News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by A Martínez
Airs Weekdays 9 to 10 a.m.

Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room turns 50 (Photos)

The exterior of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland Park.
The exterior of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland Park.

Listen to story

Download this story 2.0MB

More than 50 years ago, Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room first opened its doors to the public. The attraction was revolutionary as the first to use audio-animatronic technology to make the robotic creatures talk and move. 

Designer Kevin Kidney is a Tiki aficionado and also designed several pieces of the merchandise promoting this year's anniversary.

"The whole audio animatronics thing started really because of the military creating a missile and it was run with this magnetic tape," said Kidney on Take Two. "At the time multi-track magnetic tape was a miracle…That's really kind of what started it. Walt was just a big kid and he loved new technology."

Originally, the Enchanted Tiki Room was going to be a Polynesian-themed dinner and show restaurant in Adventureland. However, after seeing renderings for the attraction by John Hench, Disney decided to scrap the restaurant idea and focus on the show aspect. In particular, Hench designed the space to incorporate bird figures that Disney imagined could move and blink on their own. 

"Walt thought this is way too great for a restaurant, thinking people are going to be distracted by their food…and people are just going to sit there all day and stare," said Kidney. "So the restaurant idea went out and the show became a show all of its own."

The show was originally 17 minutes, though it has been shortened since. It's a musical revue that begins outside the Tiki Room and leads inside, with animatronic animals, plants and a theme song by the Sherman Brothers, popularly known for other Disney themes like "Mary Poppins." In addition, it introduces various Polynesian Gods and ends with a Hawaiian war chant. 

"It's a little politically incorrect, because you are taking other cultures and you're making them fun and maybe someone's ancient Tiki god you're having a mai tai out of," said Kidney. "Its just this sort of fantasy of being in a different place, it takes you away from our everyday world, and our cars and our houses and jobs and let's just pretend that we live on an island. I think people love that."