Yesterland Submarine Voyage Construction
and the Submarine Voyage in 1959
Photograph of the Submarine Lagoon construction with trucks
The future Submarine Lagoon, with the Tomorrowland Autopia and Anaheim in the background.

June 11, 2007, is the official opening date for the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

In September 1998, the old Submarine Voyage closed. The announcement said there would be a new attraction 2003. But by 2002, it seemed the submarines would never return—just as the Rocket Rods never returned after their September 2000 closing, despite a sign announcing that the ride would be back in 2001.

In June 1959, the Submarine Voyage opened as part of one of the biggest expansions in the history of Disneyland.

And, in 1958, a submarine ride at Disneyland was just an idea; it quickly became a hole in the ground.

Welcome to that hole in the ground!

Photograph of the Submarine Voyage construction behind the Tomorrowland Autopia
Submarine Voyage construction behind the Tomorrowland Autopia.

When work began on the Submarine Voyage in 1958, Disneyland was only three years old. Walt Disney was constantly looking for ways to improve his Happiest Place on Earth.

In the superb book Disneyland: Inside Story (Abrams, 1987), the book’s author, Imagineer Randy Bright, explained the origins of the Submarine Voyage. The concept began as a “glass-bottom boat to cruise over a picturesque lagoon in Tomorrowland. The guests would see underwater life and a live show.”

Walt Disney had a better idea. “No, let’s do a real submarine ride. Let’s take them down and give them ports to look out of.”

Photograph of the future Submarine Voyage loading area from the Skyway
The future Submarine Voyage loading area from the Skyway.

The next five pictures are vintage photos of the newly completed Submarine Voyage in 1959.

Photograph of across the Lagoon when construction was complete
Looking across the Lagoon when construction was complete.
 
Photograph of guests boarding the new Submarine Voyage
The Submarine Voyage loading area, with guests boarding the new ride.
 
Photograph of the Submarine Voyage cast member opening the hatch
A Submarine Voyage cast member opening the hatch.

The Submarine Voyage cast member in the picture above is wearing a costume that goes with the original military look of Disneyland’s submarine fleet.

Photograph of Submarine waterfalls from the Skyway
Looking toward the waterfalls from the Skyway.

The picture above provides a good view of the roof of the Submarine Voyage show building. This is no ordinary roof! It’s a heavily landscaped park, complete with trees and small hills. The roadways of the Fantasyland Autopia traveled through this park, and the Disneyland Monorail travels above it. In 1967, Disneyland added the PeopleMover to this green corner of Tomorrowland.

In 2000, the Tomorrowland Autopia and the Fantasyland Autopia became a single attraction, the Autopia, presented by Chevron, with its roadway passing back and forth over the roof of the Submarine Voyage show building. Most Autopia drivers are oblivious to the giant tank of water below them.

Photograph of Monorail station and Anaheim beyond the berm
Anaheim beyond the berm looked different in 1959 than it does today.

The final picture, below, shows a banner over Main Street proudly heralding the improvements to Disneyland in 1959.

Photograph of 1959 banner over Main Street
A banner over Main Street announces the new attractions for 1959.

It’s hard to imagine six new attractions—including three “E” ticket attractions—opening the same year at Disneyland. But that’s exactly what happened in 1959. In fact, Disneyland introduced the “E” ticket in 1959. Previously, the highest ticket was the “D” ticket.

Only three of the six new attractions were completely new—the three “E” ticket attractions:

Submarine Voyage
The “E” ticket Submarine Voyage, with its underwater viewing into enclosed and outdoor show areas, was completely original.
Disneyland Alweg Monorail
The “E” ticket Monorail ride stayed with within the berm of Disneyland until 1961, when the ride was extended to the Disneyland Hotel to become a true transportation system.
Fantasyland Autopia
A new, larger Autopia, similar to the Tomorrowland Autopia, replaced the old Junior Autopia (1956). Its roadway wound across the heavily landscaped roof of the Submarine Voyage show building.
Matterhorn Bobsleds
The “E” ticket Matterhorn originally had a hollow interior and single-car bobsleds. It was the first thrill ride in Disneyland and the first tubular steel track roller coaster in the world.
Motor Boat Cruise
The 1959 version of the Motorboat Cruise replaced the 1957 version of the Motorboat Cruise.
Skyway through Glacier Grotto
It was the same Skyway ride that opened in 1956. In 1959, it began to go through the Matterhorn, which was built in its path.

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Updated July 9, 2009.

Photograph of the Submarine Lagoon construction with trucks: 1958 by Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photograph of the Submarine Voyage construction behind the Tomorrowland Autopia: 1958 by Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photograph of the future Submarine Voyage loading area from the Skyway: 1958 by Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photograph of across the Lagoon when construction was complete: 1959 by Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photograph of guests boarding the new Submarine Voyage: 1959 by Frank Taylor, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photograph of the Submarine Voyage cast member opening the hatch: 1959 by Frank Taylor, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photograph of Submarine waterfalls from the Skyway: 1959 by Fred M. Nelson, Sr.
Photograph of Monorail station and Anaheim beyond the berm: 1959 by Fred M. Nelson, Sr.
Photograph of 1959 banner over Main Street: 1959 by Fred M. Nelson, Sr.