Saturday, July 05, 2008

If You Enter as a Stranger -


"...You will exit as a friend." An open letter sent to the Walt Disney Company, regarding the recent announcement of the impending closing of Please Island in Walt Disney World and, most significantly, the Adventurers' Club -

I'm sure this is a waste of effort, and doubt very much it would ever be read by anyone of consequence, but I must state my feelings on this one. There was a time when I'd have felt writing a letter to the Disney Company very useful. Now, it seems to be about the corporate, not about the magic it used to represent. But I'll sully onwards anyway, martini in my hand.

I can't begin to state my shock, sense of betrayal and outright anger at the recently announced decision to close one of the most unique venues in a place that prides itself on one-of-a-kind entertainment, the closing of Pleasure Island and especially its crown jewel, the Adventurers' Club.

The Adventurers' Club is uniquely Disney, and also unique to Disney... No Disney characters or corporate branding and yet seething with Disney magic and fun. To replace it and the surrounding clubs with an "iconic attraction, in the form of a giant, tethered balloon that will take guests 300 feet into the air"... well, usually I'd have to travel as far as my local COUNTY FAIR for such excitement! And a design-your-own T-shirt store? Yup, that'll save me a trip to Cafe Press on my computer! There is nothing special, unique or iconic about such plans. It just cheapens Disney further and further to the level of entertainment I can easily find locally without traveling 1400 miles and spending tons of money on.

I've been going to WDW once or twice a year - with maybe two years skipped, including last year - for almost 25 years now. I first visited the Adventurers' Club in the fall of 1989, not many months after the Island opened. Every year I still proudly display my original cheap, plastic membership badge pin from that first visit, which always impresses the cast. I remember when the barstaff were all Nash. I've danced for Babylonia, and sung with Samantha. I've had the bartenders work their magic for me, on myself and on many many friends I've brought there over the years. It is without question the highlight of my trip every year... we tend to visit the club two or three times every trip we make. My 11-year-old son loves it as much as I do, and is so proud of his own little rubber "participation" pin he earned two years ago. He's as upset about this as I am, so it's not just an "adult entertainment" perspective. It's our preferred nightlife destination when in Florida, and a significant reason we keep coming back.

I'll mention a few of the other reasons I keep coming back to WDW (keeping in mind we especially enjoy the atmosphere, food and drink aspects of WDW more than the rides, which are bonus to us).

Favorite restaurant: Alfredo's in Epcot. Oh yeah, forgot, that's gone.

Favorite quiet hide-away for a quiet mid-day or evening drink: The Matsu No Ma Lounge in Epcot, where I first tasted sake 15 years ago and have loved it ever since and where my son has delighted not only on the origami presents from the servers, but on a few of them remembering him visit to visit, sometimes a year apart. Oh yeah, that's gone too now, absorbed into the main Japan restaurant.

Favorite WDW attraction, ever: Horizons. I still weep. Mission: Space is fun, but there's no spirit, no soul, no happiness. Just a cool simulator ride. Great as an addition, but came at the cost of part of Epcot's soul. As did World of Motion and the abomination that is the "re-imagineered" Journey Into Imagination.

Speaking of abominations, do not even get me started on the new Enchanted Tiki Room! Once a favorite guilty pleasure - my web domain, "hail the Tiki", is not a Polynesian reference but a tribute to that once great, imaginative show before it became just more character shill - it has been decimated into a Saturday morning puppet show. Again, I can get better entertainment and a county fair.

At the moment, the only truly special place on a personal level for me (even if not so much for the rest of the family) that sounds like it's been untouched is the Rose & Crown Pub in Epcot. Let's see how long that lasts.

Boo, Disney! Boo. I quickly went from shock and depression to anger and actual RAGE at hearing about the Club's eminent closing. To add insult to injury, I fly in to Orlando for this year's trip on September 28th. According to the press release, the very day after the Club closes. Swell. The family and I have already been planning next year's planned two-week trip down to WDW, and we are now seriously debating going elsewhere. Disney may still have great rides, but the MAGIC is spilling out faster than sand through a clenched fist.

Give us back our magic. Spare the Adventurers' Club, if not Pleasure Island. And if you won't, well, much as I hate to suggest it as it would itself diminish this great concept, but if you won't, FRANCHISE it. Sell the concept, the characters, and open Clubs around the country.

One better darned well be in Boston.

Hailing the Tiki (and Babylonia!), but losing my faith,

Kunguloosh! (To use our all-purpose greeting, and you can guess its meaning in this context.)

- Bismo "Traveling"" Beerbelly
Hailing the Tiki Since 1985!




Boski said...

Bismo, you simply MUST somehow send this to WDW! As usual, you convey such tremendous emotion so eloquently. I would find it very difficult to get such a point across without using "swear words"!

I've long envied your close "relationship" with WDW, especially Pleasure Island, and more especially The Adventurer's Club. I have so wanted to develop the same with my girls and now I won't have that chance....I'm so disappointed.

I think I speak for most if not all of your friends when I say that you really should send this to them directly. Hey, if you start a petition, I'll gladly sign it!!!!

Bismo said...

Thanks for the reminder, 'Ski... there IS actually an online petition. THough I'm not confident such things can help much I did indeed sign it, you and others can find it at this link: