Travel Thoughts: The Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea

The Nautilus Submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Tokyo DisneySea

This post is the first in a series that I’ll roll out over time related to my trip to Japan in 2013. I opted to start with The Mysterious Island, one of several lands that make up the gobsmackingly amazing theme park that is Tokyo DisneySea. Mysterious Island gets first billing as it is centered around a topic near and dear to my heart: the classic Disney movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s absolutely worth a viewing. In fact the film was the original inspiration for this site (20k.com), which I set up as a fan site in my youth. Since then I have, of course, had more life experiences which has broadened scope of the thoughts and things here, but I’ll still post from time to time about stuff from my favorite movie.

But I digress…

As silly as it sounds, if you’re a westerner like me looking to up your culture-cred by taking a trip to the far east, you could do worse than visiting Japan. It’s stunning. What’s ironic though, is just how incredible their celebration of the novelty of western culture’s celebration of fantasy, imagination, and lore is. And what I’m referring to, of course, is the Tokyo Disney Resort. I don’t feel stupid saying this: If you go to Japan, as dorky as it sounds, you need to budget a minimum of two days to experience this place. Nothing like it has ever been created and nothing like it probably ever will be created again in our lifetime.

As I said above, today I’ll focus on the land within the Tokyo DisneySea park called the Mysterious Island. I preemptively apologize to you that my photos aren’t better. At the time, I was still figuring out photography for myself and was working with nothing more than an average point-and-shoot Canon Powershot S110 (more on this in a subsequent post), but let’s get into this:

• The Mysterious Island •

The Mysterious Island is centered around the themes covered in three of Jules Verne’s novels: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Mysterious Island, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. While the books provided the framework for the creation of the land, the visual design drew all of its inspiration from the production and art design on the 1954 Disney film, as spearheaded by Harper Goff, Emile Kuri, and the unsung hero Fred Stoos (who drafted the final green-lit design for the Nautilus Submarine we all know and love)…with heavy reference being taken from the evolved designs of Tom Sherman, a protege of Harper Goff and steward of the film’s legacy from the 70’s through the mid 90’s.

The overall look of The Mysterious Island matches that of Vulcania from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, with a lagoon in the center where one can find Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine docked, along with various and sundry shops and food and beverage options, and no clear indicators pointing to where the rides queues themselves form. There are simply paths and walkways everywhere, which leaves it up to you to explore the area and wherein you might find your way onto a ride. I just loved it.

Around the Mysterious Island Lagoon

The Nautilus is one of two displayed in Disney parks (the other being in Paris…yes…another post), with this one being less accurate to the film and more fanciful as envisioned by Tim Delaney, a former Disney Imagineer who now runs his own design firm. The great thing about this boat is that you can walk right up to it (unlike Paris) and look in at the very accurate binnacle, wheel, compass, etc! It’s always inspiring to see full-size facsimiles of this submarine, I only wish I had been around for the original iteration in Disneyland back in the 50’s and 60’s.

The Nautilus and its accompanying E-Ticket Ride

Opposite the Nautilus in the lagoon is its namesake ride, indicated by a large spiral ramp downward into the bowels of the “island” but with no clear signs that I can recall indicating that that is what the ramp is an entrance to. The ride vehicles for the ride are somewhat polarizing in their design. On the one-hand, they’re the least hydrodynamic looking things you’ve ever seen. On the other hand, they’re completely self-contained vehicles on an inverted track running through an immensely detailed dry-for-wet e-ticket experience that is incredible. I’m sorry I don’t have pictures to show as I had to plug my ears for most of the ride. It’s very loud, and I don’t like overly loud sounds (not the ride’s fault…I’m just weird). If I go back, I’ll wear earplugs and photograph the heck out of that ride.

The Island’s other major attraction is Journey to the Center of the Earth, a ride based on the same platform as Disneyland’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye (I believe the folks at Disney refer to the platform as EMV or Enhanced Motion Vehicle). The entrance to this queue was also somewhat ambiguous and looked like a giant covered open space to take shelter from inclement weather, but once you found your way in, you passed through miles of Disney serpentine and by numerous cages filled with Victorian ephemera meant to evoke the industrial age of Western European scientific exploits. You then enter elevators that take you down, once again, into the bowels of the island (and toward the center of the Earth) and board ride vehicles that take you on a journey through all sorts of fanciful underground settings as imagined from the book, culminating in an encounter with a gigantic and impressively fluid rock creature that cues the ride vehicle to high-tail it outa there, and of course, there’s a huge drop at the end.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

There are of course, shops and dining to be had, although they were not allowing lookie-loos like me into the restaurant (I wasn’t hungry so I couldn’t go inside), and you can see a couple of photos below.

Shopping and dining

That about wraps it up for the Mysterious Island. Stay tuned for further postings on the other lands. Or just go. You could do that too.