Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Epcot Living Seas Pavilion : The Nautilus Exhibit

Editor's Note: This article is part of my new (and great!) Tom Scherman web site. Tom was the worldwide Nautilus specialist and worked as a WDI Imagineer on many 20K attractions. His master-piece being the full size Disneyland Paris Nautilus that you can discover in a brand new video filmed by me last month at DLP's Discoveryland.

When Epcot Living Seas Pavilion opened to the public in 1986 it was the largest man-made underwater environment in the world at its completion. WDI Imagineer Tim Delaney was the show-designer and you can see lot of great artwork that Tim did in one of my previous Disney and more article HERE. The concept of the attraction was to take visitors under the ocean to "Sea Base Alpha". Guests then would ride the Caribbean Coral Reef Ride in a "seacab" along an underwater tunnel through the aquarium. From there guests would ride around 'Sea Base Alpha' getting an up-close view of the marine life. They would then disembark into the main exhibit area where they could interact with various multimedia displays.

But before guests take an elevator ride to the ocean floor thanks to the "Hydrolator" they would enter a pre-show area and part of it was a 20000 Leagues under the Sea exhibit created with the precious help of Tom Sherman who provided a perfect replica of the Crew Diver suit.

When i was at Epcot fifteen years ago i had the good idea to shoot plenty of pictures of the crew diver suit and here they are in high-res. Click on each picture to see them in larger scale.

On this rare picture kindly provided by Richard Allsmiller, Tom is carrying outside of his apartment a diving tank he made up for the mock-up diving suit with a fiberglass helmet. This might have been the one he sold years later to Walt Disney Imagineering for the Living Seas pavilion.

On the right of the crew diver suit guests could see a great Nautilus model. The model shown there is the studio's 11-foot "hero" miniature used for filming the underwater shots of the Nautilus in the movie.

In December of 2003, Disney started re-theming The Living Seas pavilion with a new ride based on Pixar's film Finding Nemo. Most of the transformation started in exterior elements, but in January of 2004, the interior began to see change as well. On November 16, 2004, Turtle Talk with Crush opened in what was once Module 1C, or the Earth Systems exhibit. Turtle Talk with Crush was just the beginning of changes to The Living Seas. On August 21, 2005, The Living Seas closed for its transformation into a new pavilion called The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Throughout 2006, construction walls hid away the undergoing-reconstruction pre-show area. The Seas with Nemo & Friends was rededicated on January 24, 2007 and the 20K exhibit with Tom crew diver suit was gone forever. But Andrew, a kind reader of the Tom scherman's web site found back Tom's crew diver suit, now in storage in Florida and sent me these pictures shot in 2007.

While we are at Walt Disney World, let's go to the Disney MGM Studios where, in another exhibit, guests could watch a diver helmet replica as well as a replica of the underwater rifle!

Vulcania Volunteers is doing a great replica of the Captain Nemo's underwater rifle and you can find it HERE.

Discover more articles about Tom Scherman and 20000 Leagues under the Sea with lot of gorgeous pictures on my new web site HERE.

All pictures: copyright Alain Littaye, except Tom Scherman picture: copyright Tom Scherman Family Collection from Rich Allsmiller


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great article and pics.

Does anyone know where that Nautilus model is now?

I always wondered if it was truly "original" or a replica. Anyone know which?

Many, many years ago, I was at WDW with a friend who is a modelmaker, and was so excited to see that--he actually jumped the railing quickly to get a closer look, but couldn't tell from looking at the backside whether it was original or not. I still can't believe he did that, and got away with it!

Alain Littaye said...

Yes, from what i've been told, the Nautilus model was an original one, one of the models they used when they did the movie.