Explore Uncharted Seas!
Submarine Voyage
thru Liquid Space
Presented by General Dynamics
“E” Ticket
Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Fred M. Nelson Sr., 1959

You’ve just climbed down the spiral ladder and taken a seat in front of your own personal porthole. A stream of cool air blows from beneath the porthole to keep you from feeling queasy.

“This is the captain speaking. Welcome aboard. We are underway and proceeding on a course that will take us on a voyage through liquid space. En route, we will pass below the polar ice cap, and then probe depths seldom seen by man. Make yourself comfortable, but please remain seated at all times. And no smoking please—the smoking lamp is out.”

As you pull away from the dock, you look into the crystal clear water of the Submarine Lagoon where giant clams, moray eels, groupers, and other sea life thrives—all inanimate.

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Fred M. Nelson Sr., 1959

View fron the Skyway

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1997

Leaving the dock

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1969

Daytime in the open-air Sub Lagoon

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1997

America Sings being transformed into Innoventions in the background

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1997

Liquid Space below the Highway in the Sky

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Corby DeMeis, 1988

View from PeopleMover

According to the crew, there’s a surface storm ahead. It’s a good thing the submarine can dive below the storm, unlike the wrecks that you see in the Graveyard of Lost Ships. Sorry, the submarine doesn’t stop for you to retrieve the sunken treasure.

Suddenly you find yourself below the polar ice cap at the North Pole. The captain dives further.

Now the ocean is dark because no sunlight reaches this depth. Strange, bioluminescent fish provide their own eerie light. As with the other fish on this voyage, they swim without moving their bodies, as though they were made of a rigid material. What unusual fish!

That’s enough of that darkness. What’s next?


You’ve now reached the Lost Continent of Atlantis. Although destroyed long ago by volcanic activity, there’s still plenty of evidence of the former culture and beauty of Atlantis. The captain safely guides your submarine past underwater eruptions that continue to rock the ruins. Those eruptions look strangely like air bubbles illuminated by red lights.

Look at the tail of that sea creature. What could it be? As the sub reaches the head end of the creature, it turns out to be a cross-eyed sea serpent. Upon seeing this, the captain decides it’s time to return to the surface.

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Frank Taylor, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Opening the hatch

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1997


Climb back up the spiral ladder. If you suffer from claustrophobia, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief as you exit from the confined space of your submarine.

Okay, so the effects weren’t really that convincing, but you have to admit that there’s no other ride like this one. And if you’re like most people, this is as close as you’ll ever get to a trip on a real submarine.

On August 3, 1958, the USS Nautilus—the world’s first nuclear powered submarine—made history under the command of William R. Anderson, USN. With 116 men on board, the Nautilus traveled below the polar ice cap of the Arctic Ocean, silently and secretly, to become the first ship to cross the geographic North Pole.

In Disneyland, less than a year later, another Nautilus, this time powered by diesel, made a different kind of history. Beginning June 1959, the Nautilus and seven sister submarines—the Triton, Sea Wolf, Skate, Skipjack, George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Ethan Allen—allowed 38 Disneyland guests at a time to take their own voyage to the North Pole, and to see sights that Commander Anderson and his men never saw.

For almost four decades, Submarine Voyage at Disneyland continued to attract long lines of guests.

The ride didn’t change much over the years. The biggest change came in the mid-1980s, when the eight Cold War gray submarines were repainted a cheerful oceanographer yellow. And six of them were given new names—Neptune, Sea Star, Explorer, Seeker, Argonaut, and Triton—while two kept familiar names, Nautilus and Sea Wolf.

By 1998, Internet rumors suggested Submarine Voyage was on the chopping block because Disneyland executives at that time considered it too costly to operate in relation to its capacity.

In April 1998, Orange County Register reporter Jerry Hirsch interviewed Paul Pressler, who was president of Disneyland at the time. Hirsch asked, “What’s up with the subs? We hear the ride will close sometime this year.”

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.”

Orange County Register online article

Screen capture from, 2002 © 1998, 2002, Orange County Register

The big news on

Only a few months later—on July 29, 1998—Disneyland announced that the end of Submarine Voyage was near. Based on Pressler’s statement, that meant the Disneyland executives knew what they wanted “to do in the future there.”

But the announcement did not identify a replacement attraction—only that there would be one in 2003.

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

On September 7, 1998, Submarine Voyage carried its last passenger.

There was rumor that Walt Disney Imagineering was working on a much-improved undersea experience, Atlantis Expedition. Years passed. It probably didn’t help that Disney’s 2001 animated feature, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, failed at the box office.

By announcing an undisclosed future attraction, Disneyland Publicity had protected Paul Pressler’s integrity, without really committing to anything. By 2003, there might actually be something new—maybe a rich sponsor could be found to foot the bill. Or, by 2003, people might have forgotten what they read in 1998.

When it was finally 2003, the lagoon was still nothing more than an unused pool of clear water with an unused load area and an unused track going into an unused water-filled show building.

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

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2006

Construction wall

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.

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

New yellow submarines

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Matching Monorail

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Nighttime in the open-air Sub Lagoon

The classic attraction was updated with characters from the successful 2003 Disney-Pixar release, Finding Nemo. Walt Disney Imagineering combined old-fashioned Mid-Century showmanship with innovative 21st century technology. Guests gaze through the portholes of the refurbished Submarines at characters brought to life in “invisible” underwater effects boxes.

Submarine Voyage at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1983

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Magic Kingdom Park

Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World had an undersaeas experience similar to Disneyland’s Submarine Voyage. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, with Nautilus-themed submarine, opened in 1971 and closed in 1994. After sitting unused for ten years, the lagoon was demolished and filled in. From 2005 to 2010, part of the site was used for Pooh’s Playful Spot, a play area for children. The site of the lagoon and show building is now part of the Fantasyland Forest, which opened in late 2012.

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© 1998-2016 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated April 29, 2016.