|Artist Rendering Courtesy of Disney Park Blog
Disney announced yesterday that a new stage show is coming to Hollywood Studios - "The Little Mermaid - A Musical Adventure." This post will talk a little about what the show is, where it's going and the timing of the announcement.
This new show is going in the Animation Courtyard Theater at Hollywood Studios, which, (not so) coincidentally was the home of the former live action stage show based on this same movie, Voyage of the Little Mermaid. That version was a (very) condensed retelling of the classic animated movie, squeezing the bare bones plot as well as a few classic songs into a 17 minute runtime. My daughter (who was five at the time, and a big fan of the movie) famously said very loudly, "That's it?!" when the lights came on as the show ended.
That's not to say that its brevity was a BAD thing. There's only so much time and patience guests have at theme parks, and any kind of show that takes more than 25 or 30 minutes is probably pushing it. Its short duration allowed it to run many times during the course of a day, and its relative popularity (or lack thereof) when compared to some of the big draws at that park made it easy to fit into your day at any point when you needed a rest.
The details about this new show are pretty scant, but I imagine the concept is very much the same, and therefore will be a good use of your time when you need to get off your feet or are waiting around for a Lightning Lane reservation. The old show had run since 1992, and it was getting pretty dated. The press release talks about the new show by saying it will have "stunning new set pieces, cutting-edge effects and a bold new design." This might be a bit of hyperbole, but I suspect they know the other show had started to look old, so they're making sure you know that this will be something better.
And to be honest, I'm all for it in this case. I like that they're keeping the Little Mermaid theme here, as it is a classic Disney movie that continues to be beloved by many. I think jazzing up what they had in the past and bringing it into current technology is a win/win, and I have no real concern about them pulling it off.
What's interesting to me about this is the timing. This project had not been announced as part of the Destination D23 announcements, when Disney was desperate to turn any small news into a public relations win, since any of the major projects they have are a while off. So why now? Did they just decide to do this reimagining in the last couple of months?
I tend to think the answer is yes, which then begs the question - why did it take so long to make a decision on this? Voyage of the Little Mermaid closed in March 2020, like everything else due to Covid. While most other shows returned, this one never did, and the Animation Courtyard Theater has been a big empty husk ever since. While dated, this show still would have helped disperse crowds at the park and I was always curious as to why it wasn't coming back. Now this new show will go there - but not until Fall 2024! That will mark around four and a half years with nothing in this theater.
And that in a nutshell is the downside of this news. Animation Courtyard in general is a wasteland at Hollywood Studios, just window dressing on the way to Toy Story Land. The only attractions currently listed there are Walt Disney Presents (which usually includes a rotating sneak peak of an upcoming movie), Star Wars Launch Bay, which is just sort of THERE and Disney Junior Play and Dance.
For a park that is so top heavy, this area would be a great place for some "lesser" attractions, pulling people away from the big dogs. But if so, wouldn't something else have been announced here, something that says "we recognize that there is a problem here and we're doing something about it." This is actually similar to the Dinoland problem in Animal Kingdom, except that Hollywood Studios needs more people eaters and there just isn't much there outside of Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage (another show that could probably use a refresh, if we're being honest).
Without any further announcement, I can only conclude that this was a recent development as Disney decided what to do with this theater. But now that we know something is coming, the wait until next fall seems excessive. Animation Courtyard will continue to exist in its present form for the foreseeable future, which doesn't seem like the best use of space to me. But I think and hope this show will be good, so there is something to look forward to, eventually.