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Wednesdays with Wade: Tales of Typhoon Lagoon

Wednesdays with Wade: Tales of Typhoon Lagoon

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When I discussed the history of Pleasure Island, I mentioned that the same storm, Hurricane Connie, that devastated the world of Merriweather Adam Pleasure also created Typhoon Lagoon.

"A furious storm once roared 'cross the sea,
Catching ships in its path, helpless to flee.
Instead of a certain and watery doom,
The winds swept them here to Typhoon Lagoon."

Remnants of Pleasure Island ended up at Typhoon Lagoon including a box blown over from the Fireworks Factory and of course, the charter craft, Miss Tilly, which is still listed on the board of charter boats on the side of Pleasure Island facing the AMC theaters.

High atop Mount Mayday (Mayday, of course, is a famous distress call.) is Miss Tilly, an old shrimp boat out of Safen Sound, Florida ("Safe and Sound"). The geothermic pressure underneath the boat builds up and erupts every thirty minutes causing steam and water to shoot up above Mount Mayday's peak. Did you realize Miss Tilly is actually smaller in scale than a real boat so that it looks like she is further away? Did you realize the reason the water shoots up every thirty minutes is that guests rarely wear watches when enjoying Typhoon Lagoon so this is way to help them tell time?

According to that legend, a typhoon hit the small Placid Palms resort village years and years ago, and to make matters worse, a resultant earthquake and volcanic eruption left the village in ruins. So the Placid Palms resort became the Leaning Palms resort.

The local residents, however, were resourceful and rebuilt their town as best they could with the flotsam and jetsam of "found" objects. The much beloved Walt Disney Imagineer, Randy Bright, explained the effect back in the 1980s: "Upon entering Typhoon Lagoon, guests find themselves in a ramshackle, tin-roofed island village landscaped with cargo, surfboards and other marine wreckage left by the great storm."

The preliminary designs this park indicated the water park would be called "Splash". One of the original concepts was that the park would be situated in a Florida swamp and it would be very tropical with dense Florida foliage, dark caves for guests to float or swim through, and audio-animatronic alligators.

When entering Typhoon Lagoon, guests immediately see one of those unfortunate boats stuck atop the sign as they turn off Buena Vista down the road to the attraction. Then a series of signs inspired by the famous "Burma Shave" signs of yore, tell the story of Typhoon Lagoon before the guests even get to the parking lot. As guests approach the ticket booths, few of them are aware that the colorful flags above actually spell out some words of welcome. (There is a big sign over to the right hand side that is a "key" to deciphering what letter of the alphabet each flag represents.)

Copyright 2005 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

The Disney Imagineers purposely designed the entrance so guests have to follow a short path and up a slight hill before guests catch a glimpse of the lagoon itself. Over to the right, guests can see the store owned by Singapore Sal. He is the fellow who is the first to get anything that washes up on the bench. That's why he has that telescope so he can spot new treasures. Sal's girlfriend is Typhoon Tilly and she has her own restaurant so the two of them have pretty much cornered the tourist market.

With the recent opening of the "Crush'n'Gusher" water flume attraction at Typhoon Lagoon, the Imagineers came up with a story to try and incorporate it into the existing storyline for the water park:

A few steps away from the Leaning (formerly Placid) Palms resort, guests discover even more windswept old structures, rusted-out equipment, and other island debris - all remnants of the monster tempest that just struck the area. These flooded, rusting remains are what's left of "Tropical Amity Fruit Exporters", the region's leading grower and exporter of tropical fruits, including bananas, pineapples, papayas, mangos, and avocados. The facility is equipped to handle all aspects of tropical fruit production, from raising the crops in the adjacent orchards to packing them up and shipping them out to buyers all over the world.

The once-landlocked plant now sits on the shores of Hideaway Bay, a new body of water left in the typhoon's wake. The property encompasses "dozens" of acres, much of it covered by tropical fruit orchards. Most of the facility's infrastructure is on the verge of collapse thanks to extensive storm damage. An enormous waterlogged building dominates the landscape, home of the company's home office and Produce Wash Facility.

Tropical Amity's produce sorting and wash facility is a sight to behold, even in its present, ramshackle condition. The tropical fruits would be transported from the adjacent orchards to the wash facility, where they were sorted and washed and readied for packing. Once inside the Produce Wash Facility, the fruit would make its way through a series of flumes and spillways that weave precariously through the building and around the property. In other words, the wash facility has all the makings of a white-knuckle "water coaster," thanks to the gravity-defying conditions caused by the typhoon.

Copyright 2005 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

The locals took full advantage of the wash facility's unique construction and the peculiar side effects the typhoon is having upon it. They even dubbed the wild ride the "Crush 'n' Gusher" after the torrents of water that now gush through the old wash spillways. Guests slip and slide and twist and turn their way through the existing wreckage and debris on the flooded flumes that once carried tropical fruit up, down, and all around the wash facility.

Crushing currents propel thrill seekers up the wash flumes, a unique, gravity-defying condition created by the typhoon. From there gravity takes over as riders slip and slide their way down the sudden dips and hairpin turns of this makeshift water coaster. A strong receding tide helps guests along as they make their swift descent back to sea level.

So it is nice to see with all the storytelling elements that are constantly being lost in the Disney theme parks that at least an effort was made to tie in the latest attraction with the storyline Imagineers created over fifteen years ago for an attraction that was supposed to satisfy the demand for a water park created by River Country at Ft. Wilderness.

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