Finding Nemo Big Blue & Beyond Musical Opening in June 2022
Walt Disney World has released a sneak peek of the reimagined musical, “Finding Nemo – The Big Blue…and Beyond!” This post covers details, debut timeframe, and what else you might expect from the replacement show, inspired by Finding Dory. (Updated June 3, 2022.)
This new or reimagined show will replace Finding Nemo – The Musical, which has been dark for over 2 years. Stepping inside the Theater in the Wild, we’ll catch up with the group of fish from Dr. P. Sherman’s office in Finding Nemo, who have made their way across the ocean to the Marine Life Institute.
The fish tell Nemo’s story in this fully updated, 25-minute show, incorporating live performers and puppets. The reimagined production also features many of the beloved songs and numbers from the original Finding Nemo: The Musical, including “In the Big Blue World” and “Go With the Flow.”
June 3, 2022 UPDATE: Walt Disney World shared a rehearsal video from “Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!” on TikTok. Below is the social media post from Disney Parks:
@disneyparks Sea you at Finding Nemo: The Big, Blue and Beyond June 13! #Disney #DisneyParks #DisneyWorld #AnimalKingdom #FindingNemo #Musical #Nemo ♬ original sound – Disney Parks
In this video, Walt Disney World revealed that “Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!” will open on June 13, 2022 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
This is quick turnaround time from announcement date to debut–much shorter than we’ve seen in the past. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not exactly true–it has taken a while from Disney’s announcement of a reimagined Finding Nemo: The Musical last fall until its actual return. However, that was presumably a premature reveal due to rumors swirling at the time. Regardless, we’re hoping this bodes well for Fantasmic coming back this summer, as Walt Disney World has been relatively silent about that of late.
In addition to a new script, Finding Nemo – The Big Blue…and Beyond! will feature new scenic set pieces and a new LED video wall designed to visually extend the world created by the physical sets on stage. These aren’t small set pieces either–there’s a 32-foot-long sunken submarine and a fish tank volcano standing nearly 15 feet tall.
Working in close collaboration with Pixar Animation Studios, artists and designers at Disney Live Entertainment also developed a new aesthetic for Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond! inspired by layered, cut paper sculptures. The resulting look is fresh and unique to the show, while staying true to the designs in the original film.
Check out the video below for a sneak peek:
Walt Disney World previously revealed that “Finding Nemo – The Big Blue…and Beyond!” will take place in the timeline of Finding Dory, and will feature a mix of familiar favorite music and characters from its predecessor, while also adding new characters and songs from the second film.
With those details and the sneak peek out of the way, let’s turn to commentary…
The first thing that grabbed my attention is the 25-minute runtime, which is a reduction from the original Finding Nemo – The Musical’s 40-minute duration. This is going to be controversial, and I suspect Walt Disney World fans will have a mixed reaction to the change.
On the one hand, cutting 15 minutes is significant. A big part of Finding Nemo – The Musical’s appeal was that it was a lavish production that felt like something more than you’d get from a theme park. It was a great way to break up the day and get out of the heat at Animal Kingdom for a while.
On the other hand, 40 minutes was arguably too long for a theme park show given kids’ attention spans and logistics. It was really difficult to plan around Finding Nemo – The Musical, and many guests skipped it because of the time commitment. This was us–we loved the idea of Finding Nemo – The Musical much more than the production itself, which we watched infrequently.
In theory, reducing the runtime should enable Walt Disney World to squeeze an extra showtime or two of Finding Nemo – The Big Blue…and Beyond! into the daily schedule. If that’s what happens, I will view this as a net positive on balance. If Disney simply runs a shorter show with as many performances, it’ll clearly just be a budget cut and not a net positive on balance. Reasonable minds may disagree with that assessment; it really comes down to how you feel about the duration of the prior musical.
My bigger concern is that Disney will also use these changes as an opportunity to reduce the number of performers. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the reimagined musical would use screens and other technology to “enhance” the production. The big question is whether it’ll be an addition or substitute for live performers.
This question is entirely well-founded. Both Festival of Fantasy and Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime, the two parades that have returned thus far, have been scaled back significantly. In fairness, Festival of Fantasy has seen some performers added back to the mix since non-distanced character interactions returned, but it’s still missing a lot. The company has tried to reduce labor costs where it can, and it wouldn’t be surprising if “Finding Nemo – The Big Blue…and Beyond!” is another instance of this.
As for what that might look like with “Finding Nemo – The Big Blue…and Beyond,” there’s actually a fairly comparable blueprint at Tokyo DisneySea, of all places. While that park is usually held up as the gold standard–the best Disney theme park in the world–it has seen some entertainment cuts in recent years.
One particular example is illustrative here: King Triton’s Concert in Mermaid Lagoon. That replaced “Under the Sea,” a fairly similar musical that combined live performers, large-scale puppets, and Audio Animatronics. While similar in spirit to its predecessor, King Triton’s Concert replaces some of the live performers with video screens and pre-recorded appearances by Ariel’s sisters.
Finding Nemo seems like the kind of film and this the type of musical that would conducive to taking a similar approach, replacing live performers with screens.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that “Finding Nemo – The Big Blue…and Beyond!” is a 1:1 replacement to “Finding Nemo – The Musical,” offering a refresh, new music and returning favorites, plus the exact same number of performers. I don’t want to be overly pessimistic or foreclose the possibility of this being a quality successor–that’s just where my mind naturally gravitates given the ample past precedent. Hopefully those worries are misguided!
Ultimately, we’re happy to hear more info about “Finding Nemo – The Big Blue…and Beyond!” even if its return is long overdue at this point. I’ll await seeing the reimagined show before making a final judgment, but I’m most curious about how the musical makes use of the video screens and its reduced runtime.
If the screens are actually an enhancement–and not an excuse to cut performers–that’ll be a win. If the shorter runtime means a tighter production with more showtimes per day–and not a cost-savings measure–that’ll also be a win. I’m not necessarily optimistic about either being the case, but I’m not pessimistic either…more like “wait and see” mode on this one. Either way, looking forward to seeing “Finding Nemo – The Big Blue…and Beyond!” sometime in Summer 2022. Animal Kingdom definitely needs this musical back.
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What do you think about Walt Disney World’s preview of “Finding Nemo – The Big Blue…and Beyond!” set in the timeline of Finding Dory in Summer 2022? Disappointed that more entertainment hasn’t returned already despite the crowds and prices? Do you agree or disagree with our fears about fewer performers? Thoughts on the pros & cons of a shorter runtime? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Can anyone tell me if any of the previous Finding Nemo cast made it into the new show? I can’t picture anyone other than Katie Whetsell as the onstage Dory, but it doesn’t seem to look like her in the preview video. Did anyone get called back for the show?
I am very wary of the new show, but if they keep the popular numbers and build some new fun into it, the end result might be okay. I totally understand them wanting to trim the run time to something more reasonable for guests, but I hope it’s not at the cost of the show’s quality.
My opinion seems unpopular, but I’m sad to see this show changed. It has always been a favorite for my family, even when the kids were tiny. The runtime never bothered us, and we always preferred the Broadway-esque, plot-driven show over the Festival of the Lion King. (We love both shows, but if forced to choose, we’re Nemo fans). My fingers are crossed that this revision will keep the emotional heart of the original.
Absolutely agree with your assessment.
I really enjoyed the old Finding Nemo but it was a long haul and time eater. On one hand, I appreciated the mini Broadway show quality and ranked it right up there as a close 2nd to FOLK. But that time suck was real and the irregular time block it took out of my touring plan made it hard to work around.
Ultimately, I’ll just have to wait and see what the new show is like. But I fear fewer performers will make it shallow. No screen can take the place of talented humans. I also suspect the catwalk or runway parade element will be dropped. That’s a real shame because the ‘surround sound performance’ value of that was truly immersive. Kids loved it. Adults too. It also allowed differently-abled guests a wonderful viewing experience and a chance to be centre-stage and in the performance. It was kind and clever. But expensive in terms of real human performers. Agree that when Disney takes the scissors to an attraction, it usually doesn’t end well.
I always found the original show to be on the long side, and reducing the length doesn’t necessarily reduce costs even if they don’t add shows, but as long as they run it for the same range of times of the day. I’m not sure how it works, but I don’t imagine they pay the cast less for a 15 minute shorter show time? Fingers crossed they keep the same number of cast, though. The scale of a show is heavily dictated by the size of the cast, and “big” does make an impression.
This new show looks stunning, but I hope that it can keep the emotional heart of the original. The growing relationship between Marlin and Dori, and more importantly the dynamic exchanges between father and son, Marlin and Nemo, brought this show from just another lighthearted entertaining tale to an experience that every parent (and hopefully children) could relate to. The closing moment when Marlin watches Nemo swim off again, knowing he needs to let go and Nemo realizing his father trusts–and loves–him, always brought a tear to my eye. I am fearful the new version will not have time to develop that theme, and will depend primarily on visual effects.
New Parade: A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart
Someone on Rat Chat is saying that in 2023, Festival of Fantasy will be replaced with a new parade called A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart (title still being worked on). Here are some of the details:
It’s a day parade for Magic Kingdom to replace Festival of Fantasy, set to open less than a year from now for 2023. The working title is A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart. The theme is the Dreaming Your Heart in Disney stories, and the float dreams on, set to be a veritable circus of animation and entertainment, with the advertisement calling upon bungee acrobats, wheel of death, jumping stilt, spreader bar acrobats, flag artists, puppeteers and stilt walkers. Float and unit rundown is;
Rumours suggest the parade will only feature around 110 dancers (around 20-40 fewer than current parades in high season), since the balance will be shifted more towards character performers for the new parade.
Characters in the new parade will include Fantasia 2000, Mickey and Friends, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, Winnie the Pooh, Toy Story, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, Encanto, Coco, Raya and the Last Dragon, Turning Red, Frozen, Rapunzel, Belle, Aurora, Cinderella and Snow White.
1. Dreams of Fantasy (Mickey and friend and Fantasia 2000)
2. Dreams of Laughter & Fun (Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio)
3. Dreams of Friendship (Winnie the Pooh and Toy Story)
4. Dreams of Another World (The Little Mermaid and Peter Pan)
5. Dreams of Imagination (Encanto and Coco)
6. Dreams of New World (Raya and the Last Dragon and Turning Red)
7. Dreams of Wonder (Frozen)
8. Dreams of Romance (Disney Princesse)
They also stated some other things about the parks: “Burbank peeps want WDWR to announce A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart at D23Expo this September be open anytime soon. They’ll also announce at D23Expo that TRON Lightcycle/Run is coming to Magic Kingdom and built north of tomorrowland, but that’s no big secret. We are already prepping to move out of our big Entertainment building and the rehearsal halls north of Tomorrowland so it can be torn down for the ride!!”
I will have no interest in seeing this parade if Disney gets rid of the Maleficent Dragon. This dragon is the best parade float Disney has ever created!
Loved nemo can’t wait to see this new show
I always find it challenging to fit in all the shows at AK. Hoping this helps spread out show times to help non thrill ride guests fit in the things we enjoy
Although normally I’m a “more is better” guy, I think a 25-minute runtime might be nice here. I am not a “nap in the parks guy”, and the only place in WDW where I’ve fallen asleep is Nemo. Multiple times. Perhaps with a shorter show I can see the whole thing!