Tokyo Disney Sea's Mysterious Island
Here is the part three in my series of articles on Tom "Thor" Thordarson and his amazing artwork. After being Director of Attraction Development at MCA Universal Studios, Hollywood, Tom became a WDI Disney Imagineer with his role as a Director/Senior Concept Designer.
Among his many assignments at Disney was the task of the concept design for one of the main "E-ticket" rides for the new Tokyo Disney Sea theme park in Japan called, "Journey to the Center of the Earth" the top rated thrill ride of Tokyo Disney Sea. Tom was also a key team player in the early design phases of many other attractions for Disney Sea, especially 20000 Leagues under the Sea at Mysterious Island.
Those of you who had the luck to visit this gorgeous theme park and remember Mysterious Island rides will see below how important Tom Thordarson's contributions were to the design of these rides.
First, i want to thank Tom very very much for the beautiful artwork and pictures he kindly provided to me for this article.
Here is Tom, in his own words, remembering his work on Mysterious Island and Journey to the center of the Earth:
"When I was first invited to be part of the TDS team, it was truly a project that I cannot recall being more excited about. Mysterious Island, with it's magical energy full of classic adventure was where everyone knew I belonged focusing upon, though I played with concepts for Port Discovery as well. They basically said: "This is based on the Jules Verne book in general, but give us your take on it." Disney had explored it loosely as a studio tour designed by Scott Sinclair, but I was allowed to use or scrap any past ideas as to the content of this story as it would become a ride.
I watched the movie with Pat Boone and read the book. I sat in my office at Imagineering for close to a year creating this ride in countless drawings, storyboards and paintings. I presented this ride again and again and was told by staff that my sound effects and enthusiastic body gestures were a "hard act to follow". lol! Michael Eisner was chuckling and well entertained repeatedly at my performances, I recall well. One Corporate Exec. stated, as I finished the very first presentation with my story boards, "Is it HOT in here..or is it me?
I truly lived this ride...over and over and by the time it was in show model form, I felt I had ridden the thing a thousand times. Every rock form, creature and sound was something I had to describe to the team in drawings and verbal dramatizations."
The first paintings below are Tom's artworks for "Journey to the Center of the Earth", Mysterious Island's feature ride. They are presented here in the chronological order of the attraction (If I'm not mistaking!) and also with some pictures that were shot before the opening, all from Tom's personal collection.
Here is Tom's design for the "Terravator" - the lift which "carries" the guests "deep down" to the load area.
This next artwork is Tom's painting for "Journey" load area. Long before it was built.
All the decor of "Journey to the Center of the Earth" is, of course a "subterranean" decor. So, as it is often the case at WDI, Tom and his early team went exploring caves for references for Journey's design. Tom is on the bottom right of the picture below. Tom says, "I could go on forever telling everyone about the details. I have included pictures of one of my early research trips into actual caves where i took countless photos. We had rangers take me deep into the caverns below where most people have ventured in tours. But I had to make all this bigger than life. I had to learn from real nature, but then project a sci-fi logic to the rest."
The rest of this story including many more never-seen-before artwork images is available at the link below on MiceChat partner site Disney and more:
Disney and more: A Tribute to Tom Thordarson - a.k.a " THOR " - Artwork - Part Three : Tokyo Disney Sea Mysterious Island