Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Atlantean Encounter

Image courtesy Ryan Cain of Intercot West

It's hard for me to believe, but today marks the ten year anniversary of the Atlantean Encounter flap between Park management and Imagineering. Rumors of the Submarine Voyage's demise had swirled for a while--and with good reason. Not only had the New Tomorrowland renovation ignored the subs, but Judson Green's mantra that an existing attraction had to shut down to balance out the cost of operating a new attraction (in this case, Innoventions) was still in play. The claim of a Disneyland spokeswoman in April that they had no plans "at this time" to remove the Submarine Voyage hardly seemed believable. But it was still shocking to find that, on the morning of May 15, 1998, WDI preemptively advertised the replacement for the subs!

Image courtesy Ryan Cain

That morning, signs of, well, something showed up in the lagoon. A new blue canvas tent covered part of the submarine storage area. Accompanying this was a large banner which proclaimed:
Atlantis Expedition
Imagineering Preparation Base
WDI apparently put this up without informing Park management and by the middle of the day the promising banner had been removed. Though the banner came down, a new flag--an A crossed by a pitchfork against an aqua backdrop--appeared above the dock. The regulars on the alt.disney.disneyland newsgroup enjoyed the unfolding drama and two days after the banner's appearance, an Orange County Register article investigated the tension between Park management and WDI. My favorite part is that WDI apparently planned this for a time when Park people were otherwise preoccupied with the New Tomorrowland (about which I'll have more next week):
The sign went up Friday without the knowledge of most Disneyland officials, including the theme park's senior marketing team, which was closeted in meetings planning the opening of Disneyland's updated Tomorrowland next weekend.
The most oft-repeated part of the story is Marty Sklar threatening to lay across Harbor Boulevard if they shut down the subs without a replacement. (Frankly, I'm surprised that nobody ever made such an image!) Despite the testing in the lagoon, this Atlantis idea never got anywhere and the tarp disappeared the first week in September:
The submarines themselves stuck around in public view for a few more years, before they disappeared into the catacombs:

For additional photos of the tent, check out pages 10, 11 and 12 of Intercot West's Submarine Voyage photo gallery. Judi Lane was also there that morning and posted photos of the tent with and without banner. The thumbnails in the archived version of her page are broken, but several of the full-size links still work.

My recounting of the above is based on the newspaper story, that Usenet thread linked to above, and my personal memory. Though I didn't make it to the Park until that afternoon (I might have actually gone to school that day), I did follow the proceedings. I had thought WDI put a poster for the coming attraction on display, but somewhere my memory got muddied. No poster heralded the Atlantean Encounter that morning. But there was a poster produced to sit outside the attraction once it closed. Park management, however, didn't look too kindly on that idea. The poster is presented below for perhaps its first public viewing. I really think the designer (Josh Shipley) did a good take on the classic poster; the vein is quite a bit different than the Finding Nemo version! And we all know the future's a scary place... This is one of but a handful of these posters produced and is one of my most prized Disneyland items. I'm not sure the other copies have even left WDI! HUGE thanks to my mom for finding and photographing this on short notice.

One of the people involved in this--publicity stunt? fun gag?--couldn't believe that I still remembered this, but I don't think I'm alone. Did any reader out there see the banner that morning? Or remember reading the story in the Register? Share your memories!


Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

WOW! This was all news to me! Fantastic information and details! A Big Thank You out to Jason’s Mom for the awesome RARE – never seen by me - poster. What was the “Atlantis Expedition” going to consist of? A better story line than Nemo? THANKS for the great post!

The Viewliner Limited said...

This is truly fantastic information. And "WOW" what a great poster.

Unknown said...

Fantastic post.


Kudos for putting it together and sharing it with us.

Anonymous said...

let me chime in here...

Some work was done on the subs for the Atlantis expedition. One of the subs was outfitted with a wiring and light system to simulate the sub moving through a volcanic explosion. This is the same effects system used for the "mine" scene in the Nemo version of the subs. Also, they had mocked up one of the subs with a series of underwater claws. I don't think that this was completely done. But the idea was that guests could pick up "jewels" and "treasures" using the claw system and then actually keep what they collected.

And, um, then the movie bombed at the box office.

Eric Scales said...

I seem to remember seeing the blue covering and the Atlantis flag, but don't remember the banner. I wasn't online back then- hilarious to read the online discussion. You can replace the attraction names and it's the same discussion that's repeated every time an attraction is about to close, or open. I remember attending the decommissioning ceremony and final voyage, despite only being a Disney store cm. Someone tipped me and my friends off, that as long as we quickly flashed our ID, it would be fine, though it was only supposed to be DL CM's.

Thanks Jason, Josh, and Jason's mom for that poster pic!

Anonymous said...

I was dockside with Bruce Gordon that morning, admiring the guilty Imagineers' handiwork from the night before.

Apparently, word reached TDA management about the banner on the tent later that afternoon, and a state of near panic ensued. As the story has been repeated to me, Pressler didn't want the fans believing the subs were being re-Imagineered, since the decision to remove them had already been decided.

So, he immediately dispatched his flying monkeys to the lagoon, who ventured out in the maintenance dingy and promptly tore down the banner. But in their haste to remove any hint of Imagineering's effects testing under the blue tarp, the worker bees failed to notice the Atlantis flag flying on the dockside pole in front of the tent's entrance. (You can see the flagpole to the left and in front of the tent in one of Intercot's archived photos . Bruce later jokingly ridiculed them for failing to notice the flag, which I believe remained until the blue tent's removal.

FYI to Progressland... Josh's full sized poster for Atlantean Encounter was hanging near Tony's office on Flower St during this time. (Does anyone know what happened to it?) Perhaps this is where your "memory got muddied."

Thanks for the post. Good times!!

Jason Schultz said...

Thanks for the additional information! Additional information I have was that the banner was up from about 7 AM to 11 AM and the flag did stick around the entire time. (That amazes me because I don't think I took any photos of the flag! I'll have to check my Hi-8 tapes.) I hear that Tony still does have a poster in his office. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage will one day be replaced by something else, right?...

Anonymous said...

The poster was still up next to Tony's office a few months ago.