The late 70s and 80s were mostly a dark time for Walt Disney Studios Animation.
It’s not that there weren’t charming films like “The Fox and the Hound” or “The Rescuers” or even the much-maligned “The Black Cauldron”, but it’s undeniable the studio had lost its way.
All that changed in 1989 with the story of a young mermaid girl who fell in love with a human despite her father’s disapproval.
It’s nearly impossible to overstate the impact “The Little Mermaid” had when it arrived in 1989. It was a cultural phenomenon that singled Disney’s triumphant return to prominence.
The songs were inescapable. Families went to the theater time and again, then grabbed a VHS copy as Disney began leaning more heavily on the lucrative videotape market.
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Returning to the classic Disney gambit of taking characters in the public domain like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, the Mouse House found massive success updating a Hans Christian Anderson classic and adding a crab with a talent of Calypso and a sea witch with more than a bit of camp.
“The Little Mermaid” kicked off an almost unmatched string of success.
“Beauty and the Beast”. “Aladdin”. “The Lion King”.
The mighty quartet became the pillars of Disney parks as well, holding down the fort until Anna and Elsa brought a new generation of princesses to the fore.
Even today, the love for Ariel remains nearly unmatched.
I haven’t done a scientific study, but if Ariel isn’t the most represented princess in the park, she’s certainly right at the top.
When Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom underwent a large expansion roughly a decade ago, part of it was to give Belle and Ariel larger pieces of the park and accommodate demand.
Is there an Ariel at Disney World?
Yes. There are several.
From parades to rides to character meet and greets and character dining to shows, there is enough Ariel to make your Walt Disney World vacation magical.
Which Disney park has Ariel?
In Florida, as of this writing, two of the four Disney theme parks have Ariel.
Ariel is in the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. She is expected to be returning to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in early 2023.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom doesn’t have any Ariel interactions.
Can you still meet Ariel at Disney World?
Yes. Outside of Mickey, Disney princesses are probably the most popular character to sign an autograph book for a guest.
And Ariel may well be the most popular princess.
Is Ariel’s Grotto still at Disney World?
Yes, it’s still there. It’s in the Little Mermaid section of what I call the new Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. Although, check the Disney app for details.
It’s listed as temporarily unavailable at the time of this writing.
Where is the Ariel ride at Disney World?
Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid is right next to Ariel’s Grotto. You can ride and then meet the princess from your favorite Disney movie.
To get there, come straight down Main Street, through the Cinderella Castle, past the Prince Charming Merry Go Round and then make a right at Belle’s Castle.
The ride itself is classic Disney. You board a clamshell ride vehicle to enjoy a ride through the story of the Little Mermaid.
It’s a great ride for those who love the story and colorful visuals. I also love exceptional air conditioning.
Where can we meet Ariel?
Currently, my daughter’s favorite princess has meet and greets in three places. There is a meet and greet at the Grotto. We usually knock out our ride in the clamshell attraction and the Ariel meet and greet early in the day because the lines usually aren’t bad then.
You can also dine at Cinderella’s Royal Table. She is one of the four princesses in addition to Snow White, Aurora and Jasmine that guests get to meet at the dinner.
They meet Cinderella and have their photo taken by photo pass photographers prior to the meal.
She is also one of the featured characters at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavilion at EPCOT. She is frequently joined by Belle, Mulan, Aurora and Snow White.
Two words of caution: First make sure you get a reservation for either of these two dining experiences.
Secondly, you are not guaranteed to meet Ariel at either one. Disney reserves the right to have other princesses come out including Pocahontas, Mary Poppins or Alice.
There was also the Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s Boardwalk. The character breakfast featured a pair of royal couples, Ariel and Prince Eric and Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. The Disney website says the character breakfast is temporarily unavailable.
Where else can we see Ariel?
She is around. One of the best places to see her is in a parade or cavalcade in the Magic Kingdom.
Ariel is one of the main attractions of the Festival of Fantasy parade where she is joined by Sebastian the crab and Flounder the … well, flounder. Her float follows the parade route from over near Splash Mountain through Liberty Square and eventually up Main Street USA.
She is expected to appear soon in the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The show has been down but is set to return in early 2023. The show features blacklight glowing puppets and tells the story of Ariel and Eric. It will be good to have it back as part of your magical Disney vacation.
You can also stay in a Little Mermaid-themed room at Disney’s Art of Animation resort. Not as exciting as a character meet and greet, but the kids think it’s cool.
Can I meet Ariel at the Princess Fairytale Hall in the Magic Kingdom?
No. Disney likes to keep their most popular princesses apart to break up the lines, and the Fairytale Hall is Cinderella’s domain.
They used to host four princesses in the hall, but it’s currently Cinderella and a guest like Princess Tiana or Princess Elena from the Disney Jr. TV show.
Who is your favorite Dinsey princess in Orlando? Let us know in the comments below.