The current Walt Disney World monorail fleet, known as the Mark VI design, has been in service since 1989. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, February 2013)
Updated on May 15, 2018
Walt Disney World should soon be getting replacements for its aging fleet of monorails, according to the retired imagineer who designed the original iconic trains for Disneyland as well as the Orlando resort. But officially, theme park officials say there presently are no such plans.
Bob Gurr, an 86-year-old Disney legend who was hired by Walt Disney in the 1950s, appeared to confirm recent rumors during a question-and-answer session at the end of a panel discussion near Orlando on April 28. Later, however, Disney indicated that there are no immediate plans for new trains.
The current fleet of 12 monorail trains at Disney World has been in service since 1989. “I call this the duct-tape monorail,” said Gurr. “When you get up in years, you find a lot of duct tape stuck on yourself to keep you running.”
A monorail train winds through Epcot at Walt Disney World in November 2016. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Disney World’s futuristic monorail trains have come under scrutiny after several recent incidents that suggest they may be nearing the end of their life span. In January, video posted on social media by a passenger showed malfunctioning doors wide open while the train was moving. Last June, a large piece reportedly fell off a train into the Epcot parking lot.
“Machines do not last forever,” Gurr said during the April 28 event in Celebration, the Disney-designed town just south of the Kissimmee theme parks. “You typically design them in the transportation industries for 20-year service. We’re close to 30 years of service here.”
Updated Feb. 8, 2018 Polynesian Pop has always been deeply ingrained in American culture, from Tiki’s mid-century heyday through today. This symbiotic relationship will be explored in colorful detail during special symposiums at The Hukilau, the 17th annual Tiki weekender happening June 6-10 in Fort Lauderdale.
Among the special presentations now on sale at TheHukilau.com are “Travel with Trader Sam” hosted by Disney Imagineer Kyle Barnes and “The Golden Age of Tiki and the South Pacific on Television” with film and video collector Ron Ferrell.
Disney’s Kyle Barnes was art director of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney World and Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at Disneyland. He also oversaw the 2015 refurbishment of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Orlando (left). (Contributed photos)
Guests who buy multi-day passes get first shot at these and other educational activities, including Okole Maluna Cocktail Academy classes and rum tastings, craft classes with noted artists, plus many other hands-on activities. Also on sale are tickets to the three aquatic performances by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of aquaticats at The Wreck Bar at the nearby B Ocean Resort.
* “The Golden Age of Tiki and the South Pacific on Television” with Ron Ferrell (Saturday, June 9): An exclusive look at how Polynesia was represented during the golden age of television. See clips and enjoy the commentary as Tikiphile and cinema fan Ferrell shares his collection of film and video of Tiki and Polynesian pop from Hollywood, TV shows, and commercials.
At The Hukilau 2017, villagers had the opportunity to participate in classes ranging from Tiki carving, to cocktails (with Chicago’s Three Dots and a Dash), to rum tasting. (Photos by Heather McKean)
Updated Feb. 8, 2018 The Hukilau gave its loyal fans a New Year’s treat by announcing an expanded lineup for the East Coast’s largest Tiki-themed event, giving its regular “villagers” early access and discounts on tickets. The general public can now join the party at the 17th annual mash-up of Polynesian Pop and cocktail culture.
Here are the highlights of the announcement, sent via email and posted on the official website. I also spoke directly with the event’s owner and co-organizer, Richard Oneslager, to get all the scoop on 2018. NEW: As of Feb. 8, this preview is now updated with the late January announcement.
Party like it’s 2009: Los Straitjackets (left) will headline The Hukilau for a second time, while The Intoxicators will make their 13th appearance at the Tiki party in Fort Lauderdale. (Photos from The Hukilau 2009)
PREVIEW: The Hukilau 2018 highlights
* MUSIC: More headlining bands. The 2018 event will include some of the world’s top surf and exotica bands, including Los Straitjackets, The Madeira, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quintet and The Martian Denny Orchestra. Villagers will also be thrilled to see the return of The Intoxicators, who missed 2017 after 12 straight appearances. Other performers include The Exotics, Black Flamingos, Czarna Wolgastar, The Royal Pacifics, Skinny Jimmy Stingray, and The Hukilau’s one and only emcee during its previous 16 years, the ubiquitous King Kukulele. Look for more bands to be announced, along with special guest DJs. Bands will perform on all five days in various venues. [More details below]
* BARS: 12 Tiki pop-ups. Seven of last year’s 10 acclaimed bar teams are returning, joined by five new Tiki-themed pop-ups from around the world setting up shop all over Pier 66 at special events, tastings, and classes. Due to popular demand, a second afternoon pool party with complimentary cocktails has been added to the schedule. Back for more more rum and cocktails are bartenders from Dirty Dick (Paris), Flask & Cannon (Jacksonville), Hidden Harbor (Pittsburgh), Nu Lounge Bar (Italy), Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago), Pagan Idol (San Francisco), and S.O.S. Tiki Bar (Atlanta). Coming on board for 2018 are Death Or Glory (Delray Beach), Foundation Bar (Milwaukee), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Tonga Hut (Los Angeles), and Trailer Happiness (London). [More details below]
Rum ambassador Ian Burrell presents a symposium at The Hukilau 2017 (Atomic Grog photo). He’ll be joined in 2018 by cocktail pioneer and influential musician/DJ Brother Cleve (Photo by Audrey Harrer).
* INDUSTRY VIPS: Cocktail influencer makes debut. Boston’s Brother Cleve will bring his vast knowledge of cocktails and music to The Hukilau for the first time. This prime mover of the craft cocktail scene in the 1990s and former member of the groundbreaking band Combustible Edison will present a symposium, make a special DJ appearance, and also have his own bar in the Tiki Tower Takeover event. In addition, rum ambassador Ian Burrell returns from London for a second straight year to host a symposium, two cocktail classes and a special rum tasting. [More details below]
* TIKI TOWER TAKEOVER: Signature cocktail party expands, returns for Round 4. Held on Thursday night in the hotel’s revolving Pier Top Lounge, the fourth edition of one of Tiki’s most exclusive events is likely to sell out just as fast as the previous three. Tickets are limited to passholders, so act now. The lineup will grow from four to five pop-ups (featuring six different bar teams), including returning participants Three Dots and a Dash and Daniele Dalla Pola of Nu Lounge Bar. Scotty Schuder of Dirty Dick also returns, teaming up with Pagan Idol for a special two-bar mash-up. The final two pop-ups will feature the craft cocktail stylings of Brother Cleve and the crew from the U.K.’s Trailer Happiness. [More details below]
* MERCHANDISE: Works of top Tiki artists on display. The official artists for The Hukilau 2018 are Joe Vitale and Donella Vitale, whose work can already been seen on the website and promo artwork. The couple is based in Orlando, where they both work for Disney in addition to being among the most recognizable artists of the Tiki revival. Fun fact: The Vitales are among a select few who have attended The Hukilau all 16 years, along with emcee King Kukulele and co-founder Tim “Swanky” Glazner. Villagers will get first shot at the event merchandise, including the 17th annual mug produced by Eekum Bookum. There will also be special items for some villagers, including a South Seas passholder pendant by Crazy Al Evans.
Bar teams from Pittsburgh’s Hidden Harbor (left) and Atlanta’s S.O.S. Tiki Bar will return for this year’s expanded Rum Island Pool Party at The Hukilau 2018. (Atomic Grog photos)
* ENHANCEMENTS: Feedback from villagers. The Hukilau listened to its attendees and will implement quite a few changes: Extended hours and a second pool party on Saturday (in addition to Friday) including live music, more bars and bands (see above), a “Villager’s Lounge” tent to “meet and hang with old friends and new,” a party featuring all exotica music, and more food trucks.
* MORE SPECIAL EVENTS: Symposiums, Medusirena Marina swimshows. Symposiums, craft workshops, Okole Maluna cocktail classes, hula lessons, plus more new additions were announced in late January. These include three swimshows featuring Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid in her home at the nearby Wreck Bar in the B Ocean Resort, plus symposiums on Disney’s Trader Sam’s Tiki bar concept and the heyday of Tiki on television. Craft workshops will feature a trio of noted Tiki artists, while cocktail classes will include bartenders and experts from across the country. UPDATE:The Hukilau 2018 symposiums to include Disney imagineer, Tiki on TV
Dec. 2 – Holiday Party & Print Release at Shag the Store in West Hollywood. Artist Josh Agle will be on hand to sign the new “Duet for Two Cats” prints as well as merchandise. Wear a leopard print and get a special gift. Complimentary cocktails, plus DJ Wyatt Magnum spinning an all-vinyl, holiday-themed set.
Dec. 3 – Tiki Wonderland 12 at Tonga Hut in Los Angeles. The city’s oldest Tiki bar celebrates its 12th annual holiday event featuring a parking lot sale and art show with holiday tunes provided by Big Tiki Dude. Inside, High Tide will play The Ventures iconic Christmas album in its entirety. * More on Tiki Central
Slip and the Spinouts scared up some monstrous mayhem at the ninth annual Hulaween party at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Living up to the theme “Monster Tiki Party,” the band and guests rocked for more than six hours on Oct. 27 in the legendary restaurant’s Molokai bar. See below:Exclusive Atomic Grog photo gallery
Slip and the Spinouts get the party started.
Halloween parties, themes and trends come and go. But The Mai-Kai and its annual bash serve as a festive mainstay, never failing to disappoint the retro-minded fans who flock to 60-year-old historic landmark on South Federal Highway. The costume contest annually draws a creative bunch of Tiki-loving guests who get in the spirit of the season with outfits that are both reverential and fun.
Amping the party up to 11, as usual, was South Florida rockabilly band Slip and the Spinouts, performing at their seventh Hulaween. Slip Mahoney and his tight, three-piece band performed three sets of classic roots rock and their own distinctive original tunes.
The trio of Slip Mahoney on guitar and vocals, Rodney Simioni on bass, and Dominick Daniels on drums were decked out for the occasion. During happy hour and between sets, The Atomic Grog presented a playlist of retro Halloween tunes with a monster slant.
After nine years in Miami-Dade County, the country’s largest celebration of cane spirits is moving up the coast to link up with the East Coast’s most esteemed gathering of Polynesian Pop and Tiki enthusiasts. June 2018 promises a monumental mash-up when the Rum Renaissance Festival and The Hukilau collide near Fort Lauderdale Beach.
The thousands attending the Rum Renaissance Festival on June 9-10 at the Broward County Convention Center will be just a mile from the hordes of Tikiphiles at the 17th edition of The Hukilau at the iconic Pier 66 Hotel, separated only by the whims of the 17th Street Causeway bridge. For the past five years, the Miami Rum Festival was held in April at the DoubleTree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center.
Organizers of both events say the move will create a synergy beneficial to everyone (with the possible exception of the temperance movement). Just 7 miles away is the historic Mai-Kai Restaurant, the icing on the cake of any rum and Tiki lover’s ultimate weekend. See below:Hotels, pricing, schedules | Rum XP Awards revamped
“There’s lots of crossover potential,” said Robert A. Burr, who with wife Robin founded the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in 2009. “We can bring more people in” to the rum, cocktail and Tiki scenes, he said, noting that cooperation is the key. While logistics are still being worked out, “we’re going out of our way to not step on each other’s toes” and “not cross swords,” he said.
The Hukilau’s head honcho, Richard Oneslager, stressed that the longstanding Tiki event is not changing. “Our first priority is to our villagers and The Mai-Kai,” he said. “We’re not a joint venture.”
However, he was quick to add: “We want to make it beneficial to guests of both events. We’re neighbors. I don’t see them as being competition. I want to work with them as best as we can.” Many villagers will enjoy both, he said. “If The Hukilau isn’t enough, rum fest is close.”
One possible benefit will be the drawing power of the tandem events among industry VIPs and experts. Why wouldn’t a rum company send representatives to both, killing two Tiki birds with one stone? “We hope brands are receptive to coming to both,” Burr said, adding that there may also be some co-branded events.
Global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, founder of the UK Rumfest, presents a symposium at The Hukilau in June 2017. (Atomic Grog photo)
“There will be economies that make sense for everyone,” Oneslager said, adding that The Hukilau will focus more on cocktails than rum, along with the event’s core emphasis on music, art, history and Tiki culture. “We’re still working out details on how to best work together.”
One possibility are perks for people who attend both events. “There will be some sort of benefit if people hold tickets to both,” Oneslager said. Burr also mentioned “fringe benefits” for attending both.
Burr agreed that the move to Fort Lauderdale and close proximity to The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai “will be much better for the Tiki junkies.” The host hotels are just across the Intracoastal Waterway bridge from each other. “It’s an easy walk,” Burr said. There’s also the possibility of a dedicated bus shuttling guests between the festivals, he said.
According to Google Maps, the Rum Renaissance Festival and the Greater Fort Lauderdale / Broward County Convention Center are almost exactly a mile from The Hukilau and the Pier 66 Hotel. The trip takes roughly 6 minutes by car, 9 minutes by bus, and 17 minutes on foot. The rum fest’s official hotel, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, is near the mid-point between the two.
Both sites are also conveniently located within 5 miles of Fort Lauderdale International Airport and the cruise ships at Port Everglades. The public beach near the B Ocean Resort (home of the famous Wreck Bar and Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid‘s swimshows) is just a mile north of Pier 66 on Seabreeze Boulevard (aka State Road A1A). [See map] Roughly 7 miles due north is The Ma-Kai, the 60-year-old historic landmark that serves equally historic rum and Tiki cocktails. [See map]
Rums of Puerto Rico representatives at the 2017 Rum Renaissance Festival in Miami. (Atomic Grog photo)
Before the name change to Miami Rum Festival and the move to the Airport Convention Center in 2013, the Rum Renaissance Festival spent its first four years at Miami Beach hotels. The Burrs have always run their event with assistance from son Rob V. Burr, who also contributes to his father’s rum guide and online video show (Rob’s Rum Guide and Rum Minute).
Since the change to the larger convention space, they’ve constantly received requests to move back to more of a beach setting. “The main reason we are moving is people did not like the atmosphere at the DoubleTree after time,” Robin Burr said. “They want to be back by the water again.”
South Florida’s favorite roots and rockabilly band, Slip and the Spinouts, will scare up some monstrous mayhem on Friday, Oct. 27, at the ninth annual Hulaween party at the legendary Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. The theme for this year’s retro-themed bash is “Monster Tiki Party,” and the highlights include an always irreverent costume contest with cash and prizes to the winners.
The festivities kick off with happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. in the historic Mai-Kai’s nautical themed Molokai bar, featuring half-priced drinks and appetizers plus specially themed monster music curated by The Atomic Grog. This year’s Hulaween cocktail is the “Appleton Monster Barrel” featuring sponsor Appleton Rum. This month’s “Friday Flashback” cocktail, Last Rites, also fits perfectly with the theme.
Slip and the Spinouts perform in the Molokai bar during Hulaween 2016. (Atomic Grog photo)
The Appleton Monster Barrel is a new, enhanced version of the iconic Barrel O’ Rum featuring two rums from the venerable Jamaican brand. Last Rites is a cocktail from The Mai-Kai’s original 1956 menu that was retired decades ago. It made its first return from the grave at the 2012 Hulaween party.
There are many other dark and deadly drinks available, including the Black Magic and Shrunken Skull. In addition, the usual Friday night special features half-priced Jet Pilot and Shark Bite cocktails all night. The Mai-Kai’s drinks are considered among the best Tiki cocktails in the world, revered by such award-winning authors and bar owners as Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Martin Cate.
The Molokai bar in the iconic Polynesian restaurant, established in 1956 and recently named to the National Register of Historic Places, will be transformed into a rockin’ retro shindig with The Mai-Kai’s acclaimed Tiki cocktails and classic pupu platters sharing the spotlight with the lively crowd of undead revelers.
Guests at Hulaween 2017 can enjoy the Appleton Monster Barrel featuring premium Appleton rums from Jamaica. (Atomic Grog photo)
Ghoulish guests also get half off from 5 to 7 on all of The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian appetizers and small plates, including favorites such as the Pupu Platter, crab, escargot, beef, pork, duck, octopus, sushi, vegetarian options, and lots more. If you haven’t explored all the menus recently, you’re missing out on the transformation led by chef Mark Rivera.
It’s also hard to resist the full-blown experience of The Mai-Kai’s famous Polynesian Islander Revue (est. 1961), the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. Friday’s showtimes are 7 and 9:30 p.m., so you can work it into your Hulaween experience. Or, if you prefer the dark and mysterious, adjourn to one of The Mai-Kai’s secluded dining rooms, or grab a table outside near a waterfall in the Tiki garden. To guarantee a seat, be sure to make advance reservations for dinner.
Oct. 1 – Tiki Safari in Australia, a celebration of Tiki culture featuring live music, DJs, merchandise, food and carver Tiki Bob plying his trade.
Oct. 3-7 – El Floridita’s 200th anniversary celebration in Havana, Cuba. Tales of the Cocktail presents a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to celebrate the bicentennial of the legendary cocktail bar with special events, tours, tastings, competitions and more.
Sept 11-17 – Texas Tiki Week, a celebration of Tiki cocktails and culture in Austin hosted by the local chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. Launched in 2012, the gathering brings together bars, restaurants and brands for an exotic mix of educational, social and philanthropic events. While Texas Tiki Week is centered in Austin, there are satellite events in other cities across the state. * Press coverage: Austin’s turning into a tropical paradise for Texas Tiki Week