Quest for the Fountain of Youth: Part 16 of our Fire! Serie

Tokyo DisneySea opened on September 4th, 2001 as the second theme park owned by the Oriental Land Company (OLC) near Tokyo, Japan.  OLC licenses the Disney IPs and visual imagery from the Walt Disney Company, and when it came time for a second gate, the mandate was to push all the limits of what Disney and Walt Disney Imagineering had done before.  The result is a theme park with ports of calls, all linked to the seas and water in some ways, drawing on stories and legends with subtle references then to the Disney universe. 

Fire was used in two locations when the park opened.  The first of those is in front of the Temple of the Crystal Skull, where Indiana Jones Adventure was transformed in an attempt to differentiate the park’s two major opening day attractions. Where as the temple of Mara at Disneyland has bright colors and lighting, a large lava pool, and fireballs in the central chamber, the temple of the Crystal Skull goes the opposite route.

The story here is that Indiana Jones has discovered that the fountain of Youth is deep inside this mysterious temple in the Lost River Delta.  A small working village and airstrip were built to facilitate the excavations near the temple, on both sides of a river.  The story’s location was moved from south Asia to Central America and reflected in the area and the temple itself. 

Many bright torches light up the temple front area, but we enter it through a queue on the right side.  The indoor queue is shorter than at Disneyland, thanks to its more central location, but there is much more to see here.  At Disneyland, the only place to fit the massive show building was on a portion of the park’s parking lot. At Tokyo DisneySea, the land was designed around the building. An enormous chamber of sacrifice, with water under us, skeletons, and scary statues surround us as we circle up in the queue.  Next, a sundial is present, followed by eerily lit walls around us.  Soon, we arrive at Indiana Jones office and the boarding station for the troop transports. 

The ride path and general scenes are similar to the one in California. Still, the scenery is much more polished here.  Softer lighting and color hues are used throughout the attraction.  There is no fire used in the central chamber: instead, we have a large tornado funnel extending out of a pit perpetually stuck in a lightning storm.  A giant crystal skull shoot lasers at the transports, causing puffs of smoke when they strike the ground.  As we are in central America and not Asia, a massive Anaconda strikes at us rather than the giant Cobra seen in the Temple of Mara.  When the transport gets stuck in mud after the snake attack, we see another Crystal Skull among all the candles.

One scene that was always problematic in California was the rat room.  The idea was that projected on smoke, we’d see rats fall off a tree branch and into our jeep.  Unfortunately, the high pace of the transport cycling through the room meant that it never worked correctly and often, guests were only blinded by the projector without seeing anything.  A gag previously seen on Winnie the Pooh at the Magic Kingdom in Florida replaces the rat’s room: a large stone statue on the wall threatens us, then send a massive ring of smoke toward us.  The smoke is lighted in bright oranges and yellow, imitating fire.   Another upgrade is right after:  in California, the statues shooting darts at us, using sound effects and air cannons, are painted flats on the walls.  In Tokyo, they are actual statues.

One massive but subtle difference between both versions is in the three audio-animatronic figures of Indiana Jones.  Disney was not able to secure the likeness of Harrison Ford for the California attraction, so a look a like was used for all generations of those animatronics.  In Tokyo, Disney and OLC were able to get Harrison Ford onboard, so the three animatronics are based on him. 

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