“Members of the scientific community, welcome to ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’. The world you’re about to enter is open only to a select few researchers. Please do not tell the public what you have witnessed.” - Attraction’s Story Paper
During our last visit to Mount Prometheus on Mysterious Island, we explored the oceans depths with the help of Captain Nemo's 19th century technology.
Now, we’ll take you out for 'a fast paced adventure that includes sharp turns and sudden drops over rough and rugged terrain', through a wondrous subterranean world, as we ride Tokyo DisneySea’s ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’, based on Jules Verne's tale of the same name.
The queue of this attraction is located in underground tunnels at the foot of Mount Prometheus.
While waiting in the switchbacks, we wander past open steaming volcanic vents, detailed schematics and some of Captain Nemo's laboratories and glass walled scientific workstations containing books, study papers and elaborate experimental installations.
Here, we can examine work notes, exotic crystals, gems, rocks, samples of bizarre plant life and what appeared to be fossilized 'egg sacks', removed from rocky walls. Now the detail in all of this is incredible, but in true Disney style, it's the small touches that take it to the next level. The lighting fixtures. The soundtrack. The cigar in a crystal ashtray.
Finally the queue rounds a bend in these underground tunnels, and we see our first mode of transport, the 'Terravators'. These large elevators will take us deeper down into Mount Prometheus. Here again, the small Disney detail shines. Literally. On the outside, small lights show the progress of the Terravators as they travel through the different levels of Earth's crust.
On-board our Terravator, we descend to 300 meters below sea level with a subtle amount of rattling, shaking, outside sounds of bells and digging, and lighting effects through the grates.
The doors open upon the Base Station, and a large launch chamber is revealed in all it's Steam-Punk glory! We immediately notice huge pumps working and letting of bursts of steam, and the track where huge, six seater, shovel nosed, metal vehicles cycle through to collect the next batch of brave explorers for an exciting, sightseeing excursion.
While approaching the loading dock, we hear warnings over the radio of increased volcanic activity. But no one is at the workstation to pass along the information and stop the vehicles, as the scientist who mans the base station’s communication center is currently away on a break.
His empty, dainty china tea-cup and saucer is sitting on his desk as the warnings continue. Details like this proves that Disney sets a very high standard when given the chance and that story telling is so important!
Thereupon, we board the steam-powered mine vehicles and enter the pre-drilled tunnels. The ride system is similar to that used in EPCOT’s ‘Test Track’ and Disney California Adventure's E-Ticket ‘Radiator Springs Racers’. You travel at varying speeds, from quite gentle, to high-speed good fun. The transition between slow to fast and back is smooth and makes for a great ride.
Our explorations first take the large cars past caverns filled with hundreds of bright, colorful crystals that fill the air with beautiful precise tones.
As we travel down deeper, we encounter a giant mushroom forest with peculiar plant life and strange creatures of indescribable appearances. These audio-animatronics are numerous and varied in size.
But most suddenly, the ‘Mount Prometheus’ volcano shakes, causing a cave-in of the tunnel ahead, forcing our vehicle off its planned route and down a side branch where even Captain Nemo has never been before…
We race along the shores of a subterranean sea and witness the incredible sight of a massive underground chamber, so big it houses a mountain, that is surrounded by its own weather system! Lightning flashes as a storm cracks through the space.
We then travel into the fiery heart of the volcano. Here, flames erupt… and we come face to face with a frightful lava creature. However, this ain't no small bug, this prehistoric monster is huge, very angry and possibly hungry for the flesh of exploring tourists! So let's get out of here!
Just in time, the volcano erupts and pushes us out of harms way up through a lava tube, and we rocket upwards in a dark and dizzying spiral! Our tour vehicle then emerges out of the steam vent visible from outside Mount Prometheus and "makes a jump" into another tunnel that leads us around the caldera of Mysterious Island and into the safety of the unload station.
This marks the end of a rather short, but unforgettable adventure.
Tokyo DisneySea is a truly incredible and stunningly beautiful theme park. Its level of detail is unparalleled and will surely take your breath away.
With Ports of Call to cater for all tastes and thrill levels, and if given the opportunity, you should definitely visit DisneySea and become a member of its Society of Explorers and Adventurers. But try to avoid the overcrowded Japanese school holiday seasons (from late March until early April, from late July until early September, and over the Christmas and New Year period from December 24 until January 7).
Across the many Disney park environments, there are always mountains. Perhaps it's an essential part of the success of Disney theme parks. Using the power of Earth’s natural wonders to tell stories that people can not only experience, but feel. Mountains with water, snow, dangerous mines, mountains that take you to space, and then, rising above Mysterious Island is the mountain that will take you to the center of the Earth and back, Mount Prometheus.
This article was written by guest writer Q Gabriel – Smith, an avid Disney fan from Perth (Australia). We thank Q for the effort he made.
Concept Art: (c) Disney