Ten Facts About the History of the Enchanted Tiki Room

by | Dec 11, 2017 | Disney History, Disney Parks and Resorts, Lists and Trivia

Winter is upon us; a chill is in the air and the birds are flying south for the winter. No doubt a few have stopped to while away the months at Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. The Attraction has been a favorite of Guests since it debuted at Disneyland in 1963, becoming the first Audio-Animatronics show in the world. Eight years later, the Attraction opened as Tropical Serenade in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (later adopting the Enchanted Tiki Room name).

Let’s celebrate a holiday in the sun with the birds of the Enchanted Tiki Room. Here are ten facts about the Attraction’s history.

1. A Bird in a Cage
According to Imagineer Wathel Rogers, Walt’s inspiration for the Enchanted Tiki Room started with mechanical bird in a cage that he purchased at a shop in New Orleans. Walt took the idea and created the concept of Audio-Animatronics.

2. A Dinner Show
Walt Disney originally intended for the Enchanted Tiki Room to be a dinner show. He envisioned it as a Chinese Restaurant with a fortune telling figure in the lobby, a joke telling dragon, and performing animals.

3. Real Feathers
As the Attraction took shape, Walt Disney told his Imagineers that he wanted his birds to look real. Imagineer Harriet Burns took his words to heart, using real feathers for the Attractions 200 plus avian residents.

4. Marc Davis
Legendary Imagineer Marc Davis, one of Walt’s Nine Old Men, designed the singing Tiki statues, a number of the birds, and the Attraction’s singing flowers.

5. The Sherman Brothers
Richard and Robert Sherman (who also wrote music for Mary Poppins, the Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and songs for Disney Attractions like Miracles from Molecules, One Little Spark, and more) wrote The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room. The song also lead to the creation of the Attraction’s four iconic birds: Jose, Michael, Pierre, and Fritz.

6. The Voices Behind the Birds
Walt Disney turned to some of his favorite actors to supply the voices for the macaw emcees of the Enchanted Tiki Room. Wally Boag, star of Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue, provided the voice for Jose. Fulton Burley, Boag’s co-star at the Golden Horseshoe, voiced the Irish macaw Michael. Veteran voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft, who provided voices for such Disney films and Attractions as One Hundred and One Dalmatians, it’s a small world, and Pirates of the Caribbean, voiced Fritz. Ernie Newton, the singing suit of armor at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, acted as Pierre.

7. Singing Like the Birds
Patterned after the French Folies Bergere, the Enchanted Tiki Room’s female cockatoos sing Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing, a 1932 composition by Robert Hargreaves, Stanley J. Damerell, and Tolchard Evans. The song originally achieved fame when British bandleader Henry Robert Hall (who was given the Order of the British Empire) recorded it.

8. Hawaiian War Chant or Kaua i ka Huahua’i
The Tiki figures sing a song known variously as the Hawaiian War Chant or Kaua i ka Huahua’i. The song was composed in 1860 by Prince William Pitt Leleiohoku II. The name of the song translated to We Two in the Spray. In 1929, composer Johnny Noble borrowed the tune and titled it Hawaiian War Chant. American lyricist Ralph Freed wrote the English lyrics in 1936 and, three years later, Tommy Dorsey’s big band turned the song into a hit. Despite the English title, the song’s original lyrics describe a romantic encounter and have nothing to do with battle.

9. Under New Management
In 1997, Walt Disney World’s version of the Enchanted Tiki Room closed for renovations, reopening a year later under the name The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management). The new show included Aladdin’s Iago and The Lion King’s Zazu as the Tiki Room’s new owners. A malevolent Goddess named Uh-Oa also joined the cast. Don Rickles and Phil Hartman provided the voices of the pre-show entertainment in the Attraction’s queue area.

10. The Tiki Room Returns
The Under New Management version of the Attraction ran until January of 2011 when a fire broke out. It remained closed until August of 2011, when it re-opened as a variation of the original Attraction.