The 2014 Theme Park Insider Tournament: Journey to the Center of the Earth versus 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

March 10, 2014, 11:40 AM · We're halfway through the first round of the 2014 Theme Park Insider Tournament, and we hope that you've enjoyed this opportunity to learn a little more about some of the world's top theme park attractions located outside the United States. Before we get to today's match-up of two popular dark rides from the world's best theme park, let's review the results to date:

Dark ride bracket:

Sindbad's Storybook Voyage defeated Sesame Street: Spaghetti Space Chase, 59%-41%

Mystic Manor defeated Pooh's Hunny Hunt, 77%-23%

Roller coaster bracket:

Leviathan defeated Behemoth, 68%-32%

Blue Fire defeated Silver Star, 78%-22%

Today, we're back in the dark ride bracket to feature two amazing attractions from the Mysterious Island land at Tokyo DisneySea. Dominated by the iconic Mount Prometheus, Mysterious Island is the literal centerpiece of DisneySea, the park Theme Park Insider fans have selected as the world's best for the past two years. Inspired by Jules Verne novels and sharing a steampunk-inspired look, Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea might be the two rides in the tournament most poorly represented by online videos.

Before we go any further, let's clarify that Tokyo DisneySea's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is not a clone of the submarine ride that ran for many years at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. You'll find a duplicate of one of the old Nautilus ride vehicles moored in the lagoon at the center of Mysterious Island, but the ride itself is a dry dark ride that simulates an underwater adventure in a deep sea diving bell.

Outside 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

On board, you're sitting on one of three two-person benches inside the submersible, each with its own window. Using your joystick, you can control the lights that illuminate some of the mysteries awaiting your discovery in the deep. You're searching for the lost continent of Atlantis, and along the way, you will encounter a ship's graveyard in "Kraken Reef" and a surprise encounter in "Lucifer's Trench." Hey, with a name like that, nothing possibly could go wrong, right?

Inside 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

We mentioned that online POV videos don't do today's rides justice. That's because both are exceptionally dark, relying upon lighting effects and the element of surprise for much of their appeal. Anything less than top-quality professional video equipment fails to capture adequately the lighting contrast on these rides. (My attempt to film 20K was rubbish.) And you'd need some really slick editing to deliver the full effect of the ride's surprises. So we'll offer a short promotional video of 20K from DisneySea, which includes a bonus of rare off-ride footage that reveals a bit more about the attraction's ride system.

Journey to the Center of the Earth has stood atop the Theme Park Insider rankings as the world's top attraction for several months now. Like 20K, the attraction is a masterpiece of stagecraft, using light, sound, heat, and motion to create a multi-sensory experience. If in 20K you explored the depths of the sea, in this attraction you will explore the depths of the Earth.

Outside Journey to the Center of the Earth

Traveling through caverns within Mount Prometheus, walking past oozing lava in the queue, you come to Captain Nemo's underground laboratories, where you can see the sketches of the wonders that await you even deeper inside the Earth.

Inside the Journey to the Center of the Earth queue

You'll then board a "Terravator" to descend to the expedition's base station, where you will board an eight-passenger mining vehicle to travel through the tunnels bored by previous explorers. You'll descend into crystal caverns and encounter a giant mushroom forests filled with bizarre creatures before an earthquake knocks you off course. A lightning storm nearly finished you before you emerge into the heart of the volcano, where a giant lava monster awaits.

Imagine if Expedition Everest's Yeti not only worked, and it was a freakin' ninja of a monster. The encounter of with the monster provides the highlight of the ride, a rapid-fire combination punch of effects that culminates with the volcano's eruption launching you out of the mountain for a high-speed ride around the caldera of the ancient volcano.

Sure, it's the same ride system as Test Track and Radiator Springs Racers, but Journey to the Center of the Earth feels nothing like those tame experiences. Again, here's the park's promo video, which omits the encounter with the monster.

You can't go wrong with either of these attractions, of course. But it's time to vote.

You don't need to have visited DisneySea to vote. Just pick the one that sounds best to you. You're invited to campaign in the comments, or by using the social media buttons below.

Replies (10)

March 10, 2014 at 12:21 PM · These two attractions look amazing. First of all, I appreciate Disney playing tribute to the great Jules Verne (most people I know don't even know who he is or his works and that's a real shame). Wish I could go, these are the type of rides my husband and I like.
March 10, 2014 at 2:24 PM · Where's the "BOTH" button?
March 10, 2014 at 3:57 PM · And to think that this park originally was designed for Long Beach, not Tokyo. I now shall go beat my head against something solid and unforgiving.
March 10, 2014 at 5:58 PM · I agree with James! Journey sounds like a great thrill, and is probably the better overall ride, but I'm a sucker for an undersea-based dark ride, so I had to throw some love to 20,000 Leagues :-).
March 10, 2014 at 9:51 PM · FWIW, Mysterious Island also is home to the beloved Gyoza Dog at Tokyo DisneySea, as well as the Fortress Explorations and Magellan's restaurant. In other words, it's the best darned theme park land anywhere.
March 11, 2014 at 8:22 AM · I think that avatar land tries to emulate this land with two major attractions.
March 11, 2014 at 8:50 AM · Almost everyone who has been on it says Journey to the Center of the Earth is the best ride in the world, so I have to vote for it. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea looks excellent as well, but if I was forced to pick one or the other I would probably opt for Journey.
March 11, 2014 at 9:05 AM · This one is really tough to vote on because it's clear that no video can do justice to the live experience of "20,0000 Leagues Under the Sea." I love the interactive element of being able to control the search light. Just watching the video, it's easy to see how thrilling "Journey to the Center of the Earth" must be and because of that fact, I'm guessing it will win. But I'd give anything to be able to visit this park.
March 11, 2014 at 10:19 AM · can we just cut to the chase and have Mystic Manor vs Journey to the Center of the Earth?
March 11, 2014 at 6:50 PM · Arrrr! But you don't understand! Leagues are a measure of distance not depth!

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