It's a secret society. And no, it isn’t the Illuminati.
Easter eggs and elaborate attraction backstories are commonplace at any theme park worth its admission price, but Disney raised the bar when they created an actual secret society. Steeped in mystery and dating back to the 1500s, this secret society is represented at practically every Disney property around the globe, but many park-goers don’t even know it exists. The following only scratches the surfaces of the myriad ways this society is ingrained in the Disney-verse, but it serves as a good jumping-off point if you want to search for clues during your next visit. It’s all just a made-up story anyway…or is it?
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It All Started in a Now Defunct Nightclub at Disney World’s Pleasure Island
The Adventurers Club was a nightclub at Disney World’s Pleasure Island with an elaborate backstory that involved the “founder” of Pleasure Island, Merriweather Pleasure. The story goes that Pleasure built the Adventurers Club to house the treasures and artifacts from his world travels. Part nightclub and part improv comedy show, live actors who played a band of (what else) adventurers mingled with guests, and some of the artifacts were actually puppets and animatronics that came to life. The club closed in 2008, but many credit the Adventurers Club as being the inspiration for a secret society of Disney characters that connects every Disney theme park, cruise ship, and resort.
INSIDER TIPPleasure Island was closed to make way for Disney Springs. The Edison restaurant was built where the Adventurers Club once stood if you want to pay your respects.
Tokyo DisneySea Serves as the “Home Base” for this Secret Society
The first official mention of this secret society can be found at Tokyo DisneySea’s Fortress Explorations. This walkthrough attraction features a series of interactive challenges, all dedicated to world exploration and discovery. A bronze plaque displayed within the attraction bears the name and crest of this secret society—The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, commonly referred to as S.E.A. This is the first official reference to S.E.A. in a Disney park.
INSIDER TIPMagellan’s is a restaurant located inside Fortress Explorations. You can find S.E.A. references throughout, but there is also a hidden dining room that supposedly served as a clandestine meeting space for S.E.A. members. If you ask your server nicely, they may seat you in this secret room.
A Portrait of S.E.A Members Hangs in the Queue for Hong Kong Disneyland’s Mystic Manor
When the Adventurers Club closed at Disney World, props from the club were scattered to Disney properties around the globe. Some made their way to Hong Kong Disneyland’s Mystic Point, a land set in a dense rainforest where S.E.A. member Lord Henry Mystic built Mystic Manor–a mansion and museum (and Hong Kong’s variation on the Haunted Mansion) where he could display his growing collection of art and artifacts. A group portrait of S.E.A.’s original members hangs in the queue for Mystic Manor, many of whom receive their own elaborate backstory in other Disney parks.
The Proprietor of Tokyo DisneySea’s Tower of Terror Was a Member of S.E.A.
Tokyo DisneySea’s Tower of Terror is not themed to the Twilight Zone like the one in Disney World. In creating a unique storyline for the attraction, Disney Imagineers dreamt up a character named Harrison Hightower III, the Hotel Hightower’s proprietor who disappeared years’ prior after stealing a sacred African idol. Not only is Hightower the spitting image of famed Imagineer Joe Rohde (no, it isn’t a coincidence), he can be seen in the aforementioned S.E.A. portrait holding the very idol that caused his demise.
INSIDER TIPHarrison Hightower may have a connection to the Haunted Mansion at Disney World and Disneyland, as well. The home portrayed in these attractions, Gracey Manor, is said to have been owned by a George Hightower. Sadly, he didn’t survive Constance Hatchaway, his murderous bride in the ride’s attic scene, but many believe his character to be a relative of Harrison Hightower.
A Typhoon Lagoon Water Slide Has a S.E.A. Backstory, Too
Also seen in Mystic Manor’s S.E.A. portrait is a seafaring explorer by the name of Mary Oceaneer. Legend has it that a rogue storm swept her ship and many artifacts to Typhoon Lagoon while she was on a diving excursion. The Miss Adventure Falls water slide at Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon water park takes riders on a white-water journey through the wreckage and prominently features a variety of S.E.A. ephemera.
The Big Thunder Mining Company Set Up Shop at Disney Parks Around the World
If you guessed there’s another S.E.A. connection here, you’d be right. Though each iteration of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coaster is set in a different fictional mining town, each is set in the American Southwest and was settled by the Big Thunder Mountain Mining Company. In a not-uncommon move by Disney, the story goes much deeper than this. The gold magnate and owner of the Big Thunder Mining Company in Disney World’s version is S.E.A. member Barnabas T. Bullion (modeled after legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter who designed the attraction).
The Jungle Cruise Rides at Each Disney Park Also Have a Common Owner
Disney parks in Florida, California, Tokyo, and Hong Kong have similar versions of the Jungle Cruise ride. At each, the cruises are chartered by the Jungle Navigation Company, a river trading company founded by S.E.A. member Dr. Albert Falls. When Dr. Falls died, he was succeeded by his granddaughter, Alberta Falls, who manages the company to this day.
The Jungle Cruise is set for an upcoming refurbishment that will further expand its connection with S.E.A. In a recent blog post, Disney shared that Alberta and Dr. Falls visited Hong Kong’s Mystic Point together. They also introduced a brand new member of S.E.A., Japanese entomologist, Dr. Kon Chunosuke.
The Skipper Canteen Restaurant at Disney World Is Littered With References to S.E.A.
The Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen restaurant opened at Disney World in 2015 under the guise of being a mess hall for the Jungle Cruise skippers, parlor for the Falls family, and secret meeting spot for S.E.A. References to S.E.A. are hidden throughout the restaurant, including a few that tie S.E.A. back to the Adventurers Club. WIthin the S.E.A. dining room, a club fez belonging to Adventurers Club founder Merriweather Pleasure on display in a glass case, suggesting Pleasure was a member of the organization.
INSIDER TIPThe menu at Skipper Canteen is more adventurous than many theme park restaurants, and a couple of the items were inspired by the Adventurers Club. The Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale and Kungaloosh! dessert bear the name of the club’s official greeting and beverage.
The Tropical Hideaway at Disneyland Commemorates S.E.A. Members, Too
The Tropical Hideaway is an eatery in Disneyland’s Adventureland area. The open-air dock overlooks the Jungle Cruise ride and one of the building’s exterior walls showcases a collection of colorful oars. If you look closely at these oars, you’ll find they are more than just decoration. Each one is emblazoned with the name of a member of S.E.A., including Merriweather Pleasure, further proof of his S.E.A. membership.
The Newest Attraction to Feature a S.E.A. Connection Takes Us All the Way Back to Tokyo
Another of the oars on display at the Tropical Hideaway belongs to Camelia Falco, a S.E.A. member who, at the time, was unknown to Disney fans. The restaurant opened in December 2018 and when Soaring: Fantastic Flight opened at Tokyo DisneySea in July 2019, we officially met Camelia Falco. The ride is set within the Museum of Fantastic Flight, which features an exhibition celebrating Falco’s life and her contributions to the field of aviation. After touring the museum, guests board Falco’s Dream Flyer for a flight around the world.