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Let’s All Sing Like The Birdies Sing… Again!

My siestas keep getting chorter and chorter...

It began, like so many things, with one little spark

Although this was not a spark of imagination, but of conflagration. More specifically, a fire that took place this last January in the Magic Kingdom’s Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management attraction. Since this was far from a popular show, the big question at the time was what would happen next?

First, there were only baseless yet fervent hopes and pleas for a return to the original Tropical Serenade. Then there were actual rumors, and then leaked information, and even more rumors. It soon became apparent that not only would the Tiki Room return, but it would return without some of the most offensive elements from the Under New Management show (which had either perished in the January fire or been ruined afterwards by the fire suppression system). There was even the possibility that the original show would return – or at least elements of it. But which elements? And why did the officially-announced reopening date keep getting pushed back?

The first real word was handed down at last month’s Destination D event in Orlando. At the end of a somewhat peculiar session discussing upcoming Imagineering projects in Florida, the voice of Tiki Room emcee José came over the convention hall loudspeakers and it was announced that the Enchanted Tiki Room would indeed be returning. But this announcement was tacked on to the end of the presentation and amounted to little more than “OhyeahtheTikiRoomiscomingbackkthanksbai.” There was no discussion of when it was returning, and in exactly what form; the announcement that Disney had tweeted approximately a half hour before the Imagineering presentation contained the bewildering phrase that the new attraction would be “reminiscent” of the original show. In this day and age, such vague verbiage is enough to send fans into fits of anxiety. What did they mean?

Thankfully, it appears that we have nothing to fear. Disney has announced that the Tropical Serenade will indeed return as simply “The Enchanted Tiki Room,” with a targeted opening date of August 2011. The tiki gods have indeed been kind; I can’t tell you how it truly warms me to the core of my soul to read – in an official Disney press release – the words, “The ‘new management’ has been let go.” Here are the other relevant parts of their statement:

The Sunshine Pavilion, featuring a show variously known as “Tropical Serenade” and “The Enchanted Tiki Birds,” debuted on Oct. 1, 1971, in Magic Kingdom. In 1998, following substantial refurbishment, it re-launched as The Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management, with two famous Disney birds – Iago from Aladdin and Zazu from The Lion King – taking control and trying to spruce up the show.

The “new management” has been let go and the future of the Adventureland landmark is in the wings and wit of José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre – four crooning parrot hosts who ushered in sophisticated Audio-Animatronics technology at California’s Disneyland in 1963 at The Enchanted Tiki Room.

In time for fall 2011 vacations, The Enchanted Tiki Room (as the Magic Kingdom attraction now will be called) is being prepared to reflect the show at Disneyland that represents a milestone in Disney theme park entertainment. While Walt Disney’s creative team previously had produced movable figures, none had the sophistication of the bird-brained cast of the Tiki Room. José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre produce movements when solenoid coils hidden inside receive signals recorded onto magnetic tape and are regarded as the first “true” Audio-Animatronics figures.

They introduce a musical presentation by more than 200 birds, flowers and tikis. Even the audience gets into the act, joining in during the musical ditty “Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing.”

For the devoted Disney fan, there are victories and there are victories. Restoring the original Tiki Room show to the grand and glorious Sunshine Pavilion – a facility more lavish than its Disneyland counterpart – is a victory on the scale of D-Day. It’s been a long time since fans have been able to see a proper show in the Sunshine Pavilion, with rain falling outside the windows in front of a distant, smouldering volcano. It’s hard to believe that something so long hoped-for has actually happened.

Of course, for those of us who are never satisfied, this begs other questions. What will the pre-show be like? The building’s queue area has been walled off for some time now, so it seems certain that whatever appears there will be something new. The pre-show is something that neither the original Florida Tiki show or its 1998 replacement ever got completely right, so there’s certainly room for improvement here. The Tiki Garden, which acts as a pre-show for California’s Tiki Room, is far superior in both content and atmosphere, and would of course be a welcome addition in Orlando. Current rumors suggest that there’s something interactive planned for the queue, which would certainly fit with Imagineering’s current fetishes, but I hope that whatever appears is more focused on creating a mood than squirting guests with water.

Certainly, a re-thinking of the Tiki Room queue could help solve problems with the attraction’s usage statistics; a re-located entrance along the corridor between Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean would help scoop up more passing guests who might otherwise continue on unawares. There has been a problem in the past with guests entering the pre-show area but leaving before the show begins; could this be because the uninitiated believe the amphitheater-like queue to be the show itself? Or is there simply too much dead time waiting in the unairconditioned queue waiting for something to happen? That’s not an issue in California, where the Flavor of Hawaii film and Tiki Garden show (not to mention a booming trade in Dole Whips) help keep things interesting.

Even better than a new marquee and a more prominent entrance would be a return of the Barker Bird, voiced by the inimitable Wally Boag. Not only would it be a nice tribute to the recently departed performer, but it would be a return of one of those lost bits of texture that used to make the Magic Kingdom special.

And since I am, in fact, taking credit for this whole turn of events (Disney obviously is only doing it to cave to my demands!) I will finish with these two … requests: An actual tree, in the Sunshine Tree Terrace. Seriously. Bring it back. Also, I demand a return of the original Citrus Swirl. With frozen orange juice, not any of that soft-serve shenaniganonsense. Square all that away, and all will be well with the Sunshine Pavilion, and I will have no more demands.*

So yeah, Tiki Room!

* The management reserves the right to continue all demands, beginning with the removal of the Flying Carpets spinner in Adventureland

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12 comments to Let’s All Sing Like The Birdies Sing… Again!

  • Jeanine

    It is an enormous victory for all right-minded folk everywhere. I can’t help but feel that the pre-show area will never equal Disneyland’s until someone coughs up for outdoor _padded_ bench seating, as they have there–which always strikes me as the quintessential marker of Disney’s above-and-beyondness.

    The most discouraged I ever felt on attending the Tiki Room would have to be, oddly enough, in Tokyo Disneyland, where the CMs inexplicably would bar entrance into the pre-show area until right before the show started. Of course, when you found out the show starred Stitch, it didn’t help the discouragement any either…

  • Cosmic Rae

    Bring back The Orange Bird while you’re at it. Sooooooooo happy the New Mgt got the axe!

  • Mark W

    I am extremely thankful that New Management is gone. That was one of the worst embarrassments in any Disney park anywhere. That said – and I may lose some of Disney geek cred here but please hear me out – I can’t say I’m particularly thrilled about the return of the original Enchanted Tiki Room to FL. Two reasons:

    1) The original already exists out in Anaheim – so it’s not like the historical legacy wasn’t already being preserved. And even apart from the pre-show, it’s doubtful that TDO will match the level of presentation and maintenance achieved by their Anaheim counterparts. With the more historically significant version of this historical attraction already in good hands, I don’t feel a pressing need to duplicate it on the East Coast.

    2) The reason “Under New Management” happened, aside from TDO’s shame at their own “un-hip” history (a shame for which they should be ashamed) is because Tropical Serenade wasn’t really drawing the crowds. Now granted, not everything is going to be an enormous crowd-pleaser, and just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good (Test Track, anyone?), but what if Disney had gone the extra mile to try to please not only the Disney history nerds, but Joe Tourist as well? Why not try to fulfill Walt’s original vision for the attraction and make it a dinner show? (The length of a typical meal would almost certainly necessitate a new show, but at the hands of a skilled writer, this could be accomplished while keeping the spirit of the original.) Or why not come up with a new and original quality attraction – something that would be consistent with the theme of Marc Davis’ 1971 Polynesian/African-influenced Adventureland, but would also be fresh and entertaining? I’ll refrain from armchair Imagineering further here, but I’d be shocked if ideas for something like this weren’t already pitched at WDI.

    Now, all that said, even the current non-operational building is an improvement over “Under New Management,” so getting back the original attraction is certainly a plus for the Magic Kingdom – I just think that Disney could have done better and wish that they had.

  • Adam S

    YAY! YAHOO! YIPPY! Now my kids can see something great that I won’t feel bad about showing them on the next visit.

    Also, 100% with you on the Citrus Swirl. That’s all I will be thinking about for the rest of the day. Thanks.

  • Omnispace

    Congratulations for all of you on the east coast who finally got their wishes!!! It’s a milestone that the Company is now finally acknowledging the significance of their earlier attractions instead of being embarrassed by them. That being said, if they truly bring back the original show you are soon going to be reminded that its charming aspects are interspersed with embarrassingly corny stuff — enough to make one squirm uneasily in their seats. When they hit you frequently enough it’s enough to make one consider heading for the door which many people still do. Not every aspect of our culture in the early 1960′s is as palatable today. It’s going to take many “spiked” Citrus Swirls before I’ll submit to joining along with the insipid “Lets All Sing Like the Birdies Sing”. Thus I’m hoping they can “freshen” the show accordingly.

    I’ve always been intrigued by Disneyland’s tiki pre-show. I like the way it introduces the different Hawaiian gods and I’ve always felt that the concept would expand well into a complete show. It would be amazing to see how the character of the Tiki Room changes in response to the “presence” of each of the different gods along with the appropriate traditional music. You have four main Hawaiian gods so the four parrots could represent them (instead of embarrassing ethnic cliches) — and of course the party would be crashed by other heavy hitters such as Pele. It would better represent a unique aspect of Hawaiian culture.

  • Mark W

    Another angle of this story worth considering – with The Enchanted Tiki Room and Captain EO, we’ve now gotten back two attractions that were superior to the embarrassingly bad/dated letdowns that replaced them. Could this possibly indicate a trend? Is there any chance at all that Disney may decide to shut down the vomit/lawsuit machine that is Mission: Space and replace it with an updated Horizons?? Probably not as it’d be far too expensive for the tolerance of TDO, but it’s worth thinking about what other attractions, if any, might be candidates for the retro-refresh treatment…

  • smaha

    Next up: Imaginationthingamabobber.

  • The Manimal

    “In the tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki room…”
    Hooray! I have been to the MAGIC KINGDOM many times in my life (native Floridian) but only sat through the UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT show once (last October). Say what you will about the original show being dated and all but anything was better than that show. Saying the HALL OF PRESIDENTS was a sleep inducing borefest? Really? Pot calling the kettle black, man.

  • philphoggs

    Such good news, but wait what about the Martin Denny style music in the queue – gone? noooooo
    Barker Bird coming? yessss
    Will this make my Iago feather worth that much more? So many unanswered questions ;)

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  • puntagordabob

    I am STILL dancing on the tables here after the news was formally announced (we all kind of knew of course…but still until it was official the fear of something else happening was very real)……

    As many of you know (on the various blogs and forums)…. Jose and his Flock was my earliest magical memory of WDW (I was 5 when WDW opened!)…as I grew up those birds were real “friends” to me that were always welcoming each time I entered the Magic Kingdom…. as I grew up of course I learned the Tech behind the magic, etc…but STILL to this day I tell you Those Birds ARE REAL! :)

  • zf

    “Current rumors suggest that there’s something interactive planned for the queue, which would certainly fit with Imagineering’s current fetishes, but I hope that whatever appears is more focused on creating a mood than squirting guests with water.”

    Who says you can’t do both?

    Also, I would say that the MK has gained far more textures than it has lost and is still special. So humph to you!

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