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The Enchanted Tiki Room
Under New Management


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This is not your grandfather’s Enchanted Tiki Room. Jafar’s sidekick Iago from Aladdin (1992) and Mufasa’s advisor Zazu from The Lion King (1994) are the new owners of this venerable attraction. The obnoxious parrot and the proper hornbill are shaking things up—but is that a good thing or a bad thing?

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Enjoy the pre-show.

So how did these two supporting players from hit animated Disney features become the owners of this shrine of Audio-Animatronic entertainment? You wouldn’t expect two characters with such diametrically opposed personalities to be friends or business partners.

Blame it on their talent agents.

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William and Morris, agents

As the audience watches while waiting to enter the theater, two toucans are having a heated discussion. They know each other, but they seem not to like each other. They’re Morris, who sounds suspiciously like the late Phil Hartman, and William, who sounds suspiciously like Don Rickles (and even calls Morris a “hockey puck.” Here’s a sample of them ruffling each other’s feathers:

Morris: I just flew in from Hollywood. My client’s the new owner of this birdcage.

William: What? Are you cuckoo? My client’s the new owner. Disney gave me an exclusive.

Morris: Co-exclusive. Didn’t you read your contract?

William: I gave it a bird’s eye glance.

Morris: And you call yourself a talent agent! I negotiated my tailfeathers off for this deal.

William: Well, my client does not share credit. He’s a very big bird.

Morris: Your client is Big Bird?

William: Not Big Bird. A big bird, you birdbrain.

Morris: Well, your dim little star is now half owner of The Enchanted Tiki Room with my superstar.

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When the doors open, head toward them.

Morris tells William to look at the paying customers waiting to get in. When William figures out that “paying” means 10 per cent for agents, he concludes, “Hey, who am I to go against the status crow?”

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Enter the dimly lit Tiki Room.

Did you enjoy the pre-show? Okay, it was a bit odd. The setting suggested tropical Pacific island charm, but the natural habitat for the bickering agents would have been an airport bar. At least you could understand them well. Their dialog was never obscured by laughter from the audience.

As you enter the room, it looks familiar. In fact, it looks just as at is did back when this it the Tropical Serenade, presented by the Florida Citrus Growers.

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It looks like the familiar Tiki Room.

The show begins. The dialog is familiar:

José: My siestas are getting shorter and shorter. Hey Michael, mi amigo, pay attention. It’s showtime!

Michael: So it is. Pierre, you rascal you, let’s put on the show!

Pierre: Mon ami, I am always ready to put on ze show, as is my good friend, Fritz.

Fritz: Mein goodness, you’re all schtaring at us! Vee better start the show rolling.

Michael: Wait, wait! We forgot to wake up the glee club.

It seems the new owners didn’t make and changes after all. The charmless pre-show is just a bad memory as the music begins:

In the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room,
In the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room,
All the birds sing words, and the flowers croon,
In the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room.

Wait! Iago’s perch descends from the ceiling.

Iago: Hey, stop the music! Are you listening to me? I said stop the music!

The music winds down. Iago insults the original show:

Iago: What is that? I’m gonna toss my crackers. And these people below me, they ain’t gonna like that. Trust me.

The rest of the 10-minute show takes a far different path than the original. To the tune of “A Friend Like Me” from Aladdin, Iago sings about what a famous movie star he is. One verse goes like this:

You are boring tiki birds.
I’m a big cele-birdy.
That’s why I’m gonna go and change your show.
Ain’t it great to have a friend like me?

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Zazu and the original cast

Iago ends up irritating the tiki gods and is banished. Eventually he returns in a different location, looking charred by his ordeal. But he doesn’t repent. This isn’t good-natured fun. Iago is downright nasty and insulting!

Along the way, a new set of musical numbers in includes “Hot! Hot! Hot!” and “Conga.” The tiki gods perform a doo wop rendition of “In the Still of the Night.” Oh, there are still some nods of Polynesia—but not many.

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He’s back!

As the audience exits, the new owners keep talking:

Iago: Come on! Keep movin’! You’ve had enough enchantment for one day.

Zazu: Bye bye now!

Iago: Hey lady, it wouldn’t hurt you to walk a little faster!

Iago: Boy, I’m tired! I think I’ll head over to the Hall of Presidents and take a nap.

Zazu: Right. Off you go.

Perhaps it would have been better if this had been your grandfather’s Enchanted Tiki Room.


The Enchanted Tiki Room—Under New Management opened in the spring of 1998. It was an attempt to make Tropical Serenade (as Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room was called in Florida) relevant and entertaining for audiences of late 1990s.

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Walt Disney with José at Disneyland

Tropical Serenade, presented by the Florida Citrus Growers in the “Sunshine Pavilion,” had been one of the original attractions at the Magic Kingdom when the park opened on October 1, 1971. But it was actually older than that. Although the building and the pre-show were different than at Disneyland, the main show was essentially a carbon copy of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, which opened in Disneyland in 1963.

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Orange Bird on display at the Orange County Regional History Center in downtown Orlando

In addition to sponsoring the Florida version of the attraction for its first ten years, the Florida Citrus Growers commissioned Walt Disney Productions to design a new promotional mascot. The result was Orange Bird, essentially a small bird with a large orange as its head. Sometimes an Orange Bird walk-around character would greet guests near the attraction exit.

Tropical Serenade closed in September 1997 to begin its 7-month transformation into The Enchanted Tiki Room—Under New Management. It must have seemed like a good idea.

Pop music replaced the timeless sounds of Polynesia. The animatronic figures of Iago and Zazu, with their animated cartoon character designs, looked out-of-place compared to the more realistic (although gently exaggerated) style of the birds and flowers reused from the original attraction. While the old version was relaxing and charming, the new version—with Gilbert Gottfried’s shrill Iago—was cynical and jarring.

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Iago and Zazu posing together in a Disney press photo.

Under New Management went on to be arguably the most panned “enhancement” to an existing attraction in Disney park history. One guest summed it up in three words: “They ruined it.”

Under New Management also had some supporters. But perhaps they could all have fit into the room at one time.

The updated attraction was approaching its 13th anniversary when fire struck on January 12, 2011. The Orlando Sentinel described what happened:

Firefighters were called to a small fire at an attraction at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom park on Wednesday, officials said.

According to the Reedy Creek Fire Department, firefighters were called to the park’s The Enchanted Tiki Room—Under New Management attraction in the Adventureland section of Magic Kingdom about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Fire Department spokesman Bo Jones said a small fire in the attic of the attraction was extinguished by fire sprinklers. Firefighters worked to evacuate the area and to check to make sure the fire was completely out, Jones said.

From the news story, it sounded minor, but the attraction was unable to reopen. There was no follow-up press release from Disney to provide a more details.

The Internet being what it is, fans posted and repeated unconfirmed stories. Consistent with the news account of the fire sprinklers, one story was that there was significant water damage, especially to the electronics. An unconfirmed story said that the charred Iago at the end the show survived, but the uncharred Iago from the beginning of the show was heavily damaged.

The big questions were when it would reopen and what would reopen. The early Internet rumor was that Under New Management would be back. As the current show, it would be repaired. Another rumor said the building would remain shuttered, awaiting future use for a another purpose once something new is funded.

By late March, several Disney fan blogs had reported—in no uncertain terms—that when the attraction reopened, Under New Management would be gone and the original Tropical Serenade would be back. It made sense. The original attraction never went away at Disneyland; a skillfully executed 2005 restoration restored its popularity. With good maintenance and a resurgence in the popularity of the mid-century tiki culture, Disneyland had a strong attraction. With the 40th anniversary of the Magic Kingdom approaching on October 1, 2011, a return of the original show there might get a similar guest response.

The reopening date kept slipping. On April 7, the daily Magic Kingdom calendar at the official Walt Disney World website said the refurbishment would go through June 30. The next day, on April 8, the date changed to August 15. The website still called it “The Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management.”

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Attraction logo, 2011

In early August 2011, Disney made it official. The attraction would reopen as Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, the same name as at Disneyland since 1963. The original charm would be back, but not the original Flordia name, Tropical Serenade.

Walt DIsney World publicity photo, 2011

No Iago and no Zazu in the 2011 Disney press photo

The grand reopening was August 15, 2011, with a soft opening one day earlier. The 1971 pre-show was back, with the two toucans voiced by Dallas (“wildest ride in the Wilderness!”) McKennon and Sebastian (Mr. French) Cabot. The show itself was one again your grandfather’s Tiki Room, although shortened here and there for today’s impatient audiences. There was no trace of Iago or Zazu and no obvious fire damage repair. It just looked good again.

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Orange Bird in 2011

This time, there was no Orange Bird at the Tiki Room. However, the old Florida Citrus Growers mascot had been back at Walt Disney World since before the January 2011 Tiki Room fire. The orange-headed fledgling is in gift shops on merchandise—wearing mouse ears for some odd reason.

 

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© 2011-2012 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated November 23, 2012.

Photo of Under New Management sign: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of pre-how: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of William and Morris: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of queue: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of doors: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of inside Tiki Room: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of show with Zazu: 2007 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of charred Iago 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Historic photo of Walt Disney © Disney.
Photo of Orange Bird at History Center: 2010 by Werner Weiss.
Press photo of Iago and Zazu © Disney.
Photo of Orange Bird merchandise: 2011 by Werner Weiss.