Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Fortress Explorations

After passing through the entrance gate of Tokyo Disneysea and beneath the arches of the Hotel Miracosta, the visitor to what may be the most technically spectacular theme park in the world catches their first glimpse of the grand Mediterranean Harbor and the park's centrepiece, Mount Prometheus. Where in other parks stand a grand fairytale castle, here stands a smoking caldera threatening to spew fiery destruction upon all. There is a castle yet, though this one is in the shadows of Prometheus. Across the bay from Venetian gondolas and quaint Italian shoppes is Fortress Explorations.

As visitors wind their way up the slopes of Mount Prometheus to Fortress Explorations, their eye may pick out something odd: the crumbling remains of an ancient Greek city. Something happened in this area in some long bygone day...

Inevitably, past these mysterious ruins, one reaches the gates of the mighty Fortress Explorations, a Renaissance-style castle that is home to the Society of Explorers and Adventurers.
We, the S.E.A., are dedicated to the gathering of newfound knowledge. So that you may share in our endeavors, we have created Fortress Explorations. Within this citadel and on its waterfront you can witness first-hand the progression of our explorations and research. Our quest is never-ending and it is our hope that you will return here often to embark on your own explorations of Adventure, Romance, Discovery and Innovation.

That charter text was quoted from the maps handily distributed throughout the castle. Adorning the brazen racks is the crest of the S.E.A.:
The four symbols adorning the crest of the S.E.A. represent the organization's charter and the concepts they deem most worthy. The galleon represents Adventure, the armillary sphere Romance, the compass Discovery, and the artist's tools Innovation.

This Renaissance castle is brimming over with fantastic inventions and scientific instruments. On its roof sits the Flying Machine, an ornithopter worthy of DaVinci himself.
Dreams put on paper lead to innovative new ideas - like human-powered flight. Climb aboard the Flying Machine and experience this dream for yourself.

Beneath the great dome is the Chamber of Planets, housing a massive orrery. Gears and cranks allow visitors to rotate the planets, imitating the movement of the cosmos.
The romantic allure of the heavens above can be found in the Chamber of Planets. Feel the wonder of the universe as you put the Planets into motion.

Then there is the Navigation Centre, a stunning map of the flat earth. This pre-Columbian map is not a static art-piece, however. Water runs off the edges into cosmic abysses while coin-operated boats float upon it, controlled by the wheels that circle the room.
Those of an adventurous spirit will enjoy sailing a galleon in the Navigation Centre. An ocean of challenge and surprise awaits all who sail here.

Deeper within the castle yet is an Alchemy Laboratory, in which,
our resident alchemist works to transmute base metals into gold and silver and experiments with elemental materials in the quest to discover and elixer of longevity. Through these experiments, the Society demonstrates its commitment to advancing scientific knowledge.

There is also the Explorer's Hall, which enshrines the great explorers of the S.E.A. and those upon whose shoulders they stand. Portraits and frescoes line the halls, and above the door is the seal of the Society, emblazoned with it's motto.

Not far from the Explorer's Gallery is the Illusion Room. Here is a classic optical illusion: a square room painted in such a way that each walls blends into a single painting when viewed through a lens. It is not merely any painting, however. This illusion depicts the eruption of Mount Prometheus and the destruction of Atlantis, an act of vengeance by the gods. The clues come together, but the final answer will have to wait for hundreds of years and the technological achievements of an eccentric recluse without a name...

In the meantime, visitors are welcomed by the Society to board the galleon ship Renaissance as it prepares to set sail. The rest of Tokyo Disneysea awaits.

Fortress Explorations is one of the true gems in a crown Disney park. Though little more than a walkthrough - spiced with a cafe, sit-down restaurant and a DaVinci Quest that is currently only available in the Japanese language - it is charmed with every attribute the Society of Explorers and Adventurers set out. The Chamber of Planets and Navigation Centre are especially objects that one might wish to have in their own home.

Furthermore, Fortress Explorations articulates the overarching theme of the park. Built during the height of Imagineering's fetish for story, narratives duck and weave throughout Tokyo Disneysea, all linked by the theme of exploration and discovery. It is the principles of S.E.A. - Adventure, Romance, Discovery and Innovation - that drive the stories for each of the attractions, from Sinbad's Storybook Adventure to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to even the Tower of Terror in its own perverse way. Now wonder that the name of the park is, in fact, an acronym for the Society itself!


George Taylor said...


I was going to ask is SEA was really just an astounding walk-though. But you answered my question.

Did it really work?

Cory Gross said...

So far as a Renaissance-era castle goes, it works about as well as anything at a Disney property. Thematically, it resonated with me a whole heck of a lot. The various parts, like the Chamber of Planets and Navigation Room, are just beautiful. Then the whole concept of the S.E.A. and its principles was absolutely enchanting. I'm a big fan of how Disneysea is based on exploration, romance, adventure and innovation rather than, say, straight out conflict and violence. As I walked through it I marevlled at how well they described the thoughts behind this blog ^_^

Juliet S. said...


I just found your blog and goodness, it's simply amazing! So many things to look at and I just got my hands on very few of them.

This particular article on SEA and The Fortress is just admirable. To be frank, you're one of few people I've came across that really see DisneySEA as more than just a bank of rides and shows, and judges the park from that common perspective. But your explanations on DisneySEA are very elaborate and immerse into the brilliance of imaginatively detailed storytelling (as well as the actual themes behind the story), the true identity of the park. Heck! I can't escape thinking how to be a member of SEA..
Plus, this article just set a new light on The Society's story. I'm talkin about the mysterious Greek ruins as you described them, then the painting in the illusion room. So far, it never occured to me that they're clues hinting on a particular truth of the history of both Atlantis and Medditerranean Harbour. So thanks!