Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Disneyland - Tiki Room Lanai - 1985

Here is a familiar sight: a 1985 photograph of the Tiki Room lanai, with Tongaroa, father of all gods and goddesses, proudly holding court between performances of the show that take place inside the doors to the left.

The Tiki Room show has actually changed considerably since 1985. A large chunk of the middle section of the show was removed in order to appeal to modern audiences and keep the show's cycle time down closer to 15-minute intervals.

Thankfully, the cast member costumes have also been updated---from the orange and white polyster number of the 1980s to a somewhat more subdued hawaiian print shirt and khaki pants in vogue today.

I remember working a few summer nights at Tiki in 1987. The torches at the entrance lit up the area and the drums from the Tahitian Terrace show next door boomed in the distance. The smell of pineapple and teriyaki wafted through the area.

When I returned to Tiki this past year for a few shifts, it was very much like I'd never left, though I deeply missed the Tahitian Terrace teriyaki smell, drums and dancers.

Tiki's back room shared a door with the Tahitian Terrace kitchen and backstage area. On my way to break, I would walk through and occasionally catch a glimpse of the show in progress. It was always great to see the tables full of guests, hear the clank of silverware against plates and watch the Samoans twirl burning torches on the stage.

Anyhow, running the Tiki Room show as an attraction host was always relaxing. If you were the only one stationed at the attraction (usually when your partner had to go to lunch), you would be in charge of opening the turnstile, letting in the guests, closing off the turnstile, updating the "time until next show" clock, noting the guest count, opening the show doors, introducing the show and, of course, waking up Jose. After all this, you could stand or sit in the theater and enjoy the show along with the guests, keeping an eye on things to make sure everyone was seated and enjoying themselves.

In my day, the middle of the show included an Offenbach piece ("Bacarole") that was very relaxing and almost hypnotic, especially when coupled with the dancing waters of the "Magic Fountain" at the center of the show.

The Dole Tiki Juice Bar at the entrance to the Tiki Room lanai is one of only two places on the planet where you can obtain an authentic "Dole Whip." If you don't know what I'm talking about...try one the next time you're in Adventureland (you'll thank me).

I loved working the turnstile at Tiki. It was just one big guest interaction experience.
Hello! Where're you from?
The next show will be in 10 minutes.
Have you tried a Dole Whip?
I see you're a Cubs fan---are you from Chicago, nice shirt?
No, I can't give you my name tag.
What is this attraction? It is a show with singing birds, flowers and tikis---you'll love it. Your little one may get a bit wound up at the end when the thunder and lightning starts, so keep that in mind...etc., etc.
Once guests seated themselves in the lanai, I would walk around with the pan and broom, pick up trash and chat before getting them to line up at the bottom of the steps for the next show.
Other cast members would walk by and wave to me while I was stationed at the turnstile. Friends from Jungle Cruise heading to their shift; area managers; sweepers; Outdoor Vending folks; you name it.
Even today, Tiki Room is a cherished attraction location for cast members. Only people with a good amount of seniority are able to get the coveted Tiki shifts.
The theming, the show, the ambience---the Enchanted Tiki Room is a timeless masterpiece. Thank goodness for Walt and all of his creative team. They really did a fabulous job. looks like the gods have been angered by all my jibberish, so I better shove off for now before the thunderbolts start flying.




*THE Disneyland Mom* said...

Just stopped by today and saw that we both blogged about Tiki this week! I think I have Tiki on the brain. I'm also putting together a Tiki Room book for my younger son for Christmas. He's completely obsessed with the attraction; it's all he talks about! I hope you are well. :)

Anonymous said...

Working Tiki by yourself??...Unthinkable in my day. Budgets certainly have been cut to the bone. At a minimum...3 cast members were needed during a shift. One being in the show at all times, one out front and the other...well..on break! I never tired of the place despite being in attendance for an oh-so-many uncounted shows. High seniority?...oh you bet. If I were lucky, I'd get reassigned from JC to cover if they were shorthanded. of our tricks was to throw some coins into the pool in the morning. At the end of day, the closing cast member would collect the cash contributed by the guests. It would go into our Banana Ball fund! Is that still held??

Mike said...


Working Tiki alone was never done for a full shift. It was usually, as I mentioned, covering the other person's break or lunch. Sometimes we'd get help from Jungle if a person no-showed for a shift, too. I was hauled over from Jungle on a couple of occasions to run Tiki under such circumstances.

An opening or closing shift would also provide an occasion for a single attraction operator to be present, for at least a little while.

I miss the old "Banana Ball" party that Adventure/Frontier attractions threw each summer. Nothing like those bashes could exist today!


zac said...

Thanks Mike for the continuing magical memories. Ah, Dole Whips... excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard. Question -- Is Orlando the other place to get an
authentic Dole Whip? Or is it Hawaii?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mike. Gee what a shame to hear of the demise of the BB. In my time, it was a classy event when compared to Custer's...but that's for another story. Great memories. I recently came across some copies of 'Jungle Drums' that I saved which helped recharge my wetware. The editor at that time---Joel Halberstadt. What a great crew we had.


The Blue Parrot said...

FYI, Dole Pineapple Whip can be had in Anaheim, Orlando and at the Dole Plantation on Oahu. Even in different flavors!

Anonymous said...

oh, the dole whips, THE DOLE WHIPS! I had strep throat last time I was in Disneyland (didn't know it at the time) and even though they stung my throat, I powered through 'em cause...well, wouldn't you?
PS: word to the ladies: Bath and Body Works makes a pineapple bubble bath that smells EXACTLY like 'em!

Anonymous said...

I fondly remember working the Tiki room in ’85 and ’86. I absolutely loved working summer nights there. It was very tranquil. Sadly, I don’t remember his name (Bruce?), but there was a Lead Cast Member who used to write very entertaining entries into the Tiki log book (I think that’s what it was called).

Thanks again Mike for bringing back wonderful memories!

Jon Woods
Disneyland Alumni ’84 - ’91