Pleasure Island and Adventurer’s Club, some additional thoughts.

As we’ve covered before Disney has announced a change in plans for Pleasure Island. Goodbye to night clubs, hello to retail and dining. In the 19 years since Pleasure Island opened, a lot has changed in the habits of tourists and locals in terms of night time entertainment. Disney has done quite a bit of tweaking recently on the PI concept and apparently was unable to come up with a workable solution.

Never-the-less, there is a growing movement to save the Adventurer’s Club. It is the only attraction at Downtown Disney that was created solely by Disney Imagineers (Joe Rhode (of Disney’s Animal Kingdom fame, had a hand in it), it has a huge following, and some of the most unique 360 degree immersive theming found in a Disney attraction.

The bad news is, except for the original “Save Mr. Lincoln” letter writing campaign, I can’t think of a single Disney fan movement to save an attraction that has worked. (Okay, the mid-90s effort to keep Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through open may qualify.) I think Disney is happy to see fans get all riled up as it shows a passion in their fan base, it also means free publicity for them. But these days Disney makes decisions based more on business needs than the needs of providing a quality show.

The good news, this time may be different. When Disney announced it would be closing the Adventurer’s Club this fall, along with the other Pleasure Island clubs, there was quick reaction to the news with a lot of chatter on Disney fan sites, a Facebook group, and a petition with more than 3000 signatures in just a few days. There’s also the possibility that Disney just plans on moving

That’s a good start, but not yet the huge outcry of the type that might make Disney re-focus its ideas to rip out the attraction. To make a real difference, a letter writing campaign to Disney corporate and Themepark executives will need to be launched.

Here’s an open letter to Disney executives that was sent to me by Brian Spencer.

I have long been a fan of all things Disney. From movies to TV shows and music, Disney has long held a special place in my life. The heart of my fondness, however, resides at the Disney Parks and Resorts. The trips taken as a child with my parents, and now as an adult with my wife, have created fond memories and happy experiences that will last throughout our lifetimes.

Our most recent trip to Walt Disney World was for our honeymoon in January of 2007. It was an exciting trip, as it was the first of our married lives and it was the first time we planned and traveled alone as adults. Prior to that trip, I had learned about something at Walt Disney World that we had never experienced on any previous visits: The Adventurer’s Club on Pleasure Island at Downtown Disney. I was surprised that I had never heard of nor seen advertising for it, especially considering how many glowing reviews of the club I read online.

People said that it “wasn’t to be missed”. We decided to spend a night at the Adventurer’s Club based upon all of the positive comments we read. Not only were they right, but we were completely blown away by the experience we had there. I won’t go into minute details, but we found the Adventurer’s Club to be an experience that was not just humorous and interactive, but highly immersive as well.

The cast was top notch from the performers to the wait-staff and when combined with the detailed and highly-imaginative atmosphere, they made for a night that was truly magical. The experience was uniquely Disney; unlike anything we had seen anywhere, even within the realm of Disney itself. As our evening drew to a close, we vowed to return on subsequent trips, and talked of how much the rest of our family would also enjoy the club.

This past Friday I came across the press release announcing the closure of the Pleasure Island complex (and in turn, the Adventurer’s Club). The news stirred emotions from anger to disappointment and sadness; negative feelings I never associate with my Disney experiences. Almost immediately after reading the press release, the Disney communities online lit up with discussion surrounding the closure. I found, as you’d expect, that I was not the only one upset with the announced closure of the Adventurer’s Club. Reactions ranged from a few of humbled acceptance to several people canceling their planned Walt Disney World vacations. While I believe canceling a trip over this news may be a bit irrational, it testifies to the broad-reaching popularity of the Adventurer’s Club.

I do not consider myself against progress, nor do I believe that Walt Disney World is a museum. Progress has long been a characteristic of the Disney Company. Old, outdated park attractions have been replaced or updated incorporating the latest technology to provide guests with highly-immersive, magical and memorable experiences. In an interview with the press on Saturday June 28th, Kevin Lansberry, Vice-President of Downtown Disney stated:

“At this point, the Adventurer’s Club is closing. If it comes back in another form, I haven’t heard about that.”

He then went on to comment about a couple of the new additions planned for the island. It is startling to think that Disney is closing a very popular, one-of-a-kind, immersive and magical experience so that a Hanes ‘design your own t-shirt’ and other dime-a-dozen shops can take up residence in its place. I do not believe that this could even be remotely considered progress.

Mr. Lansberry also commented: “We’re making the changes that we’re making to Pleasure Island because our guests are asking us for more shopping and dining opportunities and other types of entertainment.”

I know that the majority of Walt Disney World’s market consists of families traveling with children and I can understand their aversion to high-energy dancing/night clubs and the atmosphere they can create. Part of me wonders if this was exacerbated when access to Pleasure Island moved from the “turnstile” method or entry to the “club-by-club” method and families might have mistakenly wandered into Pleasure Island. I do sympathize with their viewpoint of Pleasure Island being somewhat of a roadblock in getting from one end of Downtown Disney to the other and I can understand why they would want Pleasure Island to be changed. I believe, however, that closing the Adventurer’s Club is tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. While former guests of the dance clubs will merely drive to other areas of Orlando to enjoy an experience like what they had at Pleasure Island, the rest of us will be unable to partake in anything similar to the Adventurer’s Club, neither on nor off Disney property. As I’ve expressed throughout this letter: the Adventurer’s Club has no equal.

As a guest myself (and I believe I can speak on behalf of the 2185+ Adventurer’s Club fans that have expressed similar feelings in a petition on PetitionOnline.com) I ask you: Please spare the Adventurer’s Club. THIS is what WE as your guests want. We do not want our much-loved Adventurer’s Club to be replaced with under-imaginative shopping and/or dining experiences. It deserves better than that. The Adventurer’s Club is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that has created unique magic for thousands upon thousands of guests throughout its history. Despite what the Disney Vacation Club advertisements say, the Adventurer’s Club is truly Disney’s best kept secret.

I would be more than happy to further discuss my comments and feelings with you. Please feel free to contact me via the information below.

Sincerely,
Brian Spencer

Great letter, but I urge you to be shorter and more concise in your letters. I worked with Brian to come up with something that was short and used a lot of bullet points to get his point across quickly. That’s what he’ll be sending into Disney management.

* * * * *

I would very much like to see the Adventurer’s Club endure. I want Disney to save the unique brand of Disney magic you find there. The AC pushed Disney to the limits of its PG-13 sensibilities with slightly raunchy dialog, enough innuendo to fill up Fantasyland, and terrific improvisational humor that you rarely see on Disney property these days. Beyond the AC level of humor, Disney shifts into the Miramax brand.

Yet, of all the clubs that are closing at Pleasure Island the Adventurer’s Club is the most family friendly and the closest aligned with the Disney brand. You could plop the AC down at any Disney theme park or resort hotel and it would fit in just fine (although no alcohol would be available inside Disneyland). The other PI clubs would stand out like a sore thumb.

In fact, the AC finds its roots in one of Walt Disney’s best un-implemented ideas, a dinner theater combined with an audio-animatronic show. A never constructed Chinese restaurant at Disneyland and the The Tiki Room, which was originally planned as a dinner show with audio-animatronic birds as the entertainment, are the ancestors of the Adventurer’s Club.

19 years is a long run for a nightly play, especially one that is big on audience interaction and audio-animatronics (well puppetry, but still), but it’s still a popular play and one closely tied to the Disney brand. If you think of it more as an attraction than a club, it could easily live on for another 20-30 years with just a few updates every now and then, just like it’s theme park inspirations.

When they do get to work on replacing Pleasure Island, I’m hoping they create something uniquely Disney and not just import shopping and dining experiences the average guest can find elsewhere. A Balloon ride and a t-shirt shop is not exactly blowing me away with new concepts.

On the other hand, I’m not totally against outside dining when it’s done right. Look at the Downtown Disney experience over at the Disneyland Resort in California. They asked established outside companies to create unique experiences for guests. The result was magic.

Disney has to maintain that special brand of magic or it risks losing repeat business to other family entertainment venues that are located closer to where those customers live. That’s a very real danger as fuel prices rise faster than one of Disney’s famous fireworks. Apparently, more family friendly options is Disney’s solution.

I am left wondering why if Disney wants to give families more to do on property at night, why do they not just extend theme park hours and improve the dining and entertainment offerings there? That’s what the majority of guests want — more time to enjoy the unique brand of Disney theme park entertainment. To get rid of Downtown Disney’s only example of that, is just wrong.

Finally, I’m currently scheduled to be interviewed on NPR’s Bryant Park Project tomorrow morning. If you don’t get the show live in your area, you should be able to find it online later.

In the meantime, here are some addresses to send your letter to:

Walt Disney World Guest Communications
PO Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040

wdw.guest.communications@disneyworld.com

Mr. Robert Iger
Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521-4873

Mr. James A. Rasulo
Chairman
Walt Disney Parks & Resorts
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521-4873

Meg Crofton
President
The Walt Disney World Resort
PO Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Al Weiss
President
Worldwide Operations
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
PO Box 10000
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

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2 Responses to Pleasure Island and Adventurer’s Club, some additional thoughts.

  1. drnigelc says:

    Best of luck tomorrow morning! :-)

  2. I think that there is something about this that everybody is missing – I think that DTD was trouble for WDW and they just got tired of it. There were problems with the locals and the whole club scene is just too messy for the “happiest place on earth”.

    This is an attempt to sanitize – IMO of course.

Comments are closed.