Yesterland Sub Lagoon Still Empty
December 17, 2002

Update: I originally published this article on December 17, 2002.

In 1998, when the Submarine Voyage closed, Disneyland Publicity announced that there would be a new attraction in 2003. But as 2003 approached, the Submarine Lagoon was still empty. No new attraction was underway. The 1998 statement seemed to be little more than an effort to soften the bad publicity from closing the popular Submarine Voyage.

In October 2003, Matt Ouimet arrived from Disney Cruise Line to become the new President of the Disneyland Resort. Matt set out to restore the old sparkle to Disneyland.

On July 15, 2005, there was another announcement. This time it was real. The “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage” would open in 2007. And it did—on June 11, 2007.

The classic attraction was be updated with characters from “Finding Nemo” using old-fashioned showmanship and 21st century technology from Walt Disney Imagineering.

I was wrong when I wrote the last line of the article.
— Werner Weiss

If you were reading the Orange County Register on July 30, 1998, you might have seen the news. We can expect a new attraction at the Disneyland Submarine Lagoon in 2003! That’s what the folks at Disneyland told the newspaper.

Screen capture from
In March 2002, the 1998 article could still be read online.

Five years is a long time to wait. Sure, the old ride is missed—but imagine how much better the new ride will be with 21st century technology, the advantage of over 40 years of additional creative experience, and five years to get it right!

Don’t hold your breath. Unless a miracle occurs between now and the end of 2003, there will be no new attraction at the Sub Lagoon in 2003. Disneyland Park’s 2003 addition over in Critter Country—The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh—clearly replaces the Country Bear Playhouse, not the Submarine Voyage.

Photo of Submarine Lagoon
The Submarine Lagoon and its underwater track sit unused.

So why did they promise a new attraction at the Sub Lagoon for 2003?

The reason might have something to do with an April 1998 Orange County Register interview with Paul Pressler, who was president of Disneyland at the time. In that interview, Jerry Hirsch of the Register asked, “What’s up with the subs? We hear the ride will close sometime this year.”

Paul Pressler replied, “We know the show today isn’t as relevant as it was. We know that in the future we need to do something in that location, but we have not made a decision on the subs, and we won’t make a decision until we know what we want to do in the future there. We would hate to abandon the notion of an attraction that goes under the water.”

Less than four months later, the decision on the subs had been made. So, based on Mr. Pressler’s statement, that also meant that they knew what they wanted to do in the future, right? What they really knew was that they wanted to save the substantial cost of operating the Submarine Voyage, and that they wanted to avoid costly repairs to the aging attraction. And they knew that 2003 was a long way off. By then, there might actually be something new—after all, Walt Disney Imagineering had some concepts in the works, and maybe a rich sponsor would foot the bill. Or, by 2003, people will have forgotten what they read in 1998. So by announcing an undisclosed future attraction, they protected Paul Pressler’s integrity without really committing to anything.

Photo of Submarine Lagoon waterfalls
The waterfalls provided a clever entrance and exit to the show building.

What about a new attraction—if not in 2003, then in 2004 or 2005 or 2006? Let’s hope that eventually this valuable piece of Disneyland Park real estate will once again entertain guests. But right now, there’s a higher priority—enhancing Disney’s California Adventure with appealing attractions to help the new park overcome its disappointing start. In addition, it will be difficult to do anything with the old Submarine Voyage attraction space. The roof of the waterlogged show building is intensely used for the popular Autopia attraction; the Monorail and the currently unused PeopleMover/Rocket Rods) track also make use of this space. They can’t just bring in a bulldozer and start over—unless they want to completely rebuild the northern half of Tomorrowland.

What about restarting the Submarine Voyage ride? The lagoon is still there. All indications are that the underwater scenes are still in place, untouched. And the word is that even the submarines themselves are hidden in the show building behind the waterfalls. But just imagine the shape that it’s all in after no maintenance for so many years.

The old Submarine Voyage isn’t coming back.

July 17 or July 18?
Investigator Interview

© 2007-2014 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated July 18, 2014.

Screen capture from 2002. Copyright 1998, 2002, Orange County Register.
Quotations from the Orange County Register, copyright 1998, Orange County Register.
Photograph of Sub Lagoon: 2002 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of Sub Lagoon waterfalls: 2001 by Allen Huffman.