There are a ton of secret societies in the world. Many authors have made his entire career off writing fiction from the subject. Secret societies instantly yield a ton of conspiracy theories that entice the minds of everyone. Some may be true, but usually the conspiracy theories are totally outrageous (USA totally landed on the moon). The Disney family of theme parks has their own secret society too. It’s just as riddled with conspiracy theories and back stories to keep the most disbelieving of guests entertained for hours. Of course the secret society I’m talking about is the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, usually abbreviated to S.E.A.
Origin of S.E.A’
The Society of Explorers and Adventurers isn’t the first exploration society in Disney history. The Adventurers Club was the first iteration of the S.E.A. that was found on Pleasure Island. The Adventurers Club opened on Pleasure Island in 1989. It held strong for a solid 20 years, officially closing in September of 2009. Before it’s closing, The Adventurers Club was announced to be going to Hong Kong Disney, where it was used as props for Mystic Manor.
The story behind the S.E.A. is that it was founded on August 12, 1538 by a group of intellectuals from various backgrounds with the goal of exploration of the world and to educate the masses with their findings. The four principles that are the backbone of the society are adventure, romance, discovery, and innovation.
Not long after the S.E.A. was created in the minds of Imagineers, they knew they had to tie in the Adventurers Club into the S.E.A. by suggesting that the Adventurers Club was Merriweather Adam Pleasure’s branch of S.E.A.
The first official Society of Explorers and Adventurers attraction was the Fortress Exploration walkthrough attraction at Tokyo DisneySea. Inside the Fortress Exploration there are numerous references to S.E.A. as well as Magellan’s restaurant.
The S.E.A. was really constructed to be a worldwide organization when it was brought up as the theming for the Tokyo version of the Tower of Terror. Disney couldn’t use the same backstory for this iteration of the Tower, so they had to come up with a whole new one. Thus the Hotel Hightower was born.
The Hotel Hightower’s backstory is that Harrison Hightower III, a member of S.E.A., is an avid collector of fine objects and artifacts. He does not have the best of intentions with said pieces, and is known to obtain them in some less-than-pleasant manners. He would display his collection at his hotel. Things go sour for Mr. Hightower when he goes out of his way to obtain the Shiriki Utundu from a remote African village. This angers the god for whom the artifact was created. The Shiriki Utundu is displayed at Hotel Hightower and the angry god makes sure to make Harrison Hightower III disappear on New Year’s Eve in 1899. The hotel closed until the New York Preservation Society reopened it in 1912. Now Harrison Hightower III haunts the hotel and is constantly tortured by the Shiriki Utundu.
Hong Kong Disneyland
I previously alluded to it, but Mystic Manor is also an attraction that connects to the S.E.A. The ride is set at Lord Henry Mystic’s outpost in Mystic Point in 1909. The story behind Mystic Manor is in 1880 Lord Henry Mystic opened his home as an S.E.A. meeting place. Then in 1896 Lord Mystic opened some parts of his house as a public art museum. Then in 1909, Lord Henry Mystic’s pet monkey, Albert, opens a Balinese music box that brings inanimate objects to life. This makes for a ride that is beloved by millions of park goers.
Hong Kong Disney doesn’t stop there. Since the opening of Mystic Manor is 2013, some of the Adventureland attractions have started incorporating S.E.A. in their backstories. For instance, the Curse of the Emerald Trinity, the ride overlay for the Hong Kong Disneyland version of Jungle Cruise, is a story about Professor Garrett Reed’s attempt at getting the Emerald Trinity. Professor Reed was a former S.E.A. member that was kicked out by Lord Henry Mystic for using very questionable tactics in the way he would obtain his archaeological artifacts.
Walt Disney World
The crown jewel of the Disney park family has a grand total of 5 different attractions that are connected to the S.E.A.
The first of the Disney World attractions to be linked to the S.E.A. is the classic Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The Thunder Mountain attraction tells the tale of the Big Thunder Mining Company. The Big Thunder Mining Company’s owner is Barnabas T. Bullion who is a member of the S.E.A. The queue for the ride has letters exchanged between Mr. Bullion and Jason Chandler who, with the consulting from his former colleague at the Museum of the Weird Madame Zarkov, both advise to end the mining at Big Thunder Mountain due to the supernatural activity at the location.
The next obvious S.E.A. connection is at the Skipper Canteen. The Skipper Canteen was used as a meeting place for the S.E.A. In fact, there is an S.E.A. meeting room that guests can eat in. The meeting room has walls with bookshelves that are filled with books written by S.E.A. members.
In 2017, Typhoon Lagoon debuted Miss Adventure Falls. This attraction is telling the tale of Captain Mary Oceaneer, a prominent member of the S.E.A., and her parrot. The two are on a treasure hunt when a massive storm comes and strands them on Typhoon Lagoon.
The United Kingdom Pavilion in Epcot has the Library of the Royal Adventurer’s Society in the Kids’ Station. This library showcases the book “Society of Explorers and Adventurers Handbook” as well as other books referencing the S.E.A. and artwork either by S.E.A. members or obtained by S.E.A. members.
The AbracadaBar at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort has a few S.E.A. references. The story behind the bar is that it hosted magicians until 1940 when on a Friday the 13th every magician disappeared. One of the props left behind by a magician is a fez with the S.E.A. symbol on it.
On the other coast of the United States, Disneyland has its fair share of S.E.A. references. Their own version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has a portrait of Barnabas T. Bullion as well as some cargo that is set to ship to Jason Chandler.
The Tropical Hideaway is a 2018 restaurant extension to the Enchanted Tiki Room that is decorated with various items detailing S.E.A. members and their expeditions. This is also the location that is first to mention Camellia Falco, who is expected to show up in DisneySea’s upcoming version of Soarin’.
The popular restaurant Bengal Barbeque is noted to have first been an outpost of S.E.A. members in 1899. A portrait of the members of the club stands as wall decoration as proof. The restaurant also shows a photo of Professor R. Blauerhimmel in a biplane cockpit writing letters to known S.E.A. members Elizabeth Doer and Bessie Steele. The coolest connection in Bengal Barbeque has to be the picture of Charlie Allnut and Rose Sayer from the film “African Queen” aboard the Jungle Cruise ship Zambezi Miss alongside Lord Henry Mystic and his trusty sidekick Albert the Monkey.
In the French version of the Disney parks there is Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost which has a piece of luggage with an S.E.A. sticker on the side.
Cafe Hyperion is known because Captain Brieux, of the airship The Hyperion, is a well known S.E.A. member. Other than the fact that he is a member of the S.E.A. there are no distinct ways to connect the restaurant to the S.E.A.
Aboard the cruise ships the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder there is Oceaneer’s Lab. This is an obvious reference to Mary Oceaneer, the S.E.A. member. The lab has portraits of Mary Oceaneer as well other members, such as Lord Henry Mystic. It also contains some newspaper clippings in reference to the disappearance of Harrison Hightower III. The last S.E.A. connection is that there is a captain’s hat that is said to be a gift from Dr. J.L. Baterista, also a member of the S.E.A.