On this date, in 1963 Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room made it’s debut at Disneyland. The attraction was the first to feature Audio-Animatronics technology, a WED Enterprises patented invention. When the attraction opened it was sponsored by United Airlines, who remained the sponsor for its first 12 years. Then in 1976, sponsorship passed over to Hawaii’s Dole Food Company, which remains the sponsor to the present day. Dole also provides the unique Dole Whip soft-serve frozen dessert sold at a snack bar near the entrance.
The show was originally going to be a restaurant featuring Audio-Animatronics birds serenading guests as they dined. The “magic fountain” at the room’s center was originally planned as a coffee station (there is still a storage compartment within the base of the fountain) and the restaurant would have shared its kitchen with the now-defunct Tahitian Terrace in Adventureland and the Plaza Pavilion restaurant at the corner of Main Street, U.S.A. since all three are actually part of the same building. Since ownership of the attraction was separate from the rest of the park, a nominal admission charge of $0.75 was levied. Since computers have played a central role in the attraction since its inception, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room was also Disneyland’s first fully air-conditioned building.
The attraction opened in an era when all things Polynesian were popular and was an immediate hit. It houses a Hawaiian-themed musical show “hosted” by four lifelike macaws whose plumage matches their implied countries of origin. “José” is red, white and green and speaks with a Mexican accent, voiced by Wally Boag; “Michael” is white and green with an Irish brogue, voiced by Fulton Burley; “Pierre” is blue, white and red, and has a French accent courtesy of the voice talents of Ernie Newton; while red, black and white “Fritz” has a German accent provided by Thurl Ravenscroft, who also voices Maori god Tangaroa near the attraction’s entrance.
The main birds have changed color over the years. In 1965, the four host birds had almost identical plumage of white, green, yellow and blue. The four macaws as well as all the other birds are plumed with real feathers with the exception of chest plumage. The chests are covered in custom-woven cashmere which allows the figures to “breathe” in a lifelike manner. The choice came quite by accident; in a planning meeting, Harriet Burns noticed a cashmere sweater that Walt Disney was wearing which moved at the elbows exactly the way the engineers envisioned.
All these years later, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room still remains one of the most beloved attractions. Tell us what you think about the Tiki room in the comment below or on Facebook. For our followers who are fortunate enough to be at Disneyland today, make sure to wish the Tiki Room a big Happy Birthday from The Main Street Mouse.
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