I have only the vaguest of memories of Walt Disney World’s old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage ride. It was a part of the park from 1971 until 1994. I was very young when I went on it shortly before it closed. The passage of time has left the experience a haze. And since the attraction disappeared two-and-a-half decades ago, with almost no chance of ever returning, that’s all it would have remained. Destined to the purgatory of old pictures and low-quality videos. Until now that is. A YouTuber has reconstructed the ride in virtual reality, in an example of sci-fi becoming reality that would have impressed Jules Verne himself.
Kevin Perjurer has been keeping the memory of old amusement park attraction’s alive at his YouTube channel Defunctland. It’s a theoretical theme park full of abandoned or decommissioned rides; a place to avoid being lost to time. But his latest video (which we first heard about at Polygon) is more than a memory; it’s a chance to experience the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage ride again. A team of volunteers helped him reconstruct the forgotten attraction using Unreal Engine. They relied on old footage from the park shot in the ’80s and ’90s.
See? Your dad wasn’t just being a huge nerd when he lugged that giant camcorder all over the park. He was unknowingly creating to a record of attractions that otherwise wouldn’t exist. (He was still a huge nerd though.)
As for the 360-degree VR ride itself, it starts with a walk through Defunctland. Visitors hear announcements from the P.A. system as they approach the ride. Fortunately they don’t have to actually wait in line for 45 minutes before buckling into on one of the underwater ships that used to take Walt Disney World guests into a recreation of Jules Verne’s classic novel. From there they get a fully recreated experience that lines up with the real thing.
You can compare it to this video of the actual ride from 1991.
Oculus, Vive, and Index users can also take a virtual reality spin on the ride.
But even just sitting and looking around on YouTube is fun, whether you have clear or fuzzy memories of the real thing or not. There’s a very good chance 1991 is the year I went on the ride. And the VR version from Defunctland offers a much clearer way to re-experience it.