The mission of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers is to collect, conserve, and curate valuable cultural and artistic artifacts from around the world and make them available to the public in an artistically pleasing and sensitive manner. It is furthermore the mission of the organization to equip and mount socio-cultural expeditions to discover, explore, chronicle and protect the artistic achievements of human society, past and present, exalted and forgotten.”
  - SEA Mission Statement (found at Oceaneer Labs and Mystic Manor)
What is the Society of Adventurers and Explorers?
The Society of Explorers and Adventurers (SEA) is a fictional organization mentioned in various attractions at the Disney theme parks.  It originated in Tokyo DisneySea and eventually expanded to Hong Kong Disneyland as well as the domestic Disney parks.  There are even ties to the famed Adventurer’s Club of Pleasure Island (now Disney Springs).  Disney has slowly been introducing these characters and their overarching narrative to more corners of the Disney universe… and I, for one, am excited to see what comes next!
The roots of this group can be traced back to Discovery Bay- a forgotten and undeveloped area for Disneyland based on the 1974 film “The Island at the Top of the World.”  Because of the film’s commercial failure, this land was never built… but many ideas and concepts first imagined by Tony Baxter and his team live on today.  In fact… even Dreamfinder and Figment were developed as an evolution of the ‘Professor Marvel’ character that was set to feature in Discovery Bay.  But perhaps more importantly, this concept was used to set the tone for both Tokyo DisneySea’s ‘Mysterious Island’ and Disneyland Paris’ ‘Discoveryland.’
The Adventure Begins!
In 1989, Disney unveiled Pleasure Island- a collection of shops, restaurants and nightclubs that offered adult entertainment away from the Disney theme parks.  Two locations of note (per our discussion) opened as part of this concept: a Fireworks Factory restaurant (based on an idea to be used for Discovery Bay) and… the Adventurers Club!  This themed nightclub was styled after a private club for world travelers and explorers and was set in the early twentieth century. The walls of the club were covered with artifacts and photographs from the various explorations of its patrons.  Many of these props, portraits and artifacts from the club were recycled after it closed its doors in 2005.  You can find pieces of the Adventurers Club at Hong Kong Disneyland (Mystic Point), Aulani and even the Magic Kingdom. 
The proprietor of the Adventurers Club was a gentleman named Merriweather Adam Pleasure- who we would come to learn was a member of the SEA.  How, you might ask?  A fez that bears his name now sits in a room dedicated to this secret society at the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom.  This and a variety of menu items (“Kungaloosh!”) pay homage to the Adventurers Club and bring it and its regular visitors into the fold for our discussion.
Another area heavily influenced by Discovery Bay is the Discoveryland area of Disneyland Paris (developed in 1992).  Both its steampunk motif and its list of attractions borrow from the vision originally laid out by Baxter and his partners at Walt Disney Imagineering for Discover Bay.  A victorian sci-fi theme take center stage here (as was intended at Discovery Bay), including a walkthrough version of the Nautilus Submarine (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and a large-scale replica of the Hyperion Airship (taken from “The Island at the Top of the World”).  This area served as a template for the Disney imagineers as they developed the next area we’ll talk about- Tokyo DisneySea’s ‘Mysterious Island.’
With Tokyo DisneySea’s opening in 2001, WDI unveiled ‘Mysterious Island’ which featured both 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth.  Both attractions and the land itself are in and around a large volcano named Mt. Prometheus which is meant to serve as Captain Nemo’s (taken from Jules Verne’s ’20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’) base and headquarters.  Not only does this area tie itself back to the science fiction roots of Discovery Bay, but… it officially names the Society of Explorers and Adventurers… with Captain Nemo as one of its members as well!
The 'Fortress Explorations' attraction that opened in tandem with the previously named attractions serves as the headquarters for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, which was founded in 1538 by historical figures of the Renaissance and Golden Age of Exploration as Leonardo da Vinci, Marco Polo, and Ferdinand Magellan.  Along with the walkthrough exhibits at ‘Fortress Explorations’ that focus on Renaissance era science and technology there is restaurant- Magellan’s.  The establishment of the fortress as the global headquarters for the SEA and the overt recognition of this organization then allowed Disney to expand the legend into its other parks- which they did!
The Adventure Continues!
First on the list for SEA expansion was the Tokyo DisneySea version of the Tower of Terror!  Because Disney wanted to avoid using the Twilight Zone license outside of the domestic US parks, a separate story was developed for this version of the tower (completed in 2006).  The story centers on global traveller and collector of artifacts Harrison Hightower III - another member of the SEA!  His Hotel Hightower (set in early twentieth century New York) is cursed by the Shiriki Utundu idol- leading to disastrous consequences for those that visit!
If and when Disney were forced to abandon the Twilight Zone license (owned by CBS Television), I feel this would be an excellent way to refresh the Orlando version and bring it into the SEA fold as well.
Next is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!  With the 2012 refresh of this attraction, elements were added to further develop this attraction’s backstory and tie it into SEA legend.  Originally, the story of Jason Chandler and his drilling machine were set to tie Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland to Discovery Bay.  Unfortunately, because that area was not developed, he and his wonderful machines were scrapped… but, he lives on currently because his story has been further explored in the graphic novel: Disney Kingdoms: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  It’s here that he and Barnabus T. Bullion are both named as members of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. 
Mr. Bullion was introduced as part of the 2012 ride refurbishment- where now, his portrait hangs in the queue.  The following backstory was given to him by imagineers to explain his relationship to Big Thunder Mountain:
"Barnabas T. Bullion is the founder and president of the Big Thunder Mining Company. The longtime mining magnate comes from a powerful East Coast family and considers gold to be his very birthright by virtue of his oddly appropriate name; in fact, he considers the ultimate gold strike to be his destiny.”
Perhaps the most significant expansion of the SEA at the Disney parks is Mystic Manor and the Mystic Point area of Hong Kong Disneyland (completed in 2013)!  Not only is this attraction one of the best ever built by WDI, but… it also expands and consolidates the story of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers.  Mystic Manor is the mansion that Lord Henry Mystic built in an uncharted tropical wilderness plagued with supernatural events. The mansion was built out of his love for the unusual happenings.  This manor is where many of his findings, as well as some other members of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers have found, are displayed. As of recent events, Henry has bought in a new exhibit, a mysterious music box that has been rumored that its music brings inanimate objects to life.  Lord Mystic’s pet monkey Albert has a tendency to get into trouble, so be wary if you choose to ride!
In the manor hangs a portrait (see below) of some members of the SEA- including Mystic, Hightower (Tower of Terror), Bullion (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad), Albert Falls (Jungle Cruise) as well as Capt. Mary Oceaneer.  Not only are the Oceaneer Labs on the ships of Disney Cruise Line named for her, but her boat the Miss Tilly is stranded at Typhoon Lagoon.  A recent addition to that waterpark, Miss Adventure Falls, tells part of her story (along with her parrot Duncan).
Hopefully I’ve captured the ideas and essence of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers for you!  As I stated above regarding Tower of Terror… If Disney gets the chance to expand the legend of this group into other existing (or new!) Disney attractions, I think they should jump on the chance.  For Disney fans like myself, finding the stories and themes just below the surface makes my experience that much deeper and rewarding.  For all who go to the parks- the characters and experiences are still there to be observed and enjoyed… but digging a little bit deeper opens a whole new horizon to be explored.
Please let us know what you think!  Do you have any ideas for further incorporation of the SEA into Disney parks?  Send us a message using the form below, or reach out to us on social media!  All our contact information can be found-

Portrait of SEA members hanging at Mystic Manor

Thank you!
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