Back in 1990 The Walt Disney Company proposed the concept of a new theme park. Unlike their past venues like Disneyland, this project was to be erected at the seaside, specifically at Long Beach, California. The overall complex was to be named Port Disney, encompassing the dry dock holding the retired ocean liner RMS Queen Mary and the hangar then housing the Hughes H-4 Hercules/Spruce Goose, which would both be component attractions. The park itself would be known as Disney-Sea, with the theme of “enabling everyone to experience the ‘marvels of nature′s secret world beneath the sea’ and to gain firsthand experience of how the oceans affect human life as well as the life of the planet.”
Unfortunately financial troubles with Euro-Disney left the park’s prospects in doubt, leading to the cancellation of the Port Disney/Disney-Sea project. But it was not entirely forgotten. The Oriental Land Company, a leisure/tourist corporation that owns and operates Tokyo Disneyland under license from Disney, decided to have a go at making the proposal a reality. An agreement was signed in 1995 to construct Tokyo Disney-Sea right next to Tokyo Disneyland at Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture. It would open in 2001, after construction expenses that went just slightly over budget compared to its neighbor. Together they form the centerpiece of the Tokyo Disney Resort complex.
Original concept ideas have painted Tokyo Disney-Sea as a sort of “mature” theme park to attract the patronage of Japan’s majority aging population. And while revisions on the attractions and theme areas (called “Ports of Call”) have made it more appealing to other age groups, it’s still the grownups who will most appreciate the nautical atmosphere. Tokyo Disney-Sea also holds the current world record for the fastest a theme park reached the 10-million-guests milestone since opening day; it needed only 307 days compared to the former record-holder Universal Studios Japan with 338.
This is to Tokyo Disney-Sea what the World Bazaar is to Tokyo Disneyland: the main entrance thoroughfare and hub through which the rest of the park’s ports of call can be reached. Its primary design inspirations are the port cities of Italy, in particular Venice through its use of Venetian gondolas to ferry guests around the waterways. Part of its attractions is an actual functioning hotel, the Hotel MiraCosta where guests can book to stay; it’s the only real hotel to be found inside a Disney theme park (as other locations have their accommodations outside the perimeters). Two main pathways from the Harbor connect to American Waterfront and Mysterious Island.
Another olden-style extravaganza, this port of call is a mash-up of early 20th Century New York Harbor during the immigrant rush, and the tranquility of a New England fishing community. One of the main attractions is a mockup of a period passenger ocean liner, the SS Columbia which is at the New York Port. It houses two restaurants, guests can explore the decks and interior, and the Dockyard Stage uses the ship as a backdrop for its live shows. Other features are the “haunted” Hightower Hotel (venue of “Tower of Terror”) and a “Toy Story” themed ride.
An attraction modeled after the sci-fi adventure novels of Jules Verne featuring the submarine captain Nemo, it is an expansion of an attraction (now closed) from the Magic Kingdom. The port of call is dominated by the volcano Mount Prometheus (rendered “active” by prop pyro effects), which is the equivalent to the center castle of other Disney parks. In the base of the volcano is a secret dock of Captain Nemo’s “Nautilus” sub, as well a laboratory. Guests can opt to undertake a “Journey to the Center of the Earth” or a “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” submarine (dark ride) voyage.
Here the characters of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” are at their element, at the only “indoor” port of call to simulate being underwater. Modeled after the palace of King Triton, it serves as a stage for shows starring Ariel and her friends, who have similarly themed rides in the area.
Like Mermaid Lagoon, this port of call is themed around an animated Disney film, “Aladdin”. With Middle-Eastern-inspired architecture, the Arabian Coast is loaded with rides centered on characters from “Aladdin” and other Arabian Nights stories, such as the “Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage” ride. Shops are also styled like bazaars.
Lost River Delta
This area is patterned after lost Aztec buildings in the rainforest, and is home to another major dark thrill ride, “Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull”. The Disney-Sea Steamer line connects the Lost River Delta to Mediterranean Harbor
For a change we have a sci-fi port of call, a place housing the so-called ‘Center for Weather Control’. It has “Aquatopia”, an aquatic version of the “Pooh’s Hunny Hunt” ride, as well as the Disney-Sea Electric Railway that connects here and the American Waterfront. This year will see the opening of a new ride themed after “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory”.
Photo courtesy of Japan Guide