Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A "Bold, New" World


"Our guests tell us they want additional shopping and dining experiences at Downtown Disney."

Kevin Lansberry
Vice president - Downtown Disney Florida


Souvenir stands, carnival thrills, and T-shirt shops. U.S. 192 in Kissimmee? Not if some at the Walt Disney Company have their way, as they prepare to execute what they call a "bold new vision" for Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World in Florida.

In a news release quietly disseminated late last Friday, the Walt Disney Company announced its new plan for the Downtown Disney area. Buried within the news release, this sentence: "To make way for the new offerings, all of the clubs currently on Pleasure Island will close on September 27."

At first glance, this might not seem like that big a deal for the Imagineering enthusiast. But slated for demolition, along with the more traditional clubs of Pleasure Island, is one of Imagineering's true crown jewels: The Adventurers Club.


If you're a Disneyland enthusiast who lives in California, you might not know much-- or anything-- about this hidden Imagineering gem. It's one of the truly superior attractions we Floridians can proudly claim as our own.

Some guests who enter this 1930's gentleman's club wander around the mezzanine, and depart without discovering the true genius this venue has to offer. Guests who descend the staircase and sit down for a drink or two are in for the time of their lives.

Throughout the evening, several amazing performers make their way through the Adventurers Club, welcoming everyone to a 1937 New Years Eve open house. The club president and other permanent members continually converse with the guests. An animatronic colonel (okay, he's really a puppet) leads patrons in the singing of the club's all-purpose theme song. Musical performances here can be of Broadway caliber, and few who stay long enough to learn the club salute are immune from the club's addictive charm.

While the sublime execution of the club's detailed back story and character development are a testament to the truly talented men and women who perform their hearts out each and every evening, just as incredible-- and important-- is the rich intricacy and superb thematic execution of the venue itself.

The walls and antechambers of the Adventurers Club are adorned with an almost infinite number of period photographs, artifacts and mementos from fellow adventurers around the world. This amazing attention to (and investment in) the details sets the Adventurers Club apart as one of the finest themed environments ever created by Walt Disney Imagineering. Consider experiencing Pirates of the Caribbean as a walk-through attraction. Would the details withstand the scrutiny? They do at the Adventurers Club. Remember, this isn't a roller coaster or even a slow-moving boat ride. It's a fully realized environment that has to endure intimate and repeat inspection from guests who spend several hours poring over its walls. Remarkably, the club's interior not only endures, it envelopes, as only a classic Disney attraction can.

Today, the Adventurers Club still thrives in the midst of a diminished Pleasure Island. After two decades of financial and creative success, many here in Florida considered it sacred ground.

Or for the time being, at least safe.

So it should come as no surprise that the Adventurers Club is currently slated for demolition, along with the rest of Pleasure Island's clubs, in favor of a "bold new vision." A vision that includes (brace yourselves)...


...a t-shirt shop and a hot air balloon.

From the news release:

"Over the next year, the 120-acre entertainment-shopping-dining complex will add a number of one-of-a-kind, immersive experiences for guests. Downtown Disney will even get its own iconic attraction, in the form of a giant, tethered balloon that will take guests 300 feet into the air to view the amazing vistas of Walt Disney World Resort. Other new experiences include... a design your own t-shirt store from Hanes [that] will add to the growing collection of merchandise guests can personalize at Downtown Disney."

To be fair, there is legitimate logic behind some of the changes. Until as recently as 2004, Pleasure Island's gated turnstiles impeded pedestrian traffic between the Marketplace and West Side, two wildly profitable retail areas. Removing the turnstiles improved the awkward and sometimes dangerous traffic flow, but invited non-paying guests onto the Island. Loitering teenagers are now tarnishing Downtown Disney's desired reputation as a family-friendly destination. Add to the equation property that's far too valuable for aging dance clubs, and its obvious that changes must and will be made.

Let's be clear about this. No one is saying Pleasure Island shouldn't change. But there are at least two things about this "bold, new vision" that should be especially troubling to anyone who cares about the Walt Disney company, financially or creatively.

One: That Disney's idea of "bold" and "new" calls for replacing unique Disney experiences with even more third-party dining and shopping venues, a t-shirt shop, and a hot air balloon.

Two: That caught in the path of the wrecking ball is one of the finest themed environments ever created by Walt Disney Imagineering.

Unless someone with power and vision intervenes, the Adventurers Club will welcome its final guests this fall.

And that, on so many levels, is very, very sad. The sense of loss this time will come with added profundity and poignancy, because what's being destroyed is so unique, and works so very, very well.

Perhaps the club will find a new home inside Animal Kingdom or elsewhere. We're not holding out much hope. But we are losing sleep. We just can't imagine a Walt Disney World without the Adventurers Club, and, judging from the more than five thousand on-line petition signatures compiled so far, a lot of other people feel the same way.

The capable folks at the Walt Disney Company should go back to the drawing board on this one, and challenge themselves to re-imagine a truly "bold, new" Downtown Disney, one that keeps the Adventurers Club in its mix. The current plan is only "bold" for its audacity, and destroying works of creative genius to pursue short-term profits is sadly nothing "new."

82 comments:

Anonymous said...

CONGALOOSH!

It was the only thing that put pleasure into Pseudo Island.

Anonymous said...

You know, I've been trying really, really hard to work out what possible phrasing the market research folks could have fabricated to create a survey which gave the result that Downtown Disney patrons think that there are currently too few shopping and dining experiences...

Maybe:

Q: As an addition to Downtown Disney, would you prefer:
(a) More sesspits
(b) More slugs in your icecreams
(c) More nuclear missile silos
(d) More shops and restaurants

See - positive proof, everyone voted (d)!

This guest survey business is easy isn't it? So we can now watch the outsourcing wrecking ball claim another undeserved victim.

Kungaloosh everyone.

Andre

Anonymous said...

Well, thank goodness there will finally be somewhere to buy a t-shirt in the Orlando area.

Steven T Cameron said...

It saddens me to think that I won't be able to visit the Adventurer's Club one more time before it closes.

The first time I went, I happened to wear a shirt with a map of North Dakota (where I'm from) on it. When they saw me, they kept asking other people if they remembered to bring their maps with them.

My family loves the Adventurer's Club even more than I do because for two visits in a row, I was chosen to go on stage. So they got to see me embarrassed.

I'll still miss our visits to the Adventurer's Club.

Anonymous said...

I looked up "bold vision" in the Disney Dictionary.

Definition 141 referencing Retail equates, "face painting" "Build a Bear", "your address carved on a plank", "dippin' dots" and "sand paintings" as proper interpretations.

da korn said...

As a long-time fan and visitor of the Disney parks, The Adventurer's Club was the one attraction that constantly renewed my faith in the ability of the Imagineers to capture my imagination. I really hope it's preserved in some form or another. Maybe I can buy one of the framed pictures on eBay someday as a keepsake. =(

Rick S said...

I thought they picked Florida because it had room to hold all their dreams. So why do they keep tearing down popular attractions to make room for other things?

Maybe Sea World can build an Adventurers club?

Anonymous said...

It is a sad turn of events but not surprising with the way they have been running their retail in Florida. The Adventurer's Club was the reason I upgraded my Annual pass to a Premium...This magnificent club will be replaced by yet another homogenous retail/dining place we could go to in our own hometowns.
Could it not be resurrected at another location?
What if the Adventurers Club were moved to The Boardwalk and the ESPN Zone was moved to Downtown Disney. This would be an amicable switch, and the Adventurer's club would be closer in theming...1940s beachside resort...late 1930s Gentlemans club...not too far apart. It would fit the timbre of the area better than the oddly placed ESPN Zone. Come to think of it there is also a 1930s Art Deco Ballroom at the same location....
or
What if the Adventurer's Club were expanded and dining added and dropped into Odyssey restaurant. God knows with the free dining plans that Disney needs another table service restaurant and this could at least be unique and wonderful...it would also fit the theming with the world showcase adjacent...
just a thought.

Spokker said...

"I thought they picked Florida because it had room to hold all their dreams. So why do they keep tearing down popular attractions to make room for other things?"

No see, there just wasn't enough room for Pooh and Toad! And there just isn't enough room for the Adventurer's Club AND Cold Stone. You can see how their hands are tied here.

austin said...

shame i never heard of this place until now.

Brian said...

Why is it I'm not surprised?

Anonymous said...

I'm speachless. The Adventurers club is actually the only reason I even would go down to Downtown Disney... I think that it could still co-exist along-side shops and restaurants as it's basically a bar. And considering how long we hang out there and how much we drink, they must make a huge profit, even with all the performers. Between me and my wife we probably had 10 (mostly me) Gin and Tonics that were probably $6 each over the course of probably 3 hours hanging out there. That's $60 not including tips! And I know that the profit margin on a drink is huge...
If they can't keep it there, then hopefully they can re-locate it. I like the idea of swapping it out with the ESPN zone at Boardwalk. I also think it could probably exist in Animal Kingdom, though this is more of a late night drinking thing... Who knows. I wonder if even Disney realizes what an attraction it is.

Spokker said...

Downtown Disney is like the anti-Disney. In fact, The Grove in Los Angeles is more of a themed environment than the tacky Downtown Disneys at both coasts. It even has a streetcar!

I really fail to see how Downtown Disney is any less generic than say, The Block of Orange.

More shopping and dining means more AMCs, more California Pizza Kitchens, and less Adventurer's Clubs. Yawn.

David said...

The news that the Adventurer's Club is closing broke my heart and it is still broken. I cannot get used to the idea. Thankfully it is just down the street from me and I hope to visit a few more times before it closes, but the experience will be bitter-sweet from now on.

There is no reason why this jewel couldn't be saved or relocated. Or even for Pleasure Island to be re-imagineered and re-launched at a new location. Disney World is big enough for this and many other dreams.

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear, Imagineering is NOT designing this make-over. It is being handled by the resurrection of the original DDC group that now resides within WDI Glendale. They have a different agenda and a different business model and "show" is very low on their priority list.

Don't blame the Imagineers for this one. You can ding them for a lot of dumb ideas lately but not this one.

Anonymous said...

This was announced the same weekend that the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton was confirmed to be closing.
Sad.

Bill Wilson said...

What I cannot understand is why PI can't be revamped without taking out the Adventurer's Club in the process.

When something works, why "fix" it?

Anyone want to bet on how long the t-shirt shop lasts?

Someone needs to get in the Adventurer's Club and take lots of quality video for YouTube.

Rats...

Ritardo "Gar the Conqueror" said...

I hope Disney remains as a "Theme Park" and does not evolve into an "Amusement Park"(i.e. six flags).

Anonymous said...

I'm still in complete shock over this. The Adventurers Club is the reason I stay on property, eat dinner on property. Without it I might as well stay at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal but to be honest, I doubt I will be back to WDW for a long long time.

Yes, this silly little bar is that important to me. *sigh*

JohnG31 said...

Another fantastic Idea by the genius Rassulo, geez the great ideas just keep flowing from his brilliant mind.

Spokker, I agree 100% with your statement. The "Grove" shopping center in Los Angeles, is more themed then DownTown Disney, which is nothing more then a outdoor mall. The "Grove" truly is a experience, in my book, at least MUCH more of a "Experience" then DownTown Disney.

What a shame about Adventurer Club's closing. Well I bet DubaiLand will have something like this and alot more "E" Tickets, since the ex imagineers being hired out there are being given practically free hand at designing attractions with almost unlimited budgets! Guess we have to start saving for a trip one of these days, shame that Disney is dropping the ball yet again.

Anonymous said...

"It is being handled by the resurrection of the original DDC group that now resides within WDI Glendale."


Resurrection or Insurrection? Who is leading this?
Is this a Wing Chow type project like the new Contemporary Hotel addition?

(Wing Chow is the man that heads up architecture and was key in DDC).

The Hey said...

I can't speak for how well the Adventure's Club has done profit-wise but Island as a whole wasn't doing all that well.

I cannot see it moved to Animal Kingdom but I would love to see it moved to Boardwalk but I am not holding out too much hope.

Hopefully someone will get ahold of Lassiter - he's probably the one person of power that would understand the importance of this special place to so many people.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I contemplate taking a new trip to Disneyworld, the desire to go back to the Adventurers Club is always high on my list of reasons to go. Without it, I seriously doubt I'd go as often.

Can we hold a demonstration in Glendale? Is that the place where it would do the most good?

Disney is supposed to be unique, more chain stores gives no one a reason to look up to it.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I understand why the Adventurer's Club and the Star Trek Experience are closing. They were put in the wrong place.
When Pleasure Island was originally done back in the early 90's, it was to capture a Disney audience that was going off property to get a night time experience it could not get on property. Now they can.
The concept of Adventurer's Club was and still is a bold one. Perhaps someone can find a better permanent location for such a venue. Maybe even make it part of the old "Disney Centers" concept.
The same holds true with the "Star Trek Experience."
A great experience in a lousy location. I mean seriously, the Hilton in Las Vegas?
"The Star Trek Experience" should have been located at a Paramount Park, but the geniuses behind those those parks did not understand how to make their parks unique, so instead focused on making their parks the same, yet better than Six Flags' parks. Sadly, another opportunity lost.
I don't like that they're being closed, but I understand why, from a busiess perspective, they are being closed down.
For those who want to know who I am...Mark Eades, a former Imagineer. I can be emailed at markaeades@aol.com

jedited said...

I have never been to PI, but if PI and the Adventurers club was SO successful like everyone claims, then why are they tearing it down?!? Disney is in the business of making money and if PI and the Adventurers club were making money than Disney wouldn't be tearing them out!
PI was a dumb idea from the get-go. "let's build a place for people to get drunk and hook-up and we'll name it after the place where all the bad kids in Pinochio got turned into donkeys". That's a GREAT idea. NOT!

Klark Kent 007 said...

Disney was once about the experience, and a little shopping to go along.

Now the Shopping takes priority (so you can purchase the same things available at Wal-Mart) and the experience is the last thing in mind.

Pleasure Island needs attention, this is true, but make it an experience worth spending time in. The Adventurers Club could be the center of it... Now build experience around it.

/bsdb said...

Just to be clear, Imagineering is NOT designing this make-over. It is being handled by the resurrection of the original DDC group that now resides within WDI Glendale. They have a different agenda and a different business model and "show" is very low on their priority list.

I swear, it's as though WDI's mission statement is to remove any and all vestiges of "old school Imagineering" from each and every stateside Disney park and resort!

Dear delightful brain child of Rohde, you will be sorely missed.

Kungaloosh!

teevtee said...

Pleasure Island (for me) has ALWAYS sucked... from day one, SUCKED.

I absolutely HATED the forced and fake "New Years"every day thing... it just felt so artificial and uncomfortable.

I hated the entire vibe of Pleasure Island and it certainly was a horrible idea in the first place. Drunken idiots hanging out and corporate night clubs and bars is the one thing we all truly can find in our own home towns... nothing special or "magical or even fun about any of that at all. Pleasure Island was built out of pure unchecked GREED. It had as much to do with a Disney experience as a XXX theater... it just was never fun and out of place.

Additionally it made a mess of trying to navigate the entire Down Town Disney complex and the ever changing admission policy confused the masses. Have I made my opinion on Pleasure Island clear yet? I HATE IT!

With all that said the ONE redeeming factor is in fact the Adventurers Club... it, and the original WDI back story and thematic overlay of the island, were truly unique and captured a spirit akin to the best of what Disney does. Yet I doubt it REALLY ever made much money and I am sure THAT is the reason it is being removed along with all the garbage. If the AC was truly raking in cash I am sure that Disney could find a way to leave it stand amidst the new leased out spaces... but it does not earn enough cash to justify that. Plus DIsney wants out of the inconvenience and liability of running this type of place. Why work when you can simply get handed bags of cash for renting out some land?

The AC was one of Joe Rohde's earlier projects and really was a cool place to visit, even if the forced "improv" was never my cup of tea I certainly was in awe of the environment.

I wish they would tear everything out but let the AC stand... but this is the same place that ripped out the Magic Shop 10 or 12 years ago... and if they can do that they certainly have no qualms about removing the AC as well.

Sharon H. said...

The Adventurers Club and the Comedy Warehouse are chock full of some of the most talented and entertaining performers in all of Central Florida and some of their alumni have gone on to be successful in much larger cities, such as New York and Los Angeles. Both clubs have had strong followings for years and whereas the dance clubs might have only five patrons on a slow weeknight, the Warehouse and AdvClub still have dozens upon dozens. Multiply that tenfold on busy weekend nights.

A dance club is a dance club but there is nothing in the world that's similar to the Comedy Warehouse or, even much moreso, the Adventurers Club and it would be a shame to see them disappear. A petition has been started to try to "save" the Adventurers Club from being closed and destroyed and, as of this writing, has received over 4,000 signatures since its inception on June 28th. We all realize it's probably a long shot but anything is worth trying. If you could please add your name to the list, it would be appreciated.

http://www.petitiononline.com/wdwaclub

Here are some email addresses for those of you who many feel compelled to write a complaint:

Bob Iger, Vice President of Operations, Walt Disney World
Robert.A.Iger@email.disney.com

Kevin Lansberry, Vice President of Operations Downtown Disney
kevin.lansberry@email.disney.com

Barry Carlson, GM of Operations
barry.r.carlson@email.disney.com

Patsy Pederson, GM Guest Show
patsy.pederson@email.disney.com

Kris Piser, DTD Finance Manager
Kristine.piser@email.disney.com

Eric Johnason, Downtown Disney Business Relations
Eric.Johanson@disney.com

Christina Simeonides, Guest Service Manager, Downtown Disney Business Relations
Christina.M.Simeonides@disney.com


==========

Snail mail sometimes has a bigger impact than email, so for those who are interested:

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

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

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


It looks like the die is already cast and the venues will be gone after Sept. 27th, but for the sake of the performers and for the sake of their past, present and future audiences, I'm keeping my fingers crossed. There's always hope.

Anonymous said...

You would think with all these Pixar and Disney people posting things, they would have a quiet work in John Lasseter's ear and get him to save the club...

Cranky attraction designer said...

I actually wouldn't mind if they moved Adventurer's Club to AK... It would fit the theme and provide a place for tired feet... Maybe they could add a dining room to the mix (with stage shows, of course)... It kindof bothers me that it is probably an issue of revenue per square foot, and they are probably looking to overturn anything that isn't making the cut... but what's a company to do? Pleasure Island was kindof on the downslope to its end from the time they opened it up for pass-through traffic, and has the unfortunate position of being like a giant rock in the middle of a fast-flowing stream. The area *does* need a face-lift... but does that mean adding a t-shirt shop? I am surprised that they are not looking for high-profile deals, such as FAO Schwartz, or a Sony Metreon / ESPN Zone style store. Even more niche-based stores, such as stores that are richly and thematically surrounding you with the worlds of their fairies, Muppets or Pixar brands (kindof like the Rainforst Cafe surrounds you with vegetation and fish) -- with a mix of merchandise and interactive elements -- would be preferable to hackneyed t-shirt, homewares and plush depots -- which there are more than enough of within the parks and at the other end of Downtown Disney...

Anonymous said...

If it is true that the Adventurers Club was not a money maker then it needs to be treated as a loss leader. With the AC gone, I will no longer stay on site or eat dinner on site.

Honestly though, I have no clue how they would know it is unprofitable because whenever I pay my PI admission they never ask me what clubs I'm visiting.

I think John Lasseter is our only hope and it's such a long shot. I feel like someone in the family has passed away.

Anonymous said...

I can hardly wait to see what Disney Surplus will be selling in October!

Anonymous said...

After reading so many posts on this blog beating up on 2G Imagineers and lamenting that "post Walt nothing good has been done...where has the magic gone?... if we only had the original guys now", etc. it's comforting to know that there is a thread complaining about losing something done 20 years after Walt by 2G Imagineers!

The Adventurer's Club was an acquired taste experience, but very good nonetheless. Disney in the best tradition and unlike the corrugated metal and asphalt Sodom of PI, it will be missed.

teevtee said...

Just to clarify a couple things...

I don't think the Comedy Warehouse can really be considered in the same league as the AC. There frankly is nothing unique about an improve troupe... they have them all over the country, even in small cities and larger cities like Chicago have famous improve theaters such as Second City. I never cared much for the CW anyway because lets be honest, it was not REALLY improv. One night a guy yells out that he is a business man from Boise selling plungers... the next someone yells out that he is a Dr. from Toronto doing HEart surgery... but the core jokes are always the same and sometimes quite tired.

The AC however had the ATMOSPHERE going for it, an it was THAT which made it unique. Frankly I could not care less about the so so "improv" going on, I enjoyed the place because of the incredible detail and care poured into the actual structure.

Could it work in AK? Well they will never do it but just as a fun exercise I actually think that yes, it could but only outside the park where the hideous and awful Rain Forest Cafe now stands. Imagine removing that crap and putting up an expanded AC with a full dining room. It would fit theme wise, it would replace a very poorly done chain restaurant with something more special and it would appease those 4000 AC fans who care enough to sign an online petition but are about 1000 times too few for Disney to take notice off. It would actually be a nice solution and an all around improvement, and it will never happen in a million years.

FInally, someone mentioned how they can track visits to the AC and that they will not stay on property any longer without the AC. Well you must not visit much because they have had no admission to PI for many years making it extremely easy to know EXACTLY how much each club makes from cover charges and drinks... the AC may be a fun place to visit and may even be somewhat full... that does NOT mean it is anywhere near profitable.

Bismo said...

An open letter sent to the Walt Disney Company, regarding the recent
announcement of the impending closing of Please Island in Walt Disney
World and, most significantly, the Adventurers' Club -

I'm sure this is a waste of effort, and doubt very much it would ever be
read by anyone of consequence, but I must state my feelings on this
one. There WAS a time when I'd have felt writing a letter to the Disney
Company very useful. Now, it seems to be about the corporate, not about
the magic it used to represent. But I'll sully onwards anyway, martini
in my hand.

I can't begin to state my shock, sense of betrayal and outright anger at
the recently announced decision to close one of the most unique venues
in a place that prides itself on one-of-a-kind entertainment, the
closing of Pleasure Island and especially its crown jewel, the
Adventurers' Club.

The Adventurers' Club is uniquely Disney, and also unique TO Disney...
No Disney characters or corporate branding and yet seething with Disney
magic and fun. To replace it and the surrounding clubs with an "iconic
attraction, in the form of a giant, tethered balloon that will take
guests 300 feet into the air"... well, usually I'd have to travel as far
as my local COUNTY FAIR for such excitement! And a design-your-own
T-shirt store? Yup, that'll save me a trip to Cafe Press on my
computer! There is nothing special, unique or iconic about such plans.
It just cheapens Disney further and further to the level of
entertainment I can easily find locally without traveling 1400 miles and
spending tons of money on.

I've been going to WDW once or twice a year - with maybe two years
skipped, including last year - for almost 25 years now. I first visited
the Adventurers' Club in the fall of 1989, not many months after the
Island opened. Every year I still proudly display my original cheap,
plastic membership badge pin from that first visit, which always
impresses the cast. I remember when the barstaff were all Nash. I've
danced for Babylonia, and sung with Samantha. I've had the bartenders
work their magic for me, on myself and on many many friends I've brought
there over the years. It is without QUESTION the highlight of my trip
every year... we tend to visit the club two or three times every trip we
make. My 11-year-old son loves it as much as I do, and is so proud of
his own little rubber "participation" pin he earned two years ago. He's
as upset about this as I am, so it's not just an "adult entertainment"
perspective. It's our preferred nightlife destination when in Florida,
and a significant reason we keep coming back.

I'll mention a few of the other reasons I keep coming back to WDW
(keeping in mind we especially enjoy the atmosphere, food and drink
aspects of WDW more than the rides, which are bonus to us).

Favorite restaurant: Alfredo's in Epcot. Oh yeah, forgot, that's gone.

Favorite quiet hide-away for a quiet mid-day or evening drink: The Matsu
No Ma Lounge in Epcot, where I first tasted sake 15 years ago and have
loved it ever since and where my son has delighted not only on the
origami presents from the servers, but on a few of them REMEMBERING him
visit to visit, sometimes a year apart. Oh yeah, THAT'S gone too now,
absorbed into the main Japan restaurant.

Favorite WDW attraction, EVER: Horizons. I still weep. Mission: Space
is fun, but there's no spirit, no soul, no happiness. Just a cool
simulator ride. Great as an addition, but came at the cost of part of
Epcot's soul. As did World of Motion and the abomination that is the
"re-imagineered" Journey Into Imagination.

Speaking of abominations, do not even get me STARTED on the new
Enchanted Tiki Room! Once a favorite guilty pleasure - my web domain,
"hail the Tiki", is NOT a Polynesian reference but a tribute to that
once great, imaginative show before it became just more character shill
- it has been decimated into a Saturday morning puppet show. Again, I
can get better entertainment and a county fair.

At the moment, the only truly special place on a PERSONAL level for me
(even if not so much for the rest of the family) that sounds like it's
been untouched is the Rose & Crown Pub in Epcot. Let's see how long
that lasts.

Boo, Disney! Boo. I quickly went from shock and depression to anger
and actual RAGE at hearing about the Club's eminent closing. To add
insult to injury, I fly in to Orlando for this year's trip on September
28th. According to the press release, the very day AFTER the Club
closes. Swell. The family and I have already been planning NEXT year's
planned two-week trip down to WDW, and we are now seriously debating
going elsewhere. Disney may still have great rides, but the MAGIC is
spilling out faster than sand through a clenched fist.

Give us back our magic. Spare the Adventurers' Club, if not Pleasure
Island. And if you WON'T, well, much as I hate to suggest it as it
would itself diminish this great concept, but if YOU won't, FRANCHISE
it. Sell the concept, the characters, and open Clubs around the country.

One better darned well be in Boston.

Hailing the Tiki (and Babylonia!), but losing my faith,

Kunguloosh! (To use our all-purpose greeting, and you can guess its
meaning in this context.)

- Bismo "Traveling"" Beerbelly
Hailing the Tiki Since 1985!
www.hailthetiki.com

Anonymous said...

The letter started out great, but once they see you're a "foamer" it's over.

HDLady said...

There really is no way to easily determine the admission revenue the Adventurers Club generates. You can purchase one club admission to any club EXCEPT CW and AC. If you want to enter either of them (even if it's for the entire evening) you must purchase the "all clubs" admission. I suppose Disney has some way of calculating that revenue with some formula but but in the case of people who purchase the "all clubs" admission and spend the entire night at CW or AC, it would only be a guestimate. AC is the ONLY thing I will miss from PI and its closing has removed any desire to go anywhere near Downtown Disney. I live in central Florida and can find plenty or great shopping and dining experiences elsewhere without the aggravation of finding a parking spot.

queenofthehouse said...

DTD doesn't need anymore shops or places to eat. We need the unique entertainment that the Adventurers Club gives. Without the Club, I will have no reason to ever go to Downtown.

Anonymous said...

Pleasure Island was a horrible idea, Adventurers Club included. Horribly unfunny and lame. Glad to see it being bulldozed. First Disney Institute, now this. Great to see some executives are willing to see Disney is fallible and are willing to clean up after some of Eisner's mess.

As per Downtown Disney or Disney Village Marketplace not being themed: it never was themed to begin with, since 1971!

Let's get some real restaurants by real chefs. Raglan road is a step in the right direction. If its more of that, I'm all for it. (Less of this T-Rex business). Too bad Emeril is taken. Maybe Gordon Ramsey would be willing to come in or Anthony Bourdain? It will take a lot of money, but what quality doesn't cost cash?

Disney's food is horrible.

Anonymous said...

I've never visited the Adventurer's Club, but after reading this article I really want to! And I think it's genius to suggest it be moved to AK. That park has virtually nothing in the way of real entertainment. The Everest ride is okay, but the rest of it is just a fancy zoo IMO. It bored me silly last time I was there. The Adventurer's Club sounds like a perfect fit. I hope somebody at Disney has the same idea and makes it happen.

teevtee said...

Well PI certainly was a horrible idea to begin with and since AC was part of PI I guess you could say it too was a bad idea... however it was in and of itself a nicely themed environment and for that I respect it and will miss it. I will NOT miss the fake "improv" or even the general awkward vibe of the place. I am in the end though a guy who loves interesting and unique themed environments and the AC had that is spades.

As far as food, WDW has a couple excellent restaurants than surpass anything any of the competition has and generally can stand on there own as quality places. These are pretty much exclusively found within the hotels though I guess one could argue that a few of the Epcot offerings are sound, especially for theme park food. So on that note I agree that really QUALITY dining options are GREATLY needed at DDT... however I also really doubt they will come. Emeril's place at Uni is HORRIBLE... factory corporate CRAP no better than any Wolfgang Express or the like. Is it better than Rainforest Cafe... OF COURSE it is, that is inedible garbage, but the problem is that ANY place dealing in this volume tends to suck.

Nevertheless they could take the Vegas approach, that is get some big name chefs to create some restaurants and menus and try to keep the quality at least good. I am talking about such novelty "start chef" places as Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill in Vegas. On it's own in any real city is simply not that great and certainly not worth the money. However when you consider the volume they do and the area it is in (and the same would apply to WDW) it is sound... mass appeal and not bad.

I think Disney will likely head in this exact direction and the bottom line will actually make MUCH better use of the land than some lame ass dance clubs which bring a boat load of problems with them.

dan_steinberg said...

Well, I can't say I surprised - once CityWalk opened as an alternative with reasonably unique and well-branded offerings to Pleasure Island's generic night clubs and Disney answered with cover-charge-free Downtown Disney, PI's final demise was written on the wall. PI did what it was designed to: knock off Church Street Station. It did, but times changed and the competitive situation has shifted, and PI didn't. It just can't compete anymore.

On the other hand, this absolutely does not excuse the demolition of the Adventurers Club. This is the one unique, can't-be-duplicated attraction on PI. This is sad in so many ways:

First, it's sad because the only reasoning I can see is financial: There's no creative reason to flatten AC rather than revamp it. And I'd guess AC is profitable - but probably just not quite as profitable another outsourced and overpriced restaurant because of all those pesky and expensive performers Disney has to pay.

Next, it's sad because it would be so easy to make Adventurers Club work without the rest of PI. Don't believe me? Here's a simple 5-point plan to make the Adventurers Club profitable:

1) Advertise the place! When PI was the only game in town, they didn't need to advertise much. Now, with more entertainment options as well as more parks, many visitors don't know this place even exists.

2) Keep the cover charge - this is the key to getting enough extra revenue to pay for the performers without huting profitablity. If people aren't coming in due to the cover charge, give them a tchotchke or a free soda or something else of value that doesn't cost much.

3) $6 gin-and-tonics? I'd rather see $10 boat drinks like Mai Tais, Long Island Iced Teas, etc. Or, even better, $12 or more with a unique and classy souvenir glass. Scorpion Bowl, anyone?

4) Food, please! Add some simple appetizers and light fare like burgers. This will not only increase the average receipts per customer, but will take away a reason (find dinner!) for guests to go elsewhere.

And here's the big one:

5) How many conventions does WDW host each years? Hundreds? Thousands, I'd guess. I'd sell the crap out of the AC to small conventions. The Adventurers Club for just your group, with the show tailored to your group - with a nice markup, of course. One convention group per weekday night would add some very hefty profit.

And finally, I'll end this with a quote from a recent blog post from my favorite marketing guru, Seth Godin: "Is cutting corners to make a buck appropriate when you consider what you could have done? What would someone with a bigger vision have done instead?" Really, Disney - is this the biggest and best vision you've got for Downtown Disney? Tethered balloons and t-shirt shops? I can't believe it is. And that's what I truly find sad.

teevtee said...

Interesting point about the only reason to close AC is out of financial NOT creative reasoning. This is of course VERY true... AC is closing not because it was a creative bust but simply because they can make more money with something else.

However I think the amount of money that can be made with something else is GREATLY underestimated y the fans of AC. In fact if you look at the real picture even hard core fans may have to acknowledge Disney's logic.

First of all the cost of running AC has very little to do with the live performers, they make very little money, really just a small step up from a normal server at any restaurant. It is NOT the staff that sinks AC nor is AC even all that expensive to run. No, this is not a case of high overhead, it is simply a case of the land being worth a lot more money than the AC is bringing in. This is no different than closing a quaint little shop or something in a city because the neighborhood has boomed and now the land is worth a ton to developers. The land at PI is worth a LOT more than anything like AC in it's current form can pull in, even if PACKED nightly.

First of all it is only open at night, about 7 hours a day... this limits ANY place from maxing out profits. It drives Disney nuts to have all those clubs shuttered up during the day. Open up a decent big name dining option (lets pretend it is in fact Bobby Flays Mesa Grill) and you bring in big lunch and dinner crowds plus some late night action if you desire it. Tack on a gift store and you make a little cash off of all those cook books and spice mixes as well.

Secondly the AC has a very slow turnover. In other words people tend to go in, nurse a few drinks all night or worse yet drink water while waiting for the next "improv" situation to unfold. This is an absolute NIGHTMARE when it comes to an operational situation and trying to actually make money. Selling cheap drinks ($6, are you kidding me!) and maybe pushing 2-3 drinks a night an small crowds between 7 and 12 or so... that does not make money. Selling overpriced tex mex 14 hours a day along with $13 margaritas and a souvenir cook book, THAT makes money.

But that's not all, good old Bobby Flay Inc. would need to pay Disney top dollar for leasing the space and they would also pay for the build out and the staff and the insurance and so on.. on top of that (just like at the local mall) disney gets a cut of everything sold on sight AND Disney washes it's hands of any liability issues associated with the operation. Finally Disney also removes a certain seedy aspect that PI fostered, jestisons drunk 20 somethings who have very little cash to spend and are pains in the ass and in stead starts targeting families spending cash hand over fist on the big WDW trip.

The bottom line is that Disney would be brain dead NOT to close the place up and it should of happened years ago. I say again that it is a shame that a unique and interesting place like AC gets caught in the middle and I agree that it could survive on it's own just fine... but Disney does not want something to merely survive, they want in generating cash.

Some may argue that this is a greedy and wrong attitude for Disney to have, in some cases I would argue the point right along with you... but not in this case. Go visit one more time, take some pictures and let it go.

dan_steinberg said...

teevtee wrote:

No, this is not a case of high overhead, it is simply a case of the land being worth a lot more money than the AC is bringing in. This is no different than closing a quaint little shop or something in a city because the neighborhood has boomed and now the land is worth a ton to developers. The land at PI is worth a LOT more than anything like AC in it's current form can pull in, even if PACKED nightly.


No argument here - from a strictly financial standpoint this is 100% true. But still wrong, because the world - even for a shareholder-owned corporation like Disney - is not strictly financial.

Take your "quaint little shop" example: in the real world, that's why we have zoning laws - to prevent developers from overdoing one type of development to the exclusion of everything else. The idea is for a city to have an appropriate *mix* of development. I'd argue the same goes for Downtown Disney; to achieve its maximum potential it needs a mix beyond just restaurants, movie theaters and gift shops.

To me, the question is where to draw the line. If Disney wanted to maximize their short-term financial gain, they should just auction every single inch off to the highest bidder. That would guarantee the biggest return per square foot. And think we'd all agree the result would likely be a muddle and would be terrible.

(I could also argue that the attractions in the parks fit your criteria of things that could generate much more profit if they were knocked down and replaced with franchised restaurants and gift shops. Everyone - even Disney - knows that would be suicide. Although it seems that previous management acted like they were trying to do so on occasion...)

Like I said in my last comment, I shed no tears for most of PI. It just seems to me that they could find a way to keep or revamp (like expand and add a dining room?) a unique *attraction* like Adventurers Club.

And finally, I find it ironic that Walt's original motivation for building WDW was to get away from what he called the "fairie circle" of cheap motels, restaurants and gift shops that sprung up around Disneyland - and now Downtown Disney is moving closer and closer to being just a somewhat nicer version of that....

teevtee said...

I guess my point in that we need to keep perspective. As much as I agree with the motivation and general vibe of this blog I must say that the contributors here (myself included) tend to just hate everything that is done, often just because we assume change is bad.

I also would not disagree with you Dan that ANY successful development needs a mix of things, in the case of DDT it needs a nice mix of entertainment, dining and shopping.

But we know NOTHING here and yet everybody is complaining. What we know is that a group of mostly underperforming and lackluster dated clubs is closing. We know that an admittedly cheap (I have seen in it Paris) tethered balloon attraction as well as a T-Shirt shop is coming. That's it. We have no idea what the many other future tenants will be.

So I think the real focus then comes down to the AC. It is unique and has a nicely executed theme so as Disney fans we tend to want to hod on to it. I would argue however that from the get go it was not really in the spirit of what the Disney company does best and never REALLY worked all that well for the mass majority of guests. So is the purpose of a Disney attraction to create a small but loyal following of insiders who love the show or is to to appeal to a much larger audience and create a show that MANY people enjoy?

I honestly don't know that answer but I think the paltry 5,000 people or so who have signed a petition is pretty damning evidence on just how niche the AC following really is. Imagine if Pirates was going to close... how many do you think would sign THAT petition?

So in the end we are complaining about something we know virtually nothing about, and AT WORST seems like a parallel move.

We do agree though Dan on the idea that I wish Disney made more decisions from a CREATIVE outlook, not simply a financial one... in this case though I still am not so sure that the right move is not in wiping the slate clean and starting over again.

Anonymous said...

TeeVee..FYI- Logic will get you nowhere... :-)

Spokker said...

"I honestly don't know that answer but I think the paltry 5,000 people or so who have signed a petition is pretty damning evidence on just how niche the AC following really is. Imagine if Pirates was going to close... how many do you think would sign THAT petition?"

Petitions are worthless. I would be in favor of saving the Adventurer's Club and I didn't sign the petition. Petitions have a stigma of not working and not being effective.

Anonymous said...

Well...an attraction that could have had a great movie/television tie-in and Disney doesn't take advantage of it. They're obviously losing their grip.

It will be missed. To the cast and crew of The Adventurer's Club - Thank you.

Kungaloosh!

Bismo said...

I'll certainly give Disney credit for still listening... I did get a very nice, four-minute-plus voicemail from someone in the WDW "executive offices" responding to my letter I emailed a couple of days ago (posted earlier in these comments). Very personal (non-"robotic") and apologetic, and she touched on several specifics from my letter but in the end of course did admit that this was a "done deal". I was impressed at the personal touch, though - she even called back after running over my machine's time limit the first time to add more. (Guess being a "foamer" didn't hurt... though I'm not really sure what that is! Can't be complimentary I'm betting.) Definitely a bit of the "old" Disney there that was much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

"I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down"

Buffalo Springfield
For what it's worth

Crazylegs said...

I'm embarrassed to admit I've never been to the AC. In the last 10 years we've stayed at WDW something like 15 times - and I've always wanted to visit the AC. Alas, we always felt our kids were too young for the AC and we told ourselves that, someday, they'd grow a bit and we could all visit together. Now they're old enough and *poof* it's going away.

It just feels like those little WDW details - those bits of surprise and magic in those hidden corners - are all going away. Instead, it's just neon. Cold neon. How depressing.

Anonymous said...

While no huge fan of PI, I seem to be the only person who remembers that it WAS unique when it opened. Remember the rollerskating rink with a rotating dance floor in the middle? They stripped out the uniqueness and made it generic, that's when it went downhill.

As a former Imagineer, Disney geek, and young single guy, I would actually drive to Citywalk to drink and dance instead of staying on property. That's pathetic.

Belle said...

Please join the thriving letter-writing campaign: kungalooshforever.com

Jason said...

I like the idea/dream of moving the club somewhere else. It could fit into just about any Disney park, perhaps MGM being the only exception. But that is probably too smart an idea. Move over, Horizons, another masterpiece will be joining you in purgatory.

Anonymous said...

I just can't get worked about this now that the new 3G iPhone and App Store are here.

Anonymous said...

I guess we need a real life Radio-a-thon to save the Adventurer's Club.

First of all, for those of you who have seen the AMAZING film, Wall-e, Downtown Disney's theme song can now be this:

Buy n Large, a superstore
All you need and so much more
Happiness is what we sell
Everyone loves B-n-L

Secondly, being one of the few 20 something WDW cast members who isn't into clubbing, it was still nice (especially a few years ago before the bridges were opened) to hang out away from children with a drink at the Adventurer's Club. With over 40 square miles of land to build on, there is nothing wrong with having a different type of entertainment for a different age group of audience. Not everyone here is middle aged america with children...

Also, not only is the Adventurer's Club a loss of some great QUALITY entertainment and theming, but there are some fantastic elements of Pleasure Island from the era when WDI was still clever enough to create histories for their themed lands. Construction will now remove all the plaques documenting the history of Pleasure Island's founder, Merriweather Adam Pleasure. Remember the days of theming and storytelling? Yes, they can probably make more money hawking t-shirts, but as Ray Bradbury says, "The secret of Disney is doing things you don't need and doing them well and then you realize you needed them all along."

Lastly, the current executives of Disney seem not to understand what exactly makes Disney Disney. There is a reason so many visitors to WDW choose to spend more to stay on Disney property than on I-drive or 192. But if Disney becomes nothing more than trashy shops and gimicks, you might as well just go to Old Town on 192.

Downtown Disney, presented by Buy n Large, a Siemens Company...

teevtee said...

In regards to the previous post...

While I can agree with some of your sentiment it really bigs me how people say things like:

"...from the era when WDI was still clever enough to create histories for their themed lands. "

It displays a real ignorance of the facts.

WDI STILL develops incredible back stories for virtually everything they create, and I am talking about REAL stories that actually add entertainment value... not just obscure references with hidden messages that .00001% of the population actually understands.

The work that went into the TDS version of TOT is unparalleled in the history of Disney and WDI. The backstory is INCREDIBLE, clever infinitely deeper than anything Pleasure Island ever had. The backstories at AK are insanely deep, including the very recent Everest. I could bore you with a long list but suffice it to say that it is flat WRONG to say that WDI is not "clever" enough to create themes or backstories or that they are somehow incapable of it. In fact the backstory for P.I. while certainly elaborate is probably the worst failure of any similar story structure ever attempted by Disney. It was never truly evident even to those who looked for it. In fact aside from those who READ about it there was virtually no one who actually enjoyed the backstory at all. Contrast that with something like TOT which has an intricate and meaningful backstory that can be enjoyed on several levels and is clear enough that even casual visitors will get something out of it... simply put it is MUCH more successful.

See, complaining about things just for the sake of it actually destroys future arguments when you may have more valid points or more valid things to complain about. If you are upset that AC is closing I certainly can understand that, but painting with such broad and misinformed strokes does a great disservice not only to the many people at WDI who work their asses off but also to fellow fans who end up looking like loons or "foamers" because people complain about EVERYTHING while rarely giving credit to the good stuff.

The bottom line is that almost (not quite but almost) without exception the failures of Disney's recent past have been decisions made well outside of WDI and not the direct fault of WDI themselves... DCA would be a prime example of that. Closing the AC for that matter is certainly NOT a WDI decision though it may in fact be the proper one.

Anonymous said...

Without Pleasure Island, where will all the College Program kids go to get kicked out of the program for underage drinking?

And without Mannequins, where will all the gay men hang out?

PI is a treasured spot for locals and especialy cast. I feel the worst for the EXTREMELY talented actors of AC. Most have other jobs around property, but they obviously love the AC and have a lot of fun, and Disney is screwing them. "The aviator who will give you a free tour of his cockpit, Hathaway Brown!" I will miss it all dearly.

I've never been to PI and not seen it packed, especially the Adventurer's Club. And even before you could bring strollers onto the island. But when I was there friday night, we could barely move in all the crowds. Not making money my ass. Disney deliberately killed it years ago by allowing children to roam the island.

Anonymous said...

And without Mannequins, where will all the gay men hang out?

There's always the dueling pianos at the boardwalk..

Anonymous said...

I know everyone is very upset about the Adventurer's Club closing, I am no exception. I do, however, disagree with the many people who say a dance club is a dance club. All the clubs at Pleasure Island are unique experiences that cannot be replicated anywhere else (especially Central Florida). Where else can you dance on the world's largest revolving dance floor under a million dollars worth of computerized lights and sounds? Where else can you take yourself back in time to the 70s and dance to Donna Summer and see the original video too? Where else can you be in a beach themed environment complete with a live band and have your drink served to you in a beach bucket? (when the Rock and Roll Beach Club was still open). All of the clubs at Pleasure Island offer unique experiences which are not matched anywhere and will probably never be recreated by any other company. Only the Walt Disney Company can create such unique experiences. No third party cookie cutter restuarant or shop will ever compare to the great loss to the overall guest experience if these clubs are demolished. None of them can make it on their own, either. They all depend on the revenue streams from each other to make the formula work. These clubs are all profitable right now, so why are they closing? Wouldn't it be much less expensive to just perform some much needed maintenance and updates to the existing buildings than to do something as drastic and demolishing them? This decision must be reconsidered or this needs to be topic number one at the next stock holders meeting. These kinds of decisions must stop before there is nothing unique at all left of the company that Walt Disney created

Anonymous said...

"All the clubs at Pleasure Island are unique experiences that cannot be replicated anywhere else"

So is the "Chalupa" from Jack in the Box.

theatreman said...

TIME Magazine recently ran an arresting article about two companies (Container Store and Fresh Foods, I think) whose CEO's focus more on longterm consumer satisfaction than on short-term (i.e. Annual Report) shareholder greed.

Disney's Annual Report, like those of most companies, is embarassingly focused on "increased shareholder value" (and CEO compensation!).

That may be short-sighted.

Disney was once all about SHOW, THEMING, ATMOSPHERE and UNIQUE EXPERIENCES. A t-shirt shop is about as far from all three as you can get! I don't need to fly 500 miles to buy a t-shirt.

As Disney degrades the themed experiences (ESPN on the Boardwalk, Rain Forest Cafe at the AK entrance) and goes for more fast-buck shops, it may be not only disappointing the customers (no matter how many t-shirts they buy this trip) but in the long-run, short-changing the stockholders, when the buyers don't feel the magic, and disappear.

As memories of the UNIQUE Disney environments and shows (AC had both) give way to experiences available at local malls and chain restaurants, the crowds may stop coming.

Certain aspects of Disney parks which are not per-square-ft- revenue-producers may nevertheless be EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to the overall "guest experience."

Like landscaping and cleanliness, the Adventurers' Club may indeed not "carry its weight" in profit-per-square-foot, but it may be part of the unique magic which lures people to a park to buy the t-shirts. Mo magical experience? Save the airfare and buy the damn shirts at home.

The expensive re-theming of California Adventure demonstrates to me that WDI is certainly up to the task of "bringing back the magic," but Iger, Lassiter, et. al, must re-engineer their thinking toward overall visitor experience rather than proft-per-part.

The withering of the unique Disney Magic may not immediately hurt the bottom line as the parks coast on prestige. But eventually the disenchanted may stay home - in their old Mickey Mouse t-shirts.

Then "stockholder value" may take a fatal hit, as the tethered ballloon and the golden parachutes disappear over the horizon.

teevtee said...

I am sorry but there is just absolutely NOTHING unique about the clubs at PI wit the possible exception of AC. ANY major city has not only more unique and exciting clubs but also better executed ones.

These clubs were somewhat novel in the early 90's based mainly on the grouping of them all together, today they feel dated, forced, out of touch and just plain sad in many cases.

The reasons they are being closed have been said many times:

1) Disney can make more money with less hassle by leasing the land out.

2) Disney no longer wants to deal with the many problems associated with the clubs... mainly violence and drunk driving issues associated with idiots getting sloppy drunk.

3) They are MUCH less profitable then people seem to think they are.

4) They prevent easy access from one end of DDT to the next. They separate the area into three distinct zones... something that hinders foot traffic and therefore the overall success of the complex.

5) The clubs are very dated, the concept of PI is very dated, it's just time to move on.

I find it interesting to be on this end of the argument because in general I would always argue to keep classic attractions, not to screw with them and certainly not to remove them! However PI simply is not nor has ever been a classic. It was fun for a decade or so and slowly sank to craptastic over the next decade. Lets allow it to fade off with some dignity and move on. I truly believe that virtually ANYTHING will in fact be an improvement over what is there today.

HBKFan75 said...

To those that say the Adventurers Club must not have been profitable: It and the Comedy Warehouse are the only two clubs at PI that require the multi-club admission. That, in itself, is a recognition of the fact that those two have the biggest demand. Other clubs needed a lower price to justify admission, but the Adventurers Club was strong enough to stand at the higher price. And don't think they don't have access to the drink sales numbers and the nightly attendance numbers for each club individually. I'd venture to say, however, that this decision was made with the entire district in mind (or, rather, in spreadsheet), and looking at the Adventures Club alone would show it to be quite profitable (though perhaps less so than the potential fees from a replacement store). My suggestion would be to move it somewhere and market it as its own experience rather than keeping it at Downtown Disney, where it never quite fit in to begin with, and certainly won't once the new PI is complete.

Anonymous said...

What a shame that here in the US we get "Disney to the lowest common denominator." The Adventurer's Club is a fine example of how clever WDI can be when it is allowed to be.

Tokyo DisneySEA is a prime example of the abilities of WDI when not controlled by American guidelines. It is an excellent example of how Disney designs to reach the largest number of people wherever they operate. Here in the US Disney must build to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and sadly that means the truly clever, inventive attractions must go away to make room for those which will attract more people. We will continue to lose gems such as the Adventurer's Club and Horizons (remember the wonder that was Horizons?) because attractions like these are simply over the heads of most Americans. They appeal to fewer people than a simulated space launch or a 3D arcade game.

The bottom line is the bottom line, and here in the USA WDI must design to reach out to those seeking more thrills and less actual use of their brains if they want to keep the money rolling in. Rather than this being an example of WDI and the Disney company not caring about those of us who appreciate their cleverness and attention to detail, it’s more about how stupid the American people have become since the day Walt dreamed of a place for families to have fun together, and how his company has to keep dumbing down the “magic” to keep pace with that stupidity.

teevtee said...

I honestly do not think that Americans are too "dumb" to get what WDI wants to do, nor do I even think the Walt Disney Company thinks they are dumb. Rather it is simply a case of a big corporation often losing sight of what made them great to begin with. Most of the people actually running the company on a day to day basis could not tell you why people love the Disney parks, to them it is a fancy Six Flags and they think that Mickey Mouse and the characters somehow magically make it better.

I'm not talking about Iger and the like, I am talking about the scores and scores of middle management, the people who ultimately make all of these day to day decisions, they frankly just do not get it.

WDI is then tasked with fulfilling the requests they get, specific requests from misleading market research that tells them people want roller coasters and so forth. Couple that with increasingly small budgets and it becomes a fairly no win situation.

In Japan, and this goes for the general culture, not just at Disney, they do not approach things the same way as we do at all. They see value in doing things full scale and all out. People admire and respect and even demand this quality and it extends to the Disney parks. When given the budgets and freedom to do so WDI time and time again delivers unreal home runs... TDS is the most encompassing example of this. I can honestly say that the bathrooms outside of the TOT at TDS have more detail in them then all the attractions at DCA combined. But again, this is not because some decision was made that Americans are too dumb or anything like that... WDI simply does not have the money here to do what they can do in Tokyo. Nor do I think for the most part the attractions at TDS are any "smarter" then ours here, they are just a TON more detailed... a TON more.

Anonymous said...

I am not going to argue with anyone on this thread, but I would like for anyone to list the dance clubs that are equivalent or better than the ones at Pleasure Island. Are there better ones in Florida? No! Are there better ones in the Southeast US? No! New York, Los Angeles, Chicago are probably places where there are better clubs, but do they have a rotating dance floor? Are they smoke free environments? Are they located in a safe part of town where people with pleny of well lit parking? I would guess no to that as well. As far as the clubs being dated and poorly executed, you won't get much of an argument from me on that. They have not kept them up to date and it is fairly obvious to the the general public that Disney has not cared about the operation of these Clubs for a quite a while now. So, could they and should they be better, absolutely! When Bob Iger became CEO of Disney he said he was going to focus on improving Disney's existing capital investments. How does not maintaining or updating an existing entertainment venue and instead choosing to demolish it fit into that vision. It really doesn't! This is a total waste of the stockholders money. If the current management is tired of dealing with the drunks and the few undesirable elements which are associated with Pleasure Island, they should find another job! What did they think they were going to be managing when they took their current positions? That is not a valid excuse for closing down Pleasure Island at all. They should either be fired or leave voluntarily if they don't want to deal with the issues associated with Pleasure Island. I know many of the bloggers who comment on the closing of Pleasure Island as a good thing, have probably never even gone to Pleasure Island as a paying customer. I am sure there are many things they like to do on their vacation that the regulars at Pleasure Island would never want to do either. That is why Walt Disney bought 27,000 acres in Florida, so it could contain many different entertainment options for all guests. Pleasure Island should not be closed. It is a very short sighted business decision and it is bad in the long term for the Walt Disney World Resort. The managers responsible for this should be held accountable for their actions when the stock holders meeting rolls around next year

teevtee said...

Obviously wether something is "good" or not is totally subjective, what I find "good" you may find boring or even flat bad and vice versa.

So lets move beyond that for a second. I am not sure of any club that meets ALL of your criteria for "good" mainly because of either the rotating dance floor or the free parking, however is that REALLY what you care about? Most people look for exciting and interesting and innovative decors, great music preferably spun by well known DJs, a mix of interesting and often good looking people, good drinks and house specials and most of all a certaib intangible which we will just call the clubs "vibe". If the vibe is right everything else can be overlooked. Well the PI clubs have not had ANY vibe to speak of for many, many years and they certainly fail on most of the other criteria as well. To a certain extent it is not even their own fault, I mean the very nature of a corporate run set of clubs set in the middle of Disney World is just counter to what makes most truly great clubs great in the first place.

I can tell you MANY clubs in Miami that certainly blow the doors off of anything they ever had at PI, but alas they do not have that all important rotating dance floor and certainly not free parking... but come one, REALLY, a rotating dance floor? THAT'S what this comes down to?

Talking about stock holders is a losing argument because nothing would make stock holders happier (meaning lets remove the nostalgia for a second) then closing down a huge liability from a legal stand point, especially one that makes very little money, and replacing it with leased out highly profitable locations.

Disney made a bad mistake when they built P.I. It was a knee jerk reaction to other area developments and it NEVER fit in with what Disney does best or what WDW stands for... it is really not what the MASS majority of visitors to the resort want, which is why it has languished and failed so badly over the years. But Disney made this mistake and built P.I. Those within WDI who were involved tried their best (admirably I admit) to Disney it up... but that is putting lipstick on a pig and at the end of the day a bunch of low volume, high risk clubs and bars is just NOT what Disney needs. So they are finally trying to correct a problem they never should have created.

If we want to criticize Disney here it should be about building P.I. in the first place.

Now with all that said I fully understand that some people LOVE it to death. For those people I truly understand. I LOVED the magic shop(s) the Magic Kingdom used to have. I saw the removal as a slap in the face of all things that made Disney feel special and unique and I STILL feel that way. I also understand that MOST people prefer the damn t-shirt shop they replaced it with, sucks to be me in that case.

So it may suck for a few to have P.I. gutted and tossed to the side like a bad memory but for the vast majority of people it is a welcome and long over due fix.

Anonymous said...

teevtee said:
"In Japan, and this goes for the general culture, not just at Disney, they do not approach things the same way as we do at all. They see value in doing things full scale and all out. People admire and respect and even demand this quality and it extends to the Disney parks. When given the budgets and freedom to do so WDI time and time again delivers unreal home runs... TDS is the most encompassing example of this. I can honestly say that the bathrooms outside of the TOT at TDS have more detail in them then all the attractions at DCA combined."

You just substantiated what I said before. Expectations are higher in Japan than in the US, so the money is spent and the work is done to meet those expectations. Here in the US, the people being surveyed don't want what the Japanese people want, so the rest of us who appreciate that quality and attention to detail must suffer for the sake of pleasing the lowest common denominator.

You want an example on US soil? Go to Disneyland, then go to Walt Disney World. The level of detail at Disneyland is much deeper than at Walt Disney World. Why? Because Disneyland has a much higher level of repeat business, and those frequent customers notice the little things. At Walt Disney World the percentage of frequent repeat business is dramatically lower, so the focus is on the big things, the grandeur, the "wow" factor. The money and the work go into detail where it is needed, and it is needed more in Japan than the US because guests there expect it, and US customers don't have the same expectations.

Here in the US we have an example of detail and intricate "themeing", and most Disney park fans refer to it as a "half-day park" - Disney's Animal Kingdom. If you truly appreciate detail, spend a full day soaking up the details at Animal kingdom - but most won't because they're just looking for the thrill rides and other forms of intense sensory stimulation. Heaven forbid that they should actually use their brains and notice the details.

That's why Tokyo gets an amazing Winnie the Pooh attraction and the intricately detailed DisneySea, and the US gets a "Pixarized" 3D arcade game, a tethered hot air balloon, and we lose a wonderfully themed place like the Adventurer's Club in favor of more tacky shops and places to stuff our faces.

teevtee said...

You will get no argument from me on that last post!

I spent 3 full days wondering around AK 10 years ago when it first opened just soaking in the amazing details and back story. With each subsequent visit I see some of those details lost (the hidden path ways, the river boats, dumbing down of certain attractions like Dinosaur etc.). You are 100% correct that the MASS majority of visitors in the U.S. (especially at WDW) do not see or even care about those details. HOWEVER the vast majority of Japanese visitors also do not see or care about the details. The difference is that they DO care about quality, they may not fully understand what makes something work so well but they can sense it I guess. But the bottom line is that Oriental Land Company is willing to foot the bill so WDI pours insane levels of detail in the parks and people, the average guests, enjoy it... even if they do not fully understand the various back stories and so on.

My point being that it is not the Japanese consumer being smarter than the fat old dumb American consumer but rather the management in Japan is willing to cater to the minority who DOES take the time to explore those extra details... and if the management in the U.S. did the same I think they would see the same fanatical return in investment.

Also I fully agree with you that Disneyland gets much better detailing than WDW because A) it is looked over by people more connected with the history of Disney than WDW has. and B) It caters to many repeat local visitors who notice and demand such detail (as you pointed out).

So we agree, even so I don't think P.I. is a great loss... it my be SYMBOLIC of a loss but in this specific case I do not feel WDW is losing anything save one nicely themed space.

Anonymous said...

Peter David isn't exactly sure when he first discovered the Adventurers Club.

"It had to be sometime in 1989 or 1990," this award-winning author remembers. "I was exploring the then-newly-opened Pleasure Island. I'd already been to a number of the other clubs on the Island. And I must have wandered into the Adventurers Club around 10:30 or so."

Initially, David was confused ("I had no freakin' clue what was going on. It was like entering a madhouse"). But after catching a show in the Mask Room, he quickly became charmed by the place. So much so that Peter returned to Pleasure Island the very next evening. He was there as the doors for the Adventurers Club opened. And he stayed for every show.

And -- with that -- a love affair was launched. Over the next 19 years, Peter would return to the Adventurers Club time & time again. Dragging friends and family along so that they too could experience this one-of-a-kind entertainment. This truly unique experience.

David thought so highly of the Adventurers Club that -- when it came time to propose to his wife, Kathleen ... Well, there was only one spot on the planet where Peter wanted to pop the question.

"The people at Disney Weddings kept offering me Cinderella Castle," he explained. "But I kept telling than that 'Marriage isn't a fantasy. It's an adventure.' Which is why I wanted to propose at the Adventurers Club."

And with the help of the Colonel, David did just that. And I'm told that there wasn't a dry eye in the Main Salon when Kathleen accepted Peter's proposal.



Given the number of times that David has visited the Adventurers Club ("At least 60 times. I've literally lost count") as well as his obvious emotional attachment to the place ... You can bet that Peter wasn't pleased when he learned about the Walt Disney World's plans to close this club.

"My wife actually told me," he continued. "She'd read about it on the Web. And when she told me, my immediate thought was that Disney couldn't be serious about closing such a unique entertainment.

I mean, no disrespect to those Disneyana fans who tried to save Mr. Toad back in 1998. But there are lots of rides out there that are similar to that attraction. Where you get in, you spin and then get out. But there is only one Adventurers Club in the world."

Which is why David decided that he had to persuade Disney Company executives to reverse this unfortunate decision. But first he needed a symbol. Something that the tens of thousands of Adventurers Club fans that are scattered around the globe could then rally around.

"I was brainstorming with friends," Peter remembered. "And the first thing that came to mind was compasses. That we'd send Disney Company executives this huge pile of compasses. Which would hopefully get across the whole 'North, South, East or West. An Adventurer's Life is Best' credo of the Club."


But -- on second thought -- compasses are clunky. Not to mention being expensive to purchase and difficult to mail. So as David cast about for a new symbol and mapped out his campaign to save the Adventurers Club ... That's when it came to him: Maps !

"Maps are perfect. Everyone's got one or two old ones lying around their house," he explained. "So all it would cost for a person to take part in this particular 'Save the Adventurers Club' campaign is postage."

So if you'd like to take part in Peter David's campaign... Here's what he needs you to do:

"First open the map and circle where you live. Then draw arrows from your location to where the Adventurers Club is located. Because -- to be honest -- I'm not sure that Disney's current management team actually knows where the Club is. I mean, they can't seriously have visited this place if they've now planning on closing the Adventurers Club down. No one who's ever been in that Club, seen those shows and interacted with that cast could ever bring themselves to shut such a unique entertainment down.

Now take that map and stuff it in an envelope, which you'll then address to:

The Walt Disney Company
ATTN: Robert A. Iger
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521



Why send these maps to Bob Iger? Because he's the one guy at Disney who's shown that he's not afraid to reverse course. Back away from a bad decision. I mean, look how close the company came to letting Pixar slip away? Bob was the only executive who could see that Disney was making a tremendous mistake there. Which is why he did everything he could to repair the company's relationship with John Lasseter and Steve Jobs.

So I'm hoping that -- if we all send Iger maps -- he'll then see the error of his ways. Bob will realize what a tremendous, under-exploited asset the Adventurers Club is. After all, it's the only part of Pleasure Island that literally has fans all over the planet. People who have great affection for, real dedication to that particular club. And they'll happily continue to spend their money there if Disney just smartens up, reverses this unfortunate decision and keeps the Adventurers Club open."

So if you want to help save this much beloved piece of Pleasure Island, Peter David says: "Put Bob Iger on the right path. Point this man in the right direction. Send Disney's CEO a map and let Bob know that you want him to keep the Adventurers Club open."

So do yourself -- and Peter David -- a favor and start mailing those maps.

Anonymous said...

An interesting idea for a campaign to save the Adventurers Club:

http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/jim_hill/archive/2008/07/22/peter-david-maps-out-a-campaign-to-save-the-adventurers-club.aspx

Save_the_Adventurers_Club said...

Another creative way to spread the word to try to save the AdClub:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180268745025

Thomm said...

I just want to say that the people who claim the rest of PI is a waste, I think you're wrong. Kevin L admitted the clubs are still profitable. I can't help it some people are rhythmically challenged, but for those of us looking for something other than Top 40s, PI offered a fantastic variety in 8-trax and Mannequins. I keep hearing "you can get these dance clubs in your hometown" No, I can't, and that's why I'm fighting for all of PI. What I can hear in any bar is top 40s. What I don't get is a club or bar that plays all techno with a fantastic light show and rotating dance floor or all 70s and 80s and themed to fit. And no, it's not that we don't have enough bars in this city, because we hold the world record for the most consecutive bars on one street and the worlds largest 6 pack.

I understand a lot of people enjoy the AC. I did as well, but not as much as CW. If you are going to write letters, please at least mention the rest of PI.

Kevin L has been making decisions to cause the clubs to slowly deteriorate in attendance for the last 5 years at least! It has been in his plan all along and once Eisner got botted(PI was his baby) Kevin was able to justify closing(even though they are still profitable as he said) the clubs. He should be fired for his gross mismanagement of PI.

Word has it he has been in the AC stopping people from handing out literature to save it. Stand up to him!

StrangeVoices said...

I am just throwing this out there for discussion.

The Disney company is, for better or for worse, about making a profit. The original Disney that Walt built was sold in the 80's to a new management team. It may have had Disney family members on board, it may have been seen as sypathetic to the traditional values the company held, but in the end it still was eventually taken over in part as an investment.

All these changes Disney is bringing about are geared towards that. Conventional business wisdom holds that you need to focus on a particular customer. Unfortunately for us, the customer the Disney company has choosen is not one who is familliar with Disney traditions, has no recollection of what magic Disney can hold,and solely represents immediate gratification of brands. If Disney is going to target this custoemr, than many of those other traditional values, in cluding quality and long term value, must go by the wayside.

But obviously there are many people out there who treasure those values still. And if we have this many people who lament the closure of one club that never even earned top billing, then surely there must be a large market for this kind of stuff.

So given the fact that the Disney company is not interested in those traditions, and yet many people still are, I think we have to ask ourselves: Is it time for a new "Disney"? Perhaps we need to focus not on fighting inevitable changes at the current park, but instead pour our creativity into a new venture.

It is hard to give up the history that Walt Disney himself created. But more important than his actions was his spirit. Outsiders may not have rights to use his name or his creations, but they have every right in the world to use his teachings, his experience, and his wisdom. I hold little hope now of Disney ever becoming what it once was - it has become too much of a marketing company. But I think that there is room for a new company to grow and take it's place. What kind of world could Walt have created if he lived today? What kind of world can we create? Maybe it's time we tried.

Anonymous said...

I attended AC as part of a corporate convention. We had the place reserved for our Company one evening, they had a buffet dinner in there along with the bar. I don't know what they charge, but imagine that it isn't cheap. It's probably another profit center for them, actually.

It was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it, and I have signed up to at least one of the online petitions.

I'm a big Rohde fan, especially Expedition Everest and AC. I really hope they realize it is something special and pure Disney, and they move it somewhere like AK.

Anonymous said...

dan_steinberg said...

And finally, I find it ironic that Walt's original motivation for building WDW was to get away from what he called the "fairie circle" of cheap motels, restaurants and gift shops that sprung up around Disneyland - and now Downtown Disney is moving closer and closer to being just a somewhat nicer version of that....

Disney started this movement a long time ago. They gave us a crack across the shins when they put a standalone McDonald's on property and then took a dump on our collective chests when they installed a McDonald's inside an actual Disney theme park...

I find it interesting and a little sad that people only seem to care when their personal line is crossed. It doesn't matter how far Disney sinks, no one actually cares until their thing is trashed.

Up until that point, anyone who complains is a whiner or a lunatic.

Ignoring the problem didn't save WDW, and neither is Lasseter going to. He's shown that he's not interested in pulling WDW out of the quicksand and selfishly only wants to shove Pixar into every last crevice in the parks. In that respect, he might as well be Eisner.

Otter said...

The loss of the Adventurer's Club is the worst thing to happen to the Disney Parks in a decade.

It's not just a "fan favorite". It's one of the finest themed attractions that Imagineering has put together since Disney's heyday.

Its loss is heartbreaking.

T0wM8r said...

From a 25 year Imagineer in CA and FL:

From the beginning Walt Disney intended that the theme parks and resorts be a business aimed at the "FAMILY". Evident from the past (at opening when there was no admission charge) and recent gang activity including multiple gun shootings, stabbings and one kidnapping with a death are proof that the Disney Company has NO business in the bar business. Thanks to Bob Iger . . . Good bye and good ridance PI. Take the garbage back to Downtown Orlando and Universal City Walk.

Anonymous said...

The Adventurer's Club is the only Pleasure Island club I've ever been to. Frankly, I found it's off-color adult humor inappropriate for the Disney name. So, I am not sad to see it go. But replacing it with more shopping areas? Are they out of their minds? How much imported junk can people possibly want to buy?

Speaking of inappropriate, does anyone else think that Steven Tyler and Aerosmith aren't exactly the best ambassadors for Disney values?

susanwhite said...

Yes, the times require an innovative approach for entertainment.