Society features

What is the Secret Society of Disney Explorers and Adventurers?

Disney’s secret society, the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, is open to everyone…if you know where to look. (Photos: Carly Caramanna; Walt Disney World Resort)

The Disney parks may be synonymous with Dole Whips and happily ever after, but did you know they’re also home to a fictional secret society? It’s called SEA (pronounced as an acronym, not as a synonym for ocean) and if you’ve visited a Disney park in the world, you’ve probably been there just by riding an attraction or sipping a cocktail.

What is SEA?

The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, the brainchild of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), takes storytelling in a whole new direction with a cast of fictional characters far from the likes of Goofy and Mickey Mouse. Characters, from an artifact thief to a famous sea captain, are tied to Disney parks around the world, including attractions and restaurants, and serve as a means of providing backstory to certain attractions and canonically link certain intellectual properties. In short, SEA is not a attractionbut one connector.

The long-standing mythology of SEA can be traced back to an actual (and now defunct) Walt Disney World lounge, The Adventurers Club. The popular nightclub was located in Pleasure Island, an entertainment district located where Disney Springs is now located. The club was fictitiously founded by a member of SEA Merriweather Adam Pleasuremaking it the company’s very first appearance on Disney properties in 1989.

SEA has since evolved, with new characters and allusions to Society members spread across every square inch of Disney properties, including Disney Resort Hotels and Disney Cruise Line.

To Expo D23, a Disney fan convention held annually in Anaheim, Calif., WDI hosted a panel exclusively dedicated to the secret society. In addition to announcing a upcoming SEA-based TV series for Disney+his creative tracks dug deep into the history of the secret society and what the future may hold.

Much of SEA’s overall theme relates to Walt Disney’s fascination with exploration, discovery, and education. “The idea is that they’re trying to figure things out, gain knowledge, understand the world better…and live to tell the story,” shares Mark LaVine, an executive who works in story development. at WDI. “Because if you go on these big adventures and you don’t surviving is kind of a sad story.”

The fake organization’s goal is to collect and preserve the artistic and cultural artifacts of their adventures – with many of these props hidden in plain sight for guests to spot.

The utter fascination has attracted an entire fan base that is now branching out into merchandise and even a book series. Some characters are inspired by famous Imagineers, like Joe Rohde who ran Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. Because of the immense possibilities of storytelling, it’s a way for Disney Imagineers to freely flex their creative muscles in a way like never before.

Who is part of SEA?

The carefully trained (and fiery) members of the group are scientists, researchers, artists, explorers and adventurers from all over the world. These fictional characters are tied to popular Disney franchises, like IndianaJones and Jungle Cruise. With an adventurous flair akin to the exploration days of yore, many of their storylines are set in the early to mid-20th century.

“SEA is truly global and we’re excited to know where we can take these stories,” shares Kiran Jeffery, vice president of content planning and partnerships at WDI. “There are so many more places to explore, characters to meet – and we’re just getting started.”

You won’t find these members at traditional character encounters in the park, but they play a key role in the storytelling of your favorite attractions.

There are Barnabas T. Bullion, connected to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The American businessman came from a family of miners and eventually became the owner and president of the Big Thunder Mining Company.

Dr. Albert Falls is an English explorer and scientist known for his ability to navigate a remote body of water. He is widely associated with Jungle Cruise and credited with discovering the “behind the water” and founding the Jungle Navigation Company, a shipping company. his granddaughter, Alberta Fallsis now a staple of SEA, at Magic Kingdom Park.

During a panel at D23 Expo, Imagineers reviewed SEA members and their relationship with Disney Parks.  (Photo: Carly Caramanna)

During a panel at D23 Expo, Imagineers reviewed SEA members and their relationship with Disney Parks. (Photo: Carly Caramanna)

Captain Mary Oceaneera famous sea captain, is tied to Disney Cruise Line’s Oceaneer Club and Lab and is the focus of the Miss Adventure Falls raft ride at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park.

Harrison Hightower III, based on former Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde, is a corrupt member of SEA who has stolen numerous artifacts. His story is the basis of Tokyo Disneyland’s version of Tower of Terror.

Mystical Lord Henryan English aristocrat, is prominent at Hong Kong Disneyland and the basis of the Mystic Manor attraction – his version of Haunted Mansion.

Camellia Falcothe first female inductee into the society, stars in Tokyo DisneySea’s version of Soarin’ – Soaring: Fantastic Flight.

Where can you spot nods to SEA?

Easter eggs acknowledging the existence of SEA can be found at Disney theme parks and resorts around the world – if you know where to find them. “There are so many that even our fans find that I didn’t know existed,” says Juleen Woods, project coordinator at WDI. “That’s the fun part. We can keep adding them to our parks and keep building the story.”

“We are constantly adding elements to our stories and attractions,” adds Kiran Jeffery, vice president of content and partnership planning at WDI. “There’s a backstory to everything. We don’t just randomly put things in the park. We always think How does this connect to each character?”

SEA’s first large-scale introduction to Disney Parks was the Fortress Explorations attraction at Tokyo DisneySea. This huge complex, which serves as the company’s headquarters, is home to numerous interactive exhibits and three character-based restaurants.

Although its presence is felt around the world, SEA maintains close ties with Disney parks in the United States.

The company's secret crest is on a wall in the dining room inside the Jungle Skipper Co. LTD Skipper Canteen restaurant.  (Photo: Carly Caramanna)

The company’s secret crest hangs on a wall in the dining room of the Jungle Skipper Co. LTD Skipper Canteen restaurant. (Photo: Carly Caramanna)

Walt Disney World and Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise also serve as cargo shipping locations for other SEA members: you can spot the company logo printed on wooden crates in the queue. Disney World’s Jungle Navigation Co. LTD’s Skipper Canteen restaurant was started by Alberta Falls, the granddaughter of SEA member Albert Falls. His waiting room is full of photos of the two and there’s even a secret SEA members secret bedroom in the back of the restaurant. Here you can spot a large crest of the organization and fez hats emblazoned with the logo.

Disneyland’s Tropical Hideaway is a quick-service outlet that serves Dole Whips and features a wall of expedition paddles from well-known and lesser-known members. At the nearby Disneyland Hotel, many SEA-related artifacts adorn the walls of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, including a bronze bust of Dr. Albert Falls.

Expedition paddles of SEA members, on display at Disneyland's Tropical Hideaway.  (Photo: Carly Caramanna)

Expedition paddles of SEA members, on display at Disneyland’s Tropical Hideaway. (Photo: Carly Caramanna)

Disney World Hangar Bar Jock Lindsey, located in Disney Springs, is an airplane hanger-themed bar founded by Indiana Jones Airman Jock Lindsey. At Disney’s BoardWalk, you can spot an SEA member fez among the magician’s props at AbracadaBar. A portrait of Barnabas T. Bullion can be spotted in the queue at Disney World and Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

What future for SEA?

The organization offers unlimited potential for Imagineers as they explore ways to incorporate it into attractions and theme parks. “We’ve been so excited about SEA and what we can do with it,” Lavine shares. “Several years ago we went back to the Imagineering writers room and really started to focus on expanding that world.”

The current focus is on incorporating more female and diverse characters: this includes the addition of Camellia Falco and a Japanese entomologist. Dr. Kon Chunosuke. “EES is inclusive and it’s about representation,” says Jeffery. “It has to concern everyone.”

First and foremost, though, it’s all about fun – and Disney Parks’ most loyal fans can’t get enough.