Thursday, April 1, 2010

Backstories: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Discovery Bay)

Here's a very interesting prose description of a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction. No, not the one that was at the Magic Kingdom. No, not the walkthrough at Disneyland Paris either. And no, not even the attraction at Tokyo DisneySea. This "Captain Nemo Adventure" was a simulator for Tony Baxter's amazing project Discovery Bay.

Over our heads is a gravity pointer trim indicator. Along the port and starboard walls are small Davis lamps, mounted on swivels, which remain continually on a level whichever way the ship we're in may rock or tilt. On either sides of the viewports stand two enormous vertical glass cylinders reinforced with copper bands.

Suddenly Captain Nemo's voice comes on a loudspeaker, telling the audience not to worry, everything is perfectly safe, etc. and that our craft is about to submerge, enter through an underwater gatelock, tour a little of the unknown depths of Discovery Bay, cruise along parts of the uncharted Pacific Ocean, then head for home again.

Engine bells clang into action and both glass columns suddenly begin to fill with water at terrific force. Then the viewport screens open slowly as the lights inside our cabin dim to a lower amber. Our eyes then adjust to the underwater scene set before us.

We are now traveling away from Nemo's underground laboratory thru beautiful undersea gardens. As we look about the room the once level trim indicator overhead is now registering several degrees of incline, and the Davis lamps along the wall are no longer level, but all tilting at the same angle.

A flash of bubbles obscure the view as we descend to greater depths. We see Captain Nemo's crew in diving suits, hunters and farmers gathering a harvest at the bottom of the sea. Further on we see more evidence of Nemo's genius: huge undersea structures and machinery, capable of withstanding the great pressures, and the wear and tear of the forces of nature.

Now an alarm is heard. A surface craft is detected on a sensor device, circling overhead, and the order is given to investigate. As we ascend, the water filled columns suddenly empty and we clear the surface of the ocean. On the horizon we see a 19th century warship, featureless, unromantic in its design. "A ship that flies no flag," as Captain Nemo remarks to the helmsman.

The warship begins to fire on us and Nemo orders our craft hurled toward it at "Collision speed!" The water parts on either side of the view ports in great volume, almost obscuring our prey. Our submarine strikes the warship at full force, bending in its iron plates, splintering the entire vessel in half. We come about and start to submerge, and see the once might enemy ship sink below the ocean's surface.

Then a great explosion is seen (and felt), our trim indicator swings crazily about, the curtains on either sides of the great viewports sway back and forth. The mate calls to the Captain from the command post that our submarine is temporarily out of control and sinking rapidly. The warm amber lights in our cabin flash out and immediately the blue emergency lights come on.

The scene beyond the viewports gets darker and we begin to see unusual fish, with living phosphorescent lights of their own.

"We are deeper now than man has ever been before," the Captain explains. "Fortunately our craft was only in temporary danger and can now ascend to the surface."

Another alarm sounds: a giant squid has appeared from the murky depth and grabs ahold of our submarine boat. Great blue sparks crackle about the monster's tentacles and body as Captain Nemo prepares the full electrical repellant charge. This is not enough, the mate replies and our only hope is to get back to the surface quickly so that the rapid change in pressure will destroy the creature.

As our ship once again breaks the surface, a terrifying thunderstorm at sea is in progress. Thunder and lightning flash about the crashing waves and we see the body of the giant squid still hanging on. Suddenly an overhead hatch opens and the beast's tentacles slither through, thrash about wildly for a few seconds, then retreat.

Even some water comes in, but not enough to drench the first and second rows.

The hatch closes, and our submarine heads back towards Discovery Bay.

We submerge, enter the undersea grotto, but our craft blindly grazes some of the rocky walls "due to our faulty rudder," the Captain explains, "caused by the warship's attack and the giant squid."

As we dock, the viewport hatches close and "when the cabin lights come on" (the announcer informs us), "we are to take any small children with us by the hand and any personal belongings and please exit to the right."

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