It’s back! After a fire in January closed the Tiki Room Under New Management facility and reportedly destroyed the ceiling Iago figure (jokes about angry “moron tiki gods” were certainly warranted), the ride resolutely stayed shut for weeks and then months, until finally Disney admitted the original show was coming back. More or less. It soft opened on Sunday and will be open to the public full time starting Monday the 15th.

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The exact language they used was “based on the original show.” Would that mean it would be the same as Disneyland’s current show, which is essentially the original but without the Offenbach sequence? The verdict: mostly. That description is essentially correct, but they did snip out a few more things. Most of them are small, and I think it’s likely that casual visitors won’t even notice. That said, the diehard fans will care, and the changes are not for the better.

It’s so nice to not dread this building for a change!

Let’s walk through the whole attraction, and provide commentary as we go. The sign out front is brand new, and it’s a delightfully faithful rendition of the spirit of Disneyland’s sign—even the font is done the same way here. It’s attention-getting without showboating.

The queue area is unchanged since the Under New Management days; at least, the guest-accessible part is. They had the third (back) row roped off when we visited on Sunday, reportedly because the attraction now has a lower capacity (new fire rules). Indeed, we saw about 1.5 empty rows in our theater, despite healthy interest from the crowds on the walkways.

It’s a more sedate, less interactive preshow than Disneyland’s.

The preshow itself is different, of course. No sense in maintaining that bit about William Morris agency, jokes about Big Bird, and toucans acting as if they were talent agents. I’ll miss Phil Hartman’s presence in the park, though anything associated with the dreadful New Management show is best relegated to the dust bin of history. On that note, I’ll admit that I was unable to find any intentional remnants or tributes to the New Management era, though the new preshow does mention “Tropical Serenade” (the original name of this show on the East Coast).

There are only two tiki gods in the preshow, and they don’t move or interact.

To be precise, the new preshow is actually the old preshow. The 1971 preshow. The same birds are there you saw in New Management, but they are doing the schtick from long ago. The narrators are Dallas McKennon (you know him as the “wildest ride in the WILDERNESS!” voiceover at Big Thunder… or maybe from Nature’s Wonderland if you go back that far) and Sebastian Cabot (Bagheera in the Jungle Book, or the narrator of the original Winnie the Pooh movie). They tell jokes, of a sort—they don’t earn laughs from 2011 audiences, and the pacing is too slow for today’s viewer. This part, frankly, did not age well. They even require the host/hostess to “interact” with the birds, as though they can hear her, and it feels anachronistic.

My 8 year old, bless him, recognized the voice on the left as belonging to a “cowboy” somehow.

I wish they had changed the preshow to something brand new. I get the nod to nostalgia by reverting to the Tropical Serenade version, but if you’re going to do that, then don’t snip out important parts of the songs inside (more on that in a second). Since they opted not to leave the experience inside true to 1971, why do it out here in the preshow?

The room looks fantastic when you walk in. There is no trace of recent construction and no sign that the Iago and Zazu “boxes” were ever there in the ceiling. All the show lights are on. It’s amazing how well Disney can light a room with the proper budget and no damage done by the ravages of time and an inadequate maintenance budget.

Things look fantastic going in.

The birds are brightly colored, too. It looks like the four main macaws are brand new (or maybe just redressed with new feathers?) The sky effects in the fake windows look amazing—just watch the clouds move!—and they look fantastic during the rainstorm, too (are those lightning zigzags new?)

The windows before the rain… and after.

The show is 90% the same as the current Disneyland version. That means they kept in things like the odd line about Schmidt having no hair, which is an oblique reference to Wally Boag’s character in the Golden Horseshoe (Boag wrote part of the Tiki Room script and gave one of the macaws its voice). That line makes no sense here. If they were going to toy with the show in other ways, it was odd they left this part in.

The room is lit… let’s wake up Jose!

So now, finally, let’s get to what they changed. There is no brief mention of “we present the enchanted fountain!” Why not? Well, because there is no fountain.

While there is no fountain, the fake flowers are nicely lit!

The center structure recently housed the goddess Uh-Oa, a nicely realistic Audio-Animatronics figure, but she was damaged in the fire. They appear not to have rebuilt the fountain here, and instead there are a few half-hearted fog effects (it’s really quite minimal) at moments when the fountain would normally have turned on. So the dialog compensates by never mentioning the fountain, and indeed there is nothing that rises out of the central zone.

Every tongue is clacking in the attraction. For now.

In the song “Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing,” close to the end of the song the verse is “take your time from the birds / now you all know the words / sing along with us.” At least, that’s it at Disneyland. In the MK, the verse is, “now you all know the words / tweet tweet tweet tweet.” That’s the end of the MK song. In Disneyland, the “sing along with us” invitation is followed by a sing-a-long. This is missing entirely from the MK, which just moves straight to the musical luau.

I didn’t want to sing along anyway!

While the snap dragons sing their lullaby, the song abruptly switches to the snappier part of the Hawaiian War Chant. This is supposed to happen anyway, but it’s built up differently and more slowly at Disneyland. The transition is too quick here in Orlando, where they have cut out perhaps a minute of song. New visitors will definitely not notice. The editing is clean—it’s not like there are audio artifacts that get in the way aurally—so anyone who comes in free of expectations will not notice nothing amiss. But diehard fans are likely to have committed this section of the Tiki Room show to memory, and the new transition sticks out like a sore thumb (a sore ear?) I’m not sure I’ll get used to this one, even with time.

The crescendo-building tiki drummer song is untouched, thank goodness, and it remains an effective crowd-pleaser. The end of the show on a high note is a great thing to see.

My wife was heartbroken the Hawaiian War Chant was shortened.

On our second run through, the birdmobile had trouble on two separate occasions. It even retracted into the ceiling mid-song, then came down again. This is hopefully just the shakedown blues. That may have been why the show wasn’t open after we returned from dinner.

All those cuts to the songs meant that the show is now shorter than even the Disneyland version. Perhaps they were trying to make the show shorter so that its overall capacity might improve over the course of the day (more shows equals more visitors), but I would have resisted the temptation. Returning the show to its roots in 1963 is really a play for nostalgia, but if it’s nostalgia you’re after, why in the world would you tinker with the memorable parts of the show?

Despite the carping about the show not fully realizing its potential, I am immensely and enormously grateful that the misplaced Under New Management version can now only be seen in memories and grainy home movies. It really was a blight on the Disney park scene in exactly the way Stitch’s Great Escape still is, and I have to give high credit to current park managers for recognizing the chance to alter the show for the better.

Umm, no.

It’s quite a bit better than what you saw twelve months ago in this same space, thank you very much. What it’s not, unfortunately, is the equal to what you can still see in Anaheim. That’s a shame, because they had the chance to duplicate the experience more closely.

Kevin Yee may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Kevin Yee pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.

2011 Kevin Yee

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Kevin's Disney Books

Kevin is the author of many books on Disney theme parks, including:

The Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2010 is a photo-rich volume of 70 pages that park fans will find especially useful if they want to know what’s changed at WDW since their last visit.

History was on my mind as I composed this book. As you might expect, there is a section on additions, another on removals, and a third on events. But I wanted to make sure to include some prices from January 2010 in the book, the better to capture in future years (and future generations?) exactly what it costs to buy admission, parking, a night at each level of hotel, or such food items as a turkey leg. I also wanted to provide a bit more specificity to the unfolding of events, so the various additions and removals, as well as smaller alterations and debuts, are laid out in a timeline broken down month-by-month.

In short, the book is designed to appeal to those folks who are similarly history-minded, as well as those who are hungry to know what changed at Disney World since their last visit. Or perhaps it’s a worthwhile keepsake for anyone who DID visit in 2010—it captures what was new, after all.

Also recently issued...

Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes:

As the title implies, this is all about those little things in the parks that have significance to insiders and long-timers, but are never explained or highlighted. When a ride closes, sometimes pieces or props from that ride are folded into the replacement attraction (think of the World of Motion car seen in the queue of Test Track). Other times, designers intentionally craft a tribute to the previous ride—an example of that might be the carving of a submarine in the cement tree created for Pooh’s Playful Spot where the 20,000 Leagues subs used to be.

The other kind of homage in the parks concerns not rides, but individuals. The designers, artists, engineers, executives, and people important to Disney’s history often provide the inspiration for names and titles used at the attractions. Sadly, these are almost always unheralded. All of these remnants and tributes are normally left for the truly obsessed to spot piecemeal. They are usually not even discussed in the official Disney books and tours. This book sets out to change that, and catalog all such remnants and tributes in one spot.

The final result is 225 pages of hyper-detailed historical factoids. Broadly speaking this is a “trivia” book, but remember that it’s a particular kind of trivia. You’ve known before that the Walt Disney World theme parks wove a thick tapestry of details and backstory into a seamless (and peerless) experience. But armed with the specifics of homages and tributes, you’ll become aware that the parks are even more alive, and layered with meaning, that you could have ever imagined.

Might this be an ideal present for the Disney fan on your shopping list? If so, please have a look.

Also written by Kevin...

  • Your Day at the Magic Kingdom is a full-color, hardcover interactive children's book, where readers decide which attraction to ride next (and thus which page to turn to) - but watch out for some unexpected surprises!
  • Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Member provides the first authentic glimpse of what it's like to work at Disneyland.
  • The Walt Disney World Menu Book lists restaurants, their menus, and prices for entrees, all in one handy pocket-sized guide.
  • Tokyo Disney Made Easy is a travel guide to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySeas, written to make the entire trip stress-free for non-speakers of Japanese.
  • Magic Quizdom offers an exhaustive trivia quiz on Disneyland park, with expansive paragraph-length answers that flesh out the fuller story on this place rich with details.
  • 101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland is a list-oriented book that covers ground left intentionally unexposed in the trivia book, namely the tributes and homages around Disneyland, especially to past rides and attractions.
  • 101 Things You Never Knew About Walt Disney World follows the example of the Disneyland book, detailing tributes and homages in the four Disney World parks.

More information on the above titles, along with ordering options are at this link.