We pick up with our Recap of D23 Destination D: Amazing Adventures with the afternoon presentations from the first day.
Disney Adventurelands Around the World
The afternoon session started off with Imagineers Tony Baxter, Jason Grandt, and Luc Mayrand presenting Disney Adventurelands Around the World. As the title might suggest, they took guests around the world highlighting the best part of each of Disney’s Adventurelands.
Let’s start off with some background each of the presenters for those not familiar with their work. Tony Baxter is a Disney Legend and one of the most accomplished Imagineers you can find. He was involved with developing some of Disney’s most popular attractions including Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Star Tours, Indiana Jones Adventure, the original Journey Into Imagination, and Disneyland Paris. Jason Grandt is an art director for Imagineering that has worked on many projects for the Florida theme parks including New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom and the expansion of the Norway Pavilion in Epcot. Luc Mayrand is the Creative Lead for Honk Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland including the revolutionary Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure. He also worked on the Space Mountain refurbishments across all the Disney Parks.
They started with Disneyland and how this was obviously the park that started it all. It’s also the first time people were introduced to the Dole Whip which is so popular it can get lines longer than the enchanted Tiki Room. They then moved onto the Magic Kingdom which has its own Adventureland dessert, the Citrus Swirl. The also touched on the Orange Bird, a character/mascot that was created by Disney for the Florida Citrus Commission. He used to be a walkaround character in Adventureland when Magic Kingdom first opened, but can now be founding hiding out in Sunshine Tree Terrace snack stand.
They then brought the conversation to Japan where Tokyo Disneyland’s Adventureland is a mix of Disneyland’s and the Magic Kingdom’s. The focus of this part of the presentation was really on Tokyo DisneySea where the Lost River Delta was also inspired by Adventureland. The Lost River Delta is set in South America and home Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. This attraction has the same ride system as the Indiana Jones Adventure in California but set in Mexico in a search for the Fountain of Youth. This attraction was groundbreaking in that it mounted a motion simulator on ride vehicle for an extra thrilling ride experience. Tony shared the equation for making a thrilling attraction and it’s rather simple: Fear – Death = Thrill.
The next Adventureland discussed was from Hong Kong where they noted that interestingly enough the Jungle Cruise runs through the Rivers of America. They also talked about the Mystic Point land and its feature attraction Mystic Manor. While technically not an Adventureland, it has some tie-ins to Adventureland through the Society of Adventurers and Explorers (S.E.A.) which also has references in the Jungle Skipper Canteen at the Magic Kingdom.
Disneyland Paris has a much different version of Adventureland. Theirs also has influences from the Middle East and Arabian Coast. Disneyland Paris does not have a Jungle Cruise because a European theme park had already copied the Jungle Cruise attraction from the American parks. Therefore, Disney did not feel that it would be wise to construct an attraction that guests might see as copied from this European park. Tom Sawyer’s Island in Disneyland Paris is, which is pirate-themed, has so much to do and see that it’s easy to get lost. Finally, Paris has its own Indiana Jones attraction, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril. The unique thing about this runaway mine car attraction is that it was actually redesigned to go backward for a short time as a way to add more thrills.
The last park in their presentation was Disney’s newest, Shanghai Disneyland. Shanghai Disneyland’s Adventureland is located on the right side of the park (all others are on the left side) and is broken into two lands: Adventure Isle and Treasure Cove. It was expanded to replace Frontierland in that park because Disney did not feel that Frontierland would resonate with the Chinese people. The headline attraction in Adventure Isle is Roaring Rapids, a thrilling raft adventure where guests encounter a crocodile-like beast. Roaring Rapids, described as being more intense than Disney California Adventure’s Grizzly River Run, also features the tallest artificial waterfall in the world.
Treasure Cove at Shanghai Disneyland is an entire Pirated inspired area. Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure, Disney’s most advanced attraction, is the feature attraction of the land. The attraction takes guests to the ocean floor and back to the surface only to be in the middle of battle. The attraction features some of the most advanced audio animatronics Disney has ever made in conjunction with impressive 8K screens the size of an IMAX theater to bring guests into the world of Pirates of the Caribbean. There is also Pirate stunt show which was originally going to be incorporated into the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, but later became a separate show. Finally, Shanghai has introduced a new type of guest driven adventure. Here guests can literally step into their own adventure in a more physically demanding interactive type of attraction which has proven to be very popular.
Something else that has proven to be very popular is Turkey Legs. Yes, you read that right, Turkey Legs. The Turkey Leg line can get to be hours long due to the unexpected demand from the Chinese guests. It’s also not an uncommon site to see guest trying to sell their Turkey Legs for a profit.
Tales from the Jungle Cruise
The next presentation that afternoon was Tales from the Jungle Cruise. It was a panel discussion by Archivists, Imagineers, and former Skippers Justin Arthur, Alex Grayman, Kevin Lively, Chris Merritt, Trevor Van Dahm, and Wyatt Winter.
They shared a bunch of personal stories from their time as Jungle Skippers as well as stories of interesting information they’ve found in the archives. Here’s a summary of some of the most interested in things they presented:
- They found an archived letter asking to put the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea squid in the Jungle Cruise
- The attraction didn’t originally have humor in the script. The jokes were added later on to makes the script more interesting.
- There was a plan for the Florida version of the attraction to have a gorilla punching an alligator. It was installed but quickly removed because the animation of the gorilla’s punch didn’t look realistic.
- The cave in the scene with the Lions and the Zebra was not original to the Jungle Cruise. It was added after the sun had damaged the Lion audio-animatronics causing them to make some unnatural facial expressions as the rubber in their faces stretched.
- The Spirit of the Jingle Cruise is that the Holidays are what we make of them. All of the decorations were supposed to be made by the Skippers at the Jungle Cruise, so the Imagineers did their best to make the decorations look homemade. For example, the Mistletoe Millie sign was made from an old tire from Kilimanjaro Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
They spent the rest of the presentation on the Jungle Skipper Canteen and some of the background behind the restaurant.
- The Jungle Skipper Canteen has been around for a long time, but the Skippers just decided to open it to hungry customers
- The owner of the Canteen is Alberta falls, granddaughter of the famous explorer Albert Falls.
- There are many references to the Falls family throughout the restaurant including a model boat named after Albert Fall’s Wife and books in the restaurant give away the names of the family’s children
- There are also references to the Imagineers that worked on the project in the titles and authors of books in the restaurant.
- The names of those enrolled in the Junior Skipper Program are the children of the Imagineers that worked on the project.
- The windows on the second floor of the Mess Hall reference the creators of the Jungle Cruise attraction.
I know I’ve got a lot to look for the next time I’m in the Jungle Skipper Canteen.
Disney’s Polynesian 45th Anniversary
This presentation on the history of Polynesian was given by D23’s Steven Vagnini, DVC’s Ryan March, and Disney Artists Casey Jones and Richard Terpstra.
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort was designed by Welton Becket, a well-known architect that also helped design the Resort. The original design for the resort was a pyramid-shaped building. Some names considered for the new Resort were New Polynesia, The Pacific Isles, and Polynesian Village. They finally settled on the later, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
The Polynesian, along with the Contemporary, were first buildings in the world to use modular construction, a building technique where the rooms are built offsite. There were 400 rooms, weighing nine tons each that were constructed and delivered to the Polynesian to be installed. Many of the original textile designs were done by Mary Blair. Bob and Leroy of Oceana Carvers carved many of the Tikis seen throughout the Resort.
The grand opening for Disney’s Polynesian Resort was held on October 24, 1971, with Lucile Ball and Bob Hope in attendance. The cost of a hotel room in 1971 would have cost between $22 and $42 per night, a steal by today’s standards. The Easter Winds was a lounge boat on the Seven Seas Lagoon, originally proposed to be called Castaway Cay. While that name might not have been used back in 1971, it was later recycled at the name of Disney’s private island in the Bahamas that is visited by the Disney Cruise Line. The original shopping locations at the Polynesian Village Resort were called Robinson Caruso and Polynesian Princess.
In the 1980s it was renamed to Disney’s Polynesian resort, but in 2015 it was restored to the original name. The renaming also came along with the introduction of the Disney Vacation Club and the Bora Bora Bungalows. This also came along with a new lobby in the Great Ceremonial House and opening of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. Trader Sam’s might have ended up at Disney Springs, but ultimately found at home at the Polynesian, a perfect thematical match.
The presenters gave everyone some insight into the thought and detail that went into the Bora Bora Bungalows. It starts with the boardwalk outside of the Bungalows which was designed to be reminiscent of the Polynesian’s marina. Moving to the inside of the Bungalows, the interior color pallet was taken from the Great Ceremonial House lobby. Mary Blair’s original design for the wallpaper inspired the shower tile in the bathroom. The Imagineers even got Lorely Bove, a visual development artist and Art Director on the upcoming film Gigantic, to do a painting of Mermaids. It’s unfortunate that rooms with such attention to detail and design can only be seen by so few.
They ended the presentation by bringing out Auntie Kau’i, an opening day cast member at the Polynesian. The amazing part is that she still works there today as a cultural representative. She shared her story of growing up in Hawaii and witnessing the bombing of Pearl Harbor to starting at the Polynesian as part of the Luau. She and some musicians then got everyone up and taught them how to dance the Hula.
MOANA: Building a Legend
Moana screenwriter, Jared Bush, then gave a great presentation on the making of Moana. Jared Bush is a great speaker and his energy and passion made everyone that much more excited to see Moana later on that night.
Jared started off by giving everyone an idea about how extensive a process it is to create an animated film. It took 700 drafts, 100,000 sketches, and five years to make an animated film.
He took us through the process of making an animated film, from character development to storyboarding to casting and animation. He took us behind the scenes on some of the research that helped shape the film. The directors, Ron Clements and John Musker, and some of the artists developing the film traveled to the Pacific Islands to immersive themselves in the culture to be able to make a more accurate depiction of the people. One of the elders had told the “For years, we’ve been swallowed by your culture. One time can you be swallowed by our culture?” This became one of their guiding principals to properly represent the South Pacific culture. They formed the Oceanic Story Trust, a group of cultural experts, to advise them of everything including tattoos, textiles, language, fishing, wayfinding, and history. They also tried to cast actors of Pacific Island descent such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Auli’i Cravalho, a Hawaiian teenager, in the film.
Jared Bush also took us through some of the challenges of making a film, such as trying to find the right personalities for the characters, Hei Hei in particular. He started out as very smart and a bit of a pain, but that didn’t serve the story. How did they go about fixing that? Well, they made Hei Hei very, very stupid and suddenly he became the comic relief on Moana’s journey.
He also filled us in on some Easter Eggs in the film to look out such as the following:
- Maui transforms into Sven at one point in the film
- There’s a Baymax reference in with the kakamora
- Ron Clements and John Musker make a couple of appearances in the film
- Auli’i’s Mom has a line in Moana as a villager and she can be heard telling the Monna’s parents, “She’s doing great!”
It’s great that Disney finds ways to sneak so many little references into their films. I especially like that line they gave Moana’s real life Mom.
All the D23 attendees later gathered on the beaches of the Polynesian Village Resort for an early screening of Moana.