20000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage was an attraction at the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World from 1971 through 1994.
In 1959, an ambitious expansion of Tomorrowland in Disneyland was completed, which included the addition of new attractions, including the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Monorail, and Submarine Voyage. "Commissioned" on June 6, 1959, in front of Richard Nixon, Walt Disney and his wife Lillian, and officers of the US Navy, the attraction made use of early animatronics to create underwater life, and the use of forced perspective to increase the feeling of realism. Eight submarines painted in Cold War-friendly grey took guests through the attraction, which took place in a lagoon visible from Tomorrowland and a large show building hidden behind two waterfalls.
The attraction vehicles were not actual submarines, but instead boats in which the guests sat below water level. The interiors were a mix of metal paneling, rivets, and bolts, as well as Victorian-esque fittings in the form of passenger seats that could flip outwards, and armrests beneath the portholes, in keeping with the Goff concept. Each "guest" aboard the Nautilus had his or her own seat, as well as a round porthole to look out into the attraction. A small button located in the porthole recess was intended for defogging the window if needed, though this rarely worked. Located at the top of the window recess was a small speaker through which Captain Nemo's voice (veteran voice actor Peter Renaday, doing an impression of James Mason[) guides his guests through their underwater adventure.
The adventure began as the guests made their way down into the back of the submarine, bending to miss the low-level raised rear hatch, and finding a place on board. Throughout the voyage, an eerie organ version of the Disney film's main theme would play on a never-ending loop, allowing for a narration backing as well as a piece of stall music if required. Following the standard Disney-style introduction and safety notes from the helmsman, the narration, in the voice of Captain Nemo, would begin.
With the submarine clear of the dock, the diving sequence would begin, with hundreds of air bubbles filling the porthole view, creating the illusion of descent. Once clear, the Captain introduced himself to his passengers, and then introduced them to the underwater plains around Vulcania. In the lagoon, guests could see moray eels, crabs, lobsters, sea bass, clams and turtles as well as a host of smaller tropical fish.
Minutes later, in another tribute to the Disney film, an "underwater party" of divers would come into view, as animatronics wearing replicas of the Harper Goff-designed deep sea diving equipment worked kelp beds and wrangled with rebellious turtles.
With the bubbles from the waterfall at the cavern entrance simulating a surface storm, the Captain would order the submarine down into the depths as a precaution, and the guests enter the show building section of the attraction. Within minutes, the devastation such natural phenomenon can create was made clear with the ominous Graveyard Of Lost Ships, with shipwrecks from various centuries littering the sea bed, guarded by the silent, gliding figures of sharks.
Leaving the destruction behind, the Nautilus would reach the South Pole, circumnavigating the Polar Ice Cap from below the surface, and narrowly avoiding large icebergs stabbing through the water. Venturing deeper, the Nautilus entered the eerie world of the Abyss, where guests viewed examples the many weird and strange species of deepwater fish that thrive in such an environment.
Rising slightly, one of the final discoveries made is the ruins of Atlantis, along with a typical Disney-fied sea serpent, accompanying mermaids, and a treasury bursting with jewels and gold. With the ruins of the ancient civilization soon left behind, the Nautilus would enter the final phase of its journey, with a tribute to the most iconic and memorable part of the 1954 Disney film: The attack of the giant squid. After seeing a much smaller sister Nautilus trapped in the clutches of one such creature (Curiously marked XIII on the tailfin), the passenger submarine would be attacked itself by long, thrashing tentacles.
With a final push to the surface, the Nautilus would clear the caverns of the dangerous squid, and enter the safety of the tropical lagoon, on its way towards the dock.
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