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"Marching Along, We're Adventurers. Singing the Song of Adventurers ..."

Jim Hill

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"Marching Along, We're Adventurers. Singing the Song of Adventurers ..."

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If I had to name the one thing that I enjoy most out of all the rides, shows, attractions, theme parks, resorts and whatnot that can now be found at Walt Disney World, my favorite would have to be the Adventurers Club.

Photo by Jeff Lange

Why For? Because this Pleasure Island Club takes everything that the Disney Parks do well (i.e. quickly establishing a dramatic setting, which then serves as a memorable backdrop for this colorful crew of characters. Now fold in some expertly staged illusions & effects while serving up plenty of laughs & thrills) and then creates this world that you could actually walk around inside of.

Photo by Jeff Lange

Think about it. There's no boat and/or flume full of water separating you from all the action at the Adventurers Club. No Omnimover that smoothly move you from scene to scene to scene. Whatever adventures that you have while you're inside of that nightclub happen because you take the initiative. You're the one who talks back to Babylonia. You're the one who gets heckled by Arnie & Claude if you dare to enter the Mask Room.

Photo by Jeff Lange

That's why I find this whole situation (i.e. the closing of Pleasure Island tomorrow night) to be so frustrating, so maddening. Here's the Walt Disney Company. Which spends ten of millions of dollars each year on the development of allegedly interactive entertainments like "Toy Story Mania." And yet here's the Adventurers Club, this genuinely immersive environment where you can actually interact with the performers, not hurl CG cream pies at some oversized video screen. And yet the AC is being shut down because it's now considered old hat.

Well, I remember what the Adventurers Club was like in the good old days. Right after this PI nightclub first opened back in 1989.

In fact, I like to think that I got the quintessential introduction to this whimsical world. Picture this: It's 7:30 at night. I have literally just come through the front door and am looking down into the Main Salon, marveling at this tremendous setting ... When I notice that someone is standing at my elbow.

So I turn. And there is Graves, dressed in all his finery. Shoulders straight, a completely deadpan expression on his face, with a silver serving tray held in his white-gloved hand. And on that tray sits a single envelope and a business card.

"How very good to see you again, Dr. Gabardine," the Club's butler says to me.

"I'm not Dr. Gabardine," I respond.

A worried expression quickly plays across Graves' face. "Oh dear," he says sympathetically. "The malaria that you contracted while on safari in Africa seems to have affected your memory. Not to worry, though, sir. You're among friends now."

This performer then takes that envelope off of his serving tray and hands it to me.

"Per your instructions, we held your mail while you were away, sir ... "

As I take the letter, Graves now picks up the business card and hands that to me too.

" ... and Mr. Browne wanted me to let you know that he will flying in this evening with a case of that ointment you requested." The butler now leans in toward me and then says -- in a conspiratorial whisper -- "You know? For your ... condition."

A quick downward glance of Graves' eyes lets me know that -- whatever condition is it that he thinks that I'm afflicted with -- this disease clearly manifested itself below the waist.

As my jaw drops open, this gentleman's gentleman raises a single white-gloved finger to his lips. "Not to worry, though, sir. Your secret's safe with me. Mum's the word."

Stifling a laugh now, I said "Well, thank you ... "

"Graves," he prompts.

"Yes. Thank you, Graves," I continue.

"You're quite welcome, sir. Now, if you'll excuse me ... " And -- with that -- this performer moves to the other side of the mezzanine and then begins interacting with some other PI visitors.

And there I stood, with that business card & letter in my hand. And when curiosity finally got the better of me, I torn open that envelope and discovered ...

... an authentic looking, hand-typed letter to Dr. Gabardine.

And that's the moment when I fell in love with the Adventurers Club. When I realized that there were actually people at the Walt Disney Company who were crazy enough to recreate letters from the 1930s, with hand-canceled stamps even ... Just so the world that was contained within these walls would then seem a little more real.

Mind you, not everyone who worked at Walt Disney World actually got the Adventurers Club. I still remember the story that was told to me about Dick Nunis' very first trip to PI. As the then-head of Disney Parks & Resorts watched AC's live performers interacting with the Guests, one of Nunis' flunkies dared to asked the Boss what he thought of the Adventurers Club.

Dick first pointed up at the Audio Animatronic Yakoose located high on the Main Salon's wall as he replied. "I wish that we had more of these in here ..."

Photo by Jeff Lange

Nunis then gestured dismissively toward the performers. " ... and fewer of those."

Which -- from Nunis' point-of-view, anyway -- is understandable. After all, an AA figure is something that a Disney executive can understand. You can trust a piece of technology. You can know for certain that a machine isn't ever going to deviate from its programming. Whereas flesh-and-blood human beings, particularly improvisational performers ... Well, you just can't count on crazy folks like that to always follow the script. People like that are going to try and put their own personal spin on things.

Photo by Jeff Lange

But it was just that aspect of the Adventurers Club that kept me coming back time & time again. To see what sort of spin each individual performers would put on their Emil Bleehalls & Otis Wrens, their Pamelia Perkinses & Samantha Sterlings.

Over the past 19 years, a truly amazing group of performers has trouped through this building. So -- before the very last "Free drink, Colonel !" is shouted out on Saturday night ...

Photo by Jeff Lange

... I'd like to raise a toast to all of those who have been associated with the Adventurers Club over the years. From the Imagineers who initially designed this nightclub to the PI personnel who actually kept this place running while all of those crazy Cast Members bounced off the walls. And let's not forget about the Nashes. The very people who'll be making the drinks that we raise in toast. Who -- when we're not looking -- will then hit the button that sends our seats at the bar up & down.

It makes me sad to think that -- come Sunday morning -- there won't be an Adventurers Club anymore. That one of the very best things that the Walt Disney Company ever did had to be shut down to make room for yet another restaurant or shop.

I know, I know. Times change and tastes change. But for those of us who knew and truly loved this unique entertainment experience ... Well, at least we'll have our memories ...

Photo by Jeff Lange

... not to mention a theme song that -- for the past week or so -- has been running continously in my head.

"Marching Along, We're Adventurers,
Singing a Song, We're Adventurers,
Up or Down,
North, South, East or West,
An Adventurer's Life is Best.
An Adventurer's Life is Best !
Kungaloosh !"

If you'd like to see even more images of the Adventurers Club, please go check out the photos that Jeff Lange now has posted at his website.

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  • And once again the Comedy Warehouse get's ignored.  Just pathetic.  I always had a much better time at the CW and loved the detail and the hidden treasures to found.  Where's the Jeff Lange photography of the Mouseketeer posters and the model Sleeping Beauty Castle?

    Look I know it was hardly original and isn't even the most famous improve club in Orlando but can we please stop acting like the funeral is just for one club?

    Yes raise a glass for the Adventurer's Club,

    and the Comedy Warehouse,

    and the moving dance floor,

    and the nightly fireworks,

    and the moving lights,

    Happy New Year!

  • Is it really your favorite attraction at WDW of all time?    Really Jim?  

    Walt Disney was 'plussing' Disneyland from day one, opening new attractions and closing old ones and that tradition continues.  It's time to start embracing change.

    I'm looking forward to the new Downtown Disney experience.

  • There are a ton of Adventurer's Club clips over on You Tube.

  • Tuck, why is it "pathetic" for one person to prefer one thing over another and mourn the loss of one thing while not being all that hearbroken of the closing of another? In my experience the comedy warehouse is "safe" standup comedy... I'm more of a Doug Stanhope / Andrew Dice Clay / Dennis Leary fan when it comes to standup. I'm sure the comedy warehouse has done some pretty good stuff over the years, but its standup comedy. When I go in there it's to see the WDW artifacts gracing the walls... not for the comedy.

    And lostincrowds? Why do you start your post "baiting" Jim? It's obnoxious, unnecessary, juvenile and assinine... If you have something interesting to say, by all means, but, come on...

    I'm curious as to your thinking here... as I understand it Jim is correct (and I may be wrong) but its my understanding that the AC will be replaced with restaurants and shops... I'm not trying to be intentionally argumentative, but how is that something to look forward to? The AC is a one of a kind place that makes the Walt Disney World a little more unique. Whether you personally enjoy or appreciate it, how is it "plussing" to replace it with a restaurant or shop, the like of which can be found anywhere and everywhere??

  • I am definately of the opinion that WDW should not be a museum. My favorite ride of all time is Horizons, but I understand why it went to the wayside. Few people besides the fanboys cared about it. Part of what makes Disney great is their innovation. But, to paraphrase Letterman, something doesn't smell right. Quite honestly I don't care about the rest of Pleasure Island. I used to, but the suites completely messed that one up so many years ago it is only a sad shell of its former self. But AC remained just as glorious as ever. I am sad to say that as a new local I didn't take advantage of the club enough, only visiting it a handful of times in the last few years. I went last night, for the last time ever, and I was shocked how sad I was. I was hardly the obsessed DF that new ever word to every song, and new how to respond to Hathaway. But being in the environment, surrouned by so many people who were in love with this place, was a lot to take in. Tear the rest of PI down, surround it with gift shops and T Shirt stores. I really do understand that in business it all comes down to the dollar. But the AC was one of the most unique places I have ever been to in the world (not Disney World, literally the entire world), and it is a shame that Disney would let it fall to the way side, while spending millions on flash in the pan attractions like American Idol or HSM. Just keep AC around, there is a niche market out there for it. Sure, not ever guest will want to go there, but not ever guest wants a Hannah Montana make over or wants to have breakfast with a princess either. AC is the kind of place that showed what Disney could be. Not just a mouse trap that sucked in little kids. It could be a place of fantasy for all ages.

  • I had the pleasure (pardon the pun) of meeting Jim Hill at the Adventurer's Club several years ago, as he was there for the MouseFest. I recognized Jim and we chatted for quite a while, enjoying the show and having a good laugh. It was my first time at the AC, and  he pointed a few things out to a newcomer like myself that might have been overlooked. To show you what a nice guy Jim was, he invited me along as his guest (me - a total stranger) on a tour that he and Jim Korkis were giving the next day at the Magic Kingdom. Let me tell you, it was one of the best tours that a person could take, anywhere. Highly informative, full of laughs and trivia that you just can't find in a guide book. Thanks Jim, for a good time and for remembering the Adventurers Club this last time.

  • I just realized how many awful spelling errors I had in my above post...trying to type quickly at work! :)

  • I loved the Comedy Warehouse. There was a CLASSIC moment one night where one of the osts was gabbing at an audience member. The host asked where the guy worked. The guy responded that he was an agent for the IRS. In like two seconds, another one of the performers came racing across the stage and bolted out of the exit.

    But the Comedy Warehouse was NEVER as good as the Adventurer's Club. The AC was a totally emersive environment where mayhem ruled the night.

    Open your favorite adult beverage. Go to You Tube and watch "Colonel Critchlow entertains the club."  Hysterically funny!

  • Mr. Hill,

    We've sucked it up! We have made a decision. We will be there tomorrow at the LAST NIGHT of T.A.C.!


  • I miss the AC mightily.  Thanks for such a nice look back, and for Jeff's great photographs.

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