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Attraction of the week: Tokyo DisneySea's Journey to the Center of the Earth

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Published: December 3, 2012 at 7:13 PM

One year ago this week, I rode what's become my favorite theme park attraction on the planet: Journey to the Center of the Earth at Tokyo DisneySea. I love this Journey for what might be the greatest single moment in a theme park attraction.

But you've got to love the setting, as well.

Mount Prometheus at Tokyo DisneySea

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.

Drilling into the mountain

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.

Journey to the Center of the Earth queue

Once through the queue, you'll board lifts that will take you down to the loading station...

Lifts in the Journey queue

…where you'll board the mine cars that will take your deeper into the Earth, into its core.

Load station

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.)

The Monster

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.

The finale of Journey to the Center of the Earth

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.

Readers' Opinions

From Brandon Mendoza on December 3, 2012 at 7:29 PM
AWESOME. Just awesome!
From José María Sandoval on December 3, 2012 at 8:08 PM
This is the only reason to visit tokyo disneyland resort!! thanks for mentioning the other great rides!
From Rod Whitenack on December 4, 2012 at 5:53 AM
I think it's worth mentioning that all of this is done with practical sets and amazing animatronics and not CGI and simulated motion! There's nothing like the real thing,
From Tim Hillman on December 4, 2012 at 9:37 AM
Perhaps my greatest disappointment in visiting TDS was not having enough time to re-ride Journey to the Center of the Earth. This is easily one of Disney's best rides.

I know it will never happen, but I wish Tomorrowland including Space Mountain were largely moved into Future World at Epcot and the entire Tomorrowland area at the Magic Kingdom re-populated with rides from TDS like Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, StormRider, Fortress Explorations, and Aquatopia.

From Mark Fairleigh on December 4, 2012 at 8:23 AM
I was born in and lived in Tokyo for a few years as a kid (Air Force Brat)...might be a good reason to save up for a trip back!
From 63.95.36.13 on December 4, 2012 at 10:35 AM
Great Article

If money was no objective I could quite happily plan the next 10 annual family holidays around countries and their themeparks. I wonder if its worth posting as a next major blog a debate for which route is better, classic timeless themes or a theme based on a franchise. If I may open the floor with my suggestions and agree with a previous comment, I think tomorrow land in Disney world should be moved to epcot where it can show case technology etc, instead this land (tommorrow land after a rename) should have a more classic steam punk Jules verne feel to it very much like this amazing Journey to the centre of the earth and space moutain in Paris which benefits from have a classic few retrospective view of the future. This way rides wont look dated or old as technology changes. The same can be said for USF and IOA as Although HP is somewhat unique its theming is amazing and without doubt stand the test of time well ( and ive never read or seen a HP movie ), but my point being Spider man and Transformers are just rides inside what can be described as a warehouse. They feel a bit wham bam thank you mam, get in ride and get out..... I imagine for themepark management it must be hard to decide where to invest those millions especially no knowing if a ride will stand the test of time. It looks like DTS is a blue print for the future that you dont need a franchise to make amazing rides....look at TOT in DS the emersion in the ride is like no other and shows what talent can do when released from the shackles of franchises.

From Flavio de Souza on December 4, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Reading the description I did not understand what type of ride system this attraction uses. Is it a roller coaster with an initial slow pace, or is it an Indiana Jones type attraction or is it a test track/ cars type ride system?
From 184.38.235.130 on December 4, 2012 at 1:07 PM
It is a successor to the technology used at Epcot's Test Track attraction.
From Jonah Sirota on December 4, 2012 at 1:26 PM
Flavio, I have not ridden on this, but my understanding is it's a Test Track/Radiator Racers-type drive system.
From Orrin Carstarphen on December 4, 2012 at 3:22 PM
Or better yet....turn the "old" Discovery Island into a Jules Verne Mysterious Island and have various rides themed appropriately. 20000 Leagues, Journey to the Center of the Earth and move the balloon ride from Downtown Disney to there. The potential here could be enormous.
From TH Creative on December 5, 2012 at 4:53 AM
'Journey to the Center of the Earth' would be a nice replacement for the Tomorrowland Speedway. With its mix of science and fantasy,it would be a well-themed transition between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.
From Sylvain Comeau on December 5, 2012 at 4:39 PM
By all appearances, it would cost Disney several fortunes to build one in the U.S...and it would be worth every penny.

It'll never happen.

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