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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  • Turboman

    I’m with Snookers. My family loved the Pirates Adventure, something not possible with DL’s smaller, more crowded Adventureland.

    Still, I’m for the line at Indiana Jones and Bengal BBQ and against the Magic Carpets.

  • mikedoyleblogger

    I love the size of MK Adventureland and don’t dislike anything in it, even the shorter Pirates (which of course is in New Orleans Square at DL.) But Disneyland’s Adventureland with Indiana Jones, the original Tiki Room with the singalong portion and a fountain that still actually shoots water, the original Jungle Cruise where skippers can go off-script without getting written up (and without that boring, totally-nothing-happens temple section), and Bengal Barbecue–not to mention immediate next-door access to the longer, better Pirates is just too hard to beat.

  • LoonAZ

    I whole-heartily agree that Disneyland beats down WDW’s Adventureland. The one thing missing at Disneyland that would make this entirely no-contest, is if Disneyland still had the Tahitian Terrace open. In my opinion, that restaurant ranked as high (if not higher) than Blue Bayou in atmosphere. It’s such a same to see that space waste away as a character meet-and-greet.

    • LoonAZ

      ^ *”such a shame…”

  • whamo

    How can you guys say Anaheim has the original Jungle Cruise? They changed the script for one thing, and added the elephant bathing area, for another. It’s not the original Jungle Cruise anymore; it’s something else. The original ride was the best. The present version at Anaheim, and the bogus ride Down South are not the real deal.

  • dizneydomenic

    I was soooo disappointed when i finally got to walt disney world and rode their pirates… no waterfalls..! and the ending is so abrupt!. Original tiki is still the best at Disneyland…was not fond of the do-over at wdw. Yes, indy wins hands down. I gotta say this…of all the rides that were at Disneyland , first overall i find them the better versions…with 2 exceptions in the park.. Splash mountain (side by side seating at wdw….much more comfy, and the Haunted Mansion with the extra library room i found to be quite the novelty.

  • The Lost Boy

    Disneyland’s Adventureland is the best.

  • billyjobobb

    1) get rid of that stupid flying carpet thing

    2) Why when we went was the meet and greet for Tink and the fairies right behind the dole whip stand?

    I loved that there was more space in Florida. Liked some of the smaller details in WDW better, but yeah, Disneyland has Indy.

  • dazyhill

    DL Adventureland for the win!
    I remember feeling bummed that WDW had added Iago and Zazu to their Tiki Room attraction as they are two of my favorite characters. Then I saw a You Tube video of the show and I didn’t feel so bad after that. :)
    I wish the Adventureland shops weren’t full of all Disney merchandise as they are now. There used to be a great variety of product from non-Disney wildlife plush to tropical decor.

    • DobbysCloset

      As a child it was the kiosk with the rubber snakes, rubber shrunken heads, sea shells and starfish that captivated me completely. My mother would shop in the Bazaar and leave us outside looking at souvenirs — my brother and I craved those rubber snakes. When the souvenir kiosk became the beautifully-themed queue my inner child was quite disappointed. At least I’ve outgrown the desire for the rubber snake…

  • Tiff@DL

    Bengal BBQ – end of story!

  • DobbysCloset

    I’ve not been to WDW. Adventureland is one of my favorite parts of DL. But I would really like to add some spitting animatronic camels.

    I want to go to WDW because it’s Disney, but now I have a specific goal once I get there — checking out the spitting camels at the Magic Kingdom!

  • DisWedWay

    Only at Disneyland can you get a Double Dipper in Pirates of the Caribbean. My 6 and 8 year old assistants pointed that out after coming from WDW to DL. They loved the Blue Bayou and the quality food from Club 33. I always think of New Orleans Square as part of Adventureland at DL as it was back in Jean Lafitte’s day or the evicted Robinson family. Hope they come home soon as I miss their organ music and animated creativity. DL still has the Best Indy of the four, or five counting WDW Stunt Theater. Where else can you sleep in the back of the real Indy truck.