Disney’s Animal Kingdom recently revived its Theater In The Wild for the first time in over two years, and the Unofficial Guide was there on reopening day to bring you this look at the newly reimagined musical Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!
Before the pandemic, Finding Nemo—The Musical was arguably the most elaborate live show in any Disney World theme park. Incorporating dancing, special effects, and sophisticated digital backdrops of the undersea world, it featured onstage human performers retelling Nemo’s story with colorful, larger-than-life puppets designed by Michael Curry. To be fair, puppets doesn’t adequately convey the size or detail of these props, some of which are as big as a car and require two people to manipulate.
The show didn’t reopen with the park in 2020. In late 2021, Disney announced that the show would be revamped for a return in 2022, which finally arrived on June 13. As we expected, the new show runs about 25 minutes (significantly shorter than the original running time of nearly 40 minutes), which allows for an hourly performance schedule, boosting the total number of performances each day.
The production features fewer performers now, with 14 onstage instead of the original cast of 18, and some scenery and props have been simplified; for example, the giant Nigel puppet no longer appears. Also sacrificed were much of the dialogue and comedy connecting the musical numbers, such as the sequence featuring dueling swordfish and flight-challenged penguins.
In place of the original script is a new framing story inspired by Finding Dory, with Gil and the rest of the Tank Gang recounting Nemo’s original adventures as they await their release from the Marine Life Institute.
This new structure lets them speed through the plot at a much brisker pace and skip over all the darker moments—such as the death of Nemo’s mother and Dory’s near-fatal jellyfish encounter—that previously provoked tears from many preschool viewers.
The good news is that none of the major songs (composed by Avenue Q’s Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez) were sacrificed in this revamp, with mostly minor trims made to the refrains and reprises. Audiences still get to enjoy hearing “In The Big Blue World…”
“…Fish Are Friends, Not Food…”
…and (best of all) Crush’s most righteous Beach Boys-esque anthem, “Go With The Flow.”
Grown-up fans of the previous version may mourn the loss of the show’s subtler emotional moments, but this new interpretation of the Finding Nemo musical is much more likely to keep families in their seas for the entire running time.
The best views are from the center, directly behind the technicians’ booth in the middle of the venue, although the seats down front along the runway are snatched up first. To get your choice of seats, show up 20–25 minutes in advance, but you can often find room in the far rear until just before showtime. Access to the theater is via a relatively narrow pedestrian path—if you arrive as the previous show is letting out, you’ll feel like a salmon swimming upstream.
If you can’t make it to Animal Kingdom in person right now, enjoy a full opening-day performance of Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond! from the comfort of your home with this video:
For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.