Here begins the first exhibit in The Gaijin Ghost’s TDR Museum, a series spotlighting extinct attractions at Tokyo Disney Resort. This series will update over time, charting the evolution of both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea as old shows and rides are retired and replaced with new ones at the parks.
Once the centerpiece of Port Discovery at Tokyo DisneySea, the StormRider attraction flew its last flight on May 16th, 2016. This post serves as a scrapbook for the ride, with a brief write-up and 30 images chronicling its history.
In addition to being a FASTPASS attraction, StormRider was one of the original opening-day attractions at Tokyo DisneySea back in 2001.
Furthermore, the entire theme of Port Discovery was built around this landmark of the “Center for Weather Control” and its open house celebration (this, according to the backstory from an old press kit for Tokyo DisneySea).
In a marina docked with weather buoys and fish-like submarine capsules, the latter of which may have inadvertently foreshadowed the future of the attraction, guests would file into the building ...
... where a cast member would demonstrate the “Fuse,” a storm diffusion device to be detonated in the eye of an approaching storm.
Following this, the hangar doors would open, to the left and to the right, and guests would board one of two motion simulators. Inside, much like Star Tours over in Tokyo Disneyland, the screen in front of you would give the illusion of a windshield view. Except this was in 2D, not 3D, like Star Tours.
Once buckled in, guests would then take flight inside the storm of the century. The StormRider was meant to be a flying weather laboratory, but it would quickly turn into an escape vessel as stray bolts of lightning knocked both the second StormRider (in the adjacent motion simulator) and the Fuse out of commission.
At the end, your beleaguered aircraft would go into a sudden tailspin, and you would experience the sensation of dropping like a missile into the sea below. The windshield cover would start closing back up, and it would almost make it seem like you had plummeted to your death, save for a last glimpse of the StormRider bobbing back up to the ocean’s surface.
As it happens, that watery setting, where the StormRider made its splash landing, is exactly where its successor takes over. Coming in late spring of 2017, there is a new attraction headed for the StormRider spot in Port Discovery. The official press release from the Oriental Land Company, which furnished the above concept image, describes it as a ride “themed to the world of the Disney/Pixar films Finding Nemo and Finding Dory.”
The attraction is actually being co-developed by the production staff of Finding Dory, in conjunction with the sequel, which hit theaters in Japan on July 16th, 2016—about a month and a half prior to this posting, and two months to the day after the closing of StormRider. This time, guests will board a submarine for an underwater voyage.
It is unclear, at this point, whether the StormRider building will be getting any kind of exterior makeover, or whether they will just be re-working the inside of the attraction. In the immediate aftermath of StormRider’s closure, the entrance was blocked off with a row of potted plants and one of those Mickey Mouse signs that read, “Sorry … this facility is temporarily closed for improvements.”
This soon gave way to a white construction wall, with a mural near the entrance to Port Discovery, declaring, “Marine Life Institute - Coming Soon.” The mural invited guests to “Look for Dory,” and indeed, guests would gather around the mural, staring at it intently, looking for a hidden Dory in the picture.
Unbeknownst to them—until later, maybe, when they gave up looking and walked around the corner—they were the victims of a little time-wasting prank. Because the hidden Dory was actually right around the corner. You could find her on a rock on the way to the neighboring port of Lost River Delta, where her cohort Hank the octopus was perched with a coffee pot in his tentacle.
For a while, guests could still pick up some StormRider memorabilia at a nearby shop in Port Discovery called Discovery Gifts.
This is where they were selling the last of the StormRider souvenirs, such as file folders emblazoned with the words “StormRider Forever!”
Even though it is now a piece of park history, it was worth taking a look back at StormRider, since this attraction once formed the very lynchpin of Port Discovery's theme, and it no doubt remains closely intertwined with memories of the port for guests who visited DisneySea over its first fifteen years of operation.
Besides, though it may have slipped into the past now, the Center for Weather Control was always supposed to be “located across the horizons of time” (to quote the DisneySea guide map). So think of it that way: not gone, but still existing somewhere, across the horizons of time.
Update: 10/14/2016. The official TDR blog has released more concept art for Nemo & Friends SeaRider, as it is now called, showing that the exterior will in fact be a modified version of the StormRider building.
DisneySea will therefore retain one of its dominant structures, a key feature of the Port Discovery skyline, where the echo of StormRider lives on in architecture (rather like the majestic hull of a sunken ship, which has since been repurposed as an undersea playground for blue tangs and clownfish of the talking sort.)
Frequent Disney parkgoers, mostly adults, often bemoan the fact that kid-friendly characters are commandeering the theming of all the attractions inside the parks. First the integrity of Florida's Epcot was compromised. Is DisneySea next?
The Gaijin Ghost will reserve judgment till SeaRider has opened.
Second update: 03/22/2017. Today, Twitter user “haru” (@haru___photo) posted the above pic of Pixar/Disney Animation Studios CCO John Lasseter and his posse prowling Port Discovery, near the construction wall. Lasseter is also the Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering, so it follows he would have a big hand in overseeing the creation of this new attraction.
Nemo & Friends SeaRider opens in less than two months.