Today in Disney History, 2007: Finding Nemo – The Musical Opening Date at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by | Jan 24, 2022 | Animal Kingdom, Disney History, WDW Blog

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Today marks the anniversary of the Finding Nemo – The Musical opening date at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Later this year, a new version of the musical will reopen.

Nemo isn’t lost anymore. On the exact same day, Disney opened Finding Nemo – The Musical at Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at EPCOT. In case you have a memory that rivals Dory’s, keep reading to learn about Finding Nemo – The Musical, and click here to learn more about The Seas With Nemo & Friends.

Finding Nemo as a Musical?

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Finding Nemo – The Musical became a core part of the Animal Kingdom experience. Photo by Laurie Sapp

The Theater in the Wild in Disney’s Animal Kingdom has hosted three different theatrical performances, all offering unique takes on classic Disney animated stories. 

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Journey Into the Jungle Book. Photo courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

When Animal Kingdom opened, the theater was home to Journey Into the Jungle Book, the often overlooked retelling of the 1967 Disney animated film. The show used a blend of immersive sets and costuming alongside puppets that were quite technologically advanced for 1998 to mimic the level of emotion audiences would feel while watching the film. 

In 1999, the show was replaced with Tarzan Rocks!, a show that took an entirely different approach to the theater space, offering a blend of music from the film performed live with stunt performers on rollerblades and a series of acrobatic sequences. While Tarzan Rocks! was an entirely different type of show compared to Journey Into the Jungle Book and the musicals that would follow its performances, the show did open up new ways to use the space in the theater that would prove beneficial for the Nemo musical. 

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Tarzan Rocks! Photo courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

When Tarzan Rocks! had its final performance in 2006, rumors began to spread that a show based on Finding Nemo (2003) would be moving into the Theater in the Wild. Finding Nemo seemed like a logical choice given the obvious animal theme and the film’s massive continued success even years after its debut. 

By spring 2006, Disney made the official announcement that a musical version of Finding Nemo would be opening at Animal Kingdom. While the Walt Disney Company has quite a successful history of reimagining animated films into live productions, Finding Nemo came with an extra challenge, as the original Disney and Pixar film was not a musical.

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Marlin and Nemo. Photo by Laurie Sapp

Guests’ interests were already piqued at the addition of one of the first dedicated Finding Nemo attractions coming to Walt Disney World, and interest only grew as they learned more details that the show would be a totally original musical retelling of the film

Developing Finding Nemo – The Musical 

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Crush and Marlin. Photo by Cliff Wang

With the opening of the show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2007, Finding Nemo – The Musical became the first Disney animated film that was not already a musical to be adapted into a full-fledged musical stage production

When Finding Nemo – The Musical was in its very early development stages, Disney producers began discussions to find the best possible songwriters to transform the hit animated film into a Broadway-style production. 

Tony Award-winning writing and composing duo Robert Lopez and his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, were eventually approached by Disney to work on the Nemo production after Disney themed entertainment producers read a short a cappella retelling of the story of Oedipus written by Kristen. 

Given the couple’s experience working on the hit musical Avenue Q, and their interest in taking the non-musical story and adding elements of full musical production, Anderson and Anderson-Lopez were the perfect choices for the project. And if the names sound familiar, you may recognize their songs from another popular Disney film, Frozen (2013)

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Bruce. Photo by Cliff Wang

Alongside the couple, Peter Brosius joined the project as a director of the production, following his work directing numerous theatrical premieres as well as winning the Regional Tony Award for his work with the Children’s Theatre Company. Another notable name from theatre was called in for the project with Michael Curry serving as the designer for the show’s puppets following his fun as the lead puppet and production designer for The Lion King on Broadway. 

The musical factor was not the only element of Finding Nemo – The Musical that would make the production so memorable. The show took elements developed by the talented team of creators behind the project plus technology developed for earlier shows in the Theater in the Wild to “combine puppets, dancers, acrobats, and animated backdrops,” as Disney declared in the show’s official announcement. 

Finding Nemo – The Musical is a hit not only for its popular musical numbers including “The Big Blue World,” “Go With the Flow,” and more, but also for its creative use of puppetry and choreography and for using nearly every space of the theater to fully immerse guests in the story. 

Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond!

Like the rest of the Walt Disney World Resort and theme parks and businesses around the country, Disney’s Animal Kingdom closed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. When the park reopened that summer, Finding Nemo – The Musical remained closed, leaving guests to wonder if the show was set to be replaced. 

In November 2021, Disney officially announced that a reimagining of the show would be coming to the Theater in the Wild during “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” in honor of the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World in 2022

While Disney has not shared too many specifics on the new version of the show just yet, we have been assured that many of the favorite songs from the previous version will remain and that the story will take place during the timeline of Finding Dory (2016).

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Dory. Photo by Laurie Sapp

Disney has not shared an official reopening date for the new Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond!, but we will be sure to share more details on the blog as we have them, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for Nemo!

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Written by Brittany DiCologero

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Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.
Brittany DiCologero

Written by Brittany DiCologero

Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.