“And they rained… and rained… and rained…” For 20 years, The Living Seas was a classic EPCOT Center attraction that really did a great job of the whole “edutainment” thing. Things change, however and this applies at Epcot as this classic attraction has been refurbished or in some ways, totally replaced. Back in early 2007, The Living Seas ended its refurbishment period and became The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and while the main aquariums and marine life remained, most of the pavilion was totally changed, and today we’re going to look at what works, and what doesn’t at this great pavilion.
First, lets take a look at if the pavilion holds up to original ideals of EPCOT Center, education while being fun and entertaining and (briefly) what was in the Living Seas. The Living Seas offered a wonderful story and illusion with the “decent” to Seabase Alpha, and then a ride in Seacabs that lead into the actual base going by the aquariums along with a short educational video, showcasing the history of the world as it was formed, and how it got to be covered in water as it is today. After the refurbishment, many things inside this refurbish pavilion are fun, colorful and will certainly attract smaller kids, and in a few ways, really stretch the boundaries of character interaction.
The queue line has been extended, and the original video along with the Seacab ride have been removed, and now you ride Clamobiles through scenes featuring Audio Animatronics and some animation of the crew from the Finding Nemo film, well finding Nemo (again)! Now you do not see the aquarium until near the end of the ride, and they are able to project the animation “into” the aquarium for a really cool effect. Once you get into the main aquarium area (formerly Seabase Alpha), most of the marine life and viewing areas remain, however redecorated a bit to fit the films motif, as well as a couple of photo op areas. One of the highlights of the area is the new Turtle Talk With Crush. This is an interactive session with Crush in a theater (similar to Monsters Inc Laugh Floor over in Magic Kingdom) and the technology that has gone into the creation of this attraction is amazing, and the future of character interaction. The image of Crush is a digital puppet controlled by a backstage actor/puppeteer whose performance is translated in real time into 3D computer animation. Crush’s movements and voice-activated lip synch are rendered on the fly and are projected at 60 frames per second, so that the turtle’s mouth moves in synchronization with the actor’s words while answering questions from the kids in the audience.
So, what works, and what falls short in the pavilion? Personally, I think something unique and interesting was lost when the whole Seabase Alpha story/illusions were removed. The hydrolators were a source of constant amusement and a great tribute to how something simple can give such a grand illusion to everyone, and when you cover up most of the aquarium windows to install a brief story, takes away from the area. That being said, there are many things that are a home run in the area. Turtle Talk with Crush and the projection of Nemo into the aquarium at the end of the “ride”, are great technological leaps that you will see used in more and more attractions and give more creative leeway for Imagineers going forward. Many of the original sea critters are still in the area, such as manatees, dolphins and various fish.