Fan criticism sparks minor makeover for The Little Mermaid ride as Disneyland replaces ‘soft serve’ hair and CG animation

in Disney, Disney's California Adventure, Disneyland Resort, Entertainment, Theme Parks

Since The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure first debuted at Disney California Adventure in it’s been met with both praise and criticism by Disney fans, excited to finally have a dark ride dedicated to Ariel and friends, but also disappointed by a few of its visual elements.

This week, Disneyland Resort is addressing a pair of those concerns during a temporary closure of the attraction, beginning today and wrapping up Friday.

The Little Mermaid herself is featured throughout the attraction sporting a variety of hairstyles, which appear to sway and float while guests are “under the sea.” But during the scene featuring that famous song, Ariel’s swirly hair style is often misinterpreted by guests as a beehive or likened to a soft serve ice cream cone rather than simply representing hair floating underwater.

Whether it’s realized by guests or not, the controversial hair style is straight out of Disney’s 1989 animated film:

That moment takes place at the beginning of the “Under the Sea” song, when a few fish swim circles around Ariel causing her hair to rise up. It’s one that many fans of the film instantly recognize in the attraction and enjoy seeing represented there, but confuses those who don’t make the connection.

Take a closer look at the “soft serve” hair beginning 3:20 into the full ride video below:

It was Ariel’s lifelike features, including her hair, that Disney touted during previews of the attraction in the park’s Blue Sky Cellar:

But fans have few complains about Ariel’s long, flowing red hair seen in her first appearance in the ride. It’s only the “soft serve” style that’s getting a makeover. (I personally think it looks fine as is and is a fun variation.)

Another widely-criticised element of The Little Mermaid ride has been its use of computer-generated animation in two places, depicting Ariel and Flounder swimming overhead near the beginning of the ride and later showing Ariel’s transformation from having a mermaid tail to legs.

This week these sequences will be replaced by traditional 2D animation, matching the style of the original film.

The Orange County Register quotes Disneyland Resort spokeman Kevin Rafferty Jr. about the ongoing changes:

“Ariel will receive a new, floating hairdo in the ‘Under the Sea’ scene, and two instances of computer-generated animation in the descent and ascent scenes of the attraction will be replaced with animation sequences from Walt Disney Animation Studios, depicting Ariel as guests remember seeing her in the motion picture – the way they know and love her. With every new attraction, we listen to guest feedback and are always looking at the best ways to tell a great story.”

When The Little Mermaid ride opens later this year at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, it will also feature these same updated elements. The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure will reopen at Disney California Adventure on Friday, May 4, 2012.


  1. Afgf

    Not a good idea…

  2. It only very recently occurred to me that people didn’t recognize the swirly up-do as a direct reference to that part in the film. I thought surely people must have realized the reasoning behind that decision. I admit that it might have been helpful to have some fish swirling around her hair in the ride, but it seems a shame to change it already just because some people didn’t get it.

  3. I don’t think it’s a matter of people getting it so much as it just looks weird. I took my girlfriend who is probably on the lowest totem of the Disney fandom totem pole, and while she got the reference, she didn’t really like the hair either.

  4. Jeff Lynch

    I never thought to call that hairstyle “soft serve”, but now that I’ve heard the term I will never, ever be able to see a pic of that hairstyle without thinking of ice cream. I only got to ride this attraction once and I will say that I was disappointed at how Ariel looked in that part…and I was also disappointed in the CGI that just looked awful. I remember thinking it looked like it was from a video game or something. So I am really glad they made these changes and I am excited to see the new look for those spots!

  5. MM

    Will it be different than the WDW ARIEL RIDE?

  6. Brian

    Thank God their getting rid of Ariel’s B-52’s beehive hairdo! Personally, I think they should have left her hair and changed the song to Rock Lobster.

  7. chris douglas

    Good-bye Dole Whip hair

  8. Nick

    But I like strawberry ice cream 🙁

  9. FS

    I gotta say, I was actually fine with the way the ride was, but its always great to see upgrades and improvements.

  10. Carlos

    I realize that the hairstyle is in regards to the scene in the movie, but I feel like in the ride it’s out of context and it just looks like her hair, which is normally around her, is just frozen on top of her head. And the head movements really make it stand out even more. I’m definitely looking forward to that change.

  11. Dan

    I cannot believe that Disney, absolute masters of water effects, did not make this ride into a water spectacular. Like scenes from Splash Mountain, and areas around the old Journey Into Imagination, and all the waterfalls, I can’t believe they gave us a plastic ride, for Mermaid. How disappointing.

  12. Logan

    Really that’s what people had to complain about? I was more upset that they left out the fight with Ursala and you could briefly see her. If anything I would have preferred an add on. Either way the ride is my favorite and I was happy to get stuck in it twice.

  13. Anyonomous

    People just need to calm down and stop complaining about everything. Not everyone sees it as you do. Whatever works for Disney let them be. Besides you paid to go in a ride it and you thought it was cool until someone points it out and you completely agree with it. It’s dumb. It’s fine the way it is

  14. Kyra

    Seriously? That’s what people are complaining about? If anything I was mad that they left out the battle scene with Ursula! But her hair… You’re kidding. She looked fine.

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