It’s hard to believe but Sunday, June 23, will mark the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. Crowds were wowed by the world’s first Audio-Animatronics show in a place where the birds sing words and flowers croon.
Inspiration for the Tiki Room came from Walt Disney’s earliest days of animated filmmaking, as he looked for a way to animate in three dimensions. He was fascinated by an antique, miniature mechanical songbird that he had purchased in New Orleans and thought if someone could animate this figure a century before, it should be possible to do it using modern technology.
The resulting Audio-Animatronics technology developed for the Enchanted Tiki Room would eventually lead to such iconic Disney theme park attractions as “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” “it’s a small world,” Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and others.
“The Enchanted Tiki Room continues to delight thousands of guests every day, some 50 years after Walt originally introduced us to Jose, Michael, Pierre & Fritz,” said Jon Storbeck, vice president of Disneyland Park. You might enjoy reading about the experiences of one of the attractions original VIP Hostess or The Disney Blog columnist Linda’s experience shadowing Walt Disney on the press preview.
Some interesting facts about the historic Enchanted Tiki Room:
- The cast of the Enchanted Tiki Room show features 225 animated singing birds, flowers and Tikis.
- Eight macaws, six cockatoos, twelve toucans and nearly 30 other tropical birds join more than 50 orchids, seven bird-of-paradise flowers,12 Tiki Drummers and singing Tikis in the magical, musical show.
- The Enchanted Tiki Room originally was the Adventureland seating area for the Plaza Pavilion restaurant, now the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe. From 1955 to 1961, Plaza Pavilion seating occupied both Main Street, U.S.A., and Adventureland and the restaurant incorporated themes from both lands in its design. Part of the Adventureland dining area for Plaza Pavilion was also converted into the Tahitian Terrace restaurant, now Aladdin’s Oasis.
- During the planning stages, the Enchanted Tiki Room itself was conceived as a restaurant with the birds, flowers and Tikis performing an after-dinner show. There was even going to be a “birthday bird” that would be rolled out on a cart to sing for guests celebrating birthdays. After evaluating the challenges of combining the show with a restaurant operation, it was decided to make the Tiki Room a show only.
- When the Enchanted Tiki Room premiered in 1963, not even an E-ticket could get you in. The attraction had its own special tickets, priced at 75 cents apiece.
- “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” theme was composed by the Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert, whose many Disney music credits include the Annette Funicello top ten hit “Tall Paul,” the “it’s a small world” theme and the Academy Award-winning score for “Mary Poppins.”
- The Tiki Room show’s four hosts – Jose, Michael, Pierre and Fritz – were referred to as “MacAudios” in early publicity.
- Jose is voiced by Disney legend Wally Boag, who performed at the Golden Horseshoe Revue. Michael is voiced by Irish tenor Fulton Burley, also of the Golden Horseshoe Revue. The voice of Pierre is Ernie Newton, who also created the voice of the singing knight in the Haunted Mansion. Deep-voice Thurl Ravenscroft voices both Fritz and, in The Enchanted Garden waiting area outside the Tiki Room, the Tiki god Tangaroa. Outside of the Disney theme parks, Ravenscroft is known as the voice of Tony the Tiger.
- In 2005, Imagineers pulled the original audio source tapes from the vault and carefully restored the Enchanted Tiki Room soundtrack. They also installed new speakers and audio equipment in the attraction that produce a clear sound that surpasses fidelity limitations of the past.
- The Tikis in the Enchanted Tiki Garden entry area to the Tiki Room represent gods and goddesses for various Pacific Island cultures, including:
- Pele – Hawaiian fire goddess.
Tangaroa – Maori and Polynesian god of sea of sky, depending upon which culture is involved.
Maui – the Polynesian trickster god who slowed down time.
Rongo – Polynesian god of agriculture
Ngendei – from Fiji, the creator and head of all gods; every time he moves there is an earthquake
Hina Kaluua – Hawaiian mistress of rain
Tangaroa-ru – goddess of the east winds, which bring rain.
- Pele – Hawaiian fire goddess.
And for your viewing pleasure, here are the Tiki gods as they introduce themselves in the pre-show:
The attraction has seen its fair share of changes over the years, but it continues to be on of the true Disneyland classics. What is your favorite part of the show?