Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Return to Glory: Tropical Serenade and Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room

It's hard for many Disney fans when an attraction at the parks is updated. Many changes are necessary to adapt to guest preferences, increased attendance, or changes in the Disney catalog but it's especially painful when an attraction changes, is universally panned, but keeps going regardless of guest sentiment. A prime example would be Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, located in WDW's Magic Kingdom.

One of the strongest direct links to Walt when it debuted as an original Magic Kingdom attraction in 1971, Tropical Serenade was a near perfect replica of Disneyland's attraction. José, Michael, Pierre, and Fritz warbled and joked through the same set of material culminating with a rather cheeky riff on Snow White's Heigh-Ho that sent guests on their way through the exits. As was common in the Eisner years the parks consistently sought to reinvent themselves with low-dollar improvements, especially those that could be adapted to embrace new, and profitable, characters from the resurgent Disney film library. And, so, in that manner Tropical Serenade was 'plussed' to include Iago and Zazu and fit within an easy to manage 10-minute show window with the name The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management. For fourteen years guests were subjected to the dulcet tones of Gilbert Gottfried's voice interrupting the Sherman Brothers' In The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room number until, in January of this year, a fire broke out in the attraction building. News spread quickly, almost like wildfire (sorry), with information centering on the fact the fire irreparably damaged the Iago animatronic figure and many speculated on changes that could occur as a result.

And then on August 15, 2011 a wonderful thing happened. . .

The attraction reopened and in the spirit of celebrating WDW's 40th anniversary a version of the original show returned (albeit without the Offenbach piece and its cruel and unusual jokes). Fans everywhere with an appreciation of everything "old school" about WDW rejoiced and a thousand angels received their wings. (And an extremely long penance for someone ended.) In addition to the restored show attraction the pre-show was returned to its former state where Clyde and Claude prepped guests for what was to come in a four and a half minute garden show. PFTP visited the restored show and we were thrilled with the restored attraction. (Unfortunately, other guests still look at us strangely when we recite the show in its entirety. Is this a odd thing to do?)

In the end, this is a case of Imagineering bringing order back to the universe and reaching back to the past to bring guests a small piece of Walt Disney himself; not the young filmmaker with the world before him but the grandfather and tired visionary who just enjoyed bringing birds to life.

These photographs were taken by the author in November 2007, November 2008, and October 2011.


1 comment:

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