Attraction of the week: Tokyo DisneySea's Journey to the Center of the Earth
Published: December 3, 2012 at 7:13 PM
But you've got to love the setting, as well.
Journey to the Center of the Earth occupies Mount Prometheus, the icon that defines the Jules Verne-themed Mysterious Island in the heart of the park.
Walk up to the mountain, and you'll see a giant drill, boring into Mount Prometheus. This is the machine that is clearing our way to the center of the Earth.
Walk through the passageway into the mountain, and you'll wind your way through an elaborately-decorated queue, with steaming lava, maps, and equipment used on past journeys.
Once through the queue, you'll board lifts that will take you down to the loading station...
…where you'll board the mine cars that will take your deeper into the Earth, into its core.
You'll pass crystal caverns, and encounter giant mushroom forests filled with bizarre creatures, before, as to be expected, something goes terribly wrong.
And that is perhaps the most exhilarating, delicious moment in theme parks. The moment when you come face-to-face with a monster that is everything that Expedition Everest's Yeti is supposed to be, and much, much more. (The way that Disney's Imagineers distract you before whipping you around to face the monster just amplifies the excitement.)
At once, as you confront the monster, this gentle dark-ride tour becomes something else. With a blast of speed, it's you that erupts from the side of the mountain for a final, high-speed escape around the caldera.
Of all the delights at Tokyo DisneySea (your choice as the world's best theme park this year), this was the one that left me rushing to go around and ride again, despite having only one day to do everything in the park. It's the moment that stays with me, a year later, taunting me to save enough money to go back to DisneySea.
As much as I love Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Transformers: The Ride, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and even Radiator Springs Racers, none of those rides offer that that exhilarating moment when surprise, fear and thrill come together to leave you breathless the way that Journey to the Center of the Earth does. It's changed my standards for what theme park attractions can be.