by Emily Owens-Pickle
In 2006 I embarked on what has been and will be the adventure of my life... marriage.
True, it is not a trip for everyone and I might not have made the journey myself except that I lucked out in my choice of partner -- laid-back, hard-working, and awfully cute, one of the first things my then-boyfriend-now-husband said to me was that love is an ‘adventure’ (*swoon).
It was time to celebrate this adventure that could be likened to an exotic safari: romance, danger, possibly some angry growling and cherished memories. Last weekend Evan and I combined all of the above and took advantage of what will soon be a myth itself... the Adventurers Club (AC) in Downtown Disney.
This was my first initiation into the AC and I was taken as soon as I whooshed through the revolving doors. You enter the AC on the second floor of the building; artifacts, pictures, and other AC paraphernalia line every inch of space along the walls. Anniversary pins in place and being that the evening is a celebration, I headed toward the bar where I was given a generous (VERY generous) drink -- KUNGALOOSH!
While in line we mingled with other guests and I was pleased by the ‘type’ of crowd the AC draws. Everyone was friendly and ready to be a bit silly; one guest helped me pick out my drink, another couple strolled by in full 1930s regalia, and another guest helped teach me the official AC toast, the aforementioned KUNGALOOSH!
Drinks in hand we headed downstairs to trial run our new toast... for the second or third time. Well -- Evan ‘headed’, I jogged. I absolutely could not stand to miss one minute of this club -- we only had two and a half hours to enjoy the show! Immediately I met the club curator and treasurer, both who wished Evan and I a happy anniversary and agreed that ‘relief’ of getting through marriage this long was probably the best gift to one another. The treasurer, Mr. Otis T. Wren, kindly offered us both some ‘half-eaten’ mints... I declined but Evan tried one.
Licorice. Mints. Half-eaten licorice mints.
Let me pause at the mints in case I have lost you at ‘half-eaten’ for a quick AC tutorial. When you walk in the front door at the AC you have left the current year and Walt Disney World. You are now a recruit in a spirited membership drive for a 1937 adventurers club. Surrounded by a wild cast of characters, you and other guests are taken through a series of new member activities including initiation, sing-alongs, and adventure-sharing. The extensive club theming, the cast, the guests -- everyone and everything is a part of making this an escape into a different time and place; it is an irreplaceable evening experience.
While Evan reluctantly finished his mint we wandered into the mask room and then almost immediately were back in the main salon for an official AC toast refresher given by the dim-witted Adventurer of the Year, Emil Bleehall, and Treasurer Wren. These two were an absolute riot and inside jokes flowed freely about the impending closing doors of the AC. After some of Bleehall’s absent-minded shenanigans Treasurer Wren commented that Bleehall was going to be a fantastic addition to Halloween Horror Nights. Blehall enthusiastically replied by throwing his hands in the air and shouting ‘I have a job!’
Treasurer Wren explained the evening’s events to the recruits ending with an announcement of the AC finale ‘The Hoopla!’ His last word was immediately echoed with a resounding shout of ‘Hoopla!’ from at least 60 percent of the audience. Wren played it up repeating ‘hoopla’ every few words while his audience shouted it back louder and louder each time. Defeated by the almost deafening shouts he finally hung his head and finished his monologue adding, ‘I really hate you guys.’
The night went by in a blur of songs, new friends, and laughing faces interspersed with shouts of KUNGALOOSH! Evan and I were lucky enough to grab seats at ‘The ‘Hoopla (HOOPLA!). The songs were clever and ridiculous; I could have easily enjoyed a much longer hoopla (HOOPLA!!). We sat with a very nice older couple who we chatted with -- after the hoopla (HOOPLA!!!) the gentlemen took us outside and pointed out some of the amazing Imagineer creativity and detail that went into the ‘artifacts’ lining the mezzanine and balcony of the club. As we started to leave he stopped to give us a homemade CD of the Adventurers Club Greatest Hits!
It was such an amazing experience to enjoy a place as unique as the AC is with another couple with whom we would seemingly share little common interest at first glance. Yet there we were giggling together as Bleehall belted out ‘Put Your Cheeks Against the Window’, his family’s long-used mating song that includes the heart-wrenching verse ‘You had my heart when I saw your full eclipse...’
It made me really sad to see first-hand how much this club means to so many adult guests of differing ages and backgrounds. I have a family so, yes, I am thrilled that Disney caters to my demographic... at the moment. One day, Evan and I will be celebrating our 50th anniversary... what then? Will we have an opportunity to sit down with a young couple and share something as adult (and juvenile) and original and as wonderful as the Adventurers Club?
I cannot see Saturday night's scenario playing out at T-Rex restaurant. Or Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or any of the myriad of attractions that have recently been added to cater to a much-younger demographic while the adult-only entertainment has been ignored or, in the case of the Pleasure Island, eliminated.
I cannot help but grin when I see the lights twinkling on a whirling Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel. I cry every time Marlin tells Nemo how old sea turtles are -- I am an unabashed kid at heart. But for every Mickey Ear ice cream I eat (devour), I equally enjoy sipping (devouring) a glass of Jardin at Jiko. And for every Voices of Liberty ballad I tear up at, I want to snicker at an AC song. It seems lately that Disney is making a clear shift to an almost exclusive focus on family entertainment. Again -- I have a small child and I know that families always have and always will be Disney’s ‘niche’. But families come in all shapes, sizes... and ages. The mission of Disney is to ‘…create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment to people of all ages, everywhere.” Their very statement of purpose shows that Disney prides itself on catering to diversity -- my hope is that their guest pendulum is not swinging too far to one side and subsequently away from an admirable mission.
Maybe I am wrong... maybe by 2066 Evan and I will not be interested in anything Disney except for an occasional shuttling in from Mars to watch virtual reality fireworks from the comfort of our hovercraft... but I would like to think that many years from now, Evan and I will be as adventuresome, savvy and kind as the couple we sat with. I would also like to think that Disney will have a place as unique and wonderful as the Adventurers Club where we will be able to knowingly share a lifetime of adventures with a couple just starting their own...
To all fellow club members I lift my morning coffee and offer a heartfelt and grinning KUNGALOOSH!