A Sneak Peek at Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…And Beyond

In the summer of 2003, Disney and Pixar introduced the world to a lovable little fish named Nemo, his father Marlin, their forgetful friend Dory, and, of course, a perpetually chill turtle named Crush. The movie, Finding Nemo, was a smash hit, earning three Academy Award nominations, and winning one for Best Animated Feature (the first Pixar film to do so). 

Thirteen years later, Finding Dory was released, introducing a whole new host of fan-favorite characters and providing a closer look at the life of everyone’s favorite pacific blue tang. Like its predecessor, the film was massively successful and would eventually become the fourth highest-grossing animated film of all time. 

On June 13, Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World will officially welcome a new musical to the stage based on Finding Dory. The show, titled Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!, is set after the events of the film, and replaces the long-running Finding Nemo: The Musical. 

Before diving into what exactly Guests can expect in the new show, let’s take a look back at the history of the attraction.



Fish Are Friends…

In 2006, Tarzan Rocks! closed at Animal Kingdom. The show was a rock and roll musical revue based on Disney’s 1999 animated film. Replacing it was Finding Nemo: The Musical. The new show would feature music by Kristen-Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez, the couple responsible for such Disney hits as Frozen’s “Let It Go,” and Coco’s “Remember Me,” as well as working on smash Broadway shows like “Avenue Q.”

As fans will no doubt remember, the original Finding Nemo was not a musical, so everything produced for the stage show was all new. Songs like “In the Big Blue World,” “Fish are Friends Not Food,” “Just Keep Swimming,” and “Go With the Flow” took the movie’s iconic scenes and gave them the Broadway treatment.

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Anderson-Lopez described the project as “a dream” and even expressed her hope that children seeing the musical might be inspired to pursue a life on the stage, saying that she loved, “the idea of people coming in [to see the musical] at 4, 5 or 6 and saying, ‘I want to do that’…So we want to take it as seriously as we would a Broadway show.”

The pair also provided the voices for Dory and Marlin on the soundtrack album, which featured a total of 19 tracks. 

A press release from before the musical’s debut declared that the show would, “…immerse Walt Disney World guests in the story of Marlin and Nemo, an overprotective clownfish father and his curious son, through a dazzling production that combines puppets, dancers, acrobats, and animated backdrops.”

Of course, being Disney, when they said puppets, they didn’t mean a simple hand puppet or marionette. These were enormous creations that looked like picture-perfect recreations of the characters, some of which took multiple puppeteers to operate. They were created by Michael Curry, the man responsible for the puppets for the Lion King on Broadway. 

The show was a brilliant adaptation of the film. It was funny, beautiful to look at, and guaranteed to make you reach for your hankie a few times to wipe away tears. 



 Just Keep Swimming

In November of 2021, it was announced that a re-imagined version of the show, titled Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…And Beyond!, would be floating into Animal Kingdom’s Theater in the Wild. In a press release, Disney stated, “This exciting stage show invites you to discover the familiar tale of Nemo and friends from a whole new point of view, as well as fan-favorite songs such as ‘In the Big Blue World’ and ‘Go with the Flow,’. The adventure begins by catching up with the fish from Dr. P. Sherman’s office in Finding Nemo who made their way across the ocean to the Marine Life Institute.”

Beginning at the Marine Life Institute (as seen in Finding Dory), the story picks up as the rescued fish are preparing to be re-released into the wild. But before departing, they find themselves inspired to tell the story of Finding Nemo. 

Matt Fiuza, the show’s art director, states that the set is completely transformed from what Guests likely remember and was inspired by paper sculpture. “Our team had such an exciting time looking at our tank set through this brand-new lens of this watercolor, sculpture aesthetic,” he said. “We’re developing massive set pieces and these beautiful transitions as they move in and out of the memory of our storytellers.”

Katrina Mena Rick, Broadcast Creative Director, further noted that the show will make use of technological advances that were not available when the first show debuted. “We’ve collaborated very closely with our Pixar animation partners to really create artwork that’s going to not only compliment the performers that are on stage but digitally extend the actual scenic pieces,” she said. 

Among the most impressive-sounding additions to the show? A 32-foot-long submarine and a volcano that towers at almost 15 feet tall. 

For fans of the original, don’t worry! Disney has indicated that many of Guests’ favorite songs, will still be featured in the new production. Of course, over in The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Peach may be less than thrilled to hear that people will still be singing, “In the Big Blue World” over and over again. 

As with any change at Walt Disney World, it’s a little bittersweet to bid adieu to the old attraction, but the feeling is tempered by our excitement to see what the company has created to replace it. We’ve got no doubt that it will be amazing.

And in the meantime? Just Keep Swimming. 

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