20,000 League Under the Sea has long been a mainstay of Disney theme parks, with a walk-through attraction opening in Disneyland a few weeks after the park itself in 1955, and a beloved ride at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom that similarly opened shortly after that park’s launch in 1971. You pretty much have to be old as heck to remember any of this, though; the Disneyland attraction closed in 1966, and despite being one of the most popular rides at the Magic Kingdom, the submarine ride at Disney World closed in 1994. Disney’s 1954 film adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel was one of the company’s biggest live action hits, and still has a notable presence at some of Disney’s international parks—there’s a 20,000 Leagues ride at Tokyo Disney Sea, and a walkthrough attraction in Disneyland Paris, whose version of Tomorrowland (known as Discoveryland) is mostly based on Verne’s works. Despite that, the only real sign of the movie’s long relationship with the theme parks that you can find in America is a drink at the Trader Sam’s tiki bar at Disney World; the Nautilus (recommended for two to four people) comes in a mug shaped like Harper Goff’s iconic submarine design from the movie, and a snippet of the audio from the old Magic Kingdom ride plays in the bar whenever the drink is served.
If you’re like me, and you really miss that ride at the Magic Kingdom—or if you’re a Disney parks obsessive who needs to know as much about them as possible (trust me, I’m right there with you)—you’ll probably want to check out the latest VR video from Defunctland. The YouTube channel has been producing well-made, highly informative videos about Disney and other theme parks for years, and their latest release is a VR recreation of the Magic Kingdom’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage. As somebody who rode this thing a dozen times in the ‘80s, and not once in the 30 years since, let me tell you: this is pretty great.
Defunctland recreated the full experience of the attraction, from the queue, to the ride itself, using 3D graphics and the actual audio from the attraction. It can’t match the real thing—for the closest approximation of that, you should watch this while crammed into a small, tight room with a few dozen strangers and their hot breath and the unique body odors that arise from a day of walking beneath the hot Florida sun—but it’s more faithful and powerful than any of the poorly filmed ride-through videos on YouTube. If you want to be taken back to that lagoon that used to exist in Fantasyland, or just experience the ride for the first time, it’s worth loading up on your VR headset. You can watch it on YouTube, or download the file directly through that YouTube page. Just make sure you have an Oculus, Vive, or Index VR headset, or an Oculus Quest with a link cable. Oh, and strap on a pair of headphones and kill the lights, for the best experience.
Defunctland VR is basically a passion project for a team of dedicated theme park fans, one devoted to letting us appreciate the art and design of themed spaces that no longer exist. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage is the first attraction to get that treatment, and they did a fantastic job with it. I can’t wait to see what comes next, and it better be the Magic Kingdom’s unique dual-track version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, music, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.