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Konnichiwa! A look at Disney in Japan
Special: A look inside the Tokyo DisneySea attractions!
Special: A look inside the Tokyo DisneySea attractions!


MousePlanet is blessed with some wonderful readers, many of whom write in, offer suggestions, give tour reports, and generally help out so we can assemble our content for you every weekday. Sometimes we get something really special from those nice folks - and we want to share it with you. A few weeks ago a kind reader, Ted, sent me the following note:

Al, In surfing the web I have found several good photo essays of Tokyo DisneySea including the one you have run on MousePlanet. However, I have seen very little information on, or reviews of the actual attractions. There has been a little information here and there, but nothing that really examines each ride or show in depth. If other fans are anything like me, there is some pent up demand for this type of thing.

As part of a longer trip through Japan my wife and I will be spending 5 days at the Tokyo Disney Resort , staying at the Hotel Mira Costa. Would you and your readers be interested in ride reviews and a peek inside the attractions of Tokyo DisneySea?

Were we interested? Of course we were, and thanks to Ted, we now have a new series of photos and reviews to share with you from this terrific new park - showcasing the attractions themselves. As this series will run as Ted's time permits, keep checking back for his latest installments. I'm sure you'll agree with me that's he's done an absolutely spectacular job, and the staff here at MousePlanet thanks him for allowing us to present his tour to you here.

And before I forget, YES THERE ARE SCADS OF SPOILERS HERE. In fact just close this browser window right now if you don't want to know anything about this ride. I assure you Ted gives it all away here, so don't say we didn't warn you!

Part Two: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Photos and text by Ted
(Please note that he retains the copyright to all photos and they may not be used without his

Jules Verne wrote the epic novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea over 130 years ago. It tells the tale of an American naval investigation surrounding a rash of suspect ship sinkings attributed to a mysterious sea monster. As it turns out the havoc is being caused by Captain Nemo and his fantastic submarine, the Nautilus. Nemo is a enigmatic and somewhat mad genius who has withdrawn himself from the civilized world in order to pursue a life of his own making.

Walt Disney was fascinated by Verne's writings. In 1954 a live action movie version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was released by Walt Disney Studios. Now considered a classic, the film introduced Captain Nemo and the Nautilus to the movie-going public. As designed by Disney production designer (and later an Imagineer and Disney legend) Harper Goff, the Nautilus submarine has become an enduring design icon. Ever since this tale has found a home in Disney theme parks around the world.

A photo of the author's own attraction poster - Artwork  Disney
A photo of the author's own attraction poster - Artwork Disney

When Disneyland opened in 1955 Walt had the original movie props from the film placed on display in a Tomorrowland attraction. Visitors could walk past scale models of the Nautilus and through intricate recreations of the submarines interiors. Along the way they could also check out the giant rubber squid which attacked the Nautilus in the film's climactic scenes.

A few years later in the Spring of 1959 Disneyland debuted a slate of new attractions for the park. The Matterhorn and monorail saw their introductions as did the Submarine Voyage. This attraction took visitors aboard miniature replicas of then cutting-edge nuclear submarines on a voyage through liquid space. The attraction was clearly inspired by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Aboard the gray submersibles passengers traveled past sunken ships and deadly sharks, explored the lost city of Atlantis and even had a close encounter with a sea serpent. The connection with the film are obvious. In fact one of the attraction's submarines was even named the Nautilus! (The photo below shows the lagoon a few years ago, before the subs were removed.)

Disneyland's sub lagoon

When Walt Disney World resort opened its gates in 1971 it was home to a brand new version of the Submarine Voyage, this time fully themed to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Set in a volcanic lagoon and on a larger scale than it's Disneyland Cousin the new 20K attraction (as it was known to Disney employees) was a sight to behold. Large scale replicas of the Nautilus churned through the waters in groups of three. Just like in the film the the crew battles a giant squid before narrowly escaping doom.

As was the case with the original Submarine Voyage attraction the boats never actually submerged bellow the water. Rather passengers sat below the water line and viewed the depths through portholes on either side of the vessels. The effect was surprisingly good, however the surface was clearly visible and by today's standards the ride was slowly paced.

Still not finished the Imagineers added a nearly full scale Nautilus to Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris in 1994. "Le Mysteres du Nautilus" allows folks to take a walking tour of the boat's interiors. They may view its lush Victorian decor and even have an encounter with that pesky giant squid. (In case you missed it, Ian Parkinson offers a detailed photo tour of this unique attraction here on MousePlanet, a sample photo of which is shown below.)

Les Mysteres du Nautilus - Photo by Ian Parkinson
Les Mysteres du Nautilus - photo by Ian Parkinson

As you can see Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea has a long and storied history with the Walt Disney company. So it should come as no surprise that when designing Tokyo DisneySea, a park dedicated to the myths and stories of the seas, that the Imagineers would once again work in an attraction of some sort based on this classic tale.

Not happy with a simple walk through attraction (engaging as it may be) or the slow moving and somewhat dated technology of the now closed Disneyland or Walt Disney World versions, the Imagineers set out to reinvent the attraction altogether. The result of their efforts may now be enjoyed in the Mysterious Island area of Tokyo DisneySea. It is an all new ride, yet still pays homage to those which came before it.

Before experiencing it for myself I had heard wildly different reports on how successful, or unsuccessful the ride was. On one hand an internet report claimed it to be the best attraction in the park and one of the grandest attractions ever created. It gushed about how realistic it all was and how the fear and excitement experienced during the ride were 100% real. On the other hand an acquaintance of mine who was lucky enough to visit the park a few months back thought that it was a worthless attraction, a complete failure and physically painful to ride nonetheless!

Well, after numerous trips on the attraction myself, I can tell you that the truth (for me at least) falls somewhere between these two extremes.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Set within the caldera of Mt. Prometheus, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (20K) sits opposite of Journey to the the Center of the Earth (see my previous photo tour here) across the lagoon. Here in a stunning volcanic setting, steam billows into the sky as lava cools and huge gas bubbles break the surface exploding high in the air. The Nautilus is moored at a dock (sadly, this time there is no walk through attraction) and a smaller submersible, the Neptune, is hoisted high into the air.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

This mini sub is in fact the ride vehicle for the newest version of 20K. This time around visitors to the deep will not travel aboard the Nautilus herself, but rather in a fleet of these research vessels that Captain Nemo has designed. A large spiral corkscrewing ramp marks the beginning of the ride's queue. Visitors enter the line on the main, elevated, level of Mysterious Island and then wind their way down to the waters edge before disappearing into a rocky opening.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

The queue is simplistic when compared to that of its sister attraction, Journey to the Center of the Earth, but grand in its own right. Largely held outdoors, the queue uses Mysterious Island itself as a spectacular backdrop. The spiral ramp affords unparalleled views across the lagoon and onto the Nautilus anchored at her dock.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea


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