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