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Mirabel in 'Encanto'
Credit: Disney Animation

OpEd: Should ‘Encanto’ Replace a Beloved Disney Parks Ride?

The world of Disney Parks is rapidly changing, and The Walt Disney Company made it clear that Encanto (2021) is its new golden child when adding new experiences to its theme parks. Is it time for a beloved The Little Mermaid (1989) attraction to be updated with a new theme?

Little Mermaid attraction

Credit: Disney

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The 2022 D23 Expo Parks Panel highlighted the future of Disney Parks globally. Fans were stunned to see the somewhat overwhelming amount of intellectual property making its way into the Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort.

Encanto Land at Magic Kingdom

Credit: Disney

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With “blue sky” concepts presented by Josh D’Amaro (Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products) showcasing an entire Disney villains-themed land behind Big Thunder Mountain to Zootopia (2016) potentially taking over the Animal Kingdom’s Dinoland, U.S.A., it’s easy to assume that Walt Disney Imagineering is looking to “plus” their Parks with known properties.

Encanto

Credit: Disney Animation

Amongst the many announcements during D23 was Disney’s Encanto taking the forefront of theme ideas. A whole potential land could belong to the Madrigal family at the Magic Kingdom.

Though the Mouse House refrained from sharing news on Disneyland’s Tarzan Treehouse attraction — which is rumored to be taken over by Encanto — it’s evident that “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” will become the new “Let It Go” at Disney Parks.

Ariel's meet-and-greet experience

Credit: Disney

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With Encanto taking up a fair portion of Disney Parks’ landscape, is it time for The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure at Disney California Adventure or Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid at the Magic Kingdom to be replaced by the Madrigal’s?

Little Mermaid Opening

Credit: Disney

In no way is the author of this article suggesting that Disney announced this attraction’s retheme — or even arguing that The Little Mermaid should be shelved — but instead putting the idea of an Encanto-themed attraction coming to a Disney Park out into the Disney fan community.

Encanto appears to have a hit-or-miss audience, much like Frozen. Either fans loved the movie or didn’t exactly find it their cup of tea. Nonetheless, the effect of Lin-Manuel Miranda is taking over the legacy of Disney composers Alan Menkin and Howard Ashman, and it’s clear that Walt Disney Imagineering is aiming to wiggle Encanto into the Parks in some aspects.

Going “Under the Sea”

The current layout of The Little Mermaid would offer a perfect structure for an Encanto attraction to take over. With a “blue sky” mindset, Guests could be ushered into the Madrigal’s home as they encounter what their mysterious gift is.

Little Mermaid Under the Sea Journey

Credit: Disney

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Before opening their honorary door, the family’s magical candle could go missing, and Guests would have to partner with Mirabel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), Luisa Madrigal (Jessica Darrow), Isabela Madrigal (Diane Guerrero), Bruno Madrigal (John Leguizamo) to recover the family’s essential item.

Replacing the “Under the Sea” sequence could be Bruno’s vision catastrophe as the Madrigal family attempts to locate the flying candle (very “Silly Symphonies” hurricane-esque).

Bruno in 'Encanto'

Credit: Disney Animation

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Along the journey, Guests would encounter Camilo Madrigal (Rhenzy Feliz) and Dolores Madrigal (Adassa) as they near the end of the attraction.

The “Kiss the Girl” sequence could become Antonio’s (Ravi Cabot-Conyers) room, and those experiencing the attraction would bump into the beloved capybara.

Little Mermaid attraction

Credit: Disney

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For the attraction’s grand finale, Guests would experience a send-off from the Madrigal as they recover their candles and showcase what magical gift the house has bestowed upon its visitors.

Mirabel Madrigal in front of her home in 'Encanto'

Credit: Disney Animation

This is just one of the many retheme ideas that could house The Little Mermaid attraction. Ultimately, Walt Disney Imagineering would have to produce a compelling storyline worthy of replacing the beloved Ariel adventure, especially with younger fans gravitating more towards the story of the undersea princess that’s been a Disney staple for over three decades.

Encanto Family

Credit: Disney Animation

Nonetheless, it’s worth pointing out that Disney California Adventure’s entire landscape is changing with Pixar Pier encroaching more territory in the Park.

With Disney Animation Studio’s hit Big Hero Six (2014) franchise taking over the Pacific Wharf adjacent to Pixar Pier and across the way from The Little Mermaid, it appears that Walt Disney Imagineering is aiming to update this section of the Park with more recent animation additions.

Stephanie Beatriz as Mirabel

Credit: Disney Animation

In no way is The Little Mermaid outdated or irrelevant (both the film and attraction), but it never hurts to think of the possibilities of what might occur next at your favorite Disney Park globally.

Walt Disney World’s The Little Mermaid fits perfectly with the New Fantasyland theme, and pulling off an Encanto retheme could prove quite tricky.

Stephanie Beatriz as Mirabel (left) and John Leguizamo

Credit: Disney Animation

While it’s unclear what’s next for some experiences, it’s evident that Disney is re-prioritizing its animation focus and adding in both box office hits and relevant media that generates a greater demand for its Parks.

More about Encanto

Encanto tells the tale of an extraordinary family, the Madrigals, who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia, in a magical house, in a vibrant town, in a wondrous, charmed place called an Encanto. The magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift from super strength to the power to heal-every child except one, Mirabel. But when she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is in danger, Mirabel decides that she, the only ordinary Madrigal, might just be her exceptional family’s last hope.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ pop-culture hit Encanto was recognized as Best Animated Feature Film. This is the second Oscar® win for director Byron Howard and producer Clark Spencer, and the first Oscar® win for director Jared Bush and producer Yvett Merino. The win adds to a list of accolades for the film that includes recognition from the Annie Awards, Art Directors Guild Awards, BAFTA Awards, Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globe® Awards, NAACP Image Awards and Producers Guild Awards. Encanto is also the first Disney movie to claim a No. 1 album and a No. 1 single.

Encanto is The Walt Disney Company’s latest Best Animated Feature Academy Award winner, cementing the film’s legacy as an unmoveable force of pure Disney magic.

More About Walt Disney Animation Studios

Combining masterful artistry and storytelling with groundbreaking technology, Walt Disney Animation Studios is a filmmaker-driven animation studio responsible for creating some of the most beloved films ever made. WDAS continues to build on its rich legacy of innovation and creativity, from the first fully-animated feature film, 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to 2019’s Frozen II, the biggest animated film of all time, to our 60th animated feature, Encanto. Among the studio’s timeless creations are Pinocchio (1940), Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Jungle Book (1967), The Little Mermaid, The Lion King (1994), Frozen (2013), Big Hero 6 (2014) and Zootopia (2014).

Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are the writer’s and may not reflect the sentiments of Disney Fanatic as a whole.

About Alex Lue