Welcome Explorers! Today we are going begin our series on the rides and attractions which have a S.E.A. based backstory. Where better to start then at the birthplace of S.E.A, Fortress Explorations.
This elaborate 15th century fortress is dedicated to the golden age of exploration. This interactive attraction features optical illusions, model galleons on a liquid map and a model of DaVinci’s flying machine - it is the best, most richly detailed walkthrough attraction in the world. Think of the Swiss Family Treehouse but a much much better!
Located immediately opposite the park entrance in Tokyo’s DisneySea on the opposite side of the lagoon and set against the backdrop of Mt Prometheus, it has to be one of the most photographed spots in the park. Yet this attraction often gets overlooked. Well, not today! We are going to be covering this attraction in as much detail as I can find!
Opening in 2001 with the rest of DisneySea, the attraction comprises of the citadel, which is split up into 11 rooms, a full-size galleon (ship) moored outside on the landing and 3 restaurants, Magellanes, Magallanes Lounge and the quick service Refrescos.
Information about the design and history of Fortress Explorations is hard to come by, even the Wikipedia article only has 3 small paragraphs. But what we have found is awesome!
If you have any information on the attraction that you think I have missed, please either drop me a line or comment below!
The original concepts were principally done by 3 Imagineers, Wes Cook, Phillip Freer and Dan Gooze. Take a look at some of this amazing concept artwork below!
Source: Unknown, original concept art by Dan Gooze. Copyright Disney
Source Phillip Freer. Copyyright Disney
Way more interesting is the artwork discovered by Twitter user @cabel in a collection of Wes Cooks work which he purchased at auction. They are a set of rough but extremely detailed sketches made by Cook for the construction of the Galleon.
Source: Cabel on Twitter - Wes Cook detailed concepts for the deck of the galleon.
Source: Cabel on Twitter - Wes Cook detailed concepts for inside of the galleon.
Fortress Explorations and S.E.A.
The backstory of Fortress Exploration is the history of S.E.A. which we covered in An Introduction to S.E.A. part 1 . A society which was created to share the endeavours and witness first hand the progression of explorations of Adventure, Romance, Discovery and Innovation.
Upon entering the attraction you can pick up the following leaflet about S.E.A. which goes into great detail about its quest and the different sections which make up the S.E.A. crest.
Source: Fortress Explorations, Copyright Disney
Fortress Explorations also gives us the founding date of S.E.A. August 12th, 1538. As well as the moto “Exploration Continua” which you can see on this plaque from the landing just outside the galleon.
S.E.A. Plaque just outside the galloen
On the reverse side of the leaflet explaining S.E.A. there is a map of Fortress Explorations.
Source: Map of Fortress Explorations, Copyright Disney
The Leonardo Challenge
You can freely walk through the citadel, waterfront and galleon, but for the more adventurous, there is also the Leonardo Challenge (Japanese only). The challenge involves using a provided map to discover clues which take you to different parts of the citadel. You can find a copy of the map below, kindly translated into English for us by twitter user NYCPSurinvited - I really wish I had this before going, our approach was more trial and error!
Source: Jungle Skipper, March 2018, with translations from NYCPSurinvited. Copyright Disney.
To the bottom right of the map you can see a white circle this provides the interactivity to the challenge and is for use in a special machine at certain parts of the challenge. You can see it in action below:
In total 10 rooms form part of the citadel and a Volcano Observation Turret, which oddly isn’t mentioned in any of the maps. We won’t cover them all here you can see pictures from each of the rooms in the gallery at the end of this article. We are just going to focus on a few of them.
How can we talk about Fortress Explorations and not cover Explorers Hall. We have mentioned this room before in part 1 of our introduction to S.E.A. This single room provides us information on what I believe are the original founding members of the 1538 chapter - though Explorers Hall doesn’t explicitly say that the 6 portraits of explorers are founding members .
There are, however, a few inaccuracies:
- Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596)
- Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 - 1519)
- Tycho Brahe (1546 - 1601)
- Vasco Da Gama (1460’s - 1524)
- Cristovao Colom (1451 - 1508)
- Ferdinand Magellan (1480 - 1521)
As you can see from the list above the timelines don’t exactly line up for birth/death dates for the members and the 1538 founding of S.E.A. 🤔
Explorers hall was design by the very talented Richard Gutierrez and was one of the few designers I could track down from the attraction. You can see below the concept mockups for the room.
Source: Richard Gutierrez, used with permission - copyright Disney
The Navigation Centre is a beautiful attraction inside this attraction (meta). Its a huge circular liquid map of the ocean with a collection tall ships floating upon it. You can pay (I believe around 100yen) to sail the ships. Upon this huge liquid map there are a number of islands, a monster which appears ever so often and a cloud where the rain falls from.
Take a look at the short video below to get a sense of this attraction.
Who doesn’t like cannons? Especially ones which make a cool shot sound when you pull the rope - yeah!
Yep - thats me having way too much fun pulling the cannon.
What didn’t exists when I went earlier in the year but had been at the attraction for a while are a series of pamphlets which explain each of the rooms in more detail. I managed to find a copy of these online at Parkeology.
Here are just a few of the pictures I took when visiting Fortress explorations in Feb 2018, it was pouring with rain so probably not some the best i’ve ever taken.
Fortress Explorations is a richley detailed attraction, something that you wouldn’t be able to build in any other park outside Japan. It gives us the important back story to the S.E.A. world.