The collected interwebs lit up yesterday afternoon with the breaking news that the Magic Kingdom’s “The Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management” attraction had closed due to a small fire. Twitter immediately commenced with a torrent of snark poking fun at the unpopular attraction, and to all the scolds out there I’ll point out two things:
- No one was actively, actually, rooting for things to catch fire.
- I’m sure that no one would have been so jovial had the early reports not included the fact that the event had been a small blaze which had been extinguished quickly.
It’s even possible that some folks use extreme hyperbole for comedic effect, and don’t mean for every statement to be taken absolutely literally, but that’s beside the point.
In the end, the cascade of jokes about the incident (Did Jose do it? Was it the Orange Bird returning to kick a little tail? Could the elusive Rosita have been responsible?) revealed one thing – people dislike the Under New Management show just as surely as they love the original Tropical Serenade. This isn’t just a fanboy-exclusive gripe, either – the general public stays away in droves, leaving the attraction almost always abandoned. Amidst the puns, jokes, and barely-constrained glee in some quarters was a question: Could this somehow lead to the return of the original show?
I was skeptical. Fans can be a little over-optimistic, sometimes keen to dismiss potential roadblocks to a project, and this sounded like a fairly small-scale incident. Surely it would be up and operating within a few days, and there seemed to be nothing in the story that could reasonably lead to management randomly deciding to throw the fans a bone and go to the trouble of restoring this classic attraction.
Then the news emerged today from a trusted source that, in a twist that might lend credence to the “Tiki god vengeance” theory, the fire most severely damaged the Iago 1 animatronic. This is the Iago figure that hosts the majority of the show, not, ironically, the charred version of the character that appears for the finale. Damage was also done to the Zazu animatronic as well as the large, rotating “birdmobile” that descends during the show; again ironic is the fact that a lot of this collateral damage was done by the fire suppression system instead of the fire itself (although, of course, without the fire suppression system things would have been much worse). This damage, though, was apparently minor compared to Iago’s injuries.
In fact, a word that has popped up repeatedly from people that have seen the animatronic is “unsalvageable,” and the general gist is that our feathered host looks like he’s had a bad run-in with Sarah Connor. This sheds new light on the situation entirely – if there is now need to contract an outside company to manufacture a new Iago animatronic, is it suddenly now cost-effective to return the attraction to its original show? After all, this fire seemed to be an almost tactical strike against only the unpopular elements of the show. Could we actually get the Tiki Room back?
It depends. I have no insider information on this, but we can guess at what a retrofit of the attraction would entail. To restore the attraction to its original state, Imagineers would have to remove the Iago, Zazu, and “Uh-Oa” animatronics and the “magic fountain” would then need to be restored to the central planter. I assume that they would want to remove the fancy movable lighting rigs added for the more raucous Under New Management numbers, and it’s possible that they’d take the opportunity to upgrade the necessary lighting and audio systems. One other question mark would be the ride control system – I have no idea how current the original show’s control equipment was when it closed in 1997, or how easy it would be to port the original show’s commands over to current equipment.
That’s one option. If the show were to stay “as-is”, and the damage is as bad as we’ve heard, Disney will first have to purchase a new Iago animatronic as well as affecting repairs to Zazu. Repairs will have to be made to other damaged elements, including anything damaged by water from the sprinkler system. Add to the the fact that the show was already in very rough shape physically, and desperately in need of a complete refurbishment regardless of its content, and this suddenly becomes a lot of cash to throw into a show that you know no one is going to come to see.
So that’s the choice. I’m not even going to consider option #3, which is leaving the pavilion sitting closed for years at a time. That’s unacceptable. There’s always the outside shot that we’ll get an entirely new show, as was rumored years ago before the economic woes hit, but that would take some time to design and install. Of course, if they wanted to go crazy they could turn it into an elaborate supper club dining facility and show, but I’m trying to manage expectations here.
Wouldn’t it be better, my dear friends at Disney, to rush into production on a restoration of the Tiki Room to celebrate the resort’s 40th anniversary this October? To bring back a true Walt-inspired vintage Disney classic for the park’s birthday celebration? To do something that would not only make fans ecstatic, but would please “civilian” guests as well?
You’re going to have to do something, after all, so wouldn’t it be wonderful if this were both cost-effective and crowd pleasing? And all so cosmically perfect considering the 40th anniversary? Look at all that Tiki-inspired Kevin Kidney & Jody Daily and Shag art they sell at Disneyland! Don’t you want a little bit of that action? Wouldn’t you rather we drop our Tiki coin in your coffers instead of Anaheim’s?
This might just be your chance to do something awesome, oh Disney friends.
One thing is important, though. If you do restore the attraction you must move its entrance from its current concealed location to somewhere more visible – the promenade leading to Pirates of the Caribbean would be an obvious choice. A barker bird wouldn’t hurt, either. Just saying.
Do it for Jose, Fritz, Michael, Pierre, Rosita and the Orange Bird. Do it for the sake of doing incredibly awesome things just because you can. Do it because you can take the unfortunate circumstances of this fire and transmogrify it into something super-fantastico and crowd pleasing.
A give us a Tiki Garden, too? Pretty please?
Think how happy the Tiki gods would be…