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March 24, 2014

Magic Kingdom's Adventureland - Part Three of Three

Jack Spence Masthead


Last Thursday I discussed the architecture of the Agrabah section of Adventureland and The Flying Carpets of Aladdin, the Sunshine Tree Terrace, tiki gods, and why Pirates of the Caribbean was added to the Magic Kingdom as an afterthought. Today I'll continue where I left off.

I have never written an article about the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction and I probably never will. The topic is just too large to cover in a two or three-part blog. In fact, an entire book has been written on this subject. If you're interested in a detailed history of this attraction, check out Amazon and look for "Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies" by Jason Surrell. I have this book and it is very interesting and chock-full of wonderful information and illustrations. Although I won't be writing about the attraction and its history here, I would still like to point out a few interesting facts found in this area.

The structure that houses Pirates is called Castillo del Morro. The Imagineers based many elements of this fortress on Castillo de San Felipe del Morro located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.


Pirates of the Caribbean Exterior

Pirates of the Caribbean Exterior

Pirates of the Caribbean Exterior

Pirates of the Caribbean Exterior


The clock tower is named Torre del Cielo. This means Tower of the Sky. It is styled after a Caribbean-style watchtower that guarded many island harbors.


Torre del Cielo

Torre del Cielo


If you remember your Disneyland history, you know that an AudioAnimatronics barker bird was placed near the entrance of the Enchanted Tiki Room when the attraction first opened to help draw guests inside.


Tiki Room Barker Bird


The Imagineers did the same thing with Pirates of the Caribbean in the Magic Kingdom. Here, they placed a peg-legged, tattoo sporting parrot near the ride's entrance to help lure guests onto the ride. With -Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" playing in the background, this salty ol' mate said such things as:

Heave to, maties! There be long boats waiting down by Pirates Cove (whistle) ... waitin' to take ya to the Spanish Main! (squawk) Right this way! Through the arches and down past the dungeons, in the old fortress. (whistle) We sail with the tide, sail with the tide! (squawk) Don't miss the boat, maties!

If you be seeking adventure and salty old pirates, (squawks) salty old pirates, salty old pirates! (whistles) We pillage and plunder! Rifle and loot! Yo ho, me hearties, yo ho! (squawks and whistles)"


Pirates of the Caribbean Barker Bird

Pirates of the Caribbean Barker Bird


Alas, the barker parrot was removed in 2006 and moved to the "Boys Apparel and Toy" section of the World of Disney store at Downtown Disney. But a more recent remodeling of this shop has seen him disappear completely.

At the same time they removed the parrot, the Imagineers also did away with the original attraction sign and replaced it with a ship's mast and crow's nest. Stationed high above is a skeleton with spyglass, checking on all those who dare to enter his lair.


Old Pirate Exterior

New Pirate Exterior

Crow's Nest


Another fixture that was removed were two pedestals with ornamental brass plates, advertising the attraction.


Pirate Sign

Pirate Sign


Even though the basic Pirate attraction was scaled down from the original at Disneyland (Disneyland 15:30 minutes / Magic Kingdom 8:30 minutes), the Magic Kingdom's version had by far the superior queue. In fact, at the time, it was the most elaborate queue ever imagined for a Disney attraction.


Pirate Queue

Pirate Queue

Pirate Queue

Pirate Queue


The queue is two sided and the sites and props are different depending on which one you enter. One bit of Disney trivia can be found on the right side. Through one of the dungeon cell windows are two skeletons playing a game of chess. Legend has it that Marc Davis carefully arranged the pieces so that any move would result in a stalemate. As neither proud player would admit to a tie, they died playing the game and are here to this day. Sometime in the 1990's, the attraction received a major refurbishment and the chess pieces were moved -- and no one knew how to correctly replace them. Then, as luck would have it, someone found some of Marc's original sketches and the game was restored.


Chess Game

AdventureMarc Davis Diagram


This story has its share of doubters. I browsed one website were an individual had taken numerous photographs of the cellmates, month after month, year after year. The chess pieces were forever moving as janitorial and other influences disturbed them. If this story was really true, why weren't the pieces glued to the board?

On another site, someone knowledgeable of chess claims that the "correct" placement does not end in a stalemate. They also state that the "correct" placement of the pieces would be impossible to achieve in a true chess match.

I have no idea what is and isn't true here, but it is a wonderful Disney legend none the less.

As with so many Disney attractions, guests exit Pirates of the Caribbean through a shop. Naturally, a wide array of pirate merchandise is available. And with the arrival of the Pirate movie franchise, even more goodies are here to tempt your children.


Pirate Shop

Pirate Shop


Next door to this shop is Pirates League. This is the male version of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Here, boys and men (and girls and women) can receive a buccaneer makeover. I received a new persona when this spot opened in spring, 2009. To learn more about my experience and this shop, click here.


Pirates League

Pirates League


After exiting the shop, take a look around. Next to Castillo del Morro, the Imagineers have created a seaport town reminiscent of the British and Spanish colonies of the 17th and 18th century West Indies.


Plaza del Sol

Plaza del Sol

Plaza del Sol

Plaza del Sol


Across Plaza del Sol is the only establishment where guests can purchase a full meal in Adventureland. Originally called El Pirata Y el Perico (The Pirate and the Parrot), this spot was recently renamed Tortuga Tavern to tie it into the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Notice how the exterior of this building looks like multiple businesses, with the main entrance resembling a tavern where pirates might have enjoyed a glass of grub and grog.


Tortuga Tavern

Tortuga Tavern

Tortuga Tavern


Tortuga Tavern is a counter service restaurant that sells Americanized Mexican food. A nearby topping bar allows guest to create their own taco salads and embellish other items. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. This restaurant is open seasonally. To see their menu, click here.


Tortuga Tavern

Tortuga Tavern

Tortuga Tavern

Tortuga Tavern


Hanging near the food ordering station is a sign announcing the Tortuga Tavern Code of Conduct. After each "official" rule is a handwritten addendum. As I know most of you will never read this sign while visiting Adventureland, I will post the rules here.


Tortuga Tavern Code of Conduct


Every man has equal title to fresh provisions -- iffin he has the gold

Ye fair ladies shall be treated in a favorable manner -- wenches be not fair ladies

A witness shall be present for gaming at cards or dice -- Short Drop and Sudden Stop for cheatin scallywags

Duels by cutlass or pistol shall be taken outside with witness -- ye witness must have one good eye

Damages unto an establishment shall be paid in gold, doubloons, or pieces of eight -- parrots be not legal tender -- ye be warned


As you might know, the Imagineers like to pay homage to old attractions and facilities when they are replaced by something new. Tortuga Tavern continues this tradition. In the rafters you'll find the old El Pirata Y el Perico keg that once was the marquee for this establishment.


El Pirata Y el Perico keg


There is an interior walkway that connects the Tortuga Tavern dining room with the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & CafΓ© dining room, however, it is not always open. When it is, it makes searching for a table a little easier on busy days.

Next to Tortuga Tavern is La Fuente de la Fortuna (The Fountain of Fortune). This represents the town's well where families fetched their daily bucket of water and gossiped with their neighbors. Today, the fountain seems to be a little overgrown.


La Fuente de la Fortuna


Next to the fountain is the Plaza del Sol Stage. Several times a day, Jack Sparrow and his first mate entertain guests with their antics in a show titled "Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial."


Plaza del Sol Stage

First Mate

Jack Sparrow


Once the show gets underway, Jack selects four children from the audience where he will teach them the "Jack Sparrow" technique of swordsmanship.


Pirate Tutorial

Pirate Tutorial

Pirate Tutorial


When the swordplay concludes, Jack selects about 20 more children from the audience to come up on stage. They are all given scrolls and then they must swear their allegiance to Jack and the pirate way of life.


Pirate Tutorial


During the 20 minute performance, a Disney photographer is on hand to capture the moments. When the show ends, she hands out PhotoPasses to all that wish them.


Disney photographer


Although adults will appreciate some of Jack's jokes, this show is more aimed at children. If your child wishes to be picked as one of the four swordsmen, then I suggest arriving a few minutes before the performance. It seems that children standing in the front row have the best chance of being selected. Check your Times Guide for times.

The Imagineers purposely chose Spanish influenced architecture for this section of Adventureland. This helps provide a seamless transition between this part of the park and the Spanish influence American West of adjoining Frontierland.

Technically, this arch represents the end of Adventureland and the beginning of Frontierland, but there is one more Adventureland attraction on the other side.


Adventureland/Frontierland Arch


For years, a shop called "The Crow's Nest" was located in a small, standalone building just beyond the arch. It sold Kodak film and assorted souvenirs.


The Crow's Nest


After Kodak ended its Disney sponsorship, this shop was converted into a new attraction, "A Pirate's Adventure -- Treasures of the Seven Seas."


A Pirate's Adventure -- Treasures of the Seven Seas

A Pirate's Adventure -- Treasures of the Seven Seas


"A Pirate's Adventure" is similar in concept to "Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom" on Main Street and "Phineas and Ferb" at Epcot, except this game is confined within Adventureland.

Guests enter this building and discover they're in a map room. The walls are covered with maps, charts, and navigation tools. A cast member instructs one person of your party to place their wristband or admission ticket on a starfish design found on one of the maps. This action will select one of five treasure maps for you to follow.


Map Room

Map Room

Map Room


Each map contains four to six treasure locations. Each location is marked by a special emblem. Some of these are a skull & crossbones, a parrot, a snake, palm trees, and a cannon. After reaching your first location, you tap your wristband or ticket on the emblem. This activates some activity or voice, giving you clues to the next location to visit. Some of these clues are vocal instructions, but others feature simple AudioAnimatronics. You might see a parrot talk, skeletons appear from beneath the water, or a treasure chest open wide.


A Pirate's Adventure

A Pirate's Adventure

A Pirate's Adventure

A Pirate's Adventure


When you have found all of the treasure on your map, you can go back to the starting point for another hunt until you've completed all five adventures. It takes about 15 minutes to complete one treasure search.

Beneath the Adventureland/Frontierland arch, several businesses have set up shop. One of these is Arribas Brothers. These enterprising fellows sell crystal works of art and jewelry. Across the way, another merchant sells hand-crafted rings. Here you can have you name or initials carved into brass, sterling silver, and gold.


Arribas Brothers

Ring Cutter

Ring Cutter


This winds up my look at Adventureland. As you can see, there is a lot to offer in this section of the Magic Kingdom. Walt's original idea for a jungle cruise based on his True Life Adventure films sparked quiet an elaborate undertaking. So next time you visit Adventureland, slow down and smell the roses. Try to walk to Pirates of the Caribbean, not run, and notice some of what I've pointed out here.


March 20, 2014

Magic Kingdom's Adventureland - Part Two of Three

Jack Spence Masthead


In Part One of this article I discussed the history of Adventureland, the entrance into this exotic land, the Adventureland Verandah restaurant, and Aloha Isle, home of the Dole whip. Today I'm going to continue my journey through this colorful area of the Magic Kingdom.

The Swiss Family Treehouse was an opening day Magic Kingdom attraction. Although it is skipped by many, others consider it a "must see" on every visit. This simple walk-thru attraction can also be found at Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland offer a similar attraction with Tarzan's Treehouse. Since I have written an entire article on the Swiss Family Treehouse in the past, I will not be covering it here. To find out more about this Disneyodendron eximus (out-of-the-ordinary Disney tree), click here.


Swiss Family Treehouse


One of the busiest set of restrooms at the Magic Kingdom can be found in the breezeway that connects Adventureland with Frontierland. Recently updated and expanded, these facilities are convenient to most of the nearby attractions. In addition, the breezeway is one of the best areas for those waiting for friends and family to finish their business. Even on the hottest days, it's usually somewhat comfortable inside this corridor.


Adventureland Restrooms

Adventureland Restrooms


To the east of this breezeway, the buildings have a tropical feel (as seen in Part One of this article). To the west they take on an arid quality that might suggest Northern Africa.


Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture


Inside these buildings are Island Supply Imports and Zanzibar Trading Company. These convincingly themed shops carry a wide variety of tropical and explorer-style clothing. And unlike so many other shops, you can also find a decent selection of non-Disney merchandise. Of course, the typical souvenirs are also available.


Adventureland Shops

Adventureland Shops

Adventureland Shops

Adventureland Shops

Adventureland Shops


As we continue exploring the north side of Adventureland, the buildings take on a distinctive Middle Eastern look. Merchants have set up colorful tents to tempt the passing caravans.


Adventureland Shops

Adventureland Shops

Adventureland Shops


Elephant Tales can be found beneath these canopies. Besides more Disney souvenirs, this shop offers exotic items like drums, bamboo wind chines, and rubber snakes.


Elephant Tales

Elephant Tales

Elephant Tales

Elephant Tales

Elephant Tales


When browsing any of the Adventureland shops, be sure to look up and notice the ceilings. Just like everything else, they are themed appropriately.


Adventureland Shop Ceilings

Adventureland Shop Ceilings

Adventureland Shop Ceilings

Adventureland Shop Ceilings


Next to Elephant Tales is Agrabah Bazaar. This is a meet-&-greet site for Aladdin and Jasmine.


Agrabah Bazaar

Agrabah Bazaar


While in this area, be sure to look at the ground. Jewels, tiles, and coins can be found imbedded into the pavement.


Adventureland Pavement

Adventureland Pavement

Adventureland Pavement


And while you're looking down, don't forget to look up again. There is an abundance of details to be seen on the second stories and roofs.


Adventureland Second Floors and Roofs

Adventureland Second Floors and Roofs

Adventureland Second Floors and Roofs

Adventureland Second Floors and Roofs

Adventureland Second Floors and Roofs

Adventureland Second Floors and Roofs


Of course, this section of Adventureland didn't always look like this. Before 2001, this area had a completely different feel -- a feel more of Africa than Agrabah. In fact, if you look closely at the third picture below, you just might be able to make out the word "LION" as in "LION KING."


Early Adventureland

Early Adventureland

Early Adventureland

Early Adventureland

Early Adventureland

Early Adventureland


On May 24, 2001, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin opened. With this new attraction came a re-theming of the surrounding buildings. Now the mysterious Middle East would be included in this land of adventure.


The Magic Carpets of Aladdin


Although the courtyard here was large, it wasn't quite large enough to hold this new attraction. A sizable planter and tree needed to be removed and part of the rockwork lining the Tiki Room had to be repositioned before construction could begin. Although I applaud the decision to add a new attraction into Adventureland, the area is now tight and very congested on busy days.


Tiki Room Remodel


Based on the 1992 film "Aladdin," The Magic Carpets of Aladdin is a ride similar in design to Dumbo. Here, a rotating center pylon supports 16 flying carpets, each capable of holding four guests. The front seat features a joystick that controls the height of the carpet and the backseat has a lever that regulates the forward and backward pitch. The ride lasts approximately ninety seconds. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin opened on May 24, 2001 and was recently added to the FastPass+ roster of attractions.


The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin


Positioned around the attraction are two spitting camels. One aims for passing pedestrians while the other targets those flying by. Don't worry. The camels are smart enough to stop their mischievous ways when the weather is cool.


Spitting Camel

Spitting Camel

Spitting Camel


Check out this two minute video of the Flying Carpets of Aladdin.



Across from The Flying Carpets of Aladdin is a unique outdoor-foods cart. This one sells both pork and vegetable eggrolls (and corn dogs). The eggrolls taste pretty good and are definitely a change from so much of the other quick service food found around the park.


Outdoor Food Cart

Egg Rolls


Further down the pathway we come across six tiki gods designed by Disney Legend Marc Davis. When originally installed, these humorous fellows were simply a show piece with no water feature. However, rain, humidity, and human contact took their toll on these wooden fellows and eventually they needed to be replaced.

Within WDI (Walt Disney Imagineering) is a program called SQS (Show Quality Standards). It is these operating standards that insure that any replacement, change, or addition made within the parks is consistent with the original design intent.

When it came time to replace these tikis, the Imagineers knew they wanted to retain the humor Marc Davis was going for when he created them years earlier. However, the Imagineers also knew they wanted to "plus" the exhibit. Working with Park Operations and SQS, they crafted new tikis out of more durable fiberglass. They also enhanced the tikis with the ability to create a steamy backdrop and squirt passersby with streams of water.

If you look closely at the first two pictures below, you can see a few differences. The first picture depicts how the exhibit looks today. The second shows how it looked a number of years ago. Notice the color difference. Also notice that the first picture has a drain hole for the water while the second does not.


Tiki Gods

Tiki Gods

Tiki Gods


The tikis offer another wonderful photo opportunity. By the way, that's a much younger me in the second picture.

These tiki gods act as a tie-in to Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room which is located just across the walkway. They were/are a transition from the African/Middle Eastern backdrop of the plaza area to the more tropical environment of birds, flowers, and more tikis found in the nearby attraction.

At Disneyland, the Tiki Room was tucked into a small space just past the Adventureland entrance. Considering it was the first real Audio-Animatronics attraction, its location was rather uninspiring. When it came time to build the Magic Kingdom, the Imagineers wanted to give this attraction the exterior façade it deserved. To that end, an eight-story pagoda was created to anchor the show. In addition, the exterior walls were ornately decorated with a South Pacific tribal motif.


Tiki Room Exterior

Tiki Room Exterior

Tiki Room Exterior

Tiki Room Exterior

Tiki Room Exterior


The finials on the roof of the Tiki Room are another great example of Disney detailing. Since they would be seen from both Adventureland and Frontierland, they had to be appropriate for both locales. But how do you make the South Pacific blend with the American West? By placing water buffalos on the roof peaks. From Adventureland, they fit in perfectly. And in Frontierland, where they are only seen from a distance, they resemble longhorn steer. The first two pictures were taken from Adventureland, the next two from Frontierland.


Water Buffalos

Water Buffalos

Water Buffalos.jpg

Water Buffalos


Since I have already written an extensive article about the Tiki Room, I will not be discussing it in detail here. To read this piece, click here.

Next to the Tiki Room is the Sunshine Tree Terrace. This is a wonderful place to grab a bite to eat and a refreshing drink. Their specialty is the Citrus Swirl (orange slush with vanilla soft-serve ice cream). It's kind of the "orange" version of a Dole Whip. To see their full menu, click here.


Sunshine Tree Terrace

Sunshine Tree Terrace


Located next to this establishment are a few tables and chairs. Note, this is a popular place and finding a vacancy here can be tricky. While enjoying your Citrus Swirl, be sure to look around and notice some of the detailing. Some of it is rather macabre.


Sunshine Tree Terrace

Sunshine Tree Terrace

Sunshine Tree Terrace

Sunshine Tree Terrace


You might also notice a cute little bird perched above the restaurant's main sign. This is the Little Orange Bird and it pays homage to some of Adventureland's early history.


Orange Bird


In 1970, WED Enterprises created the Orange Bird character to serve as the Florida Citrus Growers' mascot at the park and in other promotional advertisements. The Orange Bird could often be seen at the Sunshine Tree Terrace greeting guests and posing for pictures. The Sherman Brothers wrote a song about our feathered friend and Anita Bryant recorded it.


Orange Bird

Orange Bird


Notice in the above picture, the Orange Bird is standing where The Magic Carpets of Aladdin sits today.

Florida Citrus Growers ended their sponsorship in 1986 and the Orange Bird slipped into Disney history. However, this character had a resurgence at Tokyo Disneyland in 2004 to coincide with Japan's annual Orange Day celebration held on April 14th.

To help recognize Walt Disney World's 40th anniversary in 2011, the Orange Bird was brought back in a small way at Sunshine Tree Pavilion with souvenir Orange Bird cups. Other new merchandise can be found in the nearby shops.


Orange Bird Cup


Next to Sunshine Tree Terrace is a cut through to Frontierland. This can be a handy route in which to traverse between the two lands.


Walkway to Frontierland


Behind the Marc Davis tikis is a large expanse. This is another example of the Imagineers greatly increasing the Magic Kingdom's version of Adventureland as compared to the original Disneyland edition.


Jungle Cruise Expanse


Some of you might have noticed a small shack in this area. Called "The Oasis," this stand sold soft drinks and sandwiches in the early years of Adventureland.


The Oasis

The Oasis


Behind this shack is a body of water. This "river" was originally used by the Swan Boats as they circled Swiss Family Treehouse on their way back to the Hub. Years later, this waterway was cordoned off and Shrunken Ned's Junior Jungle Boats was installed.

Shrunken Ned's Junior Jungle Boats allowed wannabe skippers the ability to pilot miniature boats via radio controlled remote controls. Captains would pilot their boats through a number of obstacles and of course, try to ram other boats while in the process. This attraction was not included in the basic admission price and required additional funds to play.


Shrunken Ned's Junior Jungle Boats

Shrunken Ned's Junior Jungle Boats

Shrunken Ned's Junior Jungle Boats

Shrunken Ned's Junior Jungle Boats

Shrunken Ned's Junior Jungle Boats


Several years ago, Shrunken Ned's Junior Jungle Boats was closed and removed. It was a tired attraction and Disney needed this space for stroller parking. If you look around, you can see the original signpost for Shrunken Ned's, minus the lettering.


Stroller Parking

Former Shrunken Ned's Sign


To the west of this waterway is one of the most famous of all Disney attractions, the Jungle Cruise.


Jungle Cruise Entrance


The Jungle Cruise is a very popular attraction. However, in the morning, most guests skip it for the more popular "Mountains of the Magic Kingdom." This attraction is usually a "walk on" for the first 30-45 minutes after park opening.

Like the Swiss Family Treehouse and the Tiki Room, I have already written about the Jungle Cruise in detail. To check it out, click here.

Note, the old FastPass distribution area near the entrance to the Jungle Cruise has been converted into a FastPass+ distribution area.

Leaving the Jungle Cruise and the Tiki Room, we stroll down a long walkway towards Pirates of the Caribbean. Because of the proliferation of strollers over the years, Disney has had to dedicate a large section of this area to their parking. If you want to capture a picture of this section of Adventureland without strollers, you need to do it first thing in the morning.


Stroller Parking

Stroller Parking


Next to the stroller parking is another yummy outdoor food cart. This one sells cinnamon glazed almonds. They're delicious.


Outdoor Food Cart

Cinnamon Glazed Almonds


Pirates of the Caribbean was never intended to be a Magic Kingdom attraction. The powers-that-be felt that Orlando's proximity to the real Caribbean would lessen the appeal of this Disneyland classic. Instead, the Imagineers wanted to build Western River Expedition, an "E" ticket attraction to be located in Frontierland.

This next picture is an excerpt from the first souvenir map sold of the Magic Kingdom. As you can see, there is nothing in the area that would someday be occupied by Pirates of the Caribbean.


First Magic Kingdom Map


Western River Expedition would have been similar in scope and design to Pirates of the Caribbean. But instead of featuring swashbucklers, it would showcase cowboys and Indians in numerous comical scenes, many designed by Marc Davis. Guests would ride in boats through the American West and encounter a brand new set of characters unique to the Magic Kingdom. The attraction would have been part of a huge complex to be known as Thunder Mesa. Western River Expedition would have been located at ground level and Big Thunder Mountain would sit on top. However, things didn't work out that way.


Western River Expedition

Western River Expedition


From day one, Guest Relations was inundated with complaints about the omission of Pirates of the Caribbean. When it became obvious that these negative comments weren't going to subside, Card Walker (Disney CEO) decided to put the Thunder Mesa complex on hold and build a scaled down version of the California Pirate attraction in Adventureland. Plans were hastily drawn up and within six months of the Magic Kingdom opening, the announcement was made that Pirates of the Caribbean was coming to Walt Disney World. To help spread the news, the cast members working in City Hall started wearing buttons that said, "The Pirates Are Coming! Christmas 1973!" And sure enough, they opened just in time, December 15, 1973.


Pirates of the Caribbean


That's it for Part Two. Check back Monday for Part Three.


March 17, 2014

Magic Kingdom's Adventureland - Part One of Three

Jack Spence Masthead


Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Adventureland had been located on the east side of the Magic Kingdom? To walk the length of Main Street and then turn right if you wanted to ride on the Jungle Cruise. There was no reason the Imagineers couldn't have done this. After all, the Walt Disney World property was all virgin land. The planners could have arranged things pretty much anyway they wanted. Given this scenario, perhaps the Polynesian Resort would sit where the Contemporary now stands to add a tropical background to this exotic land. Well, this possibility isn't as farfetched as you might think. It could have happened. As we know, the Imagineers used Disneyland's basic layout when planning the Magic Kingdom.

But you're saying to yourself, Disneyland's Adventureland is located in approximately the same vicinity to the Hub as the Magic Kingdom's version of this land - on the west side of the park. But this almost wasn't the case. The concepts for Disneyland's Adventureland began their existence on the east side of the park. This can be seen in an early Herb Ryman sketch and a Marvin Davis map. If you could actually read these maps, you would see that "True Life Adventures" (what would become Adventureland) is to the right of the Hub, approximately where Space Mountain and the Autopia sit today. Circus Land was slotted to be where the Jungle Cruise would eventually be located.


Disneyland Concept Map

Disneyland Concept Map


So why did the Imagineers change their minds and move this land? Two reasons: space and a stand of eucalyptus trees.

As ideas for "True Life Adventures" increased, it was realized that Adventureland would need more space to hold all of Walt's ideas. The Ryman sketch had this exotic land squeezed between "World of Tomorrow" and Main Street. This area was far too confining.

After the property for Disneyland was purchased, planners found a windbreak of giant eucalyptus trees that had been planted around the turn of the century. Ironically, these trees helped determine the location of Main Street as it was decided that they would make a nice backdrop behind City Hall and help delineate between "civilization" and the "jungles of the world." Thus, Adventureland was moved to its current location on the west side of the park.


Disneyland City Hall


These eucalyptus trees still stand today.


Disneyland City Hall


One of the original ideas for the Jungle Cruise had guests traveling down only one river, the Suwannee if Africa. But Harper Goff knew that the attraction needed more variety and pitched the idea of a skipper taking guests down a collection of exotic rivers found all over the globe. The working name for this attraction was "Tropical Rivers of the World." This proposal transformed Adventureland into a non-specific location. During the design phase of Adventureland, Walt said:

"The spirit of adventure is often linked with exotic tropic places. To create a land which would make this dream reality, we pictured ourselves far from civilization, in the remote jungles of Asia and Africa. The result is Adventureland, 'the wonderland of nature's own design.'"

The vast majority of the land set aside for Adventureland was taken up by a single attraction, the Jungle Cruise. This left very little pedestrian space to convey the vast exotic locales Walt wanted guests to experience. All Adventureland really consisted of was a narrow walkway that led from the Hub to Frontierland (now New Orleans Square). There was very little space in which to excite your senses. The Swiss Family Treehouse and the Safari Shooting Gallery didn't' open until 1962 and Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room didn't debut until the following year. Even today, Adventureland's main thoroughfare is a very confining area.


Disneyland's Adventureland

Disneyland's Adventureland


When planning the Magic Kingdom's version of Adventureland, the Imagineers wanted to correct this shortcoming and create an area that allowed guests to be immersed in the faraway lands that most of us only dream of experiencing. To that end, they created a much larger pedestrian expanse where visitors can be totally immersed in their surroundings.

The Crystal Palace acts as the transition piece that ties Main Street and Adventureland together. Based on the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, New York's Crystal Palace, and Kew Gardens in England, this Victorian structure helps visitors prepare for the colonial architecture they're about to experience around the next corner.


Crystal Palace


The main entrance into Adventureland is via a wooden bridge radiating off of the Hub. Up until a few years ago, this bridge was arched to allow the Swan Boats (1972-1983) to pass beneath. The bridge's wooden planks were also ribbed to reduce guests slipping when the walkway was wet. This made for a noisy and difficult journey for those in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller. However, when age dictated that the bridge be completely rebuilt, this arch was removed and the ribbing eliminated. This created a level walking surface with no annoying obstructions. Now it is a much easier journey into Adventureland.

If you look at these next two pictures carefully, you can see the rise in the bridge in the first picture and the flattened surface in the second. It's more obvious if you look at the railing.


Adventureland Entrance

Adventureland Entrance


But before you get to this bridge, the entrance to Adventureland has another welcoming landmark. To the right of the pathway is a planter made out of volcanic rock. This is a wonderful spot to pose group pictures. And just like the bridge, this planter has gone through a few changes over the years.

When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the planter sported a prominent "Adventureland" sign. In subsequent years, the sign was moved to a less obvious position at the back of the planter and several tiki poles were added. Today, the sign is gone completely.


Adventureland Entrance Planter

Adventureland Entrance Planter

Adventureland Entrance Planter


The Adventureland entrance arch has also undergone a few changes. The current incarnation (third picture) features a more sinister look with a large collection of spears and the addition of human skulls.


Adventureland Entrance Arch

Adventureland Entrance Arch

Adventureland Entrance Arch


As you enter Adventureland, you'll find Bwana Bob's to the left. This outdoor shop sells a few Adventureland-themed items, but mostly generic Disney souvenirs. Bottled water is also available.


Bwana Bob's


Across from Bwana Bob's is a lovely covered patio. This area has been used as a meet-&-greet area in the past, but currently this space offers a FastPast+ distribution point.


FastPast+ distribution point

FastPast+ distribution point

FastPast+ distribution point


Next to this patio is "Tinker Bell's Magical Nook." This is the spot to meet Tink and some of her fairy friends.


Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook


Inside these doors guests wait in a switchback line until it's their turn to enter the magical world of fairies. Usually on hand are two of these enchanted creatures and families are given ample time with both to pose for photos. As always, a Disney photographer is on hand and can take pictures with either their camera or your own. This meet-&-greet area often has a long line. If this venue is on your kids' bucket list, arrive early.


Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook

Tinker Bell's Magical Nook


Thematically, Tinker Bell's Magical Nook has no business being in Adventureland. What do fairies have to do with the "adventurous" climes of the world? This attraction belongs in Fantasyland. However, Disney had an unused building going to waste and decided to fill it with a popular commodity.

So why is this building hear? In the early years, this space was occupied by a counter-service restaurant called Adventureland Verandah. It featured indoor and outdoor seating, the outdoor being on a "verandah" that overlooked the Swan Boats as they passed by. Much of this verandah has since been boarded up (decoratively).


Adventureland Verandah

Adventureland Verandah


Adventureland Verandah was an opening-day restaurant that served fried chicken and hot sandwiches. In 1977, Kikkoman took over sponsorship and the food took on a Polynesian/Asian-ish flavor offering items such as teriyaki hamburgers topped with pineapple slices.

In 1993, the Adventureland Verandah began closing two days a week. Soon after, it was open only seasonally. And in 1994, it closed for good - almost. In 1998, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & CafΓ© closed for an extensive refurbishment and the Adventureland Verandah opened for a few months to fill this void with a limited menu.

I miss the Adventureland Verandah. It was perhaps the most relaxing spot in the Magic Kingdom to enjoy a meal. The energy level was subdued here. When sitting on the verandah, I felt miles away from the hustle and bustle of the throngs rushing around just beyond the Swan Boat canal. The only other spot in the Magic Kingdom that came close to this relaxed atmosphere was Aunt Polly's on Tom Sawyer Island, and sadly, it is gone too.

Across from Tinker Bell's Magical Nook is the smoking area for Adventureland. It is positioned behind planters to create a wide separation from those that partake and those that don't.


Smoking Area


This is a good time to start appreciating the architecture found in the area. It would be difficult to pinpoint any one locale or nationality's influence on these structures for these buildings represent the colonization of Africa and Asia by many European nations.


Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture


Having grown up with Disneyland's rather simple Adventureland, I was always impressed with this next structure. Its intricate detailing always amazes me. If I ever were to move to a Caribbean island, I would want my house to look like this. Notice if you will, this structure has seen several different color schemes over the years.


Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture

Adventureland Architecture


Tucked in amongst all of these buildings is one of the Magic Kingdom's best resting places. Covered, protected from winds, and fan cooled, this hideaway offers guests a wonderful spot to get off your feet and give your aching dogs a rest. Disney tour guides also use this spot to stop and explain Adventureland to their followers. If you time your respite right, you can listen in on some of their interesting facts.


Resting Spot


Of course, no discussion of this area would be complete without mentioning Aloha Isle, home of the famous Dole Whip. Loved by many, detested by some, this spot always has a long line. Personally, I don't think they're worth the wait, but I know many, many people would disagree with me. For those few of you unfamiliar with this taste treat, it is soft-serve pineapple sorbet. It can be served float-style, with pineapple juice, or all alone. To see their full menu, click here.


Aloha Isle

Aloha Isle


That's it for Part One. Check back Thursday for Part Two.



August 15, 2011

The Enchanted Tiki Room - A look back

With the official reopening of the Tiki Room, I thought I'd use this opportunity to give you a history of this groundbreaking attraction. In many ways, "The Enchanted Tiki Room" opened the door to other Disney classics like "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," "Carousel of Progress," and "Pirates of the Caribbean" as the Imagineers were able to use what they had learned with the Tiki birds to build on their success.

Long before Disneyland opened, Walt dreamed of animating figures using cables and cams. He even went so far as to contact a patent attorney in 1949 and proposed dimensional animation. The idea would unite three-dimensional figures that could move to synchronized audio tracks. But his idea was far ahead of its time and was limited by the technology of the day. When Disneyland opened in 1955, the park featured crude versions of AudioAnimatronics (AA) figures. These figures had limited movements and were unreliable. This is best illustrated by the simplistic animals seen on the Jungle Cruise.


Disneyland's Jungle Cruise


The exploration of space brought a number of technological advancements to the world in the late 1950's and early 1960's. The Imagineers were able to capitalize on these inventions and apply them to their crude figures. With the use of rudimentary computers and new hydraulic and pneumatic hardware, their animals began to move less like robots and more like the real thing.

The first attempt by Disney to create a lifelike AA human was undertaken by Roger Broggie and Wathel Rogers. Walt wanted to have them create a likeness of Confucius who could interact with guests dining in a Chinese restaurant to be located on Main Street. The pair succeeded to a point, but ultimately, limitations in technology would stymie the project. The required electronics would fill a room and Confucius was extremely fragile. He was continually ripping his rubber face.

Walt next directed his team to create a likeness of Abraham Lincoln. Since 1956, a spur off of Main Street to be called Liberty Square had been under development. Walt felt that an AA figure could tell the story of freedom better than the static display currently under consideration. Soon after, Walt hired Buddy Ebsen to dance in front of a large grid and filmed the hoofer's movements. Walt himself directed the sequence. This footage was then studied and measurements were taken. With this information, the Imagineers built a 1/8 scale model of Ebsen which perfectly reproduced his dance routine. Walt even had a miniature stage built to showcase his new figure.


Mechanical Man


While on vacation in New Orleans (or Europe, depending on which version of the story you hear), Walt found and purchased a mechanical bird that could sing while moving its beak, head, and wings. He thought to himself, if toymakers can do this well, my Imagineers can do better. He took the bird home and gave it to his team so they could dissect it and discover what made it tick.

Walt put his Lincoln idea on hold and concentrated all of his efforts on this new project. In the months that followed, his Imagineers built life-sized cockatoos, toucans, macaws, and other tropical birds. Walt wanted to resurrect the Chinese restaurant idea, but instead of Confucius entertaining guests, birds would take center stage. Walt also reasoned that guests would be more accepting of the limitations of AA mechanics when applied to non-human figures.

The restaurant, to be called "The Tiki Hut," was to be located in Adventureland and would have a Polynesian theme. The eatery would share the kitchen used by the Plaza Pavilion and the Tahitian Terrace. A press release issued by the company read, "Walt Disney is creating a restaurant. And just as his full-length animated films, True-Life Adventures, and Disneyland pioneered in their fields, Walt's creation may alter the course of many full-course meals." However, as the idea for a restaurant progressed and logistics considered, it was realized that the average meal would take between 45-60 minutes. This would greatly limit how many guests could see this new marvel. Add this to space limitations in Adventureland, and the restaurant idea was eventually abandoned in favor of a 17 minute show only. "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room" opened on June 23, 1963. The show contained 225 AA performers directed by a fourteen-channel magnetic tape feeding 100 speakers and controlling 438 separate actions.


Tiki Room Poster

Walt Inside the Tiki Room


Although difficult to conceive today, in 1963, the public could not begin to fathom what the "Enchanted Tiki Room" was all about. Cast members would try to explain that there were singing birds and flowers inside the building, but guests just didn't "get it" and would bypass this attraction for other adventures. Even the Disneyland TV show failed to convey the magic awaiting guests inside this unassuming structure. A solution was needed to promote the show appropriately.

Enter Barker Bird. Situated on a perch above the Enchanted Tiki Room turnstiles, a new AA bird was added to the show. From high above, Barker Bird (a copy of Jose who performs in the show) would call to the guests below and extoll the virtues of the performance inside. The solution worked. For the first time, guests could experience a sophisticated AudioAnimatronics figure and were intrigued enough to venture inside to see the entire show.


Barker Bird


However, there was a drawback to Barker Bird. He became an attraction in his own right. The entrance into Adventureland was very narrow in the early years. So many people would stop to listen to Barker Bird that the walkway became impassable. Eventually, after the show became well established, Barker Bird was retired.

Once guests were persuaded to see the show, they were blown away by it. Remember, this was 1963 and nothing like this had ever been seen before.

The adventure began with guests entering a dimly lit, quiet room. Once everyone was seated, a host or hostess used a cane to wake up Jose. The show was carefully orchestrated to "build" upon itself. First the four hosts spoke to the audience. Then a background chorus of birds chimed in and an elaborate bird-mobile descended from the ceiling. After we thought we'd seen "everything," the various tropical flowers scattered around the room came to life and serenaded us. And finally, the Tiki gods began to recite Polynesian chants. In the end, so much celebration was taking place that the gods were awakened and angered. Guests left the "Enchanted Tiki Room" awe-struck. They couldn't believe what they had just seen.

When the "Enchanted Tiki Room" first opened, it was not owned by the Walt Disney Company (then Walt Disney Productions), but rather by Walt's private company, WED Enterprises. Because of this, guests were required to purchase a separate ticket for the staggering amount of 75Β’ if they wanted to see the show.


Tiki Room Ticket


Since the show was 17 minutes in length, it was realized that some sort of diversion would be required to keep guest entertained while waiting for the next presentation to begin. To accomplish this, a number of Polynesian gods were situated around the perimeter of the holding area. Shortly before entering the building, each god spoke to the audience and provided a brief explanation as to his or her importance and function. Note, these were not AA figures. Their lips did not move or their eyes open. Some figures rocked back and forth and others dropped flowers from their branches, but there was nothing sophisticated about these Tiki gods.


Disneyland Preshow Tiki Gods

Disneyland Preshow Tiki Gods


In the 1960's, United Airlines was the premier carrier of passengers to and from the Hawaiian Islands. They were the perfect company to sponsor the "Enchanted Tiki Room" and held that honor for twelve years. In 1976, the Dole Food Company replaced United Airlines and continues sponsorship to this day.

While there may be 225 AA figures, the show revolves around four wise-cracking macaws, Jose, Michael, Pierre, and Fritz. It's interesting to note, in the early years, their feather's colors represented their nationalities. Jose (voiced by Wally Boag) was covered in red, white, and green feathers, the colors on the Mexican flag. Michael (voiced by Fulton Burley) donned green and white feathers to represent his Irish background. Pierre (voiced by Ernie Newton) sported blue, white, and red for his French nationality. And Fritz (voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft) was covered in red, white, and gold feathers for his German heritage.

The Sherman Brothers wrote "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room." Robert Hargreaves, Stanley J. Damerell and Tolchard Evans wrote "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing." For you true lovers of Disney trivia, a version of "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room" can be heard in the Pizzafari Restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

In late 2004, the "Enchanted Tiki Room" closed for an extensive refurbishment. The exterior of the building was in sad shape and inside, the bird's feathers were routinely falling from their bodies and you could hear their hydraulics sputtering as they sang. Disneyland's 50th birthday was rapidly approaching and this attraction needed some serious attention if it was to be presentable for the park's big celebration. When the show reopened seven months later, it had been restored to its former glory. The score had been digitally remastered and a new sound system had been installed. In addition, many of the birds and flowers had been replaced with state-of-the-art AA figures. The show's length was also shortened somewhat. This will be noticeable to anyone who bought the LP in the early years or has found a full-length version of the show on the internet. But to the vast majority of visitors, the deletions are inconspicuous.

Since the "Enchanted Tiki Room" had been so successful at Disneyland, it was a given that it would be an opening day attraction at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. In 1967, Walt Disney Productions entered into an agreement with the Florida Citrus Growers to sponsor this attraction for a cost of $3 million.

When the Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971, a copy of Disneyland's "Enchanted Tiki Room" was on hand to greet guests. Renamed "Tropical Serenade," this attraction was an immediate success and required an "D" coupon to enter. Guests familiar with the Disneyland version would notice that the Magic Kingdom's theater was considerably larger.


Tropical Serenade Poster


Although the main presentation was the same, the waiting area and preshow was all new at the Magic Kingdom. At Disneyland, guests waited on a large lanai and wandered about until the show began. At which time, they all converged into a single door with occasional pushing and shoving. Wanting to better control people at the Magic Kingdom, the Imagineers created three, terraced lines where guests could wait in a more orderly fashion. While waiting to enter the theater, guests faced a shrine and waterfall that eventually parted to reveal two AA birds perched atop a Tiki god.


Preshow Tiki God Shrine


Other changes could be seen in the building's exterior. At Disneyland, the "Enchanted Tiki Room" had been squeezed into a tight space and could easily be missed as you walked by. But at the Magic Kingdom, the Imagineers gave the "Tropical Serenade" a place of prominence with a large pagoda that could be seen throughout much of Adventureland.


Tropical Serenade Pagoda


In 1970, WED Enterprises created the Orange Bird character to serve as the sponsor's (Florida Citrus Growers) mascot at the park and in other promotional advertisements. The Orange Bird could often be seen at the Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland greeting guests and posing for pictures. The Sherman Brothers wrote a song about our feathered friend and Anita Bryant recorded it.


Orange Bird

Orange Bird


Florida Citrus Growers ended their sponsorship in 1986 and the Orange Bird slipped into Disney history. However, this character had a resurgence at Tokyo Disneyland in 2004 to coincide with Japan's annual Orange Day celebration held on April 14th. Back in the States, new Orange Bird merchandise can be found today in Magic Kingdom shops in honor of Walt Disney World's upcoming 40th anniversary.

As the years marched on, guests became bored with the slow-moving "Tropical Serenade." Having become accustomed to more thrilling fare like Splash and Space Mountains, it was a common occurrence to see guests walk out in the middle of the show. Something needed to be done.

"Tropical Serenade" closed on September 1, 1997 for an extensive rehab. When it reopened in April 1998, a new show awaited guests, "The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management." The show still starred Jose, Michael, Pierre, and Fritz, but two new additions were added to the festivities, Iago from "Aladdin" and Zazu from "The Lion King." In this version of the show, Iago and Zazu are the new owners of the Tiki Room and want to make some changes to the act. They even poked fun at the previous, slow moving show. A new preshow also featured moving AA figures, William and Morris, who set up the storyline before guests ventured inside.


Zazu and Iago

William and Morris


Unfortunately, "Under New Management" never lived up to Disney's expectations. Iago may have worked well as a villain in "Aladdin," but as the host of a fun-loving show, he was obnoxious. After the initial surge of first time visitors saw the new show, crowds quickly dissipated.

In 2011, "Under New Management" was 13 years old. It was time for a change. Then in January of this year, a small fire broke out in the attic of the attraction. The sprinkler system was activated and guests were evacuated. No one was hurt and the blaze was quickly brought under control by the Reedy Creek Fire Department. However, the Iago AudioAnimatronics figure was badly damaged by the fire and other portions of the attraction sustained water damage. This fire and ensuing damage gave Disney the impetus it needed to retire this unpopular show. But what to replace it with?

The Imagineers didn't have to look too far for a new idea - or should I say, an old idea. At Disneyland, the "Enchanted Tiki Room" had experienced increased attendance after it was upgraded for the park's 50th anniversary. Why not do the same thing for the Magic Kingdom's upcoming 40th anniversary and bring back the original. The Magic Kingdom's new show is called "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room" (the original name at Disneyland). Due to the ever shrinking attention span of the public, the new show is 11 minutes in length rather than the original 17. In this revised production, the slow moving Offenbach musical number was cut. This alone removed two and a half minutes from the show. In addition, the column of water rising up to meet the Bird-Mobile was eliminated and superfluous dialogue was removed.

The Enchanted Tiki Room is also a staple at Tokyo Disneyland. The original show (presented mostly in Japanese) ran from opening day (April 15, 1983) to 1999 when it became "The Enchanted Tiki Room: "Get the Fever!" This second version of the show featured a zany Las Vegas-style nightclub review as it might be staged in the middle of the jungle. Jose, Michael, Pierre, and Fritz were replace by lounge hosts, Danno, Scats, Buddy, and Lava (the first female host bird). The show was presented in a combination of English and Japanese. I saw "Get the Fever!" in 2000 and thoroughly enjoyed it. I remember thinking to myself, "Why did the Imagineers choose to put "Under New Management" into the Magic Kingdom when they already had such a good show they could have used."


Enchanted Tiki Room:


"Get the Fever!" closed in January 2008 and was replaced by "The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai!" which opened on July 25th, 2008. To see my review of this show, click here.


Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai!


The "Enchanted Tiki Room" is not nearly as exciting as many other Disney attractions, but it is a classic and it's historic. Its AA figures were the beginning of so many other wonderful attractions to follow. It's a charming show that Walt personally supervised its creation. Only the most jaded guest would not be captivated by its simple humor, wonderful melodies, and fantastic characters.



August 14, 2011

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room

In January of this year, a small fire broke out in the attic of "Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management". The sprinkler system was activated and guests were evacuated. No one was hurt and the blaze was quickly brought under control by the Reedy Creek Fire Department. However, the Iago AudioAnimatronics figure was badly damaged by the fire and other portions of the attraction sustained water damage. The show had to be closed indefinitely until repairs could be made.


Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management


The attraction officially reopens on Monday, August 15, 2011, but today (August 14), the attraction held a soft-opening - in other words, a dress rehearsal. As you might expect, I was the first person in line to see the show. However, "Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management" has been retired. It has been replaced by "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room." This show is a close approximation the original "Tropical Serenade" as seen on opening day of the Magic Kingdom.

I thoroughly enjoyed the revival of this classic, even if it is an abridged version of the original. At 11 minutes, I think it's the right length to entertain, but not bore guests. The sound and acoustics are great and gone are the clicking noises made by some of the older AA figures. Disney has even restored the original "nationality" feather colors. Here are a few pictures I snapped today.


Entrance

Preshow

Preshow

Jose

Tiki Bird

Bird-Mobile

Singing Flowers

Drummer Tikis

Flowers and Chanters


For all of you who are only familiar with "Under New Management," I strongly encourage you to see this new/old version of "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room." It's not nearly as exciting as many other Disney attractions, but it is a classic and it's historic. Its AA figures were the beginning of so many other wonderful attractions to follow. It's a charming show that Walt personally supervised its creation. Only the most jaded guest would not be captivated by its simple humor, wonderful melodies, and fantastic characters.

If you are familiar with the original show, please come back and see it again. You'll be glad you did - and you'll be singing "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room" song all day - which really isn't a bad thing.

In many ways, "The Enchanted Tiki Room" opened the door to other Disney classics like "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," "Carousel of Progress," and "Pirates of the Caribbean" as the Imagineers were able to use what they had learned with the Tiki birds to build on their success.

In my next blog, I share with you the history of the Enchanted Tiki Room!


July 8, 2009

Swiss Family Treehouse

I know what you're thinking. Could I have picked a more boring attraction to write about? Probably not. The Swiss Family Treehouse is possibly the least sophisticated attraction in the Magic Kingdom and often skipped by guests who consider it a waste of time and energy. I'm hoping that reading this blog will convince you to give the treehouse another try - but this time with a different outlook. This attraction is chock-full of details if you'll just take the time to look for them.


Swiss Family Treehouse Poster


Swiss Family Island Treehouse was one of the opening day attractions at the Magic Kingdom. The word "Island" was dropped sometime in 1989. In the days of ticket books, this attraction required a "B" coupon. In the early years, the Swan Boats made a complete circle around the treehouse during their short journey into Adventureland. Here is a picture taken in January 1972. This angle is almost impossible to get today as "The Magic Carpets of Aladdin" now occupy the spot from which this photo was taken. In addition, so much foliage has grown up around the tree over the years that it's difficult to tell where the treehouse ends and real growth begins.


Swiss Family Treehouse 1972


These next two pictures were taken in 2009.


Swiss Family Treehouse 2009

Swiss Family Treehouse 2009


This attraction was inspired by Disney's 1960 movie Swiss Family Robinson starring John Mills and Dorothy McGuire. The story tells of a shipwrecked family that salvages their vessel, the Swallow, and builds a fanciful home in a tree (among other adventures). Disney has announced that a remake of this classic is in production and will open in 2012.


1960 Movie Poster


A smaller version of the Swiss Family Treehouse opened in Disneyland on November 18, 1962. This tree has since been redesigned and is now Tarzan's Treehouse. Hong Kong Disneyland also has a Tarzan's Treehouse whereas the Tokyo and Pairs parks still use the Swiss Family theme. Below is a picture of Tarzan's Treehouse in Disneyland.


Tarzan's Treehouse Disneyland


Back at the Magic Kingdom we find a rest area near the entrance to Swiss Family Treehouse. Notice how the planter and benches are made of volcanic rock supplemented with pieces of the ship's wreckage.


Planter/Bench


Also near the entrance is a sign that provides an extremely brief synopsis as to why this treehouse exists. Below the sign are canons that were used for protection against pirates.


Treehouse Synopsis

Canons


Another sign, sporting the family's crest, indicates the entrance to Swiss Family Treehouse.


Entrance Sign


This man-made tree is modeled after a Banyan. Its concrete root system extends four stories into the ground. The tree itself stands sixty feet high and ninety feet wide. Its 1,400 limbs are made of concrete covered steel and it sports 300,000 vinyl leaves. There are 116 stairs, 66 of which go up.

The Spanish moss hanging from the tree is real. This plant is not a parasite and gathers its nutrients and water from the air.

I know it's hard to believe, but on busy days, the Swiss Family Treehouse can have a line. In the queue you be able to see part of the Swallow's hull.


Swallow's Hull


Your journey begins along a covered pathway. The banisters to each side are made up of rails complete with belaying pins. Belaying pins are specially shaped pieces of dowel used on sailing vessels to secure the lines. The canopy covering this walkway was constructed using the ship's oars and sails.


Covered Pathway


To reach the island on which the treehouse stands, guests must cross a suspension bridge. The bridge was constructed with the island's native bamboo and the ships railings, riggings, and decking.


Suspension Bridge


On the other side of the bridge you'll find a most ingenious device created by the castaways. A giant bamboo waterwheel is turned by a flowing stream. Connected to this waterwheel is a secondary wheel that rotates a series of bamboo cups. One by one, each cup is filled with water then transported to the upper reaches of the treehouse. Here the water is dumped into a reservoir. Radiating from this reservoir is a series of bamboo pipes that distributes water to the entire treehouse.


Water Wheel

Water Wheel

Water Wheel

Bamboo Pipes

Bedroom Basin


As you begin your assent, notice the family's coat of arms at the base of the tree.


Coat of Arms


Although there are several rooms to visit while touring the treehouse, much of your journey will be spent climbing stairs. Instead of looking at this as an arduous task, take this time to examine the many details that abound. Its here that you'll begin to notice that this home is built quite logically by using the natural elements found on the island and the portions of the ship that were salvaged.


Treehouse Stairs

Ship's Rigging

Ship's Rigging

Ship's Lantern

Ship's Bulkhead


The first room you come to is the living room. The lively melody being played on the pump organ is called "Swisskapolka." This tune was used only once during the movie while the family was engaged in a comical race riding a number of different animals. Like so many other items found around the treehouse, all of the furnishings in this room came from the Swallow.


Living Room and Pump Organ

Living Room and Ship's Wheel


There are a number of good views to be had from the Swiss Family Treehouse. However, many have been obstructed over the years by the lush growth of the Jungle Cruise. The next picture was taken in 1972. In the foreground you can see rock outcroppings within the Jungle Cruise. In the center of the picture you can make out the Magic Kingdom monorail station and to the right, the Polynesian Resort. These sights cannot be seen today.


View from Treehouse 1972

Jungle Lookout Sign


The next room you come to is the bedroom used by mother and father Robinson. (They didn't have names.)


Mother and Father's Bedroom

Mother and Father's Bedroom


You're almost to the upper most reaches of the tree at this point. There are just a few more stairs before you reach the top and the boy's bedroom.


Treehouse Pathway

Boy's Bedroom


Take a look at these next two photos. Can you spot any peculiarities?


Boy's Bedroom Sign

Boy's Bedroom


The first thing I noticed is that the sign states that this bedroom belongs to Fritz, Ernst, and Francis. However, I only count two hammocks. Where does the third boy sleep?

The other thing I noticed was the date, July 17, 1805. The sign states that this is the first anniversary of their deliverance. Now anyone familiar with Disney history knows that July 17th is a very special date -- the day that Disneyland in California opened. I also noticed the year, 1805. This is exactly 150 years prior to the year that Disneyland opened (1955). This seemed like too much of a coincidence so I did a little research. First, I could find no reference to a year in the book. However, I could find the date of the Swallow's shipwreck, January 31st and the castaways came ashore on February 2nd. So it seems that the Imagineers fudged a little on this detail in order to give a nod to Disneyland.

From this point on it's all downstairs.


Treeshouse Stairs


The next area of interest is the Library. On the desk you can see a map of the Indian Ocean. The book has the castaways marooned in the East Indies, en route to Port Jackson, Australia while the movie has them in route to the German colony of New Guinea. However the exact location of the island is somewhat of a mystery, for on this island the family encounters a giant turtle, a tiger, an elephant, an ostrich, a zebra, monkeys, and other creatures - creatures that never existed together in the wild.


Library Sign

Library


The final stop is the kitchen. Here you'll find a storage area, a stove built of volcanic rocks, running water, and a table, ready to serve a hungry family.


Kitchen Sign

Kitchen and Stove

Kitchen and Table


The Swiss Family Treehouse can't compete with Splash Mountain or Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, but it was never intended to. It's meant to be a place where you can let your imagination run wild for a few moments and fantasize what it might be like to live on a deserted island with basic creature comforts and the occasional adventure. As I mentioned earlier, this attraction has a number of details that are worth note if you'll take the time to look for them.

The movie, Swiss Family Robinson, is available on DVD. Is it worth watching? Well, if you've made it to the end of this blog I'll say yes. That would indicate that you're a true Disney fan. The movie is a little dated, which is probably why Disney is filming a remake, but if you can suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours, it's enjoyable.


Swiss Family Treehouse DVD

Enjoy.

June 30, 2009

Pirates League

Avast ye mateys, Captain Jack Sparrow is on the lookout for additional crew members!


The Pirate League Logo

The Pirate League Sign


It seems that while some of Captain Jack's men were on a plundering raid, they came across the warehouse of the East India Trading Company. Deciding that this would be easy pickin's, they aimed their canon at the door. Unfortunately, they missed their target and their canon ball lodged itself into a stone wall. But their second shot was better directed and knocked down the door.


Wayward Canon Ball

Knocked Down Door


After the booty was safely stowed aboard there ship, Captain Jack surveyed the empty warehouse and decided that this would be the perfect spot to recruit and train new pirates. Being the hearty soul that I am, I signed up to become a swashbuckler.

My adventure began outside of the East India Trading Company - oops, The Pirates League. This is located near the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean. It was here that I picked the pirate-look I would live with for all eternity. I was allowed to choose from the following: Cursed Pirate, Smokey-Eyed Jack, Multi-Eyed Jack, Black-Eyed Jack, and Captain Hook. If my sister had been along, she could choose from any of the above plus Empress for a more feminine look. I chose the Cursed Pirate.


Pirate League Entrance

Pirate Facial Choices


After making the necessary arrangements, I went inside. Here, some of Jack's pirate folk greeted me with a hearty "aargg." While looking around I found some pirate accoutrements for sale if I was inclined to part with some pieces of eight.


Pirate Greeters

Pirate Accoutrements


The first thing all shipmates-in-training must do is discard their old name for a new pirate identity. This is done with the greatest of skill and precision. First, I was asked to blow on two dice, one black and one white. Then these dice were carefully placed in a treasure chest that was attached to a ship's wheel. I was then asked to give this wheel two complete turns. When finished, the dice were removed and the numbers read aloud.


Pirate Name Selection


Another, nearby pirate took these numbers and consulted some ancient parchments associated with my birth month. After careful consideration, a name was chosen for me -- Benjamin Damploather.


Pirate Name Selection


Next stop was one of the ten Muster Stations where I met my trainer. Her name was Brenna and she spoke perfect pirate-ese. I was seated in a chair and made comfortable. Brenna then reconfirmed my pirate selection and started to work on my makeover.


Muster Stations

Benamin Damploather


During the makeover, Brenna engaged me in conversation. But keep in mind, Brenna is an eighteenth-century pirate. She doesn't understand modern English words. When she asked why I wanted to become a pirate, I explained that I was here to experience the training program, then write a blog about it on my computer. This totally confused her. She had no idea what a blog or a computer were. So after some thought on my part, I told her that I would be using my quill pen to ink some scrolls which would be distributed to all of you using magic beyond her imagination. This seemed to satisfy her.


Makeup Application

Makeup Application

Makeup Application

Makeup Application


After the makeup had been applied, I was given a bandana and a painless tattoo.


Donning a Bandanna

Tattoo Application


Brenna told me that Captain Jack required her to take three weeks of training before allowing her to transform new recruits into swashbucklers.

When my makeover was complete, Brenna gave me a pirate's booty bag. In it, she placed my earring and false teeth as she isn't allowed to place these items on the trainees. However, a parent or friend can assist you if you'd like to don them for your upcoming portrait.


Pirate Booty Bag

Benjamin Damploather


The makeover took about thirty minutes. At its completion, I pledged allegiance to Captain Jack and took the Pirate's Oath.


Pirate Oath


I was then escorted to another section of the warehouse where I was given my sash and sword by a different pirate. With the sword came a command that I was not to slash, poke, jab, prod, slice, cut, or carve my siblings, parents, strangers, birds, animals, or Disney property. After agreeing to this condition, I was asked if I'd like to see Captain Jack's secret treasure room with the condition that I would not take any pictures or ever reveal what took place inside this inner sanctum.

So if you want to know, you'll have to become part of Jack's crew.

After leaving the mysterious room, I was given a packet that contained my pirate's oath, complete with my pirate's name. Also included was my pirate photo.


Pirate Photo and Oath


Reservations for Pirates League are strongly suggested. They can be made 90 days in advance by calling 407-WDW-CREW (939-2739). A credit card is needed at this time to secure the reservation, but is not charged until the actual event. Ten doubloons will be applied to your card if you cancel less than 24-hours in advance. Guests are requested to bring a brush, but this really isn't needed for boys and men with short hair. Captain Jack does not allow his trainers to have brushes but some Empresses require them in order to pull their hair back.

There are three packages available. The First Mate and Empress packages each cost 50 doubloons plus pirate tax. This includes a choice of one of the six facial treatments, a tattoo, a photo and an assortment of pirate accouterments. The Captain's package costs 125 doubloons plus pirate tax. It includes all of the above plus an appropriate costume. The age limit is 3 and above. Those 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

I asked if trainers accepted pieces of eight for their services. I was told that this is never solicited, but Captain Jack does allow his mates to accept doubloons if the trainee feels that he or she received a job well done.

While being made up, I saw three brothers as well as a father and son take the oath. They all seemed to be having a good time. I know I did. But this was just the beginning of my adventure. The subsequent walk through the Magic Kingdom is where my decision to become a pirate really began to sink in. You'd think these tourists had never seen a dead man walking before.


Before and After


May 11, 2008

Adventureland - Magic Kingdom - History Lesson

Q: Do you know why Adventureland is located on the west side of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World?

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A: It's because Adventureland is located on the west side of Disneyland in Anaheim. When planning the Magic Kingdom, Imagineers used Disneyland's layout as a starting point when designing their new park.

Q: Do you know why Adventureland is located on the west side of Disneyland?

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A: Original plans called for the "True Life Adventures" (later to become the Adventureland) to be located on the east side of the park between Main Street and "World of Tomorrow" (later to become Tomorrowland). This can be seen in an early concept drawing by Herb Ryman.

Herb Ryman Concept Drawing Disneyland

But while surveying the orange groves that would eventually become Disneyland, planners found a windbreak of giant eucalyptus trees that had been planted around the turn of the century. Ironically, these trees helped determine the location of Main Street as it was decided that they would make a nice backdrop behind City Hall and help delineate between "civilization" and the "jungles of the world." Thus, Adventureland was moved to its current location on the west side of the park.

These trees, now over a hundred years old, are clearly visible in an early Disneyland postcard and are still visible today.


Disneyland%20Postcard.jpg

Main%20Street%20Today.jpg

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About Adventureland

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The β€œWorld” According to Jack in the Adventureland category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Fantasyland is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.