WDW Chronicles: The Society of Explorers and Adventurers

by Jim Korkis
Disney Historian

Feature Article

This article appeared in the January 9, 2018 Issue #955 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


Disney's SEA


Kungaloosh!

That was the familiar greeting at the interactive, themed nightclub at Pleasure Island in Walt Disney World known as The Adventurers Club, which opened in 1989 and quickly garnered a passionate cult-like following of Disney fans.

The Adventurers Club was meant to be a private club for world travelers and explorers set in 1937. It was home to an interesting group of eccentric characters like Hathaway Browne, Otis T. Wren, Fletcher Hodges, Pamelia Perkins, Samantha Sterling, Emil Bleehall and others. Each room was decorated with elaborate and intriguing artifacts, some of which sprang to life mysteriously.

References to the club, which, sadly, closed its doors in September 2008, appeared in the queue at Walt Disney World's Jungle Cruise attraction. The term "Kungaloosh" survives as a dessert in Adventureland's Skipper Canteen and also as a drink at Trader Sam's. At the Aulani resort in Hawaii, a portrait of the members and a letter from president Pamelia Perkins hangs in Aunty's Beach House. In real life, some of the distinctive props in the club made their way to Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Point. One of Imagineer Harper Goff's final illusions, a sinking ship in a bottle, made its way from the Adventurers Club library room to behind the bar at Trader Sam's in Disneyland.

Despite the closure of the club, the concept remained so beloved that some of the original performers have recreated their characters for special Walt Disney World events over the last few years. Disney itself also has tried to create a different form of a distinctly American adventurer group for convention groups and special dinners that never seems to capture the same magic.

Officially, according to Imagineering, another group of fearless adventurers with somewhat tentative connections to the Adventurers Club formed the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.) on August 12, 1938 and began attracting the attention of Disney fans in 2001 with the opening of Tokyo DisneySea. In the Fortress Explorations area, a type of museum of fanciful items enchants guests including a seismic recording station embedded in Mount Prometheus where S.E.A. members tracked and recorded the volcano's activities.

Fortress Explorations is the home base of S.E.A and a bronze plaque near the water's edge touts: "We, the members of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, herewith establish Explorers' Landing in order to promote the sharing of nautical and scientific knowledge for world exploration." However, as the legend of S.E.A. started to expand to other Disney parks, Disney literature seemed to indicate that the organization was actually founded in the late 1800s by Captain Mary Oceaneer, Harrison Hightower III, Dr. Albert Falls, Barnabas T. Bullion, Lord Henry Mystic, and Jason Chandler.

Captain Mary Oceaneer Disney Cruise LIne


Captain Mary Oceaneer is a treasure-hunting heroine and world-famous oceanographer who was accompanied on her travels by her parrot companion, Salty. All four ships in the Disney Cruise Line have the popular Oceaneer Club and Lab named for Mary and her high-seas exploits to enhance the voyages for children 3 to 12 years old.
Her backstory is that she and her parrot found pirate treasure on and below Castaway Cay and established the first Pirate Party onboard the ship. The amazing new Miss Adventures Falls attraction at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park is a notable tribute to Captain Mary. Her goal was to sail the seven seas and collect treasures from numerous ports of call to share with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, during her travels, her ship was caught in an unexpected storm and swept to Typhoon Lagoon where her deep-sea artifacts were scattered throughout the location. In the attraction guests see some of those unique items as well as the damaged hull of the ship where Mary's diving-partner, Duncan the parrot (perhaps his nickname is "Salty"?) is scanning the terrain through a telescope and interacting with riders. Nearby is Mary's diving bell with the S.E.A. motto, "Exploration Continua," and underneath is Atlantean lettering first created for the Disney animated feature film "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" (2001) that states "I come in peace."

Harrison Hightower III is represented at Tokyo DisneySea by the magnificent Hotel Hightower, Japan's version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Japanese guests were unfamiliar with the popular classic American television series so another backstory had to be created. The hotel was built by Harrison Hightower who bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Imagineer Joe Rohde. Clever Disney fans might also make the connection that the final husband of Constance Hatchaway in 1877 at the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World is George Hightower, Harrison's supposed brother. Pictures in the Hotel Hightower lobby display Harrison absconding with priceless ancient treasures from around the world much to the dismay of the local populations. On New Year's Eve in 1899 at an exclusive party to show off his ill-gotten collection, an unfortunate incident occurred with a cursed idol known as Shiriki Utundu and Harrison disappeared. Thirteen years later in 1912, the building was reopened in an attempt to preserve it but strange things started happening to guests touring the property.

Lord Henry Mystic, the owner of Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland, also toured the world, but unlike Harrison did not steal the treasures he collected or conned the natives. Mystic even made friends with a mischievous monkey named Albert that he saved from a giant spider in Africa. The curious Albert plays with a new acquisition, an ancient music box that grants life to the lifeless, and suddenly guests are in the middle of a chaotic collection. The queue features black-and-white photographs on the wall showing the opening of Mystic Manor in 1896, and a group portrait of the founding members of S.E.A. dated 1899. There's also a Mystic Freight Depot Stage, the Archives Shop, and an Explorer's Club Restaurant, all connected within the same S.E.A. backstory.

Mystic Manor Disneyland Hong Kong

Dr. Albert Falls was the founder of the Jungle Navigation Company and the illustrious namesake of the Walt Disney World Jungle Cruise's Schweitzer Falls. After he passed away, his granddaughter Alberta Falls inherited the cargo business and transformed it into a popular tour and later added a restaurant named the Skipper's Canteen in the company's headquarters. While most guests eat in the old Skipper's Mess Hall, behind a corridor of bookshelves is the secret meeting room of S.E.A. packed with unusual memorabilia of the members. A careful examination of the bookshelves will provide amusement. Some books reference Disney parks ("The Eyes of Mara" by Jones, obviously a reference to Indiana Jones and the Disneyland attraction), Imagineers ("Crooning Flowers" by Sherman and Sherman referring to the Disney composers the Sherman Brothers and their songs for the Enchanted Tiki Room), in-jokes ("Friends for Dinner" by T. Sam, a reference to Trader Sam the cannibal from the Jungle Cruise attraction) as well as some books that are just silly wordplay ("Spotted Tigers" by G. Rowl) or punny amusement ("Fleas Navidad and Other Winter Insects"). The secret meeting room of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.) is behind the bookcase and is accessed by pulling on a volume of "The Jungle Book" by Rudyard Kipling.

Here are a handful of the many delightful titles that refer to S.E.A. members:

"In Search of the Yeti" by Harrison Hightower III. Hightower's appearance was based on Imagineer Joe Rohde who was the artistic director for Disney's Animal Kingdom and especially Expedition Everest with a yeti. Hightower has several different books on the shelves including "Treasures of the Animal Kingdom."

"A Manor of Fact" by Mystic is a reference to Henry Mystic and Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland. He is also represented by other books including "Treasures from the Manor and "Primates as Shipmates," referring to his mischievous pet monkey Albert, who causes trouble in the attraction.

Captain Mary Oceaneer wrote "Parrots as Pets," referring to her diving companion parrot Salty. She also wrote "Charting Course," as she is an ocean traveler.

Captain Mary Oceaneer

Barnabas T. Bullion is the president and founder of the Big Thunder Mining Company at Big Thunder Railroad at Walt Disney World. His glaring portrait looks suspiciously like Imagineer Tony Baxter who designed the attraction. By the way, that middle initial of Bullion's name stands for "Tony."

According to the official Imagineering backstory, "Barnabas T. Bullion is the founder and president of the Big Thunder Mining Company. The longtime mining magnate comes from a powerful East Coast family and considers gold to be his very birthright by virtue of his oddly appropriate name; in fact, he considers the ultimate gold strike to be his destiny. And that is why he is having so much trouble with Big Thunder Mountain.

"According to superstitious locals, Big Thunder Mountain is very protective of the gold it holds within, and the unfortunate soul who attempts to mine its riches is destined to fail. And so far that prophecy is coming to pass. The mine has been plagued by mysterious forces and natural disasters ever since. And yet the Big Thunder Mining Co. is still in operation.

"In fact, Bullion is discovering new veins of gold and digging new shafts every day, offering a closer look at the Big Thunder mining operation than ever before. But a word to the wise for anyone attempting to visit the mountain: watch out for runaway trains."

The drilling device that disturbed the spirits of the mountain was the invention of Jason Chandler, another founding member of S.E.A. Chandler was a character created by Tony Baxter for his unrealized Discovery Bay project for Disneyland and also appeared in early version of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad concepts. According to the Spring 1992 issue of "Disney News" magazine: "A young inventor circa 1849 named Jason Chandler devised a drilling machine with the capability of boring into the very heart of Big Thunder Mountain. But a cave-in occurred on Big Thunder Mountain, burying 26 miners alive. They would have drawn their last breath then and there, had it not been for the inventor and his laughable drilling machine. He burrowed down into the Earth's core, rescuing the miners from certain death." Chandler then established a scientific outpost in Northern California named Discovery Bay and funded research into strange and unusual technologies and salvaging the remains of the Nautilus and continuing Captain Nemo's scientific work. Letters in the queue of the attraction from Jason Chandler to Barnabas T. Bullion have him discussing the drilling machine and warning Barnabus that with all the supernatural incidents, it might be better to move mining operations away from the mountain.

S.E.A. was clearly inspired by the concept of The Adventurers Club, but veered from the silliness of its members and traditions into a more semi-serious approach that has established a new world of adventure. Unconfirmed additional connections exist in the parks and it is apparent that the Imagineers have plans to expand this intriguing continuity, hoping guests will enjoy the discovery of these clues and these colorful turn-of-the-century characters.

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RELATED LINKS
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Skipper Canteen Photos

Other features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Jim Korkis

Disney Historian and regular AllEars® Columnist Jim Korkis has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, Korkis has used his skills and historical knowledge with Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of several books, including his newest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, available in both paperback and Kindle versions.


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.