Thursday, July 3, 2008

Adventure's end?

I first attended The Adventurer's Club in 1998, shortly after the closing of the old-fashioned but much loved Mr. Toad's Wild Ride attraction at the Magic Kingdom. That night, the actor playing adventurer Otis T. Wren paused a moment during one of his routines to grab the back of a boy's chair, swivel it back and forth a few times and then pronounce, "Enjoy it kid, it's as close as you're going to get to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride around here anymore."

This post isn't 100% on topic for this blog, but The Jungle Cruise and The Adventurer's Club certainly share some of the same spirit, and there is that mysterious crate on the Jungle Cruise docks waiting to be shipped to The Adventurer's Club, so indulge me...

There is nothing like The Adventurer's Club anywhere else in Disney World. As far as I know, there's nothing really quite like The Adventurer's Club anywhere else on the planet. For the uninitiated, The Adventurer's Club is a nightclub in Walt Disney World in Florida, the meeting place for a group of globe-trotting explorers, thrillseekers, and trouble-causers. They gather to share stories, compete with one another, and perform for the crowd who has gathered in their club on the occasion of a rare open house (it's been that same rare open house since the club opened in 1989). Open house attendees can interact with the Adventurers, the club's butler and maid, and even some of the building's d├ęcor or attend shows in one of three rooms adjacent to the bar area. The club is full of remarkable details, from photos and artifacts to talking masks and puppet characters (my favorite decoration: a dinosaur skull devouring a human skeleton). Disney has earned a great reputation for attention to detail and adding special extras to attractions. The Adventurer's Club outdoes that reputation by a mile.

Also, it's closing at the end of September.

Why? The Adventurer's Club is part of the Pleasure Island district of Downtown Disney, along with The Comedy Warehouse and a handful of more traditional dance clubs. Disney says guest surveys tell them that customers would prefer more dining and shopping options. Speculators think that people still think separate admission is required to even walk across Pleasure Island (as it once was) and that's hurting business from traveling between the two shopping districts on either side of Pleasure Island. Others believe that Disney wants to get away from any adult-oriented businesses and focus solely on the family market. Some suspect that since Disney removed the age restrictions and separate ticket price from Pleasure Island, a thuggish element has settled in, and removing the clubs and booze will make that element go away.

Probably some change really is needed. Probably some issues need to be addressed and some problems solved. It's hard to see how closing The Adventurer's Club really has to be part of that solution. It's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Also, the baby is the most awesome super-baby you've ever met.

Fans of The Adventurer's Club are not taking the announcement of its closure sitting down. Some places where people are fighting the closure:

Save the Adventurer's Club Facebook group
a MySpace group

Of course, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride had a devoted and vocal fan base that protested its closing too. The Virtual Magic Kingdom online game had a fan base that went absolutely rabid when Disney announced they were shutting it down earlier this year and it still disappeared on schedule. The announcement has been made, and I suspect all the protesting and complaining probably isn't going to change that. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try, though. I've signed the petitions and hope for the best. Every time I'm in Disney World, Jiminey Cricket reminds me (as the fireworks boom) that if you really wish for something, it could happen. OK, Jiminey. Let's see.

The other hope is that if enough of people make it clear that they'll miss the Adventurer's Club, and that perhaps they'll be visiting Disney World less often and/or for shorter amounts of time if they won't be spending a night at the club, that maybe, maybe The Adventurer's Club will resurface someday, somewhere. Several people have suggested reopening the club at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I'll add that The Polynesian resort would also be an apt setting, and a more easily accessible one too. If Disney is set on getting away from catering to the bar scene, it wouldn't be hard to reimagine the Adventurer's Club as a dinner show, similar in format to the eternally-running Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue over at the Fort Wilderness Resort. I'm sure many wouldn't be happy to see the edge taken off the Adventurer's Club, but I'd take less edgy over non-existent.

Come September 28, though, the fun may be over for good as those hearty souls in the Adventurer's Club raise their glasses for a final "Kungaloosh!", the Open House finally ends, and Otis, Hathaway Brown, Samantha Sterling and the rest return to remote locations around the globe, marching along, singing their song, seeking adventure. If so, I'll be sad to see it go, but glad I was around to enjoy it while I could.

1 comment:

Brandon De Hoyos, SAVE PI said...

I <3 this blog! So much to read! I love the Jungle Cruise! I know Disney cast should not call, but if you are friends with any Florida-residents who go to the AC or PI and who are peeved about it closing, have them call the "Save the AC" radio show.