While character meals are now a huge cash cow for Disney, and getting reservations for lunch with Pooh and Princesses has become something of a bloodsport for harried parents, character breakfasts from days of yore were much fewer and far between. You could have a quiet breakfast with Mickey and company on the Empress Lilly, overlooking the misty and then-still waters of the Village Lake. Or, you could head to the Polynesian for Minnie’s Menehune Breakfast at the Papeete Bay Veranda (now known as ‘Ohana). While these were just simple breakfasts with character meet-n-greets, for a brief time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, visitors to Fort Wilderness could get a little more bang for their buck – breakfast with a show!
In 1986, the Melvin the Moose Breakfast Show debuted at Fort Wilderness’s Pioneer Hall. Originally sponsored by Fleetwood, the kid-friendly, early morning companion to the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue combined elements of other character meet-n-greets with a live stage show. In an esoteric bit of casting that seems bizarre in today’s franchise-friendly business environment, the show was hosted by Melvin the Moose – the stuffed, wall-mounted animal head from the Magic Kingdom’s Country Bear Jamboree. The seeming randomness of this idea, combined with the show’s out of the way location and its relatively brief run make the Melvin the Moose show seem like something one can hardly believe even existed.
But exist it did. Joining Melvin on the stage were those troublesome rodents Chip and Dale, and their human counterparts Cindy Lou and Alabam. Musical accompaniment was provided by “The Professor,” a ragtime pianist banging away on the ivories. Much like the Hoop Dee Doo, the show had a definite country & western feel; Chip and Dale dressed in “cowboy chef” garb while Cindy Lou and Alabam wore, respectively, a gingham dress and overalls.
The breakfast had two shows a day – at 8:30 and 10 a.m. After being seated, guests started their breakfast with waiting baskets of chocolate chip muffins – the true breakout stars of the show. Melvin the Moose was the first place that I was ever exposed to the chocolate chip muffin concept, and in 1986 it seemed such an insanely hedonistic concept the likes of which only Disney could conceive. Also waiting were glasses of orange juice and decanters of coffee, bowls of citrus fruit compote and baskets of granola bars with honey-peanut butter dip.
After Cindy Lou, Alabam and their chipmunk friends arrived, they performed an opening song and dance number before letting guests tuck into their breakfasts. Much like the Hoop Dee Doo show, guests were served at their tables with pewter bowls and plates full of food. The menu usually consisted of scrambled eggs and bacon, hash browns, biscuits and sausage gravy. While guests ate, they enjoyed a few classic Chip and Dale cartoons which were projected on the stage. After some more shenanigans with Melvin and pals, Cindy Lou and Alabam led the guests in the show’s grand finale.
Much like the Hoop Dee Doo’s raucous washboard finale, the breakfast show ended musically. Kazoos were delivered to the tables so that all guests could be led in the “Kuntry Ka-zoo Simfony” (no, seriously); the added bonus was that guests were allowed to keep their kazoos. They were nice kazoos, too! Sturdy, good sound, and mine’s still holding up nicely more than twenty years on.
Perhaps feeling that the breakfast show was lacking a marquee name, Disney changed the show’s title in 1987 to “Chip & Dale’s Country Morning Jamboree featuring Melvin the Moose.” The concept was essentially the same, but one assumes that Chip & Dale were considered a better draw for families. I can’t find any reference online to whether the show’s content changed considerably between versions, or whether the Country Bear meet-n-greet characters from the original show remained for the later revision. Note the price of the show – $10 for adults and $8 for children under 12. Later, in 1989, the price jumped to a shocking $12 for adults and $9 for kids. Appalling. The seating time for the second show was changed as well, from 10 a.m. to 9:45. Somewhere along the line Fleetwood dropped their sponsorship; compare the flier above with this one. Also note the earlier flier just mentions a “pastry basket”; they had yet to realize what an asset they had in those chocolate chip muffins.
The show ran at Pioneer Hall until 1991; one assumes that families intent on laying siege to the parks the second their gates opened didn’t have time for a long, pleasant breakfast in the relaxed atmosphere of Fort Wilderness. While the Trail’s End Buffeteria still serves a fairly nifty breakfast next door to Pioneer Hall, it’s just not the same without Melvin, Cindy Lou and Alabam. Maybe it’s time for a revival?