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.