The scene was a familiar one: Flounder was swimming upstream again, in pursuit of his mermaid friend Ariel.
"Ariel, I'm coming!" he shouted, cutting through the crowd in a bright yellow-and-blue costume as he tried to catch up with her.
Except this was not the same Flounder generations of audiences have come to adore from the 1989 Disney musical feature "The Little Mermaid." This was a burly 52-year-old man from Cleveland navigating the Hollywood Bowl crowd in order to catch up with his friend.
Friday evening kicked off the first of a three-night, star-studded musical at the venue called "Disney's The Little Mermaid in Concert," and fan Elias Stimac came dressed in yellow face paint, a blue Cockatoo-esque wig and blue fishnet stockings that he purchased from a costume shop during his visit to Los Angeles and wore over his hands.
" 'The Little Mermaid' is just one of those films that makes you feel good," said Stimac, who noted he had taken about 100 shell-fies with people since he set foot on the grounds. "It makes me cry every time."
Celebrities, pop stars, a live orchestra and chorus performed in tandem with a screening of the animated film.
Singer Sara Bareilles provided vocals for the heroine Ariel, a young mermaid who dreams of becoming human. Actress Rebel Wilson performed as sea-witch Ursula. Actor Darren Criss sang for the role of Eric, the human prince with whom Ariel falls in love, while Tituss Burgess (from "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt") played the part of crustacean court composer Sebastian, a role he previously took on in Disney's Broadway musical version of the movie.
The live cast also included John Stamos in the part of Chef Louis ("Les Poissons").
While many attendees had a more muted expression of their love for the Disney classic — simply donning T-shirts of their favorite character or adhering to the color palate of Ariel's seashell bra and electric-green, mermaid tail — others, like Stimac, were more bold in their attire.
There were those participating in the pre-show costume contest — elaborately dressed as Ariels, Ursulas, Sebastians and more. There was the occasional Chef Louis standing in a concession line or a Scuttle waiting for the bathroom. If the animated Ursula — after her giant growth-spurt in the movie — had a view of the crowd, she'd roll her eyes at the amount of Ariel wigs.
Young or old, they all came prepared to sing along and recite lines. Helping to prepare them before the main show got underway was Alan Menken, who composed the score of the movie. On Friday night, he performed a medley of Disney songs that he's written, including "Be Our Guest" ("Beauty and the Beast") and "Colors of the Wind" ("Pocahontas").
But once that iconic Disney castle logo shot onto the venue's multiple screens signaling the start of the movie, the Hollywood Bowl transformed into the Hollywood Fish Bowl.
The famous concentric arches of the stage were lit in ocean blues, Flounder yellows and white, Ursula purples and blues.
During the song portions of the movie, the singers (who included Norm Lewis as King Triton and Joshua Colley as Flounder) came out in character-like costumes to perform.
The screening featured a 71-piece orchestra led by conductor Michael Kosarin, along with a 12-person choir.
Bareilles' rendition of "Part of Your World" drew echoes from the crowd singing with the same power from their seats. Burgess' rendition of the upbeat "Under the Sea" had folks whistling and dancing along. The opening notes to Ursula's "Poor Unfortunate Souls" drew immediate cheers, and Wilson's growly and boisterous take on it had the audience howling. Stamos was even thrust into conducting the orchestra during Chef Louis' moment of pandemonium from his kitchen disaster.
The concert also included four songs from the Broadway production: Flounder's song "She's in Love"; "If Only" (Quartet) sung by Ariel, King Triton, Sebastian and Prince Eric; King Triton's "The World Above"; and Prince Eric's "Her Voice" — all of which were sung while screens at the Bowl displayed concept art from the film.
The close of the movie, which finds Ariel, now human for good, and Prince Eric reunited and getting married, was accompanied by a minutes-long fireworks display around 10: 30 p.m.
And yet, for some, it wasn't enough.
"Again! I want to see it again!" 6-year-old Jessica Garcia told her mom, rubbing her tired eyes, as they made their way downstairs.