Disneyland, The Classics: Jungle Cruise and the Tiki Room

Posted on Fri, 08/24/2012 - 11:30

The Disneyland Resort is sure to be the hottest destination this summer with the opening of two new lands - Buena Vista Street and Cars Land at Disney California Adventure. Disney Imagineers have worked long and hard to bring more of Walt Disney into the newly expanded and enhanced Disney California Adventure.

Many guests will no doubt journey to Walt Disney’s Original Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, after experiencing all of the new and exciting attractions and experiences at Disney California Adventure. We at the Walt Disney Family Museum would like to highlight some of the must see Disneyland attractions guests can still experience today that tie directly back to Walt Disney himself.

So without further ado we present:

Disneyland - The Quintessential Classics

The Must See Attractions that made Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom
Internationally known as "The Happiest Place on Earth"!

The Tour Continues: The Jungle Cruise and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

As we head into our first Land to the left of the Central Hub of Disneyland, the Victorian architecture slowly fades away to the tropical, exotic and far-away world of Adventureland. Early Disneyland plans and drawings show this land going by the name True-Life Adventure Land (after Walt’s successful series of True Life Adventure nature films) with it located on the east side of Disneyland where Tomorrowland lies. When construction commenced on the Anaheim site, the designers found a large stand of mature Eucalyptus trees on the west side of the Park originally used by farmers as a wind break. Knowing that these trees would help achieve the lush jungle environment that they were creating from scratch, the decision was made to shuffle the lands to their current layout. The largest (and only) attraction on opening day in Adventureland was the Jungle Cruise. Initially, Walt Disney wanted to populate the jungles and river with real animals, but he was soon convinced that mechanical substitutes would not need to sleep during park hours and would perform on cue throughout the day. The Jungle Cruise was one of the most heavily promoted attractions in the year leading up to the opening Disneyland, with Walt featuring the progress of its construction several times on his “Disneyland” television show. The attraction was laid out by Disney Legend Harper Goff who based some scenes and the boats on the 1951 film, The African Queen. Now Africa is not the only destination on the Jungle Cruise, as each bend in the river takes you down different international rivers including the Mekong, Amazon, and Congo. (And if you don’t believe me, you’re in de-Nile!) The attraction originally had a serious tone, but humor was added by Disney Legend Marc Davis with the addition of the Elephant Bathing Pool in 1962 and the Lost Safari in 1964. Today the attraction continues to delight guest with its exotic thrills and corny humor. 

Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room opened to Disneyland Guests at the gates of Adventureland on June 23, 1963.  The groundbreaking attraction was the first to feature Audio-Animatronics, in the form of over 200 talking, singing and dancing birds, flowers, tiki drummers and totem poles. The unique fact that the EnchantedTiki Room is the only attraction at Disneyland with its own restrooms gives a clue to it original design. Early plans called for the Tiki Room to be a Polynesian restaurant featuring Audio-Animatronic birds serenading guests at the end of their meal. The restaurant would have shared its kitchen with the Tahitian Terrace in Adventureland and the Plaza Pavilion restaurant on the corner of Main Street, U.S.A. since all three are actually part of the same building. The Magic Fountain at the room's center was designed as the bussing station and still contains storage compartments within the base of the fountain. For the first 40 year, Guests sat on the restaurant chairs that were welded together into rows once the restaurant concept was cancelled. Disney even created an attraction poster that stated “Tiki Talk Say Better Go, Wondrous Food, Wondrous Show!” The show was fully financed and owned by Walt Disney and required its own special ticket, separate from the Disneyland Ticket Books costing $0.75. The attraction opened at the height of the nationwide Tiki craze and was an immediate hit.

The Hawaiian-themed musical show is "hosted" by four lifelike macaws whose plumage matches their implied countries of origin. "José" is red, white and green and speaks with a Mexican accent and is voiced by Wally Boag, who also wrote the script for the attraction; "Michael" is white and green with an Irish brogue, voiced by the Golden Horseshoe’s Fulton Burley; "Pierre" is blue, white and red, and has a French accent voiced by Ernie Newton while red, black and white "Fritz" has a German accent provided by Thurl Ravenscroft, who also voices Tangaroa in the Enchanted Garden at the attraction's entrance. In addition to top notch voice talent many other Disney Legends contributed to the creation of the Enchanted Tiki Room including the Sherman Brothers who wrote the attraction's theme song, “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room”, Imagineering legends John Hench, Marc Davis and Rolly Crump who designed the overall concept, look, humor of the show, and Harriet Burns, “The First Lady of Imagineering", who created the plumage for the birds. Harriet recalled that the Imagineers were having difficulty coming up with a material that would stretch to allow the birds chests to expand as they “breathed”.  Harriet noticed in a planning meeting how the movement of Walt’s sweater at his elbow was exactly the way the designers wanted the birds chests to move and created the custom woven chests that created the lifelike breathing movements used to this day. 

Next time we’ll mosey on over to Frontierland and Visit Walt Disney’s beloved Golden Horseshoe Saloon and the Mark Twain Riverboat – Queen of the Rivers of America! 


Joseph Titizian (pictured on the left at the Tiki Room, August 2012) is an inaugural member of The Walt Disney Family Museum volunteer team. He is a regular contributor to this blog, and has developed continued education courses for the volunteer team. A lifelong Disney fan, Joseph has previously worked at Disneyland Park and Pixar Animation Studios.

[Images above: Courtesy The Walt Disney Company, ©Disney.]