The Society of Explorers and Adventurers - Part 2
Kungaloosh Explorers! Last time we talked about the story which makes up the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.). This week we are going to cover how S.E.A. was created and integrated throughout Disney Attractions around the world.
It’s a pretty complicated story and I have probably raised more questions than I’ve answered 🤔 if you have any answers, or think I’ve missed anything let me know in the comments below.
The Adventurers Club
We are going to start right at the beginning with The Adventurers Club. Opening in 1989 and closing in 2008 the Adventurers Club was a themed nightclub in Walt Disney World’s Pleasure Island. It was designed around a private members club for explorers.
S.E.A. isn’t actually mentioned anywhere in the Adventurers Club. Yep, not at all - so why am I talking to you about it? In 2008 when The Adventurers Club closed some of the props which adorned the walls were either put into storage or sent to other Disney attractions (we’ll get back to this).
Even though we credit The Adventurers Club at the beginning, the first attraction which mentions S.E.A. is Fortress Explorations from Tokyo’s DisneySea.
Designed by Scott Chase* and opening with the rest of DisneySea in 2001 Fortress Explorations is a walk-through attraction where adventurers can participate solving puzzles in Leonardos Challenge. Fortress Explorations is the first mention of S.E.A. in any Disney park and forms the backstory of the attraction and it’s attached restaurant, Magellan’s.
Source: Jungle Skipper, taken March 2018 - S.E.A. Logo on the entrance door of Magellan’s
Fortress Explorations provides all the details which make up S.E.A. including its logo, shield, the aims of the organisation and it’s founding members. The entrance to Fortress Explorations also mentions when the organisation was founded, 1538.
So how did we get the name ‘Society of Explorers and Adventurers’? I can only make a guess - it could be a play on words based on the park Fortress Explorations is apart of, DisneySea. DisneySea got its name for two reasons, first it’s designed around ports at sea and secondly, it’s near the sea.
I am still trying to hunt down the show writer for Fortress Explorations so if any knows who it is please let me know in the comments below or via contact me.
Tower of Terror, Mystic Manor and the Explorers Club Restaurant
In comes Joe Lanzisero (you are going to hear this name a lot), the Creative Lead for the Tokyo Disney Resort Portfolio. Shortly after the park opened Lanzisero began work on bringing Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to a new expansion, the American Waterfront port. Unfortunately, the Twilight Zone (the storyline to the other versions of this ride) wasn’t popular in Japan so a new backstory was needed.
Source: Jungle Skipper, March 2018, Taken in the queue for Tower of Terror Tokyo DisneySea
Show writer, who I believe to be Michael Sprout, came up with Harrison Hightower III (modelled on the Imagineer Joe Rhode). He was a ruthless explorer who had an ill-fated end when travelling in an elevator with a scared idol he stole.
Unfortunately, Tower of Terror and Harrison Hightower III had no connection to S.E.A. on the opening day of the attraction (backstory). At this time S.E.A. was based at Fortress Explorations and had very little to do with the American Waterfront expansion where Tower of Terror was to be located.
This all changed with Lanzisero’s next project, The Mystic Point expansion at Hong Kong Disneyland. What was missing from Hong Kong Disneyland was a Haunted Mansion - one existed in all the other Disney parks. However, just as with the Japanese Tower of Terror, the Hong Kong market doesn’t really understand the concept of haunted houses. Ghosts tend to be friendly and don’t jump out to scare you.
A new ride with a unique and original backstory was created.
Source: Jungle Skipper, February 2017 taken at Hong Kong Disneyland
Mystic Manor, possibly one of the best dark rides in existence, is also central to the story of S.E.A. Watch the video below of Lanzisero explaining Mystic Manor in more detail.
Why did Lanzisero pick to use the same society as Fortress Explorations? The attractions are based in different time periods and feature fictional and non-fictional members.
The Explorers Club Restaurant in HKDL Mystic Point also features a S.E.A. backstory. The same masks which appeared in The Adventurers Club now also appear on the walls of The Explorers Club Restaurant. The decision to add these masks looks to be accidental, but by being there S.E.A. it is now connected to The Adventurers Club. One piece of evidence we do have is a tweet I received from Imagineer Joe Rhode (designer of The Adventurers Club).
Cannot take credit for SEA..only Adventurers Club. I thought SEA was originally guest generated...which is even cooler. Is it not? https://t.co/16EdMJl4oc— Joe Rohde (@Joe_Rohde) March 7, 2018
This tweet demonstrates that Rhode believes that S.E.A. was a fan made concept. So either no one consulted him about using the masks he helped to design, or they weren’t used on purpose. Once the masks were added fans noticed the connection and started to link the two attractions together. The link was confirmed in another area which Rhode designed - Alunai, a Disney Hotel and Spa in Hawaii (See part 1 for more information).
Central to Mystic Manors S.E.A. storyline is the poster below:
It introduces us to both old and new characters, left to right:
- Harrison Hightower III, Tower of Terror - Tokyo DisneySea
- Professor R. Blauerhimmel
- Lord Henry Mystic, Mystic Manor - Hong Kong Disneyland
- Doctor J.L. Baterista
- Barnabas T. Bullion? (Looks like Tony Baxter) Big Thunder Mountain, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom
- Captain Mary Oceaneer, Oceaneer Labs, Disney Cruise Line
Though this isn’t an exclusive list, there are many other characters including Dr Albert Falls from the Jungle Cruise.
S.E.A. Universe Expansion
The 2016 Destination D event ‘Amazing Adventures’ it was announced that Imagineering was expanding the S.E.A. backstory. This announcement came shortly after the opening of the Skipper Canteen in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. This restaurant provided a complete backstory to the Jungle Cruise and shows that Dr Albert Falls, the owner of Jungle Navigation Co, was a member of S.E.A and held secret meetings within the canteen.
Jungle Cruise & Skipper Canteen
The Jungle Cruise had already been connected to The Adventures Club and now by extension to S.E.A. The trunks next to the old Fastpass machines included labels from Emil Bleehall and Pamela Perkins from The Adventurers Club.
Source: FigmentJedi on Twitter
Apart from the Skipper Canteen the Jungle Cruise has further links to S.E.A. In 2017 the Bengal BBQ was opened which confirmed more S.E.A. connections. You can read a fantastic article by Freddy Martin on the Disneyland Jungle Cruise and it’s connection to S.E.A. I really recommend giving it a read, some of the Easter Eggs there are are amazing 🤯.
Big Thunder Mountain
Barnabas T. Bullion (owner) and Jason Chandler (working) are both members of S.E.A. and got their links confirmed in a letter in Walt Disney World’s Big Thunder Mountain queue line. The letter is from Jason Chandler asks him not to dig further into the mine.
Dear Barney, Great Caesar’s Ghost, old chap, I haven’t heard from you since our little misadventure in El Dorado! I am indeed sorry to hear of the second disturbance within Big Thunder Mountain, but I did warn you that you were prospecting at your own peril when I sold you the drilling machine. I took the liberty of consulting Madame Zarkov at the Museum of the Weird, and it is her considered opinion that you should abandon the entire operation at once and find a less volatile site. I wish I had better news for you, old boy, but some forces simply are not to be trifled with.
On behalf of your compatriots of SEA, I do hope to see you around the club a bit more often!
Yours in Exploration and Adventure,
Founding Member The Society of Explorers and Adventurers
Big Thunder is set in the late 1800’s at roughly the same time period as Lord Henry’s Mystic portrait, but this doesn’t feature Jason Chandler. The letter also mentions that Jason Chandler is a ‘founding member of S.E.A.’ which doesn’t follow the storyline laid out by Fortress Explorations! - An Imagineer, somewhere, has some explaining to do!
Just a note on the backstory of Big Thunder Mountain, it was split in two with the creation of the Disney Kingdoms comic series. In this version, Jason Chandler is a miner/bandit. For the original backstory (which is S.E.A. related) Jason Chandler is an inventor who created a drilling machine to search for gold in Big Thunder Mountain. This storyline was also the basis for the infamous and unbuilt Discovery Bay expansion.
Source: Big Thunder Mountain - Marvel Disney Kingdoms, Copyright The Walt Disney Company
Miss Adventure Falls
The first S.E.A. based attraction to debut in the US and the first to debut after the 2016 Destination D event. Miss Adventure Falls is a water slide attraction based in Walt Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon. It includes a backstory of Mary Oceaneer (shown in the portrait in Mystic Manor) and her parrot who was diving for treasure when a typhoon hit and shipwrecked them on an island.
Source: Disney Parks Blog Copyright The Walt Disney Company
You may notice that there is Atlantan along the bottom of the diving bell. This could be a link between the film Atlantic: The Lost Empire and S.E.A. though we will have to wait and see if anything else pops up with this before we can be certain.
That’s it, between part 1 and part 2 I think I’ve broadly covered most of the aspects of S.E.A. There are lots of rumours, theories and history which we are yet to explore. So please make sure you subscribe, next time we will be jumping down the rabbit hole known as S.E.A.
Header Image: Jungle Skipper - The fountain outside Magellan’s restaurant in Fortress Explorations