September 26, 2008

Farewell to The Adventurers Club

Those who know me will vouch that I am a "Disney" guy. It's a large part of who I am. However, I made a conscientious decision with this blog to keep Disney posts few and far between. There are plenty of Disney entries in the blogsphere, and most can say it better than I can. Today is one of the exceptions. I need to honor and say a few words about The Adventurers Club, which closes tonight, along with all the other nightclubs at Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney.

What exactly is The Adventurers Club? I think the slogan -- "Come In a Stranger, Leave a Little Stranger" -- sums it up perfectly. it is one of Walt Disney World's truly hidden gems. It's neither a comedy club, nor a vaudeville show, nor a bar, and yet it's all of them and more. Its sum is greater than its parts. Disney's Imagineers outdid themselves with this establishment. Joe Rohde, of Disney's Animal Kingdom fame, was involved in its creation. The premise: it's 1937, and you are the invited guest for an open house at the eponymous establishment. Inside, you meet the oddball cast of characters that consider themselves "adventurers":
  • Hathaway Browne - a rakish aviator, and the club's resident innuendo-making ladies' man.
  • Otis T. Wren - Club Treasurer and ichthyologist
  • Fletcher Hodges - Absent-minded Club Curator
  • Pamelia Perkins - Club President
  • Samantha Sterling - Explorer and cabaret singer
  • Emil Bleehall - a 'Junior Adventurer'
  • Graves - Club Butler
  • The Maid
Different actors would portray different characters on different nights. There are several loosely scripted shows throughout the night in the largest room (the library), and smaller shows in the Mask room and the Treasure room. Additionally, many unscripted character interactions with the guests would occur throughout every evening in the main two level salon. In the center was a statue of Zeus holding a fishing pole. In true Adventurers Club fashion, it's dubbed "God with Rod."

The rallying cry is Kungaloosh! A sort of multipurpose term to indicate hello, cheers, or farewell. It's also the specialty drink at the bar. Additional treasures are the British Colonel Critchlow Suchbench (a puppet on the wall operated by cast members behind it) who leads the guests in the the Adventurers Club song.

I had read about the Adventurers Club long before I visited it, in both Lou Mongello's Walt Disney World Trivia Book and the annually updated Passporters Guide to Walt Disney World. From this, I knew it was something I had to experience. My first opportunity was in 2005 when I was at Disney attending a work conference without the family. My evenings were free so I went for a solo trip to the AC (as it's known to its aficionados). The crowd was light and that actually was a good thing, since it gave me a few hours to enjoy the vast treasure of it all. The shows, while mostly scripted, were delivered by a talented cast of standup comics and comedic performers with tremendous improvisational skills. I even was drawn in to perform the fertility dance for Babylonia!

The AC, of course, is geared toward a more mature audience. The material is bawdy but not too terribly risque and full of double-entendres. It's definitely for adults and not kids. I fully realized this on my first visit when I heard Emil Bleehall sing an ode to mailmen.

I returned a few more times, the most recent being January 2008. As it turns out, that was also my last visit. This summer, Walt Disney World management announced a major change to Pleasure Island. The rationale hasn't been fully explained, other than noting that customer surveys revealed that they wanted more dining and shopping experiences at Downtown Disney. The Adventurers Club, along with a comedy club and several other adult-oriented nightclubs all will be shut down after Saturday night, September 27.

Along with thousands of others, I sent letters to Disney Management asking them to reconsider the closing of The Adventurers Club. It's too good of a gem to be closed down. It's a brilliant concept that can easily fit elsewhere on Disney property and could continue to provide an outlet for adult entertainment. For now, the only way I'll be able to enjoy the AC is vicariously through others, as there are plenty of video clips on YouTube and multiple audio segments on podcasts (notably Trapped on Vacation) that celebrate it.

I listen to numerous Disney-themed podcasts and regularly read several Disney blogs, and from them I've heard some quiet rumors that the AC may not be quite dead yet, but I'll believe it when I see its doors open again. So for now, we sing the Adventurers Club song for the last time. Take it, Colonel Suchbench:

Marching Along, We're Adventurers
Singing the Song of Adventurers
Up or Down
North, South, East or West
an Adventurers Life is Best!

September 10, 2008

Great Otway National Park

Think of Australia and what first comes to mind? I'll guess it's one of the usual suspects - the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, kangaroos, koala bears, the vast red outback, or Uluru. But a rainforest probably isn't going to easily register.

We had the pleasure of a three week trip to Oz a few years ago and it remains one of our most enjoyable vacations ever. I don't have enough good things to say about Australia, its citizens or its natural and man-made resources.

Our itinerary included a trip along the southern coast, near Melbourne, to the town of Warrnambool. From there, we saw the highlights of the Great Ocean Road, including the famous Twelve Apostles (now eleven). On a more intimate note, we traversed through the Great Otway National Park, and witnessed firsthand some of Australia's temperate rainforests. We traveled down a well worn path to the base of this waterfall, all the while admiring the lush oasis around us. I didn't have my tripod, so I utilized a fallen tree and my camera bag to steady my camera and used my trigger release cable to captured the long exposure shot of the waterfall. Interestingly enough, this was on my old film SLR (Minolta Maxxum 8000i).

If you have a personal 'bucket list' please put on it a visit to Australia. You won't regret it.

September 01, 2008

Back to school!

Even though this advertisement hasn't run in years, it's still one of our favorites. The boys, understandably, are underwhelmed.