Thursday, 25 March 2010

Tokyo Disneysea's Journey to the Center of the Earth

To fill out the menu of attractions in Tokyo Disneysea's Mysterious Island, Imagineers turned to the other works of Jules Verne for inspiration. I do not doubt that it would have been fascinating to be a fly on the wall of those meetings, hearing the debate and brainstorming over whether to have Captain Nemo take visitors on a journey Around the World in 80 Days or to have him become a Master of the World like he was a master of the sea. Maybe they would take a queue from Disneyland Paris and have a new invention take them From the Earth to the Moon?

The winning entry was Journey to the Center of the Earth, which in Disney's hands was given a heavy technological make-over. This is Captain Nemo's journey, after all. As he outlines in the signage leading up to the ride:
My first exploration of this volcano and the mysteries at the center of the Earth began with my creation of this amazing drilling device. It opened the door to the unexplored forces beneath the Earth - forces that can move the Earth... or destroy it.

Far from Liddenbrock's meager expedition, Nemo's excavation of the centre of the earth is a full-fledged scientific endeavor. Throughout the first part of the queue are laboratories filled over with crystals, rock samples and organic life culled from the dark depths. The careful observer - with lots of time on their hands - can even find foreshadowing clues to the ride's climax under the microscope and recorded in sketchbooks.

Adorning the walls of the queue's carved cavern are paintings reflecting the key moments of Nemo's explorations, echoing those of the original novel. The souvenir of choice for Journey to the Center of the Earth, nay, the whole Mysterious Island, would be an art book filled with these paintings and those like them that pepper both this and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. However, it is something that Disneysea is withholding from us. The runner-up would be print-on-demand posters for both attractions. Alas.

At the end of this first queue is the Terravator, an elevator that takes visitors thousands of feet into the earth. Once there, you disembark and line up along catwalks that circle drilling machines and bottomless pits before loading into your exploration vehicles.

Then you're off, descending into the interior of the earth. Much of the ride is akin to the darkride format of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. You pass through blacklit scenes from the book populated by almost cartoonish characters. The crystal caverns wow you, the giant mushroom forest is populated by strange glowing creatures unknown to science, and the underground ocean takes your breath away.

But things go wrong as they are wont to do. A cave in prevents your vehicle from going down the safe route carved by the drilling machines, diverting you into unexplored caverns. Grotesque egg-sacs hang from the ceiling and rumbling behind the walls tells you that something is chasing you. Then you burst onto a lava pit in which a horrifying, unknown beast swims. Avoiding it hungry lunge at you, the vehicle speeds off, up and up, spiralling through the tunnels at a rapid clip until you burst out of the side of Mount Prometheus. After going weightless for a thrilling moment, the vehicle careens to the unloading area where, once again, Nemo's corporate sponsor gives you a word of wisdom.

Also like 20,000 Leagues and countless other attractions at Tokyo Disneysea, Journey to the Center of the Earth has its own story paper (click to enlarge):


The Infernal Mr Adams said...

Wow! Great Post! Ive been to Tokyo DisneySeas twice and, of course, tended to spend most of my time in Mysterious Island, so beautiful, and a GREAT place to geek out about Steampunk :D I only wish Disney would follow through with their plans for Discovery Bay so I can geek out at home too!

Also, thanks for the story sheets! I was able to get the 20,000 Leagues ones, but I never got the ones from Journey (I think they said they were out, or something)

Cory Gross said...

Once I experienced how freakin' amazing Mysterious Island was, I pretty much spent all my time there as well. I hit 20K and Journey first, and then did them both another one or two times before Fortress Explorations and lunch in Vulcania. Then I basically hit a pattern of picking up a Fastpass for Journey, riding 20K, riding something else, coming back to Journey, picking up another Fastpass for it, riding 20K again, riding something else, repeat... altogether I think I rode Tower of Terror two times, Sinbad three times, Indiana Jones once, the steamer and electric railway lines once each, and Mysterious Island all the rest.

I hear ya' about Discovery Bay. Whether Disneyland USA or California Adventure, I don't care. I just want it!