If there’s one thing Imagineering fans adore, it's an original mythology; an invented world and an overarching story that connect attractions in unexpected or mysterious ways...
Sometimes, those connections are visible! Consider the long-lost universe of Magic Kingdom's 1994 New Tomorrowland, that once intertwined the Lost Legends: Timekeeper and Alien Encounter, with each ride, shop, and even restaurant falling into the frame story of the "real, living" sci-fi city. Or Disneyland's Adventureland, anchored by the Modern Marvel: Indiana Jones Adventure, drawing the land's other inhabitants into its 1930s timeline and assigning guests the role of nouveau riche European tourists.
But sometimes, the threads are vast... and much more subtle... Such is the case with the most mysterious, enigmatic, and sought-after cross-continental tale Disney has ever woven... a global mythology that just may connect some of the world's best rides into one story. Welcome to the legend of S.E.A. - The Society of Explorers and Adventurers.
With a manifesto hidden in time, no one seems entirely sure of the origins of S.E.A., a secret society determined to illuminate the vast, dark corners of the globe. It seems that only the brightest, most cunning, and most enterprising minds ever see the Society's inner workings. For the rest of us, the members of S.E.A. have left behind a few hints as to their findings, hidden in adventurous rides scattered across the globe...
Could Indiana Jones Adventure, Mystic Manor, Typhoon Lagoon, Tower of Terror, The Enchanted Tiki Room, Pleasure Island, Jungle Cruise, and even Haunted Mansion all be connected by this cross-continental secret society? Today, we'll dig into the attractions, rides, and restaurants that play a role in the global mythology of S.E.A., then see some potential connections fans only dream of... for now...
1. Fortress Explorations
Location: Tokyo DisneySea, Mediterranean Harbor Setting: Modern day SEA Connection: Confirmed
Some say S.E.A. is rooted in the early work of (potential S.E.A. founder) Leonardo da Vinci, famous artist, inventor, and dreamer of the Renaissance... It seems possible given the first indication of the secret society's existence emerged alongside Tokyo DisneySea in 2001.
Just inside the park, guests arrive on the shores of Mediterranean Harbor - the park's central waterway - with a picture-perfect view of the looming Mount Prometheus. But there, settled into the volcano's cooled lava flows, stands the stalwart Fortress Explorations.
The Renaissance-era fortress of golden domes and stone catwalks is a land in its own right: a four-story complex comprised of ten individual exhibitions housed throughout hidden towers and domes. In fact, Fortress Explorations is essentially a museum of arts and sciences concealed within the Renaissance palace, tucked away in one of the most spectacular theme parks on Earth.
Spiral staircases, stone turrets, drawbridges, hidden chambers, optical illusions, grand murals and frescoes, and ancient engravings abound within.
Within its hallowed halls, you'll find a three-story Foucoult pendulum, a recreation of Da Vinci’s Flying Machine, a Navigator's Hall containing perhaps the world's classiest remote-controlled ship game (piloting antique sailing ships around ancient continents), and even a centuries-old (and very real) camera obscura – an early, dark chambered projection device that seems more from Milo Rambaldi's realm than ours.
One of the fortress's stone bridges even leads to a seismic recording station embedded in Mount Prometheus, where S.E.A. members have tracked and recorded the volcano's activity – one stop of many on the "Leonardo's Challenge" scavenger hunt quest that sends guests throughout the fortress collecting clues and puzzle pieces.
Even with all of its oversized wonder, the most breathtaking and beautiful element within this ancient citadel of knowledge must be the Chamber of Planets. Residing in the Fortress's main golden dome, guests here can manipulate antique cranks and cogs to send metal planets revolving around a glowing Sun.
Outside is Explorer's Landing, an interactive dockside play area of crates, cargo nets, and the docked sailing ship Renaissance, open for adventurers to all ages to climb aboard.
More than just an elaborate palace and dock, Fortress Explorations is the home base of S.E.A. In fact, a bronze plaque near the water’s edge touts: “We, the members of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, herewith establish Explorers’ Landing in order to promote the sharing of nautical and scientific knowledge for world exploration.”
The Class of 1899
While literal centuries of adventures likely bridge the gap from the founding of Fortress Explorations to today, of particular interest to Imagineering fans is the portrait above, seemingly painted of the secret society's meeting in 1899.
While some of that year's S.E.A. members are still shrouded in mystery, a few are well-known to Disney Parks guests, as they host some of the most ambitious and beloved attractions around the globe... On the next page, we'll set course for the rides you'll find around the world that connect to the Society of Explorers and Adventurers... if you know where to look.