Same Ride, Different Parks: The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid dark ride is now officially open in the Magic Kingdom. Today I will be taking a look at the differences between this version and the one that opened a year and a half earlier in Disney California Adventure. Both attractions are mostly the same, but they each have minor differences that make each one unique.

The name:

DCA: The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure – Magic Kingdom: Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid

For some reason, the name for the attraction was changed for East coast version. Personally I think both names are a bit long. But each convey the same idea: You’re joining Ariel and going under the sea.

The exterior:

Magic Kingdom

The DCA exterior features 20th-century architecture to match the area of the park the attraction is located in, Paradise Pier. The building has many beautiful details such as mermaids sculpted in to the walls and a brass King Triton on the highest point of the building. The Magic Kingdom exterior is made up of a recreation of Prince Eric’s castle surrounded by rocks, flowing water and a ship wreck. The Magic Kingdom’s exterior is much better looking than the one found in DCA but luckily both match their surroundings perfectly.

The queue:


The DCA attraction features a short,  no frills queue that takes place mostly indoors. It also has a covered overflow queue outside that is rarely used. The Magic Kingdom version resembles a cave and features beautiful rock work to match the exterior of the attraction. It’s a good thing the Magic Kingdom has such a nice queue because you will be spending a lot of time in it. Due to MK’s higher attendance and the use of Fastpass we’ve seen waits of over 90 minutes on busy days. Compare this to the attraction in Disney California Adventure where you’ll probably wait less than 10 minutes on most days.

The ride:

There are only minor differences between the actual ride portions of the attraction. Both use the same omnimover ride vehicles (shaped like clams), both have a duration of a little over 6 minutes, and both feature the same animatronics and scenes in the same locations.

The minor differences:

Magic Kingdom (Photo by Cory Disbrow from Disney Photography Blog)

In Disney California Adventure there is a hidden character in the Under the Sea scene not found in the Magic Kingdom version. Just after you see Ariel in this portion of the ride you will see a single fish with glasses hidden behind some seaweed. This fish is Mr. Limpet, from the 1964 film “The Incredible Mr. Limpet.” The Magic Kingdom version of the ride features a slightly different Ursula death scene. Physically the two Ursulas appear the same (where Ursula has her hands clutched and is screaming). The Ursula that appears in MK has a new lighting effect that adds extra emphasis to the fact that she has been defeated.

Final thoughts:

Overall you can’t go wrong with the Little Mermaid attraction in either park. As I said before, both match their surroundings, whether it be the 20th-century boardwalk in DCA, or the storybook village in Magic Kingdom. While it may not be the biggest or most impressive ride in Disney’s line up, it is another quality dark ride with appeal to most ages and a huge hourly capacity.

Guy Selga Jr.

Hi, I'm Guy Selga. Researcher and blogger for Disneyland local and appreciator of Disney theme park history. I proudly represent TouringPlans on the west coast. Twitter: @guyselga

10 thoughts on “Same Ride, Different Parks: The Little Mermaid

  • December 27, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    I loved this ride at DCA and can’t wait to try the MK version next week!

    • December 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      It’s great. You’ll love it!

  • December 28, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Add Mr. Limpet to WDW version!

  • December 28, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Does Ariel have ‘ice cream cone hair’ in Under The Sea in the WDW version? 😉

    • December 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      Haha no, the MK version has the same hair as Ariel in DCA. No ice cream hair for you 😉

  • December 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    So I’m looking at the two exterior shots and thinking, “Wow, the one at DCA is WAAAYYY cooler looking than the one at MK.” Then I read:

    “The Magic Kingdom’s exterior is much better looking than the one found in DCA….”

    To each his or her own, I guess.

    • December 29, 2012 at 11:26 am

      Notice the DCA photo is at night…and likely enhanced. In reality…especially during the day….it doesn’t look that good.

  • December 29, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Outside of a few minor differences inside…the rides are identical. While the queue at DCA fits the surrounding, it is uninspired…and frankly boring. The queue at MK is inspired, interactive and interesting….in other words a home run. All things considered…the WDW version wins. Neither is a bad attraction but the WDW version’s queue makes the DCA version less interesting.

  • January 11, 2013 at 1:05 am

    A couple of other noteworthy differences:
    1) Interactive games in the WDW queue at various locations (though during soft opening when I was there, I couldn’t quite understand if the games were actually doing anything based on our movements)
    2) Scuttle animatronic telling stories to the guests in the queue, similar I suppose to the idea of Mr. Potato in Toy Story.

    Although the above pictures don’t really convey it, I completely agree that the WDW exterior is incredible impressive, as is the scope and variety of the exterior and interior queue. Regarding the DCA exterior queue, I was there during opening week last summer, so I have stood in that queue, though it doesn’t seem necessary now 🙂

    • January 12, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      Yeah that’s the thing about the DCA queue. 90% of the time it sits unused. It wouldn’t have made sense to blow a bunch of money on it.

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