When we look back and think about some of the Magic Kingdom’s earliest show-stopping attractions, it is hard to not immediately focus in on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage. This Fantasyland staple ran from mid-October 1971 until its closure in 1994. No trip to Walt Disney World was complete until you had boarded one of Captain Nemo’s famed Nautilus submarines and taken a journey that he narrated, voiced by the impressive Peter Renoudet, and escaped from impressive sea monsters. Living to tell the tale was one of the souvenirs every child took home with them.
Even after it had stop taking guests on fantastic voyages through liquid space, there was still something to be gleamed from visiting the area. The rocky shores with tropical vegetation were still there. So too were the metal fixtures and shelter of the queue. And while there wasn’t a single Nautilus to be seen prowling the waters of Fantasyland’s Vulcania, the waterfall covered caves still beckoned for a photograph to be taken of them. Of course, this corner of the Magic Kingdom had to see a ton of work in order to ensure it was worth of being called Nemo’s home port.
Due to the fact that the Magic Kingdom had to be elevated in order to accommodate the utilidors, while not disturbing the close to the surface water table, the Submarine Voyage was able to begin building without much in the way of excavation. True, there was bush hogging that was needed to clear out vegetation, but overall the site was in good condition from the start. The lagoon would be lined with concrete, and the major show scenes, those that occurred beyond the waterfall’s veil in the darkened depths of the oceans, would take place in a large warehouse-like show building. Here we can see what the construction of the attraction, and this corner of Fantasyland for that matter, looked like early in its life.
You can see the track, lagoon walls, and the yet to be covered by rockwork show building. The four vehicles perched on the edge of the unfilled lagoon are sitting on the spot that the queue will eventually occupy. While the reef and show scenes haven’t begun being constructed yet, you can see some of the foundational and utility work taking place in the center of the lagoon. If you look closely at the bottom left corner, you can even see one of the turrets of Cinderella Castle taking shape above the building that will be home to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is still one of my favorite Disney feature films, and the attraction still holds a special place in my heart. There are times when it is great to be able to live within the story of a film or attraction, and not have a desire to peak behind the curtain, or waterfall, and spoil the illusion. My love for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea has, for whatever reason, never been held to that standard as I have sought to learn as much about it as is possible. This aerial view is simply a cool piece to gaze at and think about what the attraction would look like in just a few short years, to even try to figure out how this footprint fits into today’s New Fantasyland, and remember the times when Captain Nemo welcomed you aboard.