Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak, Gawker’s chief restaurant critics, recently ate, drank, and gasped their way through every international pavilion and theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. This is their review.
Rich: The main attraction of this attraction is a narrative ride that loosely tells the story of Finding Nemo. In order to compress a 90-minute movie into a 5-minute ride, the entire dentist’s office subplot was cut. You look for Nemo from your motorized shell, and you eventually find him, but you never discover where he was all this time. He could have been hiding in some coral or hanging with the real life manatees that live elsewhere in this attraction or giving oral to Ariel over in the Magic Kingdom. Who knows? You never do. I thought that was bullshit.
Caity: The stakes involved in the location and safe return of Nemo are not nearly as high in this ride version of the movie. I was both annoyed with Nemo for irresponsibly losing himself in the larger Seas (with Nemo and Friends), and annoyed with his father for making such a big deal out of Nemo’s extremely brief disappearance. (How did his dad even know he was gone, since it happened in the middle of the day, while he was at school? Never established.) Then, at the end, when Nemo was reunited with his class, his teacher wasn’t like, “NEMO, WE’VE BEEN LOOKING EVERYWHERE FOR YOU—OH MY GOD—YOU WERE MISSING.” I don’t think he knew Nemo was missing. Everyone was just dancing together. Were the students on a field trip? Was it a normal day at school? Why was Nemo so amazed by the things he encountered in the sea, where he lives?
On that note: The Seas with Nemo & Friends® performs a huge disservice to the seas without Nemo and friends, by directly juxtaposing real-life brown and gray sea creatures with colorful computerized Nemo characters; images of the latter are beamed directly onto the aquarium walls of the former. Nothing in the ocean is as dazzling as a still image of Dory. It actually made me less excited to tour the aquarium that is housed in the same building as the ride.
Rich: As if aquariums aren’t depressing enough. Imagine if someone kept you in a cage plastered with pictures of supermodels that they were clearly comparing you to and also making you compare yourself to. That’s actual torture.
I was disturbed to see that The Seas houses two manatees in the aquarium portion of the complex; there are few things I loathe more than marine mammal captivity. It turns out, though, that they’re both rescues. One of them has, like, a tenth of his tail left thanks to boating accidents. (Never let a manatee behind the wheel of your vessel.) The other, Lil’ Joe, has been rescued three separate times. He keeps getting caught where he’s not supposed to be. What an idiot! Some animals, I guess, just aren’t suited to live in the wild. Might as well chomp on 100 lbs. a day of what we were informed was “restaurant quality” romaine lettuce, while an “expert” talks on a microphone about you as if you are not there. It’s better than facing the wilds of the Florida waters.
I liked looking at the manatees. They are like hairless St. Bernards.
Caity: Somewhere out there in the wild, Lil’ Joe is the subject of his own feature or ride-length film: Finding Lil’ Joe. I don’t blame him for not wanting to be found. I never have any “restaurant-quality” romaine in my home, because it always rots before I get around to eating it. I think it’s sad that Lil’ Joe is so addicted to the restaurant-quality lettuce served at the Disney pool swim-up bar that he keeps throwing himself in front of boats to get it, but I could certainly see my life taking a similar path.
My advice to parents (or guardians, or emancipated minors) is to skip the ride portion of the ride (although I did enjoy sitting in a clamshell), and head straight to the actual aquarium section. It contains fewer interesting specimens than a full-sized aquarium, but it also contains fewer uninteresting ones. I did not like looking at the manatees, but I did like looking at a seahorse.
Rich: I love a seahorse. I love an eel. I love a lionfish. I do not love a dolphin in captivity, of which Epcot has four. These porpoises don’t seem to be self-destructive or idiots or romaine addicts or anything, just four male dolphins that are in a “research program,” according to the Free the Disney Dolphins initiative. Doubtful that they became research subjects by answering an ad in the back of the Village Voice.
Caity: The subject of the research is Do people love dolphins? So far the results indicate YES!!!
Ride Report Card
Rich: The Finding Nemo ride is a cheap-looking knock-off of something you’d find in the Magic Kingdom, and keeping dolphins captive is despicable. But you know what? The manatees and their story of survival via freeloading had me captivated, and the aquarium with all the fish in it seemed big enough to keep the fish from contemplating hopping out of the top the tank like Nemo. I give this ride a C-.
Caity: As I have previously mentioned, I did enjoy sitting in a clamshell. For that, the boring Nemo story, and the mildly interesting wildlife, I also give this ride a C-.
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Images via Rich Juzwiak and Caity Weaver.