Walt Disney World's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - A brief overview
Opened October 14, 1971 - Closed September 4th? 5th? 1994 (conflicting dates)

20k was one of the original eight E-ticket rides when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971. Based on the Disney film of the same name (and in turn, based on the original novel by Jules Verne), the ride consisted of a submarine voyage with Captain Nemo on his ship, Nautilus. Plagued by slow loading and unloading, the ride consistently suffered from long lines. Additional problems ranging from the burden of maintaining 11.5 million gallons of water clear, to water leakage into the cast member tunnel system under the ride, to cost of upkeep, this ride was closed in 1994 despite still being a very popular attraction. It was apparently listed as "closed for renovation" with the promise of a re-opening in 1995. However, this was not to be and the ride never ran again. The submarines were removed and stored for a time in the lot behind the property. (See links below for aerial shot.) Some were apparently sunk at Disney's private cruise-ship island, Castaway Cay. Parts from the ride were also sold on ebay by the Walt Disney company.

For ten years, the location remained empty. Referred to as the 20,000 Leagues Lagoon, it served as a backdrop for Ariel's Grotto (character meeting place for Ariel from The Little Mermaid movie) and was used for other character signings. Small tables and chairs were also set up under the original queue area for people to relax and sit in the shade. Ducks habited the lagoon and it generally was just a bit of watery scenery across from The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (previously Mr. Toad's Wild Ride).

I went to Walt Disney World as a child in 1984. Recently, I got copies of the photos from my mother and came across the one of 20k below. Intrigued by the old look back - not only of the ride itself, but from the vantage point taken in the skycarts which are also gone as of 1999 - I took some photos of the lagoon to compare then and now. Unknown to me at the time, it would be my last chance to get such photos. As of this writing, the lagoon is being drained and the land reclaimed. Rumors abound as to what may or may not be put in that spot, but the official word is simply that the land will be brought back to ground level and all track and water removed. This prompted me to compile this page of photos taken almost by accident, giving a small legacy to this bit of Disney history.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (active ride) circa 1984
(image taken from now also defunct skycarts)

This shot was taken from the skycarts which used to provide an aerial view of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. 
Unfortunately, such a shot is no longer possible as they were closed and removed in 1999. Soon, the lagoon itself will be gone as well.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea circa 2004 and 2005
The progress of it's demolition and the opening of it's replacement: Pooh's Playful Spot.


All months, complete demolition on one page

April 2004 - September 2005


April 2004 (pre-demolition)
May & June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004

New Year's Eve: December 31, 2004
July 2005
September 2005 (Fully open as "Pooh's Playful Spot")

Please note: There is a gap in my photography of the demolition from September 04 - December 04. I no longer have annual passes and thus do not get out there as often as I used to. If you have photos during that time period that you wouldn't mind me adding to the page to help complete the project, please email me at 20k@giveneyestosee.com I always credit my photo sources and would greatly appreciate your help.


Final Thoughts
I'll be keeping an eye out on the continuing changes at the 20k Lagoon. Though I must admit that it's not my all-time favorite ride (in fact, I barely remember it, having last ridden it as a small child), I am nevertheless fascinated with the changes over the years and the history of the ride. Having so accidentally stumbled in at such a critical moment in the evolution of this ride (from it's peaceful lagoon state to it's changes now), I feel compelled to preserve it for fellow Disney fans and future ones who'll never have a chance to see this for themselves. Having lost some of my favorite rides (notably Horizons and the original Journey into Imagination at EPCOT) and lacking photos of them, makes me realize the importance of chronicling such changes. Once it's gone, it's gone and it helps to at least have photos to remind you of it. So, this is my small way of helping it continue on for others to enjoy.


Links & Resources
20,00 Leagues Under the Sea: The Ride - Amazing tribute site with photos, information and even merchandise
Walt Dated World
- Few nice photos, information, and ride script
FL Theme Parks by Air - There's a great overhead shot of the ride when open as well as the subs lined up in on land
Started by a Mouse - Some photos, history and info on the book and movie origins
Magical Mountain - History and facts about the ride
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Tribute site with photo tour of the ride
Sail Away - This is about the Disneyland ride, but has neat photos of the last voyage of the submarines there


{ giveneyestosee.com } : { photos } : { disney }

photos copyright 2004 M. Turner, All Rights Reserved.