Dueling Disney: Which Adventureland Is Best?

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Dueling Disney, Features, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

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Published on September 11, 2013 at 2:00 am with 37 Comments

Welcome to this tropical hideaway, you lucky people, you. If we weren’t writing this column, right away, we’d be in the audience too! Whether your pleasure is exploring treehouses, being serenaded by birds, or navigating a treacherous jungle full of dangerous animals (and even more dangerous puns), Adventureland is your land. Come join Keith and Jeff as they put on their safari hats and sharpen their machetes, and find out just which Adventureland comes out on top!

(As usual, Keith is representing Disneyland, while Jeff represents Walt Disney World)

Topic 17: Adventureland

Jeff: The exotic land of Adventure, oh how I love thee. Out of all the lands at any Disney Park, if you asked me what would be my favorite, I’d call you silly for asking me that. They are all my favorite. But deep in my heart, I know my choice would have to lay in the deep recesses of the wild jungle of Adventureland. At Walt Disney World, it is truly a sight to behold. Adventure, danger, spitting camels, and much, much more. Did I mention spitting camels?

Keith: During my last trip to Walt Disney World, I was waiting for friends who were shopping in the Adventureland stores. I found myself outside, people watching for a few minutes. To be more specific, I found myself people-getting-spit-on watching. It was pretty funny. That said, I’m kinda glad we don’t have one in Disneyland. The only area it would make sense thematically is already horribly congested, and the last thing we need there is people frantically moving from side to side. This land will be fun to debate. As usual, you guys clearly have the size advantage, but we do have quite a bit of goodness packed into our little Land of Adventure.

Hey Jeff! Did you know that Rolly Crump redesigned our Adventureland Bazaar? Tell us about the time he redesigned your Adventureland Bazaar!

Jeff: I’d love to tell you about the time Rolly redesigned our Adventureland Bazaar! Except, he didn’t because he was too busy redesigning Mr. Toad for us! EAT IT, GLUCK!

That said, we don’t really have an Adventureland Bazaar, per se. Instead, we have Agrabah Bazaar and Pirate’s Bazaar. The Agrabah Bazaar is an Arabian marketplace, covering 1,500 square feet themed to resemble a Middle Eastern, open-air bazaar, bustling with merchants peddling colorful wares. The store is broken up into “stalls,” much like a real bazaar, and sells everything to brass items and spices to Aladdin themed merchandise and Adventureland apparel.

Pirate’s Bazaar is the shop you are dumped into just after your ride Pirates of the Caribbean. Half open air, half covered, this area sells everything for the pirate in your family. From swords and eye patches to the latest Jack Sparrow merchandise. You can also have your little Pirate made up at the Pirate’s League.

Both areas have been rethemed since their original opening day digs (NOT by Rolly Crump, unfortunately), but they both fit the area quite well. Even with the spitting camels.


Keith: Oh, he was busy redesigning Mr. Toad? Would that be the same Mr. Toad you can still ride at…


Here is adventure. Here is romance. Here is mystery.
Tropical rivers, silently flowing into the unknown.
The unbelievable splendor of exotic flowers…
the eerie sounds of the jungle…
with eyes that are always watching.
This is Adventureland.

You guys may know that when Disneyland was in its early planning stages, the names of each territory were slightly different. Main Street was still Main Street, but the other areas were referred to as: Fantasy Land (same name, two words), Frontier Country, World of Tomorrow, and True-Life Adventureland. The names were streamlined, however, thanks to an observant Herb Ryman.

In 1954, just as Disney was kicking the “True-Life” out of Adventureland’s name, they were turning to Harper Goff to design the land’s signature attraction. Walt wanted it to be some sort of a boat ride, and if possible utilize the giant rubber squid used in the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Goff had other ideas. A huge fan of the 1951 film The African Queen, he envisioned a mysterious cruise down the rivers of a jungle. He actually tried to get Walt to watch the film. Walt politely declined, but trusted Goff’s judgement. At one point in the ride’s development, they considered using live animals to entertain the brave explorers. That idea was nixed, however, due to (amongst other things) the consensus being they would probably just sleep all day.

In Disneyland’s early days this Jungle River Expedition was considered to be the park’s marquee attraction. Originally the show narration was serious, with skippers warning riders of all the dangers that lurked in the bushes. Within a few years however the spiels became comical, and pun-laden. Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise is not only home to the original Trader Sam, but also the original and unequivocal Eighth Wonder of the World… the backside of water.

Jeff: While you may have the original Jungle Cruise as your claim to fame, I think, without a doubt, we have the best. For over 40 years, Walt Disney World’s version of the famed jungle expedition has had a longer overall ride, better show scenes, and better jokes. Sure, the old classics are still there (and no one takes them for granite, trust me), but we have quite a few new ones. Air to ground hippos? We got ‘em. Disco-loving tribesmen? You betcha. A darkened temple that rivals the creepy river ride from Willy Wonka? We have that too (and sometimes the Skippers even sing the song).

So while you do have the notion of having the original, we certainly have the better version of it. We even have a larger fleet of boats, with 15 in our arsenal versus only 12 that Disneyland has. We can sink you any day of the week!

Keith: I’m afraid I must admit that I like your Jungle Cruise better. I think we have the piranha effect and you don’t (take that, Heimbuch), but I really like the indoor section of the Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Cruise.

On January 17, 1962, the first roots for the Swiss Family Tree House went into the ground. The tree house, based on the film Swiss Family Robinson, stood at an impressive 60 feet tall, and was even given its own name: Disneyodendron semperflorens grandis. Ten months and 255,000 dollars later, the tree house opened to guests on November 18. Many of the designers thought the attraction was a waste of time, but not Walt. As usual, Walt was right. Adults climbing the tree house outnumbered kids three to one! Showcasing different rooms that the Robinson Family had constructed while marooned on the island, one of the more memorable experiences from that attraction was the Buddy Baker tune “The Swisskapolka.” Sort of like it’s a small world, many folks either hated it, or loved it. I fell under the latter.

After a little over three decades of the unforgiving Anaheim sun, the tree was starting to show its age. Talks began in the mid-1990s about a complete overhaul. A few ideas were kicked around, and in June of 1999, the tree house re-opened as Tarzan’s Treehouse, to coincide with the release of the film Tarzan. Of course new scenes were added to replace one movie with the other (it’s worth noting both films were based on novels, however the attractions were obviously based on Disney’s film version of each), and the path traveled was altered as well. A new suspension bridge was installed, which ultimately altered the total number of steps required to traverse the tree dwelling. And for those keeping score out there, Tarzan’s Treehouse contains 48,192 leaves.

Some folks are sad that the Swiss Family theme is gone, while some welcome its replacement, as the original film is not quite as relevant as it once was. For those that want the best of both worlds, be sure to meander about the play area at the end of the attraction; you may just find a phonograph playing a familiar tune.

Jeff: What’s that you say, Keith? You guys no longer have the Swiss Family Tree House? Well, come on over to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, where you can still find it in all its glory!

When the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, the tree was one of the original attractions of Adventureland. That’s right. AN ORIGINAL ATTRACTION. AND IT’S STILL THERE! Much like its West Coast counterpart, the tree is intended to look real and fool the unsuspecting passersby with its realness. It is actually made up of steel, concrete, and stucco, stretching 60 feet tall and 90 feet wide. It looks nearly identical to the one in the film.

Of course, the Robinson Family did not have access to elevators back then, especially all alone on that island, so it’s up to you to navigate the tree’s 116 steps to see such innovations like the bamboo water pulley system, and the family’s makeshift home. The tree’s 1,400 limbs also carry 300,000 plastic leaves to help add to the illusion that the tree is real.

It’s an illusion, Keith. ILLUSION. The only illusion you guys have is that you think your re-done tree is better than ours.

Keith: Well crap. I am already 0 for 2 in this duel, considering I wish ours had remained Swiss Family-themed as well. A funny tidbit about that attraction is early on it drew complaints from folks visiting Disneyland from Switzerland. They remarked that not all Swiss people lived in trees.

Even though you won the first two points in this round, Jeff, you’re about to be left in the dust.

One of the earliest influences for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room came from an antique animated bird Walt found in a New Orleans collectibles shop. Once he confirmed with his engineers that it would be possible to make the bird’s mouth move, Walt took it from there. He envisioned a dinner show where guests would be serenaded by singing birds perched above. He wanted to name it “The Tiki Room,” but there was already a restaurant of that name residing in the world’s largest bowling alley, Pennsylvania. So, they added Enchanted to the name.

Plans for the Enchanted Tiki Room as a restaurant were in full swing. Reservations were to be spaced in one-hour intervals, and guests were going to be advised to show up fifteen minutes before their scheduled time. After the main course, the lights would dim, and the show would begin. They even planned to roll out a single “birthday bird” on a little cart, so it could sing to guests celebrating their special day.

Disney Legend Rolly Crump (ever heard of him, Jeff?) designed some pretty far out birds for the show. In fact, they were a little too far out, and wouldn’t be utilized. He did however design the many Tikis found outside during the pre-show. Testing began on the dinner theater concept, and soon after, they realized the “dinner” portion of the show would have to be abandoned. People would just spend too much time holding their forks and watching the show. It is not unusual for an idea to begin development at Disney, then get scrapped for one reason or another. However this particular idea came about as close to fruition as any idea has in Disney history. At one point they even distributed handout brochures to guests advertising the upcoming eatery: “Stouffer’s fabulous ‘Bird Room’ will be Disneyland’s first ‘by reservation only’ dining facility, with a complete show that’s literally put on by the birds–for you!”

The show, sans food, opened in June of 1963. It recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, which just goes to show that some classics truly do not die.

Jeff: Why, yes, Keith, I HAVE heard of this Roland Crump fellow. If only there was a way to learn more about him, and his amazing creations…

While the Magic Kingdom did not have the Enchanted Tiki Room when it opened, we did have the Tropical Serenade! While the main show was identical to the one in Anaheim, we did have the luxury of a new pre-show. Some of Rolly’s tiki god designs from the enchanted garden did make their way to Florida, but alas, they did not speak like their Western counterparts.

The show was replaced in 1998 with The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management), which was brought in to “update” the “show” for “hip” “new” “audiences.” Lots of quotations there, folks. Anyway, the show brought synergy into the fold, bringing Iago from Aladdin and Zazu from The Lion King in as the new owners of the building, and their desire to update the show.

Luckily, after 12 long years, the tiki gods smiled upon us, and set fire to the attic of the attraction, thus destroying some of the animatronics. In an act surprising EVERYONE, instead of bulldozing the building, Walt Disney World management reopened the attraction on August 15, 2011 as Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room as a slightly edited version of the original show.

We got our tiki room back (mostly), and I, for one, am EXTREMELY happy for it! Tahuwai la a tahuwai wai la! Ehu hene la a pili koo lua la!

Keith: During my first trip ever to Walt Disney World, in October of 2005, I visited “The Tiki Room: Under New Management.” I honestly didn’t know what it entailed prior to my visit. When that disco ball came out, and Buster Poindexter began to play, my soul committed suicide.

The very fact that Walt Disney World EVER housed that incarnation of the Tiki Room loses this duel for you, Jeff.

Jeff: Allow me to make up for it, in a way, with this. A million fan boy voices would cry out at once if I didn’t at LEAST mention the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction itself. Yes, I mentioned the store earlier, but the ride is worth mentioning as well. While I fully admit that the Magic Kingdom’s version lacks a bit compared to Disneyland’s, I still think it’s one of the breakout attractions at Walt Disney World. When the Magic Kingdom first opened in 1971, there was one question that was asking many, many times…WHERE ARE THE PIRATES?

You see, Pirates was not going to be built in Florida. Due to the state’s close proximity to the actual caribbean, it was thought that Florida natives would have no interest in seeing blood thirsty pirates ravage the seven seas. Instead, they were going to get the Western River Expedition, another Marc Davis attraction that would have taken guests through the Old West. Alas, in what was probably the first mistake in a long line of many at Walt Disney World, Disney management was wrong. People clamored for pirates. They shouted their need for them from the mountain tops. And so, Pirates finally opened in the Magic Kingdom in December 1973, and thus, their need for pirates was sated.

Keith: So what you’re telling me is, not only is your home park responsible for The Tiki Room: Under New Management, but they also chose a stripped-down, underwhelming clone of our Pirates over the fresh, imaginative, and awesome Western River Expedition???

Case closed. Disneyland wins this time.

But just for funsies, allow me to hammer that last nail into the coffin. Oh hai Tony Baxter.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye opened in March of 1995, and was an immediate smash hit. The Jungle Cruise river actually had to be reshaped to accommodate Indy’s temple structure and outdoor queue. Speaking of queues, this ride boasts one of the best in all of Disney. The attraction itself utilizes highly sophisticated ride vehicles, which are the most complex in all of Disneyland. The first major attraction to be added to Adventureland since 1963’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Indiana Jones has quickly become a guest favorite not only in the land in which it resides, but in all of the Disneyland Resort.

The win goes to Disneyland this round!

Keith seems to be sure, but is he right? Do you guys think Indy and the original Enchanted Tiki Room take home the prize? Or is a cooler Jungle Cruise, a so-so Pirates ride and a tree house inhabited by the Robinson Family enough to sway the votes in Florida’s favor? Let us know in the comments below!


Dueling Disney
 is written by Keith Gluck and Jeff Heimbuch

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email us at [email protected] or [email protected]

You can follow us on Twitter: @DisneyProject and @JeffHeimbuch

About Jeff Heimbuch

Jeff has been in love with all things Disney since a very early age. He writes From The Mouth Of The Mouse and The 626 every week for MiceChat. He also collaborates on The Disney Review every weekend. Aside from that, he is one half of the devastatingly good looking duo of the weekly vid/podcast Communicore Weekly (the other half being fellow MiceChat columnist George Taylor), which you can find at www.communicoreweekly.com Jeff is also writing a book with former Imagineer and Disney Legend, Rolly Crump. You can find out more about the book at www.itskindofacutestory.com

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  1. Long post when you can just say, “Indiana Jones” to win the debate.

    • too bad Universal can’t find any theming that comes close to Disneyland sandards :)

      • typo: standards*
        There are a ton of spelling nazis out there i’ve noticed

  2. Ah yes, if only “Dinosaur” was half the ride of Indy!

  3. Once again, it’s beat up on Walt Disney World time…

    Not plastic leaves… Vinyl Leaves… hence the book “Vinyl Leaves”

    And, give WDW’s Pirates a little credit for its superior fort queue and Caribbean Plaza. Plus, WDW has Orange Bird. And, since DL’ers love to trot out extinct attractions, why didn’t you mention the Adventureland Veranda or the Swan Boats since they made a loop around the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House?

    Sheesh. These articles always upset my ulcer.

    • Vinyl is plastic…

  4. Although I miss the Swiss Family Treehouse my Gran’Daughter just Adores the Tarzan Treehouse and would just be confused by the theming in Florida.

    Originally Disneyland had an Adventureland Bazaar, which was run by “Beachcomber to the Stars”/”I was Tiki before there was Tiki” designer Eli Headley and his family. Eli would sell just about anything in the stalls of his Bazaar; he’d have his kids collect clam shells at the beach, slap a Disneyland sticker on’em, and sell ‘em for a buck. When it came time for the contract to be renewed Walt decided Disneyland could make more money with the Consession run in-house, plus he’d have more control over inventory quality, so out the Headleys went.

    • I recall there was a husband and wife team who ran the adventureland Bazaar in the mid-’60′s. Are these the same people you’re referring to? remember going there and them iinsisting our family choose practically anything we wanted off the shelf and take it (for free) because we had a relative who was involved with merchandising in the park. Imagine that happening nowadays!

  5. I keep voting for DLR. I think mostly because I’ve only been there 3 times, and it is still very magical to me. Whereas I go to WDW 3 times a month, and most of the novelty has worn off.

    I’m not a huge fan of the Indy/Dinosaur ride system, but a major E-Ticket at DLR does help to push it over the edge in this debate. And although the DL-Adventureland is more intimate than it’s WDW counterpart, I believe that adds to it’s character. And while technically PotC resides in NOS, it actually servers the transition between the two lands, and is closer to the heart of DL-Adventureland, than the WDW version is.

    But the real winner for DLR is Bengal Barbecue!

    • Bengal Barbeque…best veggies at a walk-up counter I’ve ever found…

  6. The big issue at Walt Disney World is the Aladdin ride stuck in the middle of the path. It makes it cramped and ruins the ambiance of the entire area. WDW does have Pirates, so that’s a plus. However, it’s an inferior version to the Disneyland ride. The Tiki Room is better at Disneyland, and you can eat a Dole Whip there! It also has a fun garden pre-show. Also, Indiana Jones it what pushes Disneyland way over the top.

  7. I like that WDW has such poor clones of pirates and tiki room, and is spread out so that you don’t feel you’re in a jungle. Along without having an Indy(favorite ride), these things combine to help me save $$$ by having no desire to pay for the long flight to endure the opressive heat and humidity of WDW.

  8. I love these duels.

    Disneyland for me, hands-down. I appreciate the size of Adventureland at WDW, but it doesn’t have tons to offer. Disneyland’s version, while cramped, managed to pack quite a bit into its alarmingly small footprint.

    While Dole Whips are available in both resorts, I particularly love the Dole station built into the Tiki Room courtyard. What a fun way to do things. I often pretend I’m going to “ride” the Tiki Room and order a whip from the courtyard window, thus skipping most of the queue that winds into Adventureland. Is that shameful of me? Probably.

    Pirates at DL is much better and while it’s not in Adventureland, it is within spitting distance of Pirates and the Jungle Cruise, so it’s all a wash.

    And yes, Indiana Jones is the trump card. I can’t believe they never put in a copy of it in Florida. No, Dinosaur does not count.

    • “I often pretend I’m going to “ride” the Tiki Room and order a whip from the courtyard window, thus skipping most of the queue that winds into Adventureland.”

      i wouldn’t feel bad. that’s the way that any self-respecting park fan does it.

      • They need Like or +1 or Thumbs Up buttons on this thing!

  9. You Walt Disney World folk can make some fair arguments over your Jungle Cruise and your Treehouse, and I’d be inclined to agree with at least one of them – Tarzan’s Treehouse is fairly half-baked compared to your Treehouse, but I’d say the Jungle Cruises are toss-ups (yours has the better show scenes, ours, I feel, has more consistently funny skippers, but that could just be my home park bias showing). That said, our Adventureland has the one-two-three punch of the original (and less-cut) Enchanted Tiki Room, the gorgeous Tiki Garden pre-show (yes, I’m counting that as a separate entity, by god it deserves it), and Indiana Jones Adventure. Even the Orange Bird (who I love dearly, and am thrilled to death by the fact that he is back) doesn’t give enough points to make this a fair fight. Our Adventureland may be small, but jeezy chreezy it’s got a lot of great stuff in it.

    Also, we don’t have a tacky spinner to clutter up the center of our land. ;)

  10. I’m going to say that DL wins because of Indy, however, I do like WDW for the simple fact that it’s bigger and has more wide open walkways and isn’t so crowded. DL’s Adventureland gets crowded so often even aside from the Fantasmic / Parade / Fireworks mess that occurs most nights. Sometimes you have to wait in line just to get into the land! I love the Bengal BBQ (no mention of that, Keith?) but I don’t get to eat there often enough because the lines can get too long. So maybe I should say DL when it’s not crowded and WDW when it is. Oh, and Pirates is a big negative point for WDW. I guess it’s better than nothing, but it’s a poor imitation of the real thing.

  11. I miss the two animatronic Barker Birds at WDW. The Toucan in front of Tiki with Wally Boag’s voice. And, the Pirate Parrot in front of the POTC (last seen in action at the recent D23). These guys gave a bit of show before you even entered the ride. I still like the atmosphere of both Adventurelands’ and enjoy visiting both.

    Favorite quick bite – Bengal Barbecue – Food on a STICK – yum!

  12. DL = original tiki room + indy. done.

    although, for the MK, i do love the super tall tiki room building, as well as the ‘moat’ around the swiss family tree house (which the swan boats used to travel!!).

    and MK’s pirates…well i’ll just be polite and not mention it.

  13. Is this one of the old jokes?

    (and no one takes them for granite, trust me)

  14. Having just returned from a trip to WDW, I also want to point out that the Pirates Adventure~Treasure of the Seven Seas ads a point to the World. I think it is a great addition, but not enough to put WDW Adventureland ahead of DL!

  15. A Jungle Cruise? Check.
    Original and never tampered with Tiki Room? Check.
    Treehouse? Check.

    While I can say that Adventureland in DL wins the round, there is something that WDW gains from that we in CA won’t be able to have: the availability of space.

    If a new attraction or something wants to be put in Adventureland, WDW at least has a good amount of space to do so. With us, we have Aladdin’s Oasis and that’s it. Taking anything out of Adventureland in DL would be a freaking travesty for us. So really, the location of Aladdin would be the one thing that people would be rallying against IF it was going away.

    • Uh… “never” tampered with Tiki room?

      Are you DL’ers forgetting what it used to be like in the late 90′s?

      • Well, at least by “never”, I mean no Iago or Zazu to intrude. :)

        I am aware the show went through cuts from its original 1963 version, but at least it was still the same show.