Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An interview with an international skipper

I was contacted recently by a former skipper named Jim Smith who had some stories to share about his experiences as a skipper at both Tokyo Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.  I'm always interested in how attractions that are nominally the same are usually pretty different in the different parks and, of course, behind-the-scenes stories of Disney parks, so I had a lot of questions for Jim about his unusual perspective as an international skipper.

He was gracious enough to agree to an e-mail interview and the transcription is now up on the site. Hope you enjoy learning about Jim's comparison of the two parks, how he left his mark on the Tokyo spiel, what surprising benefit Tokyo employees don't get, and which Jungle Cruise he enjoyed more.

Monday, July 28, 2008

No gnus

Lots of news came out of last week's San Diego Comic Con about upcoming Disney movie projects: the teaser and other promotions for Pixar's Up, panels and info about Race to Witch Mountain and Bolt, and most surprising of all: footage from the secretly in-production Tron 2 (or TR2N, apparently, which makes me want to pronounce it "Troon" or "Tr-two-in").

But what about info about that long-ago-announced Jungle Cruise movie? Nada. Zip. Zero. For who still worry that a Jungle Cruise movie might wind up more along the lines of the Haunted Mansion film than the Pirates of the Caribbean series, that no news is good news. For those hoping for something great, it's disappointing.

Maybe it's still coming, but it doesn't appear to be on the fast track. In the meantime, let's just pretend that our own fake preview is the real thing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jungle Cruise playhouse

I bet there are lots of little girls out there who dream of a playhouse that looks like Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland or Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World. I bet there have even been several handy and accommodating dads out there who have taken some kind of crack and making the miniature version their little princess wanted.

There are a couple young girls out there, however, who got something even cooler: A Jungle Cruise playhouse! Check this out...

I want one too, please. Heck, I'd be thrilled with just the sinage.

For a lot more pictures and details follow this link.

(found via Boing Boing)

Monday, July 14, 2008

New videocy

We've got two new videos for you today, conveniently located on our video page. First, comedian Tim Babb has a suggestion for who he'd like to see cast as the upcoming (we think) Jungle Cruise movie in Kingdom Comedy.

Meanwhile, Skipper Ian gets so far into his role that he nearly gets into the water.

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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Come back, Little Namee

I was at Disney World recently and knew that the Jungle Cruise had just reopened not long ago after being closed for a refurbishment. I was looking forward to seeing the Florida version of the attraction spruced up and looking fine.

Instead, we enjoyed as our Skipper (earning his ears) deftly covered for the immobile, normally dancing, natives by explaining that this was a rare tribe that sleeps standing up.

The tiger in the temple was missing too, and if you look for him long enough (but not THAT long, really), you'll catch a glimpse of a rare jungle ladder.

Worst of all, though, was that Chief Namee himself was not there. It's bad enough that WDW's Jungle Cruise has that long empty period after the elephants when the skippers generally point out the plant life, but without the Chief, the attraction really plods to an unsatisfying conclusion. The headhunter and cannibal jokes about the chief are some of the best of the ride.

Most likely, this is just a temporary leave of absence, and the Chief will be back conducting his perpetual two-for-one sale soon.

Some theories about where he might be in the meantime:

- Hiding out since he heard Disneyland's Trader Sam put a hit out on him as part of their ongoing East Coast/West Coast rivalry.

- Aggressively attempting to recruit new employees away from their current employers (hmm... I know there's a more concise term for that. What is it again?)

- Suffering from severe brain freeze from all the Dole Whips he ate during the refurb.

- Studying for a degree in psychology just so he can introduce himself as a head-shrinking shrunken head dealer.

- Checking out his favorite clubs on Pleasure Island before they close for good. Sure, he likes The Adventurer's Club, but he's always felt most at home at Mannequins.

Come home soon, Chief. We miss you.