Disney Parks may be synonymous with Doyle’s Whip and eternal bliss, but did you know it’s also home to a fictional secret society? It’s called S.E.A (pronounced as an acronym, not a synonym for ocean), and if you’ve visited any Disneyland around the world, you’ve probably only gotten involved by riding the attractions or sipping a cocktail.
What is S.E.A.?
The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, the brainchild of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), took storytelling in a whole new direction with a group of fictional characters far removed from the likes of Goofy and Mickey Mouse. These characters, from the Artifact Thief to the famous Captain, are tied to Disney Parks (both attractions and restaurants) around the world and serve as a means to provide backstory for certain attractions and canonically link certain intellectual property. In short, S.E.A. is not an attraction, it’s a connector.
The Long-Term Myth of S.E.A. Return to an actual (and now defunct) lounge at Walt Disney World’s Adventurers Club. The popular nightclub was located on Pleasure Island, an entertainment district located where Disney Springs now stands. The club was fictitiously founded by S.E.A. Member Merriweather Adam Pleasure became the association’s first appearance on a Disney asset in 1989.
Sea. It has since evolved, with new characters and hints to society members spread across every inch of Disney property, including Disney Resort hotels and Disney Cruise Line.
At D23 Expo, the annual Disney fan convention held in Anaheim, California, WDI hosted a panel dedicated to secret societies. in addition to announcing the upcoming S.E.A. based television series. For Disney+, its creative leadership dug deeper into the history of the secret society and what the future might hold.
Much of the overall theme of S.E.A. relate to Walt Disney’s fascination with exploration, discovery and education. Mark LaVine, WDI executive in charge of story development, shared, “The idea was to try to figure things out, to try to gain knowledge, to try to understand the world better …… and live to tell the story.” “Because if you go on these great adventures and you don’t survive, that’s a sad story.”
The Artificial Organization’s goal is to collect and preserve artistic and cultural artifacts from their adventures – many of which are props hidden in plain sight for guests to discover.
The total fascination has attracted an entire fan base that now springs up into merchandise and even book collections. Some characters are inspired by famous fantasists, such as Joe Rhodes, who spearheaded Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. With the vast possibilities for storytelling, it’s a way for Disney Imagineers to give free rein to their creativity in ways never before possible.
Who’s part of S.E.A.?
The group’s well-crafted (and dynamic) members are scientists, researchers, artists, explorers and adventurers from around the world. These fictional characters are associated with popular Disney franchises, such as Indiana Jones and Jungle Cruise. Many of their storylines take place in the early to mid-20th century and have an adventurous spirit similar to that of the Age of Exploration of yesteryear.
“S.E.A. is truly global, and we’re excited about where we can take these stories,” shared Kiran Jeffery, vice president of content and partner programs at WDI. “There are so many more places to explore, so many characters to meet – and we’re really just getting started.”
You won’t find these members at traditional in-park character meet-and-greets, but they do play a key role in the storytelling of your favorite attractions.
Barnabas T. Bullion is connected to Walt Disney World and Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This American businessman came from a mining family and eventually became the owner and president of the Big Thunder Mining Company.
Dr. Albert Falls was a British explorer and scientist known for his ability to navigate remote waters. He was largely associated with bush cruising and is credited with discovering the “backside of the water” and founding the shipping company Jungle Navigation. His granddaughter, Alberta Falls, is now a key member of S.E.A. at Magic Kingdom Park.
Captain Mary Oceaneer, a celebrated sea captain, is linked to Disney Cruise Line’s Oceaneer Club and Lab and serves as the focus of the Miss Adventure Falls raft ride at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park.
Harrison Hightower III, based on former Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde, is a corrupt member of S.E.A. who has stolen numerous artifacts. His story is the basis of Tokyo Disneyland’s version of Tower of Terror.
Lord Henry Mystic, an English aristocrat, is prominent at Hong Kong Disneyland and the basis of the attraction Mystic Manor — its version of Haunted Mansion.
Camellia Falco, the first woman inducted into the society, serves as the star of Tokyo DisneySea’s version of Soarin’ — Soaring: Fantastic Flight.
Where can you spot nods to S.E.A.?
Easter Eggs acknowledge the existence of S.E.A. can be found at Disney theme parks and resorts around the world – if you know where to find them. “There are so many that even our fans can find that I didn’t know existed,” said Juleen Woods, WDI’s program coordinator. “That’s the fun part. We can continue to add them to our parks and continue to build the story.”
“We’re constantly adding elements to our stories and attractions,” added Kiran Jeffery, vice president of content and partnership initiatives at WDI. “Everything has a backstory. We don’t just put things in the park. We’re always thinking about how does this relate to each character?”
The first large-scale introduction of S.E.A. into Disneyland is the Fortress Discovery attraction at Tokyo DisneySea. The massive complex, which serves as the association’s headquarters, features many walk-through interactive exhibits and three character-based restaurants.
Although its presence is felt around the world, S.E.A. has a close connection to Disneyland in the United States.
Walt Disney World and Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise doubles as a shipping point for other S.E.A.’s. Members: You can see the association logo printed on the wooden crates in the queue. Disney World’s Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen restaurant was founded by Alberta Falls, granddaughter of S.E.A. Member Alberta Falls. It has a waiting room filled with photos of the two and even a hidden secret S.E.A. member’s room in the back of the restaurant. Here you can see the organization’s large badge and logo-emblazoned Fez hat.
Disneyland’s Tropical Hideaway is a quick service point for Dole Whips and features a wall of adventure paddles from both well-known and lesser-known members. At the nearby Disneyland Hotel, there are many artifacts associated with S.E.A. The walls that adorn Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar include a bronze bust of Dr. Albert Falls.
Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar at Disney World, located in Disney Springs, is an airplane hanger-themed bar founded by Indiana Jones pilot Jock Lindsey. At Disney’s BoardWalk, you can see S.E.A. member fez among the magician’s props at AbracadaBar. A portrait of Barnabas T. Bullion can be seen in the queue of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
What does the future hold for S.E.A.?
The organization offers unlimited potential for Imagineers as they explore ways to incorporate it into attractions and theme parks. “We’re really excited about S.E.A. and what we can do with it,” shares Lavine. “A few years ago, we went back to the writers’ room at Imagineering and really started focusing on expanding that world out.”
The current focus is on adding more women and diverse characters: this includes the addition of Camellia Falco and a Japanese entomologist. Dr. Kon Chunosuke. “S.E.A. is inclusive; it’s about representation,” Jeffrey said. “It needs to be about everyone.”
Most of all, though, it’s about fun – and Disneyland’s most loyal fans enjoy it.