Take Two for June 28, 2013

Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room turns 50 (Photos)

Tiki Room

Wikipedia

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

Tiki Room

Kevin Kidney

The prototype model of one of the toucans featured in the Enchanted Tiki Room. Photo taken ca. 1980.

Tiki Room

John Hench

Enchanted Tiki Room concept art by John Hench

courtesy of Kevin Kidney

The 45 record cover for the Tiki Room's soundtrack

Tiki Room

Kevin Kidney

The prototype model of featured bird Jose, taken ca. 1980.

courtesy of Kevin Kidney

The inside of an original brochure handed out to Disneyland patrons upon entering the park at the Enchanted Tiki Room's opening day on June 23, 1963

Tiki Room

Kevin Kidney

An original ticket Disneyland patrons needed to purchase in order to visit the Enchanted Tiki Room.

courtesy of Kevin Kidney

An LA Times feature about the opening of the Enchanted Tiki Room.

courtesy of Kevin Kidney

A card never handed out to park patrons, this was a souvenir that was made internally for park employees.


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."


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