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Monday Mouse Watch : Why Pleasure Island has to close

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Monday Mouse Watch : Why Pleasure Island has to close

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What with the Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club closing back in February as well as the island's signature spotlights being sold off one month later, it's not as if the handwriting hasn't already been on the wall for WDW's Pleasure Island.

Earlier this month, another indication that this nighttime entertainment district was not long for this world came when several Adventurers Club vets were quietly pulled aside by PI management and urged to go audition for Disney's Hollywood Studios' new "American Idol Experience" attraction.

But even with all these hints that the end was near, several Pleasure Island managers were still reportedly taken aback at last Friday afternoon's announcement. When Downtown Disney VP Kevin Lansberry revealed that all six clubs would be closing on Saturday, September 27th.

"Why that date?," you ask. Two reasons: Disney's new fiscal year starts on October 1st. More for the point, Disney World's pay period run from Sunday to Saturday. So -- to be honest -- Pleasure Island's closing date was selected strictly for its ease in bookkeeping.

"But why close PI at all?," you continued. "I was at the Island this past weekend and the place was packed." True enough. PI's clubs were jammed this past Saturday and Sunday. But if you want to know the real reason that WDW management has decided to close Pleasure Island, drop by the Comedy Warehouse on a Tuesday night. Where you'll typically find that talented cast struggling to get laughs out of quarter-filled houses.


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Or -- better yet -- hang out near one of the PI ticket booths and listen for the most common question. Which isn't "How much does a ticket to the clubs cost?" But -- rather -- "Can I go in there?"

You see, far too many Guests remember how Pleasure Island used to be. When no one was allowed into PI after dark unless they had a ticket. Which is why a lot of WDW returnees just can't bring themselves to walk past where the Island's turnstiles used to be located whenever they shop & dine at Downtown Disney.

This -- in reality -- is the main reason that Pleasure Island is now being shut down. Given this nighttime entertainment district sits right in the middle of DTD, PI currently behaves like a barrier. It unintentionally restricts Guest flow-thru from the West Side to the Village Marketplace (and visa versa). And by replacing all of those clubs with restaurants & retail ... Well, WDW management hopes that Downtown Disney will then become one seamless experience for resort Guests. Which will make it easier for them to keep opening their wallets as they walk from the Rainforest CafĂ© over to "La Nouba."

So not to throw cold water on those of you who have already signed that "Save the Adventurers Club" petition, but the ship has already sailed in regards to Pleasure Island's fate. No matter what you guys say or do over the next three months, this night club complex will be closing. You can count on that.

WDW management knew that there'd be resistance from the fan community when it came to this particular changeout. Which is why they deliberately chose to release the news about PI's closing in the way that they did. Late on a Friday afternoon. With the hope that -- come Monday morning -- this story would have fallen out of the news cycle.


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And as for those of you who are now counting on "Night Kingdom" as being the Adventurers Club's savior ... Well, I guess I should mention that WDW's answer to Discovery Cove is being reconsidered. Not because of what's going on with the economy or with gas prices. But -- rather -- because Bob Iger himself was reportedly concerned with this project's mix of elements. Which is why the Imagineers are now revisiting their original concept for Disney World's niche park.

Given how competitive the Walt Disney Company is (You don't honestly believe that it's a coincidence that Disney World officials revealed their plans to add a giant tethered balloon attraction to Downtown Disney the very same week that the Great Orlando Wheel was announced, do you?), I have no doubt that the Mouse will eventually circle back around to "Night Kingdom." I mean, SeaWorld makes far too much money off of Discovery Cove for Mickey not to get into the niche park business.

But from what I've been hearing, "Night Kingdom" 's firm 2012 opening is now far from firm. Which is why it may be a mistake to pin one's hopes on this niche park eventually becoming the Adventurers Club's new home.

So what do you folks think? Can you at least understand why WDW management decided to make this change (i.e. to create a seamless Guest experience for those shopping & dining at Downtown Disney)? Or are you still so mad about the Mouse's decision to close Pleasure Island that you can't even consider Disney Corporate's side on this story?

Your thoughts?

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  • Downtown Disney VP Kevin Lansberry is definitely the winner of the "I Wanna Be The Next Paul Pressler" Award.  

    This whole thing is about money.  Study Lansberry's background. Marketing and finance.  Not one iota about park or park entertainment operations.

    The plan, as it had first been bantered about, was to retain Adventurer's Club, Comedy Warehouse, and, one dance club establishment.  Everything else was going to go bye-bye and the district once known as Pleasure Island was going to be melded into Downtown Disney, forming a seamless walk from east to west.  

    Adventurer's Club and the Comedy Warehouse were/are the two prime money making establishments in the PI section of DTD.  Even if a Tuesday night was slow at Comedy Warehouse, the chances that people were hanging at the Adventurer's Club is rather good.  There isa great deal of crossover in the demographic that would go to those two clubs.  Sadly, the audience draw to one club would also have been the same draw that would have frequented the other club as well...busier nights saw more traffic between the two establishments.  Slower nights had the A.C. being a lounge in which the repeat customers (which is what the DTD/PI thrived upon in off season at WDW) would go and enjoy the friendship of the other AC enthusiasts.  The A.C. has a design to it that is fitted for relaxing and chatting whereas the Comedy Warehouse is a Comedy Club and does not have the extended lounge bar and side sitting rooms that make for a more social gathering environment.

    Ah.  The "Night Kingdom back pedal" finally arrived.  One can imagine that the rumor mills inside the Disney Company spoke too early for this and now the reality has reared an ugly reality head in the midst of everything else. At any rate, that shoe was placed for dropping.

    Will the petition do any good?  Probably not.  There isn't a wide enough base of repeat clientele or guest awareness of the A.C. to really give the figures needed to make an impact upon Disney Budgeteers the way the California enclave did with the intial saving throw for Mr. Lincoln several years ago.  And, even if the company does feel a slight pinch from guests getting refunds on their AP inclusive passes or on the PI passes, it won't be enough to really make them feel the hurt enough to  warrant looking at saving the A.C. from the current disaster. (Also, I don't think there are many guests who are A.C. enthusiasts who are going to take WDW up on their offer for the ability to play a round of golf on a 9 hole green at the resort.)

    Out of the entire PI experience, however, it is good to note that the support response the  A.C. is getting speaks loudly for a show that has run 19 years.  Outside of the Hoo-Doo over at Wilderness Lodge Campground area there has not been a show that has run that long at the WDW Resort.  (California can still hold a record with the original Golden Horseshoe Revue, but, that's another story.)

    It breaks my heart to see the A.C. go away.  And, practicality tells me I won't be able to afford a short-notice trip to Orlando to spend a last two or three nights with the cast and wall companions of the Adventurers Club.  I can only hope that Jeff Lange will get over there and do a second DVD on the club that has a complete and definitive documentation of everything in the establishment...the shows, the props, the decorations....at least there would be good archival footage for us to enjoy after September of this year.

    It's sad to think that those of us who held the A.C. as an integral part of our trip to WDW and now will be cutting our visits shorter in duration and further apart in time will only be a small drop in the bucket of the overall guest numbers that travel to the WDW Resort.  I know that my trips to WDW(which usually ran 6 - 7 nights on property...with about 5 of those nights being spent in the comfort of the A.C.) will now be much further apart than the annual (next to yearly) pilgrimage to the "world's biggest human trap built by a mouse."

    Did Pleasure Island have to lose?  Yes.  The overall emphasis and motivation behind it went out of vogue years ago.  Universal's City Walk managed to hook the contracts with the clubs that the hoi polloi of the trendy generation will be going to.  Did Disney HAVE to destroy and close all of the venues in the middle segment of the DTD story?  Not at all.  The A.C. and the Comedy Warehouse easily could have remained.  Quite obviously the Planet Hollyweird golfball is going to remain.  And, that restaurant/bar has had equivalent low number counts of guests attending it as well.  So, the decision to raze the entire complex is solely that of a bean counter in his college educated, book learned view of how to better make money. Why, he could be side by side with Paul Pressler (who must be this nimrod's personal inspiration hero) working at the GAP - where his type of business acumen would suit that aspect of the industry quite well.  That type of "larnin" does not work within the themed entertainment industry environment.

    If nothing else, the A.C. should be retained and rebuilt.  It could go into an area at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  That poor little corner of the World Resort that is now building the most amazing DVC extension would seriously draw an audience to their night-time activities if the A.C. were to be built there.  Sadly, the Animal Kingdom environment is just about the only location where the themed setting of the A.C. would tend to mesh easily enough and work.

    On the subject matter of the DVC units - the one positive swing that may come from this that might give the bean counters a nudge of consideration is the number of people who bought their DVC memberships to have Saratoga Springs as their home property location at the WDW...so they could eaiser access the night life and entertainment district of DTD at Pleasure Island. Again, it probably won't be enough to get the "powers that be" get off their ceramic thrones to get a clue as to the worth and value of the A.C. (it is the one property at PI that has the unique setting and themed environment making it worthy of a Disney Park experience), but, it may be enough of a ripple in the pond to get some people thinking on how to rescue at least this one aspect of themed environment entertainment to again be used.

    Kungaloosh.

  • Some days....you eat the bear. Some days...the bear eats you. But either way, always dress for the hunt.

    So...no more "Horizons", "Adventurer's Club" and a zillion other truly magical places that the efficient folks in WDW management couldn't be bothered to find a way to save. No, no, no, don't MOVE it to, oh, say the Boardwalk or inside a hotel or some other nighttime place. Don't figure out a way to MAKE the clubs pay off because, hey, the fact that audiences really LIKE them obviously doesn't stimulate the financially-creative juices enough in the office suites at Team Disney.

    No, no...just close it and forgeddaboudit. No biggie. We'll open another STORE, because, hey, the secret to increasing merch. sales is to sell MORE same-as-at-Wal-Mart-but-twice-as-pricey crapola, right? Right.

    Or blame the price of gas! Yeah! That'll work! Or maybe--YES, I HAVE IT!

    What killed The Adventurer's Club and Pleasure Island?

    Global Warming of course!

    Yeah! THAT'S the answer! Too bad we didn't think of this 8 years ago when we coulda blamed it on the Millenium Bug! After all, it used to be New Year's Eve every night there, too!

  • There isn't really a reason for Disney to be catering to adults without kids, they'll go to Disney World anyways. There isn't a place for College Program kids to go to and get fired anymore either, bet Disney is real sad about that too. I'm glad Pleasure Island's clubs are leaving, I didn't think they ever truly fit, I'd always rather have family friendly spots over adult only on property.

  • Wow.  This is just sickening.  While I understand that PI is kind of located in a weird place messing up the flow of traffic, I think that a total shut down is crazy!  Yes A.C. is a big draw, but what is not mentioned is Mannequin's.  Mannequin's is the only dance club of its kind in the area.  It's got a rotating dance floor which no one has anymore.  It is always packed just about every day of the week.  And the alcohol is always flowing so they are making a good amount there too.  The location of Mannequins makes it perfect to allow it to be kept right on the corner and make it have a cover charge.  I hope we haven't seen the death of one of the best dance clubs on the planet!

  • For the typical WDW guest, the changes in Pleasure Island will be meaningless. If I remember correctly, back may years ago, Disney didn't like not having the local folk spending money at Church Street Station and CityWalk. This was money that was not being captured by the Mouse.

    The typical tourist didn't have much reason to go there. You couldn't bring 10 year old kids, and it was a pain to hop on the bus to get to the other side of DTD. On my last trip, we walked my kids through PI to get from Disney Quest to the WoD, and sepnt a great deal of time explaing to my kids what the reason was for a lot of the buildings. Telling kids in grade school about the purpose of bars and clubs makes you remember your younger days (and not want to think about the kids in a dozen years).

    The AC was a lot of fun, as was Comedy Warehouse. However, PI feels like a vacant, low-rent area during the day that you want to stay away from, and not spend time walking around in. It's time is over.

  • I get the business reasons. I really do.

    That being said, I'm going to miss the heck out of A.C. and The Comedy Warehouse.

    DW and I spent  LOTS of time there, when we were DINKS at WDW.  We've gone less, now that we've become members of the stroller sect, but looked forward to the days when the kids were justa BIT older, and we could have an "adult night" out at AC and TCW again.  Looks like that won't happen....

    As DVC members, with a 50 year commitment to WDW....well, we're not in this just for the kids.  DW and I will be travelling with our grand kids, some day, and will likely be travelling with OLDER kids, and by ourselves, for many years to come.  I LIKE the "adults only" offerings because it makes the resort much more "one stop shopping" for us.  I LIKED A.C. and TCW, because they were nice, on property offerings that were NOT the typical bars or dance clubs....

    It's too bad the bean counters decided they had to raise the place and start from scratch.  I think they could have made AC and TCW "work" in the new setting....even if they needed to be moved or redesigned.  I don't think shuttering them is the best option, but....well....I'm not running the company, either.

    I, like many of you, won't get back to AC or TCW before it closes.  I, like many of you, will be sad to see it go.  I, like many of you, will sign the petition, knowing it won't do much good.

  • Honestly, this article is all over the map. I don't even really understand what Jim's trying to say. I mean I absolutely refuse to believe that Disney is closing PI simply because people couldn't get over the fact that they didn't need to buy a ticket anymore. That's absurd.

    Also ... love to see Jim backpedaling on the whole Night Kingdom sham. That entire thing was bogus. I confirmed that six ways from Sunday with friends in WDI. It was an amalgam of a few blue sky concepts floating around out there, but overall what Jim wrote about has never been discussed. So it's disingenuous to say they're, "revisiting the concept" because the concept never existed in the first place.

  • Maybe Downtown Disney can just become exactly Like City Walk! Lets just start calling DTD City Walk South!

    -Brandon

  • How soon until I can visit wwwPickstarMedia.com?   You've got the sources and the jackball disposition to make you an internet STAR!  Sign me up for your RSS feed ASAP!

  • I don't see why they couldn't keep a couple clubs and just sell tickets at the door.  I have never been to the Adventuer's Club, but I know it has a huge following.  Disney can make Downtown Disney one continual shopping/ dining experience and still have this popular club there.

  •   Not that I am a rabid Pixar fan, I'm not, but I at least expected there to be an article this a.m. about Wall-E's apparently stellar performance at the box office.  According to USAToday Wall-E came in $10 million higher than expected at $62.5 million at the box office.  I had a read an article on JimHill months ago saying that the "fat" humans and bleak look would sink the film at the box office.

      However, critics are saying that the environmental message and futuristic outlook intrigues adults while kids enjoy Wall-E's adventure.  An animated feature for the whole family.  Supposedly, this is behind only the Incredibles and Nemo with 70.4 and 70.2 million respectively.  I think that Wall-E look-alikes are going to become a staple at Disney parks, and quite possibly the movie WILL make more in merchandising that Incredibles and maybe Nemo too.  (Anyone else think Wall-E will make an E-Ticket ride?)

      Eventually JimHill will have to post an article discusing Wall-E's enormous success, and eat some crow.  I read the Speed Racer's article and the title was very dramatic, making it look like Wall-E couldn't be sold commercially.  I guess maybe JimHill hasn't heard what an expensive dud Speed Racer turned out to be.  Regardless, Wall-E is going to be a cash-cow like Nemo, and is more marketable than 75% of Pixar's films.  

  • Pickstar,

    I'm a little confused so please help me to understand.  You blast Jim's "sources" within WDW management every chance to get, implying that you don't believe that many of these sources exist outside of Jim's imagination....then you hit us with your "friends in WDI" without even giving us any quotes.  What have these "friends" told you?  

    Also, if you are so convinced that Jim makes up so much of his information, why do you spend so much of your time reading it?

  • ChesireCat - I too was looking forward to a WALL-E article this morning... but got stuck with this article about a place that not too many people went to, basically avoided, and the majority of visitors to WDW would not care if it closed down.

  • So lemme get this straight:

    An article is posted regarding the closing of a HUGE part of WDW that has drawn happy guests for YEARS and YEARS. IT explores the possible official and unofficial reasons why. IT laments the loss of entertainment value to guests. Fine.

    And after a few of us deal with that, we get (a) kvetching about "Night Kingdom" stories from WEEKS and WEEKS ago, (b) carping about sources without any more offer of proof of your own sources, (c) a whine about why a whole story wasn't dedicated to a simple boxoffice dollar figure we could read on any website on the internet that, by the way, is totally irrelevant to this story--a basic "Why did you make "Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs" be about a girl named Snow and some DWARF! Why wasn't it about a boy named Coal Black and some GIANTS! Wahhhh!" kind of typical dumb JHM nonsense response, as usual, and (d) a whole little coterie of folks who basically are here to say they hate the joint and tell us why they don't like it (but not why they're still here if they have such longstanding whines about the neighborhood.)

    I am not Jim Hill. I don't even KNOW Jim Hill except for this site and a couple of emails. Jim Hill isn't a friend of mine. But people? IF you really, really hate this place, its author, its sources, its content, and its entire focus so  very, very much.....WHY ARE YOU HERE WHINING THE SAME WHINES OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND, in the process......making yourselves look so astoundingly juvenile, silly, and downright DUMB?

    I suggest introspection. And, maybe, now that the AC will no longer be using it, that we should co-opt a certain ditty to dedicate to you fools and twits. Maybe it would go something like this:

    "Marching along you're JHMSitePests..."

    "Sing off-key songs, you're JHMSitepests.."

    "Always Down, North-south-east-or-west..,

    "You fail all the intelligence teeeesssts...."

    "JHMSitePests your nonsense is BEST!"

    Screwsareloose!

    (smile)

  • ... but we used to go many times a year, and we live in Maryland.

    We decided to take a break from WDW for a while and see other sites, but always had a warm spot for the Magic.  The only real reason we went to Downtown was PI, especially Comedy Warehouse and the Adventurer's Club.  It has been hard reading about the decline of Disney from afar, but we hoped it wasn't that bad.

    Now we are going to have to try to work a September trip into our plans and strained budget.  We gotta say goodbye to our friends.  Such good, good times and such fun... we tried to get to PI multiple times a visit.  We will miss Otis Wren, Ms. Perkins, and company... and across the way the who what and warehouse gang at the CW.  Gotta answer that wall phone one more time.

    An Adventurer's life is best...

    Kungaloosh!

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