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  1. #1

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    The Essence of Adventureland

    The late, great Tahitian Terrace has come up recently in other threads, and some MiceChatters have opined that it's just as well TT is gone, since the idea of dining in a Polynesian atmosphere just isn't exotic or adventurous in this day and age. I, being a great fan of mid-20th century tiki culture, disagree, but I do think the argument is a good springboard to an interesting topic: What defines, or should define, Adventureland?

    The original Adventureland concept was based in part on a sort of naïve racism common in America at the time--the sort of mindset that might apply, probably without malice, the word "savage" to persons from certain other cultures. Adventureland was designed to evoke notions of--I'll be frank--white explorers in khaki and pith helmets penetrating the jungles of the Dark Continent in search of tribes quaint or cannibalistic.

    We seem mostly to have gotten past that sort of condescension, thank goodness, but where does that leave Adventureland? Which is to ask: what is still considered to be an adventure? We live in an age of affordable jet travel and mobile phones. Much less of the world is inaccessible or exotic to us than was the case in 1955. Even the Jungle Cruise has long depended on humor for its appeal, since facsimiles of wild animals have limited power to interest a culture that gets the Discovery Channel on its televisions. Indiana Jones Adventure has to return riders to the era of khaki and pith helmets--sans the cultural insensitivity--to introduce its thrills. So we've got the holdovers from the old days (Tiki and Jungle), the E-Ticket that tries to recapture some of the spirit of the old days (Indy), and a big fake tree stuffed with lousy fiberglass dioramas based on a film based on an old book that is just chock-full of embarrassing racial and cultural stereotypes--not that Disney's Tarzan perpetuates any of that, but it's interesting that we still seem to have to dig into that particular past for our adventures. Finally, we've got the small but under-used piece of real estate that sparked this already over-long meditation.

    My personal feeling is that, if we absolutely must have an Aladdin-based attraction, Adventureland is the place for it, but that it still stretches the theme uncomfortably. But what else could be done with the space? I'd love to see the Tahitian Terrace return, but I'm quite certain that, for a variety of reasons, I'll never see that wish fulfilled.

    So back to the point: What's Adventureland all about? Will anything without a measure of nostalgia ever fit there? (My own negative reaction to Tarzan's Treehouse and anything to do with Aladdin can be partly explained, I suppose, by those stories' absolute lack of the nostalgic element.) Is there any adventure left in the 21st century? I'm happy to let Disneyland stay largely stuck in the past, but I can respect well-articulated dissenting opinions, and I like to at least pretend I still believe in Walt's old "Disneyland will never be complete" philosophy.

    What say you? Can Adventureland function in our world as anything more than a museum piece? Is the theme still relevant, let alone vital? Was its vitality only ever predicated on a cultural superiority complex that we're still working on outgrowing? If so, do we have an obligation to change any of it? Into what? (For the record, I'm an old-fashioned, point-the-gun-right-at-the-hippo would-be patron of "Sunkist, I Presume." Here's hoping nobody thinks too much less of me for it.)

    Take this thread where you will.
    Eric Dean

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  2. #2

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    Adventureland is one of those lands that has to work hard to be both fun and entertaining, without being overly politically correct and preachy.
    When I think “Adventureland”, I think of steamy jungles full of danger and excitement. But I believe the word ‘Jungle’ as been deleted from my history book because ‘…It implies negative things about the people who live there’; instead they use the phrase ‘rain forest’ which is fine unless your thinking form an Imaginering point of view. Rain Forests are seen as things to be protected against logging companies. Hence the Animal Kingdome attraction in which we see how horrible logging is. (note: I have not gone on this attraction due to the fact that I’ve been told it makes you feel guilty for using wood.)
    Adventureland has to live in the past where we can see what people use to think was adventuress, because the last adventure I was on evolved find in some AA batteries.

  3. #3

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    I see your point, Eric, and while I agree that, to a certain degree, you're spot-on in some regard to the overall "naive racism" (interesting term) of Walt's time, and that that's reflected somewhat in Adventureland (as it was in the Frontierland of the past), I think that one can definitely have the existing elements of Adventureland without that "naive racism" being a part of it. For example, the Tahitian Terrace need not be racially or ethnically demeaning in any respect, although the original incarnation, like many other "Polynesian" restaurants of the mid-20th Century, were of an ersatz Americanized Chinese-based variety of cuisine, and not really authentic Polynesian food. Then again, would, say, poi really be a popular dish? Maybe not, but shouldn't we, the Disneyland audience, at least be given the option to try it out? Perhaps they could get famous Hawaiian chef Sam Choy to be an advisor on the menu. The Polynesian dance performers were, as far as I recall, pretty authentic, and I definitely recall that the actual performers were in many cases real Pacific Islanders. However, in addition to Tahitian and Hawaiian cultures, though, Samoan, Tongan, Fijian, and Maori cultures could also be represented, authentically, both in dining entertainment and in the menu.

    I never thought the Swiss Family Treehouse should have been remade into Tarzan's Treehouse, and being a fan of the 1960 film would love to have it restored to its original splendor (and other than a few peculiar casting choices in the case of the pirates that attack the island, that film wasn't particularly racist either, although it was a bit reflective of its era in regard to gender roles).

    While the Indy attraction fits thematically, being dated as it is in the pre-World War II era is somewhat problematic (it makes one wonder if the rest of Adventureland is time-themed to the same era, like Frontierland and New Orleans Square, or not - this is also an issue regarding the Treehouse, in either the Swiss Family OR the Tarzan incarnation, which both take place in the 19th Century).

    As far as Aladdin in concerned, not only is its inclusion problematic in regards to the time-theming issue (the Aladdin story being dated back several centuries), but even thematically it sort of sticks out like a sore thumb, considering that most of the rest of Adventureland is essentially island- or jungle-based, and Aladdin takes place in the Middle Eastern deserts. Personally I'd put Aladdin in Fantasyland (where he really belongs anyway, given the fantasy elements of the story), and put in a new Tahitian Terrace.

    Which brings me to the main feature of Adventureland, the Jungle Cruise. I haven't yet seen the newest version of the show, but given the nature of the last version of it, it didn't come across to me as particularly racist or ethnically or culturally condescending. While it recalled the era of the European colonialism of Africa and South & Southeast Asia, I didn't get the impression that there was any particular stereotyping going on, let alone any overt racism. Safari guides in Africa are usually Africans, who are usually Black. Same goes for native villagers. If any stereotypes are being passed on, it's usually within the Jungle Cruise guide's one-liners. You don't see the African native villagers cooking a human being in a big black pot or roasting on a giant spit, just dancing in a circle and holding up a spear. OK, so today's African natives are less likely to use spears and shields and more likely to use AK-47s and Toyota Landcruisers, should Disney turn the Jungle Cruise into "Hotel Rwanda"? Quite a few of the various African tribes are still quite proud of their traditional cultures. Should the Jungle Cruise get MORE authentic? According to the Jungle Cruise script, we travel through Southeast Asia, India, the African veldt and South American rainforests, connected by the Irrawaddy, Mekong, Amazon, Congo, and Nile Rivers, all on the same boat, all within about 10 or 15 minutes time, so it's clearly a fantasy of amalgamated images and impression of various "exotic" locales as experienced in past eras. Although today we have mobile phones and the Discovery Channel, jet aircraft and Disney's own True Life Adventure film series were commonplace when Disneyland opened.

    I don't see what is necessarily wrong with Adventureland being a so-called "museum piece" (it's hardly that, but I'm using your terminology). Walt himself said "I love the nostalgic myself. I hope we never lose some of the things of the past." As it is, however, Adventureland isn't really meant to be Animal Kingdom. If anything is a museum-piece reflective of the past, it's Disneyland in its entirety.

    All things considered, racism is not something that exists solely in the past, or something that whites have necessarily "outgrown". It exists in the present too, whether it's overt or covert, aggressive or "naive". Just because an attraction reflects an older era does not necessarily mean that it also reflects racist ideas, regardless of whether those racist ideas were commonly held or not.
    My fondest memory of Walt Disney was the day Disneyland opened....I was standing next to him - I was 12 years old - he was looking at the gate where people were coming through, he had his hands behind his back, he had a grin from ear to ear, but you could see the lump in his throat and the tear coming down his cheek because his dream had been realized. -- Mouseketeer Sharon Baird, "Mouseke-Memories", Walt Disney Treasures: The Mickey Mouse Club

  4. #4

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    The main "problem" with Adventureland (...and I hate to use that word "problem" because I don't think Adventureland is really problematic) is lack of real estate. We've learned to think of Adventureland in terms of steamy jungles and expeditions because it is so dominated by the Jungle Cruise ride. INDY had to go outside the berm to exist...which as a dark ride, it can...but it also evokes humid, overgrown locales. This leaves room for little else beyond a rather narrow alley of souvenir stores and food stands. The Enchanted Tiki Room tries bravely to take us to Polynesia. The bulk of Disneyland is devoted to a decidedly American experience. Fantasyland has a European flavor, but that is still closely tied to our American roots. Adventureland, then, devotes itself to "the rest of the world." They just ran out of room after depicting Africa and Southeast Asia. Even in today's smaller world of jet travel, Discovery channel and the internet, I still think it's an adventure to experience other cultures, other lands and other customs. I can hop a plane anytime and fly to Africa...but at Disneyland I don't have to. Walt Disney created a land in his park where I can approximate the experience with convenient rest rooms and refreshing Dole Whips.(NOS is one of the most popular "lands" in the park...even though it recreates a place that is quite easy to visit in real life.) The whole point of the theming of Disneyland is to immerse you in an experience away from the daily hum-drum. Some lands and attractions take you to another time. Some take you to another place. Some do both. Adventureland takes you to exotic locales...just not enough of them. I have no problem with Aladdin in Adventureland for the very fact that it does conjure up a vision of a place I find exotic. Would that they could build on that and add pyramids, a sphinx and such. Then expand the Asian experience with a trip to Japan, or China. Give Walt the Chinese restaurant he wanted. You get my point, I'm sure. Given another 20 acres or so, Adventureland would be able to break out of it's "Adventures in the jungle" mode and expand to a more varied experience. It could be the world at your feet and all it has to offer. Well...until they invent dirt-stretchers...or find some already existing land that can be used, that will be difficult. So, we enjoy it for what it is.
    "Yesterday, a man walked up to me and said, 'Isn't it a shame that Walt Disney couldn't be here to see this?' and I said, "He did see this, that's why it's here."
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  5. #5

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    Very interesting conversation.
    I don't think it a problem that Adventureland is "history" based. If we have to go back to a past time to feel that adventure, I think thats fine.
    For many, the Tahtian/Polynesian experience was plenty adventure. The food was part of the experience, but they have to offer food that will sell in bulk. You can't afford to offer a cultural dish that most people will spit out and throw away (no disrespect to pacific island cuisine). When I was young, I didn't really wonder if Tahitians really ate the teriyaki pineapple laden dish I had at TT. But the show made a big impression on me, and helped me realize at a young age that I wanted to see places in the world.

  6. #6

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    You know, I think "Adventureland" is somewhat problematic in a Post-Colonial age... It inspires a very Victorian Notion of Safaris and "Adventure Clubs" that where popular in Brittain at the beginning of the 20th century...

    In some ways, DL is littered with these Victorian referances: Safari's, Indy as a character, the talking trophies of the old Country Bear Jamboree, Club 33, Peter Pan/Eurpoiean Village of FL...

    The Spirit of Adventureland is the Europian quest quest to understand, conquer, and catalogue the oposite of the Europian Landscape (Mountains, Farmlands, Urban Areas)... The oposite being the untamed Jungle, the Swamp, the Desert, the Volcanic Island... A land and native culture that is seen as dangerous to the Europian citizen...

    It could be made into a cultural exchange... But then the danger doesn't translate... Oh, Alladin doesn't exactly belong either... Because it follows the Occident/Orient, a cultural exchange... Because the Oriental Culture of the Middle East is seen as older than that of Europe...
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  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by yensid1987
    Adventureland is one of those lands that has to work hard to be both fun and entertaining, without being overly politically correct and preachy.
    Exactly. This is a problem for Disney these days. Consider their adaptation of Tarzan, in which they couldn't merely remove the offensive elements from Burroughs' story; they had to get up on a soapbox with their villainous European explorers. (And the kindly, well-meant but bumbling naturalist and his Liberated Daughter, who of course is the only one who immediately Gets It. But that doesn't bug me for its political correctness as it does for its dramatic predictability.) See also Pocahontas and Atlantis. Always the writers display this guilty-conscience need to emphasize that white explorers as a rule are Very Bad Men, except for the Enlightened voices amongst their ranks who must attempt to sway or stop the bad guys. Regardless of your opinion on the history of colonialism or what-have-you, you've got to admit that this makes for pretty tedious filmmaking. Translated into the theme park universe, it apparently (for I haven't yet visited the place) gives rise to the obnoxiously preachy elements of DAK.

    Which is to say that social conscience is great and all, but it can really cripple fiction if it's applied with too heavy a hand.
    Eric Dean

    [Countdown=&day=12&month=5&year=2005&hour=12&min=20 &sec=55]Getting off this dead volcano and back to California in:[/countdown]

    "Welcome aboard, friends. This is Captain Collins. Now, first let me assure you that TWA has taken every precaution for your safety during this flight. We're proud of our safety record, and aside from a few brief moments of weightlessness, you'll suffer no discomfort in outer space."
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  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by SilentBob66
    OK, so today's African natives are less likely to use spears and shields and more likely to use AK-47s and Toyota Landcruisers, should Disney turn the Jungle Cruise into "Hotel Rwanda"? Quite a few of the various African tribes are still quite proud of their traditional cultures. Should the Jungle Cruise get MORE authentic?
    My point exactly. Nobody wants to visit Blackhawkdownland, for Pete's sake! And once you start down the road to realistic representation of other places and cultures, don't you just end up at Epcot?

    Yes, I like Adventureland's temporal setting. I see no reason not to recapture the giddy thrill of going off into the Great Unknown at the beginning of the 20th century. And I fully believe that it can be done--has been done, really, for the most part--without condescension. Here's the key: Though those early explorers doubtless did enough wrong to give us pause, I think we can give them the benefit of the doubt so far as their motives went. Sure, some were out for money, fame, power, or expansion of the Empire, but weren't some just out for adventure? That's an idea that'll never go out of style, even though--maybe because!--fewer proper adventures are available to us these days.
    Eric Dean

    [Countdown=&day=12&month=5&year=2005&hour=12&min=20 &sec=55]Getting off this dead volcano and back to California in:[/countdown]

    "Welcome aboard, friends. This is Captain Collins. Now, first let me assure you that TWA has taken every precaution for your safety during this flight. We're proud of our safety record, and aside from a few brief moments of weightlessness, you'll suffer no discomfort in outer space."
    --from Rocket to the Moon

  9. #9

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    Hmm... I thought Adventureland celebrated Adventure, not un-PC 50s pop cultural lore.

    I don't see how Aladdin doesn't fit in Adventureland. The land celebrates adventure, not jungle explorations. Just because Aladdin isn't in a jungle doesn't mean that his tale does not represent Advenutre. I think Aladdin fits quite nicely into Adventureland.
    Joey AKA "dlfreak"
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    With all this talk of "off the shelf" and "on the back-burner" it seems the only thing that DCA is really missing is the kitchen sink!

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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Chaney
    They just ran out of room after depicting Africa and Southeast Asia. Even in today's smaller world of jet travel, Discovery channel and the internet, I still think it's an adventure to experience other cultures, other lands and other customs...I have no problem with Aladdin in Adventureland for the very fact that it does conjure up a vision of a place I find exotic. Would that they could build on that and add pyramids, a sphinx and such. Then expand the Asian experience with a trip to Japan, or China...Given another 20 acres or so, Adventureland would be able to break out of it's "Adventures in the jungle" mode and expand to a more varied experience.
    I like the cut of your jib, Tom Chaney, but at what point would such a hypothetical expansion cease to be Adventureland and become Westcot? I'm not being argumentative; I'm just trying to nail this whole theme down. ("Get used to disappointment," the Man in Black told Inigo Montoya.) Perhaps again the key is in the past: I think both of us would like to see pyramids and a sphinx, not modern Cairo; ancient Shinto temples rather than a Tokyo pachinko parlor.
    Eric Dean

    [Countdown=&day=12&month=5&year=2005&hour=12&min=20 &sec=55]Getting off this dead volcano and back to California in:[/countdown]

    "Welcome aboard, friends. This is Captain Collins. Now, first let me assure you that TWA has taken every precaution for your safety during this flight. We're proud of our safety record, and aside from a few brief moments of weightlessness, you'll suffer no discomfort in outer space."
    --from Rocket to the Moon

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Dean
    Perhaps again the key is in the past: I think both of us would like to see pyramids and a sphinx, not modern Cairo; ancient Shinto temples rather than a Tokyo pachinko parlor.
    Well...if you really stop and think a moment, time travel is a key element in all of Disneyland. With the exception of Fantasyland and Toon Town, where time is irrelevant, every other area of the park takes place in another era. Even NOS, which could be contemporary conjures up visions of another, more genteel time. (Slightly off-topic...but that could be one reason why Pooh is so jarring in Critter Country.)
    "Yesterday, a man walked up to me and said, 'Isn't it a shame that Walt Disney couldn't be here to see this?' and I said, "He did see this, that's why it's here."
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  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Chaney
    that could be one reason why Pooh is so jarring in Critter Country.)
    Yeah...and another reason could be that it sucks.
    Eric Dean

    [Countdown=&day=12&month=5&year=2005&hour=12&min=20 &sec=55]Getting off this dead volcano and back to California in:[/countdown]

    "Welcome aboard, friends. This is Captain Collins. Now, first let me assure you that TWA has taken every precaution for your safety during this flight. We're proud of our safety record, and aside from a few brief moments of weightlessness, you'll suffer no discomfort in outer space."
    --from Rocket to the Moon

  13. #13

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    I think frontierland also finds it self in this same predicament. It has become more a land of gold rush than of frontiers.(Unless you count tom sawyer’s island, witch I don’t really.) The theme segested by there name's it too broad.
    sort of like a park aobut california

  14. #14

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    I think that Adventureland has probably the most potential out of all of the lands at Disneyland. It does have a lack of real estate, unfortunately so. Adventure is a word that can encompass so much territory. I absolutely love the whole Tiki aspect.

    In the Imagineering book, the author(s) explain Adventureland as the embodiment of Walt's fascination with the South Seas. Now, I think to stay true to that and to re-establish the adventure, so to speak, this concept should be allowed to grow and expand. I honestly do not think Aladdin belongs in Adventureland at all. I have another idea where to put an Aladdin attraction, but thats too off topic for this thread.

    I think the Indy Jones overlay is a good thing. Look at how popular the original trilogy was and still is. Indy still embodies adventure. Now, one could look at the stories in political and sociological contexts if needs be, but they are still good adventure stories.
    I don't think Jungle Cruise needs to be separated from Indy Jones, but I think it could learn from Indy Jones.

    The Jungle Cruise could regain headliner status (I still think it is, but I've heard from many, opinions otherwise) by simply attempting to add a bit of thrill to the lineup. What if instead of the hippos coming out of the water to be shot at, they come out of the water and tip the boat a bit? Or what if some kind of sensory system could be built into the boat to make it seem as if a lion jumped on top of it soon after encountering them?

    The treehouse, ugh! Maybe it should take on a more generic role. Kids in particular love treehouses. Tarzan was not a strong enough franchise to merit knocking off the Robinsons. Maybe they should consider the classics, Robinson Crusoe or benefit from the popularity of LOST.

    The basic theme here is that Adventureland could be so much more fun, if they attempted to cater it more toward the teen-adult sector. This would help with the PC effect, because it would allow for audience understanding and context.

    I still believe adamantly, leave Fantasyland for the little guys (kids), give the rest of the park to US!

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Niyxstyx
    Maybe they should consider the classics, Robinson Crusoe or benefit from the popularity of LOST.
    For some reason that seems too Univeresal Studios to me.
    Joey AKA "dlfreak"
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    With all this talk of "off the shelf" and "on the back-burner" it seems the only thing that DCA is really missing is the kitchen sink!

    Create your own Virtual pet today!

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