August 26, 2006

My Travels: Walt Disney World

Filed under: Disney,My Travels,Orlando,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 5:38 pm
Adventureland at Walt Disney World
Adventureland at Walt Disney World

Ah, another August goes shooting by. Earlier in the month, I was in Internet-free Downieville, a wee little almost-ghost-town a few hours from pretty much anything, in the Sierras. It’s very pretty, but it ain’t tiki, so that’s all I’ve got to say about it here.

After that, we headed out to Walt Disney World for a whole week. My two previous trips to WDW have been woefully short, and the last one was curtailed by an unfortunate double-whammy of a terrible cold and an asshole who thought it would be funny to s#!t all over Tiki Central, requiring us to spend the day in the hotel room doing emergency cleanup duty. But this was a much happier trip — a whole, solid week, happily unencumbered by illness or delinquents. Even with that much time, we felt we had about a week more in us — there was still so much to see and to do. It was hard to leave.

The reason for our trip — not that it really would take a reason to bring us to a Disney park — was to visit with some old friends from Hanford’s LucasArts days, who are now working on an R & D Imagineering project at Epcot. The project was being tested with the public, and we came out to be guinea pigs, and to spend some quality time with them. The project is called Team Possible (based on the Kim Possible animated series on the Disney Channel), and it’s an interactive all-over-the-park game that uses a handheld “Kimmunicator” (actually, a high-end cellphone) to send you on a scavenger hunt of sorts. I don’t want to give away any more than that, but I will say that it was really fun, even though we’re not acquainted with Kim Possible. It was very well-integrated into World Showcase, so that anyone not playing the game would never know there was anything new there. It was a great way to see the park, and we saw all sorts of things we otherwise would have missed. Our experience was great, and hopefully they’ll use the concepts and technology they had in this test for a more permanent game of some sort. If you’d like to know more, keep an eye on Hanford Lemoore’s blog, he’ll likely be making a more detailed post about it soon.

Pre-show lanai at the Enchanted Tiki Room in Orlando
Pre-show lanai at the Enchanted Tiki Room in Orlando
Pre-show tiki at the Enchanted Tiki Room in Orlando
Pre-show tiki

But on to the tiki… we passed on seeing the Enchanted Tiki Room show there (the “Under New Management” version there is painful, simply painful, watch it at your own risk), but we did spend some time at the building it’s housed in. The building itself is very impressive, and full of delicate details — and, the lanai plays Exotica classics in a loop, including Martin Denny. The pre-show on the lanai is very different from the one in Anaheim, but there are a few of the Anaheim lanai tikis to be seen there. In addition, the entrance to Adventureland has a number of great tikis and shields, and there are some fantastic tall slit-drum tikis that spit water near the Enchanted Tiki Room.

'Ohana restaurant at the Polynesian Resort
‘Ohana restaurant at the Polynesian Resort
Tikis and carved poles at the Polynesian Resort
Tikis and carved poles
at the Polynesian Resort

The best Polynesian Pop to be seen at Walt Disney World is at the Polynesian Resort, near the Magic Kingdom. The Polynesian Resort has been there since WDW first opened in October 1971. It’s a large resort, with over 800 rooms in 11 different “longhouses” named after Polynesian islands. The pool area has a volcano with a built-in water slide. The main building houses ‘Ohana restaurant (which also has a bar, serving tropical drinks including a Tropical Itch, complete with backscratcher), and has some neat tikis, masks, war clubs and other carvings, and plenty of bamboo. The hotel also has a luau and Polynesian floor show, called Spirit of Aloha, in one corner of the grounds.

Bar at 'Ohana restaurant
Bar at ‘Ohana restaurant

That’s about it for tiki at Walt Disney World… should I also mention the nearly-tiki stuff? (Shades eyes with back of hand) Wait a minute… (folds ring finger down) I love that idea.

Typhoon Lagoon
Typhoon Lagoon

There are two more things at Walt Disney World that are not quite tiki, but tiki-friendly, to be sure: Typhoon Lagoon, and the Adventurer’s Club. Typhoon Lagoon is one of WDW’s two water parks, and it has a well-executed shipwreck theme. The vegetation is thick, and vintage surf tunes are played throughout the park, except for the fish & chips bar (where they sold “fish & chips w/fries” — no joke), which plays great sea shanties. Who doesn’t love a good sea shanty? The Adventurer’s Club is one of the nightclubs in Downtown Disney, and is themed as a 1937 private club for, well, adventurers. A crew of talented improv comedians mingle and entertain through the whole evening, putting on periodic shows. The walls are positively encrusted with dusty artifacts, including a few tikis, and even a decidedly post-1937 pupu platter in the Treasure Room.

Adventurer's Club
Adventurer’s Club

I could go on and on about all the great things at Walt Disney World (Expedition Everest is beautiful! Canada is a lifetime journey for the traveller! Mocking Steven Tyler is fun!), but I won’t. Instead, take a gander at photos from my trip, and check out the updated entries on Critiki.

14 Responses to “My Travels: Walt Disney World”

  1. Brittanie Says:

    I, for one, love a good sea shanty. This makes me want to book a room at the Polynesian Resort instead of staying with Kilikopela’s parents next time we visit to Florida. Great post.

  2. MrBaliHai Says:

    Glad you had so much fun. The pics of Downieville make me nostalgic for my long-ago backpacking trips to the Sierras.

    The missus and I spent our honeymoon at Disneyworld back in June of 1981, and we had an absolutely miserable time. We were too poor to afford to stay at the Polynesian or the Contemporary, and wound up at the horrible Golf Resort instead. The weather was terrible, unbelievably hot and muggy, and the park attendants were incredibly rude to us. We didn’t go back for 10 years, and we only because our 3-year old begged us to take him. We had a much better time on our 2nd visit, but I still prefer the original Disneyland for sentimental reasons.

  3. GatorRob Says:

    I love reading things like this because, living so close to WDW, I’ve been literally hundreds of times. Reading someone’s excited description of how much fun they had makes it all fresh for me again. Coincidentally, we were just at the MK yesterday with some friends. When we passed by the Enchanted Tiki Room, we said “naw…” and kept on walking. I even commented to our friends how awful the show is now. Fortunately, the place still looks great, except for the “under new management” sign out front. And, as you said, they still play Martin Denny in the pre-show!

  4. Humuhumu Says:

    I’m almost a convert to staying on-property — through great luck, I’ve been able to do so gratis during my past two trips, and boy is it nice to have free parking at all the parks. This time, we were at the Beach Club, so we were walking distance to World Showcase, which had me on cloud nine. The Polynesian is very expensive, the rooms start at $304, but they can sleep up to five, so if you can share the room with another couple, it’s not so bad.

    MrBaliHai, I hope you take a third try at Walt Disney World someday. There are a few things I like about the Magic Kingdom there, but overall it can’t hold a candle to the original, and it just feels like a Bizarro-world Disneyland where everything’s not quite right — we only spent one day in the Magic Kingdom. So, just forget (mostly) about Disneyland/Magic Kingdom, and treat Walt Disney Wolrd as a whole different place. The World Showcase in Epcot is fantastic, (especially during October’s annual Food & Wine Festival), and the theming in Africa and Asia in Animal Kingdom is just outstanding.

    GatorRob, I’m jealous of your proximity, if only because it means you’re probably accustomed to the heat & humidity!

  5. MrBaliHai Says:

    I actually enjoyed Epcot quite a bit. I really like that World’s Fair vibe it’s got going. With both my kids in their teens now, and far too cool to hang out at either park, I doubt that we’ll be going there again until they both move away and leave us as empty-nesters.

    Our last trip to Disneyland was just a couple of years ago, and we were kind of shocked at how run-down the park looks these days. There was actually litter on the ground! Walt would never have stood for that.

  6. Tikimama Says:

    I once spent a week at WDW in service to Lucasfilm and spent EVERY NIGHT at the Adventurer’s Club (there isn’t really much else to do on a Weds @ WDW). I could have been in the show by the end.

  7. Humuhumu Says:

    Aha! Again, I would posit that Disneyland deserves your fresh attention. It’s likely that you were there during or shortly after the Paul Pressler & Cynthia Harriss regime. What they let happen to Disneyland was criminal. They both left to work for The Gap (which is what they seemed to want to turn Disneyland into, so it’s a good fit), and the folks who took over quickly set about spiffing the place up and trying to undo the damage (they were also largely motivated by the then-impending 50th Anniversary). It took a ton of time, effort and money to fix what years of poor maintenance can do. Things are looking much, much better now, and with John Lasseter now involved with Imagineering, there’s a much brighter outlook for the future of Disneyland.

  8. Humuhumu Says:

    Adventurer’s Club was fabulous! I got re-named Arm Candy, Hanford was dubbed Shaggy Boho. Kungaloosh!

  9. Spectre Collie » Blog Archive » Tropical Depression Says:

    [...] Last week, a former coworker from LucasArts came down with his girlfriend to visit the other programmer on this project, and they all invited me to tag along to stuff after work. It was a lot of fun; it makes all the difference going to the parks with people who just seem to get why Disney is cool. You can read about their trip and see a lot of great pictures of the Polynesian Resort on her blog. [...]

  10. Jessica Lynn Says:

    I love your website. The graphics, and photos are amazing. I am going to Disney World for my 5th anniversary with my husband next year, and we are staying at the Poly. Have a great day!!

  11. Humuhumu Says:

    Thanks so much! I’ve only heard great things about staying at the Polynesian Resort, hope your trip is fantastic.

  12. KINGCRAB Says:

    Well, I like the “Under New Management” show. And I think it deserves more respect and shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

    No offense, but folks like you refuse to comprehend that the WDW Tiki Room was in danger and had to be changed in order to avoid the wrecking ball.

    I also take criticisms of that new show as a personal slam on not only those of us who do like that version of the show, but also as a slam on the multi-talented Imagineers who worked on it, including Jeff Burke and Kevin Rafferty, who hardly ever seem to get the respect that they deserve!

  13. WeLoveDisney Says:

    Must say I loved the show at “Enchanted Tiki Room” but then I had not seen it before it was “under new management”. Love your description of the Polynesian resort, it sounds fabulous & I think I’ld like to stay there next time I visit. You should be on commission for Disney World!

  14. JMGIII Says:

    Just some updated, er, updateness.

    The “Team Possible” thing at EPCOT is up and going and pretty cool. It really Disney-fies the whole World Showcase area in a new and very novel way. Saw lots of kids doing it, and they all looked thrilled to bits. (My two lads were lunch-whiny, so that had to be skipped.)

    The Tiki Room “Under New Management” thing is…meh. They COULD have done it better than they did, and I’m a big fan of Gilbert Gottfried, but most of the references which were fresh at the time of the re-do are stale already. Like I said…meh. Don’t hate it, don’t love it. If forced to decided, I fall on the “slightly like it” side.

    I like being able to compare the WDW version with the DL version.

    We also had drinks at Tambu Lounge at the Poly (a Lapu-Lapu in an easy-to-slosh pineapple shell, and a Mai-Tai for the sake of comparison with the domestic standard) and dinner at Ohana, which surprised me by how good it was. Disney not being run by dummies, they fill you up with bread and salad, so by the time the shrimp roll around, you’re about to fall off your chair, groaning.

    We’re big fans of the Poly, and living in Miami, whenever we get a cheap “FL residents rate” we stay a couple of nights. Agreed that the $$$ rack rate is pretty steep, but if one’s dates are flexible, it CAN be had for +/-$200/night. If anyone else out there is stricken, like me, with a strange fondness for the Tiki side of Disney and the Disney side of Tiki, then the Poly is a must. Even if only for drinks and a bit of wandering around.

    We were lucky enough to say there on our flight back from our honeymoon (to the Napa Valley…because we’re all over the map) and it couldn’t have been more fun. This was always one of the fun WDW stops when I was a (very young) kid, having been built at the tail end of the postwar Tiki craze. I still remember all the crazy glassware that came my parents’ drink orders. (And now I am cursed to stalk eBay in search of them!)

    Lastly, I’m amazed that no Tiki event (i.e. in the style of Hukilau, Tiki-Kon, etc.) has even been set at the Poly.

    There. I’m done.

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Humuhumu is the creator of several tiki websites. She is a designer and programmer based out of San Francisco.

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