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The lost (but laughable) history of WDW's Pleasure Island: Part I

The lost (but laughable) history of WDW's Pleasure Island: Part I

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Originally opened as Lake Buena Vista Village on March 22, 1975, this shopping village was later known as Walt Disney World Village. In 1989, it underwent another name change and became the Disney Village Marketplace with the addition of a nighttime entertainment area named Pleasure Island.

Imagineers created an extensive backstory for the island's history and its fictional former owner, Merriweather Adam Pleasure. Architectural details and furnishings that supposedly were remnants from Pleasure's vast storehouses enhanced the illusion of the "origin" of Pleasure Island.

My good friend, Disney Historian Jim Korkis is putting together a walking tour of Pleasure Island for cast members to trace both the real and fictional history of Pleasure Island. Anybody who has taken a tour with Jim through the Walt Disney World parks knows that not only he is an outstanding storyteller but he loves sharing information that makes the place come alive. It's a shame that the Disney Company doesn't offer those historical tours to guests and has limited Jim from giving those tours to cast members. However, even Jim is struggling gathering information on this Disney location that is just over fifteen years old.

Unfortunately with all the changes that have happened and are happening on Pleasure Island, much of that story of Merriweather Pleasure has been lost. Documentation has disappeared. People involved with the development of the project have left the Disney Company.

When the Island opened, there were plaques strategically placed that would help a guest piece together the story of the Pleasure family. For instance, the Fireworks Factory became the Wildhorse Saloon and then Motion and in the course of those changes the plaque was removed. The Merriweather Market food court became the Pleasure Island Jazz Club and now an Irish pub and that plaque was lost. The Neon Armadillo became the BET Soundstage and that plaque was lost.

Fortunately some plaques still exist, even though the businesses have changed but how long they will continue to exist is certainly questionable as Disney management no longer seems interested in promoting the story of the Pleasure family.

So before even more black plaques disappear, I want to take a moment to document the remaining ones for future researchers and perhaps some readers can supply us with the information that is on the "missing" plaques.


Pleasure Family Home 1918

Island Founder Merriweather Pleasure built this home for his family who lived on their beloved island for twenty years. Here, Mrs. Isabella Pleasure hosted hundreds of tea socials, garden parties and croquet tournaments, featuring fine food and uninhibited conversation. As she often said, "If you don't have something nice to say, come sit next to me!" Restored in 1989 as a joint effort of the Walt Disney Company and the Levy Restaurants.

The delicious exploits of the pleasure family are served up on the plaques at each Island entrance.

PLEASURE ISLAND (entrance plaque by the ticket booths)
Founded 1911

An unverifiable, anecdotal, purely subjective, theoretical alleged purported history. Also, ersatz.

A living monument to "the wise fool, the mad visionary, the scoundrel, the scalawag, and the seeker of enjoyment", Merriweather Adam Pleasure, who purchased the island in 1911.

Pleasure's profitable canvas manufacturing/sail fabricating empire, founded on this site, provided him with the capital to indulge his lifelong interest in the exotic, the experimental, and the unexplainable.

Known as the Grand Funmeister, Pleasure disappeared during his 1941 circumnavigation of the Antarctic. His sons, Henry and Stewart, took over the island and the Pleasure enterprises. Their mismanagement led to bankruptcy in 1955; Hurricane Connie hit that same year, and Pleasure Island was abandoned.

In 1987, Archaeologists uncovered the site and its remains, and a large scale reclamation project was begun. In 1989, the new Pleasure Island was re-opened and dedicated to the legacy of Merriweather Adam Pleasure: "Fun for all, and All for fun!"

Placed here by the Pleasure Island Histerical Society.

Pleasure Island Canvas Works Fabrication Plant

Second building erected on the island, this actually housed Merriweather Pleasure's famous canvas fabrication works. In the 1930s, it was converted to a soundstage for Invincible Pictures, then into a design studio and workshop for various Pleasure projects. Most notable of these was a huge locomotive powered by a combination of steam and magnetic power. A colossal turntable was installed to facilitate the work on this revolutionary product, called "Maxwell's Demon", that was intended to revolutionize world transportation.

It didn't.
For further unverifiable information on the life and times of Pleasure Island, refer to the theoretical histerical plaques located at the island's entrances.

Pleasure Perfect Upholstery

Six full time seamstresses worked here to refurbish the interiors of the custom yachts in the Pleasure Island Dry Dock. In 1934, the shop was responsible for stuffing the head of a rare Mongolian Yakoose for the Adventurers Club. This profitable sideline ended in 1943 when a war time shortage of kapok put taxidermy on the endangered species list.

Further information on the incredible doings at Pleasure Island from 1911 to the Present Day is inscribed on the ersatz histerical plaques at all Island entrances.

Pleasure Island Administration Building

Originally a wooden shack housing Pleasure Island's paymaster/accountant/bookkeeper, telegraphy office, mailroom, first aid station, and social center, the first building on this site (constructed in 1913) burned to the ground in 1933 during a party celebrating the repeal of Prohibition. A subsequent building erected on the site was blown apart by a savage 1944 typhoon. Refurbished 1988-1989.

The complete and dubious history of Pleasure Island is inscribed at each Island entrance.

TOMORROW: Wade Sampson returns with even more info about PI and the island's amusing plaques.

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