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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
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This attraction opened October 14, 1971. The subs were manufactured at a ship yard in Tampa and the finished vehicles were then trucked to Walt Disney World. The submarines traveled on an underwater track and originally operated on natural gas but were converted in 1980 to use diesel. Despite a convincing bubbling effect, the subs did not submerge deeper during the ride.
Although the Nautilus submarines were beautifully designed, this ride always seemed a little out of place in Fantasyland. Slow loading, limited capacity vehicles (that were numbered using Roman numerals) would often make for a long wait time. As you were in line, you could hear the humming of the subs as they traveled around the lagoon. It must've been hard for the park to keep the water (the lagoon held eleven and a half million gallons) crystal-clear for underwater viewing. Guests on vacation would often be treated to the sight of a drained lagoon as the attraction was undergoing routine refurbishment.
While inside the sub, guests would sit in front of a port hole and listen to Captain Nemo (voiced by Pete Renaday A.K.A. Pete Renoudet) as he narrated a tour through Atlantis and a polar ice cap. The same scenes appeared in mirror image on each side of the sub. The Nautilus went by some animated fish and others that didn't move or had visible strings anchoring them to the scene. Some of the more memorable scenes included two mermaids holding leashes tethered to a giant sea serpent and seeing another sub under attack from a giant squid. Many of the marine figures in the scenes were copies of ones found in Disneyland's Submarine Voyage.
This attraction used to require an E ticket and the last day of operation for this ride was September 5, 1994. The queue area was used for a long time after the ride closed for meet and greet sessions with Disney characters. The lagoon also served as a backdrop for part of Ariel's Grotto. The subs were located backstage on Disney property for several years and you can still see some eerie pictures of them all lined up on dry land at the Florida Theme Parks by Air web page. There have been rumors that subs have since been buried on property.
While Nautical-inspired instrumental music played, Captain Nemo would discuss the wonders of the sea.
How old is the Earth? How is it formed? These and other questions about our watery planet have intrigued man since the beginning of time. As far as we know, the oceans have existed for some four and a half billion years. And for about the last one hundred million years, the sea has been a living, dynamic world, shaping and reshaping continents, geologically speaking, mountains have been raised then worn away by falling and running water, the debris carried on to the lowlands, and then back to the sea. Our marine scientists at Vulcania believe that the sediments below the waves contain a continuous record of terrestrial history. And to this end, we keep probing the ocean floor.
To primitive man, the oceans were merely a source of fear, fascination, and fish. About three millenniums ago, the seas became a highway over which to carry national power and culture, as well as trade. The history of civilization is largely the story of seafaring men who quested for ever-farther shores. They saw the ocean as a wilderness and a challenge. They used the sea, but only on its terms. Now we appear to be on the verge of taming the restless sea. As you cruise 20,000 leagues under the sea, consider the many things that we have yet to learn about this boundless realm of liquid space.
If there are intelligent beings on other planets, they might very well have a different name for our Earth. Perhaps 'Oceanus' would be more appropriate. For from their vantage point, they can see the vast areas of water that cover over 70 percent of the surface of this oasis in space.
If man is to reap the bounty of the deep, he must learn all he can about the ocean and its contents. To this end, our marine laboratories at Vulcania are stepping up their research capabilities. The sophisticated diving methods and saturation diving techniques of the Nautilus have dramatically increased the time man can life comfortably and for long periods in the ocean depths. It seems safe to assume that one day, future generations will be released from their terrestrial bonds and achieve absolute freedom in liquid space. We hope that this voyage you're about to take 20,000 leagues under the sea will stimulate your interest in the phenomenon of life in the ocean depths.
Modern man's most compelling interests in the ocean lies in its great potential for renewable resources. Not only of protein-rich food, but also in the wealth of minerals, energy, and drugs. Our recent explorations have revealed vast deposits of minerals that can be mined. At Vulcania, we have tapped the ebb and flow of the tides to produce clean and efficient electric power. One of the most promising areas of investigation is in the field of marine biomedicine. We're discovering many antibiotics and other useful drugs in ocean organisms. There are many, many other potentialities to be found in the Earth's last frontier. But we must always keep in mind that the bounty of the sea is not limitless. Man must be prudent in his exploration and utilization of this last, great storehouse of natural wealth.
(Photo courtesy of Brotherdave.)
Later Version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Ride Script
(A note about the script: this ride script is courtesy of Eric Paddon. He compiled it using several different video sources. There is evidence that there was an earlier version of the script which contained some differences, including a crew member with a different name than Mr. Baxter. The audio is very poor on the few surviving fragments and it sounds like the name is "Mr. Burcock" or "Mr. Burdock". It's possible this earlier script was used prior to the 1975 rehab that Tony Baxter supervised. The "Mr. Baxter" character in the later narration is not from the movie and may be a tribute to Imagineer Tony Baxter in appreciation for the work he did on the rehab. Fragments from this first script are placed in the appropriate context in the script below. This later script is also similar in some places to the script for Disneyland's Submarine Voyage and even uses some of the same phrases.)
(As the submarine Nautilus slowly pulls out of the dock of the home port of Vulcania, we hear the stern authoritative voice of Captain Nemo. An organ musical track is in the background, playing a variation of the theme from the movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.)
Captain Nemo: Stand by to dive!
Mr. Baxter: Diving stations. (Bosun's whistle sounds.)
Captain Nemo: Dive! Dive! (Diving claxon sounds.)
Mr. Baxter: Trim bow on diving planes. Three degrees down. (A stream of bubbles indicates diving has commenced.)
Captain Nemo: Take her to ten fathoms.
Mr. Baxter: Aye, aye, sir.
Captain Nemo: Steady as she goes.
(The Captain now addresses the passengers.)
Captain Nemo: This is Captain Nemo speaking. Welcome aboard the Nautilus. We are proceeding on a course that will take us on a voyage 20,000 leagues under the sea. En route, we will pass beneath the Polar Ice Cap and then probe depths seldom seen by man. So make yourselves comfortable, but please, remain seated at all times.
(We catch our first glimpse of undersea life. A lobster, followed by a giant sea crab.)
Captain Nemo: Here among the reefs, you will see many familiar inhabitants of the undersea world. The great green sea turtles for instance, are the reptilian patriarchs of the deep. These amphibious descendants of the dinosaur have changed little in the past 200 hundred million years. Groupers, or giant sea bass, roam the coastal bottoms in search of food. The giant clam obviously, is quite safe from such marine predators. (A giant clam is seen opening and closing.) The fish world has always been considered a silent habitat, but with our sonar hydro phones, we've discovered that fish actually talk! Listen!
(The sounds of fish "talking" fills the sub. Several moray eels can be seen poking their heads through the coral formations.)
Mr. Baxter: Undersea party ahead, sir. Divers to port and starboard.
Captain Nemo: Witness the crew from one of our satellite ships. They are harvesting the abundance that nature has sown here beneath the sea. Kelp beds are cultivated. Sea creatures corralled and protected from predators. Just as terrestrial shepherds protect their flocks from ravenous wolves. (We see a diver tethering a sea turtle to keep it from escaping.)
Mr. Baxter: Surface storm ahead, sir.
Captain Nemo: Weather alert! All controls, eight degrees down. (Diving bells ring) Hold her at 80 fathoms and proceed on course.
(A new stream of bubbles erupt to indicate we have dived deeper. The scene now becomes dark as the "surface" light no longer penetrates our field of vision.)
Captain Nemo: The Nautilus can dive safely below the violence of ocean storms. Surface vessels are not so fortunate. (The crumbling wreckage of mostly 18th and 19th century sailing ships now come into view.) Witness the evidence of their fate. The graveyard of lost ships. For ages, these rotting holds have kept their secret treasures, safeguarded by silent sentinels of the deep, man-eating sharks. (A shark glides by our field of vision.) Nature's most unpredictable predators of the sea. (Narration note: The earlier narration had different lines during this scene, including Nemo asking "What exotic treasure lies hidden in her rotting hulls?")
Mr. Baxter: We've reached the Polar Ice Cap, sir. There's a clear channel at 40 fathoms.
Captain Nemo: Steady as she goes. (We see the submerged lower sections of icebergs. Sonar pinging emits.) In this region of the Polar Ice Cap, you are witnessing a rare visual phenomenon. The aurora borealis above us.
Mr. Baxter: Ice wall breaking, sir.
Captain Nemo: Take her deep! (Diving bell rings.) And keep an eye on the depth gauge!
Mr. Baxter: Aye, aye, sir.
Captain Nemo: We have passed beneath the North Pole, and are now descending into that region in deeper water where the sun has never penetrated. Here, in this realm of eternal darkness, nature has provided her creatures with their own eerie luminescence. (Several deep sea fish, one with jaws open, can be seen. The alert bell rings.)
Mr. Baxter: Warning light, sir. We've reached maximum depth limit.
Captain Nemo: Take her back up to 80 fathoms!
Mr. Baxter: Eight-zero fathoms, aye, aye.
Captain Nemo: There are limits beyond which a man and his puny efforts cannot survive. We have almost exceeded those limits.
Mr. Baxter: Unusual formations to port and starboard, sir.
(Elaborately carved classical structures come into view which look like the remains of a Grecian-style city. There are temples and the collapsed remains of giant statues, their faces staring upward.)
Captain Nemo: Ah, these crumbling heaps of stone betray the hand of man. I believe we've made a startling discovery! These classic ruins could very well be the legendary lost continent of Atlantis. Some scholars theorize that a remarkable civilization was destroyed by a tremendous volcano. Others treat any concept of Atlantis as pure fantasy, along with legends of sea serpents and mermaids.
Mr. Baxter: Begging your pardon, sir. But, did you say sea serpents are mere fantasies?
Captain Nemo: Belay there mate! Anyone in his right mind knows there's no such thing as a sea serpent or mermaids. Mr. Baxter, if you think you're seeing mermaids and sea monsters, you've been submerged too long! (Narration note: in the earlier version of the narration, Nemo told him to "check the air pressure".)
(We pass the sight of a giant, smiling sea serpent amidst the ruins of Atlantis. Two mermaids are tethered to the creature. There is no comment from Captain Nemo on this.)
Mr. Baxter: Captain Nemo, sir! We're experiencing unusual turbulence. It's a ruddy underwater volcano, sir!
(The scene outside grows more violent and darkens to a reddish glow. Numerous columns are teetering as a result of the turbulence.)
Captain Nemo: By Neptune's flippers! This confirms it. That seething mountain still denies rest to the civilization it submerged thousands of generations ago. Helmsman! Steer clear of the tottering columns.
Helmsman: Aye, aye, sir.
Captain Nemo: Red alert!
Mr. Baxter: Red alert! (Bosun's whistle blows.) All hands to stations.
Captain Nemo: Trim the tanks! Steady as she goes.
Crewman: Captain! Giant squid dead ahead. It's disabled a submarine, sir.
Captain Nemo: Good Lord! It's one of ours. It's hull has been crushed like an eggshell.
(The tentacles of a giant squid have ensnared a sister sub to the Nautilus.)
Crewman: Another monster's attacking forward, sir!
Captain Nemo: Full repellent charge!
Mr. Baxter: Repellent charge, aye, aye. Maximum voltage.
(Lights flash around us to indicate the use of the electrical charge against the giant squid.)
Captain Nemo: All ahead!
Mr. Baxter: All ahead, aye, aye. She won't answer the helm!
Captain Nemo: Emergency maneuver! All engines, stand by to surface! Surface!
Mr. Baxter: Surface! Surface! Surface! (A stream of bubbles indicates the surfacing procedure and then when they clear away the "surface" light is streaming through once again.) We've reached Vulcania, sir.
Captain Nemo: Proceed on course. All ahead.
Mr. Baxter: All ahead, aye, aye.
Captain Nemo: Station the maneuvering watch.
Mr. Baxter: Aye, aye, sir. All hands to stations.
Captain Nemo: Ladies and gentlemen, in just a few moments we will be docking at Vulcania, our home port. It has been a pleasure having you aboard the Nautilus, on this memorable voyage that has taken us 20,000 leagues under the sea. (Narration note: the earlier version of the narration has Nemo saying "We've enjoyed having you aboard this memorable voyage that has taken us 20,000 leagues under the sea.") Captain to bridge. Reduce speed and proceed to number four berth. Stand by to dock.
Mr. Baxter: Bridge, aye, aye. All ahead one-third. Stand by for boarding.
Captain Nemo: Thank you for sailing with us. And now, when the cabin lights come on, please stand by to disembark. Gather your belongings, take small children by the hand, and watch your step. All ashore please! All Ashore! (Narration note: The earlier narration has these lines said by the "Mr. Baxter" character that has a different name.)
(Cast member pilot gives final live instructions before docking and disembarking takes place.)
(The three photos above and underwater shots courtesy of Brotherdave.)
The Queue After Closing
The unused sub lagoon looked like this for 10 years. In May of 2004, a construction fence went up around it and the lagoon was drained and later filled in. A Winnie the Pooh play area later opened there and remained for a few years.
Even when the lagoon was still in place, Pooh was starting to take over. The old queue was used as a character greeting area and characters from the Hundred Acre Wood were frequent guests. This picture was taken shortly after "The Tigger Movie" came out in 2000.
Current and Past Ride Tributes
The former queue area for The Living Seas contained a model of the Nautilus from the movie, as well as a poster from the film. The Hydrolaters also using a diving effect very similar to the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea subs. The water tank of the former Backstage Studio Tour had a "sail" from one of the subs, although the scale seemed smaller than one of the actual ride vehicles. The old submarine queue later became the Pooh's Playful Spot playground under New Fantasyland was built. Inside Pooh's house, a familiar-shaped stain was on the doorway. The house was later moved to the queue of the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
Two subs were sunk near Castaway Cay for exploration by Disney Cruise Line passengers and eBay has offered portholes and propellers from the subs at auction. There was even a "Piece of History" pin available that had a piece of the actual attraction attached to it. The Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction is now located in the area of the old submarine lagoon. An instrumental version of Whale of a Tale plays in the Little Mermaid ride queue as a tribute and there is a sub hidden in the rocks of the lagoon. The exit of Space Mountain contains a scene with a robot at the desk. One of the codes on the monitor is "FL-20K" for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The book shelves at the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen contain a book called The Polar Voyage by "Nemo".
This 20,000 Leagues pin was released as a limited edition of 3500.
The surreal drawing in this 1971 ad shows the Nautilus in the Seven Seas Lagoon!
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See ya real soon!