Disney and Ron Moore Are Working on a Franchise Based on the Disney Theme ParksPhoto from Unsplash TV News Disney
Hollywood Reporter had the scoop: Ronald D. Moore, the co-creator, developer and executive producer of shows like Outlander, For All Mankind, and Syfy’s beloved Battlestar Galactica reboot, will be spearheading a Disney+ franchise based on the Disney theme parks. This Magic Kingdom Universe will bring together stories, characters and concepts from the theme parks in a new shared universe, so if you’ve ever wanted to see a Jungle Cruise skipper hang out with the hitchhiking ghosts from Haunted Mansion, you just might get your wish.
You might be tempted to dismiss this kind of intellectual property mashup as an uninspired nostalgia cash-in, but Moore’s first project in the franchise should entice deeply embedded Disney parks fans. The Society of Explorers and Adventures takes its name from a fictional group of adventurers that features in the backstory of various Disney attractions from around the globe. S.E.A., as its known, has mostly been background lore in those attractions, but its helped connect different rides from different Disney parks in a pulpy, film serial concept not too dissimilar from Indiana Jones. The idea was first introduced when DisneySEA opened in Tokyo in 2011, but the core concept can be traced back to the now-shuttered Adventurer’s Club nightclub at Disney World’s Pleasure Island. An evening at the Adventurer’s Club brought guests back to a 1937 meeting of a group that was retroactively changed to S.E.A., with animatronics and live actors performing an immersive little theater piece. Since then S.E.A. has been seeded throughout rides, restaurants, and other attractions at Disney parks and the Disney Cruise Line, including some rides that predate the concept. It’s usually done almost as an Easter egg, though—if you’re familiar with the concept of S.E.A., you’ll probably recognize the references, and if you aren’t, it’ll all just feel like period set dressing—a part of the show.
As a big fan of Disney parks who’s always a little leery of Disney squeezing characters from popular movies and TV shows into attractions where they maybe don’t fit, this focus on S.E.A. actually has me really interested in whatever Moore is cooking up. Disney has often tried to turn its theme park stories into larger media properties—Pirates of the Caribbean was a smash that went on to change the ride it was based on, but Haunted Mansion, Country Bear Jamboree, and Tomorrowland range from bad to mediocre, and the jury’s still out on the pandemic-delayed Jungle Cruise movie. Perhaps a talented group of creators with experience producing high-quality shows with long, relatively intricate stories would be able to build on the work of the Disney Imagineers in ways that Hollywood has generally failed to do. And if such a show could prove the continued relevance of older attractions to a Disney management that is squarely focused on adding as much intellectual property to the parks as possible, it would probably help fans of those classic rides and shows feel a little bit better about the future of the theme parks.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Moore has already put together a writer’s room, and it’s working with Disney Imagineering on its plans. Imagineering has lost some of its most senior talent during the pandemic, including Joe Rohde, one of the chief Imagineers behind the S.E.A. concept, who recently departed after four decades with the company. Hopefully some of the remaining Imagineers who worked with Rohde and other old guard parks creatives understand what makes the S.E.A. idea work, and will be able to help Moore’s team bring that vision to TV.