth-largest submarine fleet in the world."
"Likely there will be some nostalgia about the
attraction because it's been here for 39 years," Gomez said. "But
the vast majority of our guests tell us they want something
The closure of the submarine ride is in
keeping with Disneyland's recent updating of Tomorrowland, which
some customers felt had become more like Yesterdayland, with its
dated attractions. The $100-million renovation, which was
completed in May, added new attractions while booting out some of
the oldies - including the Carousel of Progress, The People Mover
and Captain Eo.
"The very nature of Tomorrowland is to evolve
and change," Gomez said.
Submarine Voyage - while still cherished by
some customers - is clearly pinned to the past. The ride was
designed by Adm. Joseph Fowler, who supervised Disneyland's
construction and managed the park after it opened July 17, 1955.
Built at a cost of $2.5 million, it was inspired by the U.S.
Navy's nuclear submarines of the 1950's and the Disney film
"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."
U.S. Navy officers attended the ceremonies
June 6, 1959, and rode the 52-foot-long submarines to compare them
with the real thing.
The ride - which features eight submarines -
was designed to take about 1,400 people an hour on an eight-minute
journey into "liquid space." Halfway submerged, the fleet lumbers
around a lagoon filled with 9 million gallons of water and
decorated with plastic plants.
Initially painted a military gray, the ships
were repainted a bright yellow in the 1980s and transformed into
an "underwater research fleet," the company said.
While the ride made sense during the Cold War
era, Gomez said, park visitors are no longer as enthralled with
the subject of nuclear submarines. A statement issued by the
company on Wednesday said the ride "isn't as relevant today as it
But that seemed lost on the children who rode
one of the submarines Wednesday, their faces pressed to the
portholes. They gasped with wonder at the low-tech imagery before
them, which included suspended fish, rocking turtles and twitching
crabs. No one seemed to care much that the surface of the water
was a mere upward glance away.
"Wow," said one girl.
"The bottom of the ocean," her grandfather
The excitement was almost too much for one
small girl who began to cry when the sub's "captain" announced a
"weather warning" and bubbles perked around the ship.
"Honey, don't cry," the child's grandmother
said, rubbing her back. "It's not real."
Before the ride was over, the grandfather had
his own problems to worry about, as water dripped from a leaking
door above his head.
"Grandpa's getting a shower," a woman said.
But at the end of the ride, one granddaughter
recalled only the good parts.
"That was neat," she said. "We even saw a
Some visitors said Wednesday that they will be
happy to see the ride go, while others bemoaned its demise.
"It's kind of pathetic," said Melissa ferrari,
a college student from San Diego who confessed to liking the ride
when she was younger. "I'm 19 now, so I think it's kind of
"You grow out of it," echoed Randy Wickerd,
20, from San Diego.
Not everybody is eager to part with the past.
"Oh, man," said Gino Osborne, bending with
disappointment upon learning that the ride would close. "We've
definitely got to go on that."
His wife Robyn, however, was unconcerned.
"That was one of the weaker ones for me," the
Mission Viejo resident said. "If it were 'It's a Small World,'
then I'd get upset."
Among the park's most popular rides today are
the Indiana Jones ride in Adventureland and Honey I Shrunk the
Audience in Tomorrowland, Gomez said.
More than a dozen of the park's original rides
are still operating, he said.
On Wednesday, the lines at Submarine Voyage
were even longer than usual as word leaked out that the
attraction's days are numbered.
"The line is usually right up there with the
longest lines in the park," publicist Chad Halliburton said. "It's
one of those rides where, if you haven't been here in a while,
it's 'Hey, we've got to go on the submarines.'"