Update: Trader Sam’s could be key part of Disney World’s Polynesian Resort refurbishment

UPDATES: Get the latest news on Trader Sam’s and the Polynesian refurbishment
Bonus cocktail recipe: Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum at Trader Sam’s

New reports have surfaced about renovations at Disney World’s Polynesian Resort that indicate the precise location of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, plus a subtle re-theming in the spirit of the Disney parks’ iconic Adventureland. The massive construction project that may eventually bring the popular Disneyland lounge to the East Coast now appears certain to begin in September.

The Monorail passes Disney World's Polynesian Resort.
The Monorail passes Disney World’s Polynesian Resort. (Disney photo)

As recently reported here and elsewhere, new information suggests that Trader Sam’s is slated to be included in renovations that will bring timeshare buildings to the Orlando resort. Some of these may include traditional Tahitian huts built over Seven Seas Lagoon with a view of the Magic Kingdom park.

Now, finally, there are confirmed reports that the construction is about to begin. On Aug. 16, the venerable Touring Plans website posted news on its blog that a renovation project at the hotel may affect some of the guest rooms in the Hawaii, Tokelau, Rapa Nui and Tahiti longhouse buildings beginning in September.

The construction will also affect the east parking lot near Rapa Nui as well as beach access on that side of the resort, including the Sunset Point area. The Touring Plans blog makes it clear that there has been no announcement from Disney about the addition of Disney Vacation Club timeshare villas at the Polynesian, but this is not unusual. DVC additions to the nearby Grand Floridian Resort were not announced until construction was well under way.

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Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar one of many changes likely coming to Disney’s Polynesian Resort

UPDATES: Get the latest news on Trader Sam’s and the Polynesian refurbishment
Bonus cocktail recipe: The Backscratcher at the Polynesian Resort’s Tambu Lounge

Reports have recently surfaced that indicate the eventual Orlando location of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar may not be the revamped Downtown Disney complex, as indicated earlier this year, but rather Walt Disney World’s iconic 39-acre Polynesian Resort near the Magic Kingdom theme park.

Disney's Polynesian Resort, October 2011
Disney’s Polynesian Resort, October 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

In March, Disney Springs was officially announced as the successor to Downtown Disney, the massive shopping and entertainment district on Disney World property but outside its theme parks. The 120-acre lakefront site is expected to expand from 75 to more than 150 stores, restaurants, bars and more. Slated for completion in 2016, the refurb will create a replica of a 19th century Florida waterfront town. [See The Atomic Grog’s full report here]

Disney released elaborate conceptual artwork and many details on the theming of Disney Springs, but little info on what retailers or restaurants would be part of the new development. This is understandable since many deals are likely still being negotiated, and the exact locations of various businesses are still being fleshed out. But this didn’t keep the rumor mill from churning, especially when images leaked out online that show dozens of logos of potential venues.

On this list was the distinctive logo of Trader Sam’s, already a must-see destination for Disney and Tiki fans after only two years at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. The bar features classic Polynesian decor, cocktails and food plus an extra helping of Disney Imagineering magic. The theming evokes both classic attractions (Jungle Cruise, Enchanted Tiki Room) and a beloved, defunct Downtown Disney cabaret (the Adventurer’s Club). So this potential location made some sense. But was it really a good fit considering the overall theme?

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Modern Retro Disney World: Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

MODERN RETRO DISNEY WORLD

This is the first in a series that will spotlight The Atomic Grog’s picks of the top “modern retro” features at the world’s top tourist mecca. Disney World is a vast ocean of fun and frolic for all ages, but it’s easy to overlook the classic, timeless elements that make the massive resort special. It can be enjoyed on many levels – from the totally immersive, escapist experience in the theme parks to the many unique restaurants, bars and hotels. But what makes the fantasy complete is the incredible innovation, artistry and attention to detail that spans more than 40 years. The Atomic Grog is dedicated to celebrating and preserving cool mid-century kitsch, and there’s much of this to admire and embrace in “the happiest place on earth.” Is Disney World hip? Hardly. But it can still be enjoyed by geeky hipsters (and hipster geeks) with not a shred of irony. We hope you enjoy the ride with us.
Related: Disney World is still cool at 40 thanks to retro artists Shag, Kevin & Jody
July 2013 update: Tiki Room celebrates 50 years of enchantment

WALT DISNEY’S ENCHANTED TIKI ROOM
Photos: Jump to the gallery

José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre perform on an elaborate bird-mobile that descends from the ceiling (November 2011).
José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre perform on an elaborate bird-mobile that descends from the ceiling (November 2011).

Location: Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom theme park.

What is it? An indoor attraction themed to a Polynesian paradise featuring a colorful menagerie of flowers, Tikis and 200 performing Audio-Animatronic birds.

Origins: An opening-day attraction On Oct. 1, 1971, the Enchanted Tiki Room was originally known as Tropical Serenade. It was re-imagined and re-opened in 2011 under its current name with a show that pays tribute to the original Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland.

Claim to fame: The Disneyland attraction was the first to feature the Disney invention of Audio-Animatronics and was reportedly Walt Disney’s favorite.

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Artists shine amid copious crowds at Walt Disney World’s 40th birthday party

Photos: Jump to the gallery
Previous coverage: Disney World celebrates 40 years of mid-century magic
Related: Cocktails come of age at Epcot Food and Wine Festival | More on Disney World

Masses of mouse-minded fans flocked to the Magic Kingdom on Saturday, Oct. 1, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Walt Disney World. And while initial crowd forecasts were low, interest in the birthday bash quickly grew among the Disney faithful and resulted in a sometimes overwhelming throng even though actual celebratory festivities were modest.

The Magic Kingdom entrance and train station, as seen in December 1972 and Oct. 1, 2011. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)
The Magic Kingdom entrance and train station, as seen in December 1972 and Oct. 1, 2011. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)

The Oct. 1 opening date was selected in 1971 because it was considered the slow season, and it typically remains so today. But Disneyphiles came out of the woodwork for the anniversary party last week and took advantage of the late park hours at the Magic Kingdom (it was open from 9 a.m. until midnight).

My wife and I combined this event with a visit to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival on Sunday, and it’s a good thing we did. The overflowing crowd on Saturday made for a hectic day and not much time to relax and enjoy the Disney experience. That’s not to say it wasn’t memorable. Here are the highlights (and some lowlights):

We stayed at the Caribbean Beach, one of Disney’s moderate resort hotels, and were pleasantly surprised. We had previously enjoyed Port Orleans Riverside, and this was on par with that experience.

The rooms were spacious and clean (with the great details that Disney is known for), the grounds (200 acres, including the 45-acre Barefoot Bay) were huge and full of amenities (be sure to take a walk around the lake) and the theming was spot-on. It was closed when we wandered by early Sunday, but I’ve heard the pool bar makes a great Piña Colada.

Continue reading “Artists shine amid copious crowds at Walt Disney World’s 40th birthday party”

Disney World celebrates 40 years of mid-century magic

Update/review: Artists shine amid copious crowds at Disney World’s 40th
Related: Disney World’s updated Enchanted Tiki Room has retro feel
Disney World is still cool at 40 thanks to retro artists Shag, Kevin & Jody

Walt Disney World has come a long way since Oct. 1, 1971. The resort celebrates its 40th anniversary Saturday with a 15-hour celebration at the iconic Magic Kingdom park, where it all started.

December 1972: The author in his pre-hurricane days (Tropical Storm Hayward?) is nearly lost in the crowd at the Magic Kingdom in front of Cinderella Castle.
December 1972: The author in his pre-hurricane days (Tropical Storm Hayward?) is nearly lost in the crowd at the Magic Kingdom in front of Cinderella Castle.

In 1971, there was just the Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness campground and two hotels (the Contemporary and Polynesian) connected by the Monorail. Now, there are four theme parks, two water parks, 30 themed resort hotels and much more. Whether or not the sprawling, 30,000-acre complex southwest of Orlando is the true realization of Walt Disney’s vision (see video below) is debatable, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

My first visit was in late 1972, and I still remember the joy and wonder of that day. I’m looking forward to the surprises Disney says are in store for guests on its birthday, although I’ve grown to appreciate Disney World for many different reasons.

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Back to the future: Disney World’s updated Enchanted Tiki Room has retro feel

July 2013 update: Tiki Room celebrates 50 years of enchantment
Modern Retro Disney World: Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

With much fanfare, Walt Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room was back in business this week after being closed since January due to a mysterious fire that precipitated a full overhaul of the legendary attraction.

Jose and his friends have come home to roost at Walt Disney World's Enchanted Tiki Room (Photo from the Disney Parks Blog)
Jose and his friends have come home to roost at Walt Disney World's Enchanted Tiki Room (Photo from the Disney Parks Blog)

And, much to the glee of Disney fans and Tikiphiles, the Tiki Room officially reopened in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland with a new animatronic show that gives more than a nod to the original attraction, which has been a mainstay at California’s Disneyland since 1963.

We won’t be able to take a gander until October, but we’re happy to share some of the reviews, photos and video that have emerged this week. For a full recap of the Enchanted Tiki Room’s history and the story behind the renovations, check out our previous post.

Continue reading “Back to the future: Disney World’s updated Enchanted Tiki Room has retro feel”

Disney World is still cool at 40 thanks to retro artists Shag, Kevin & Jody

Update/review: Artists shine amid copious crowds at Disney World’s 40th
Related: Disney World celebrates 40 years of mid-century magic
Disney World’s updated Enchanted Tiki Room has retro feel
See below: Shag’s Disney World 40th anniversary collection | Video
Kevin Kidney & Jody Daily’s Disney World 40th anniversary collection

The author with a friend at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, December 1972.
The author with a friend at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, December 1972.

It’s late 1972. I’m visiting my grandparents in South Florida but I’m more excited about our day trip to the East Coast’s answer to Disneyland: Walt Disney World. The park had opened just a year earlier and promised to be – in the eyes of an 11-year-old in the early ’70s – the coolest place on Earth.

I’ll never forget my first ride on the futuristic Monorail, the spooky and fun Haunted Mansion, the cartoonish architecture of Tomorrowland, plus the iconic castle and all the classic characters. The day flew by too fast but I cherished my souvenirs, including a Haunted Mansion record that I played to death over the years.

Fast-forward some 30 years and I’m a childless grown-up in South Florida. I’ve made the rounds of most of the state’s attractions as a teenager and young adult but never made it back to the Magic Kingdom. My only Disney World experiences were a day at Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) and a trip to Downtown Disney for a concert at the House of Blues. Like many others, I thought I was too cool for Disney World.

Continue reading “Disney World is still cool at 40 thanks to retro artists Shag, Kevin & Jody”

Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room will reopen Aug. 15 with vintage show

July 2013 update: Tiki Room celebrates 50 years of enchantment
Modern Retro Disney World: Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
Aug. 2011 update: Disney World’s updated Enchanted Tiki Room has retro feel

The Enchanted Tiki Room at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in November 2008, before a fire closed the "Under New Management" version of the attraction. (Photo by Susan Hayward)
The Enchanted Tiki Room at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in November 2008, before a fire closed the "Under New Management" version of the attraction. (Photo by Susan Hayward)

Whatever (or whoever) started a fire in Walt Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room back in January may have inadvertently set off a chain of events that has corrected one of the biggest blunders in the history of theme park attraction renovations.

Closed for the past seven months, the iconic attraction is scheduled to reopen Aug. 15 with a new animatronic show that pays tribute to the original attraction, which was a pet project of Walt himself. To the delight of many hardcore fans, the oft-reviled “Under New Management” theme has been ditched (for good, hopefully). Iago from Aladdin and Zazu from The Lion King have been replaced by José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre – the four crooning parrot hosts who have been entertaining guests at California’s Disneyland since 1963.

The redesign of Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room was announced in May at Disney’s “D23 Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th Anniversary Conference,” a special event for members of Disney’s D23 fan club (D23 refers to Disney and 1923, the year the company was founded). The Aug. 15 date was officially announced by Disney World on Tuesday.

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