The Last Glorious Days of the Adventurers Club

Seems like the Adventurers Club on Pleasure Island — the one the Disney suits are closing because it just wasn’t making enough money — is raking it in during its last month of normal business. My friend Mike Speller, former cast member and actor at the Club, is planning on being there for its last closing weekend, and I was hoping to make it as well; but this report from Disney reporter/critic Jim Hill explains why I may just have to live with the Adventurers Club glory days — 1989 – 1993 — in my memories and in my heart. (Reprinted below/link above)

Mike, Darin, Andy, Sheila, Tim, Fran, Art, Joan, Kristian, Phil — you were the best they ever had.

And may God bless Marcel.

This past Friday night, visitors to the Adventurers Club got to see a brand-new artifact added to the wall in the Main Salon : A video projection screen.

Photo by Max Schilling

Given that this piece of Pleasure Island is supposed to be a recreation of a gentlemen’s club from the 1930s, one might wonder why the Mouse was adding this technological anachronism to AC’s carefully themed interior. But — sadly — the reasoning behind this particular installation at the Club was all too obvious.

As one PI vet told me this past weekend:

“What we did on Friday night was a test. Over the next two weeks, we anticipate that a record number of Adventurers Club fans will be coming back to Pleasure Island, trying to catch one last Balderdash Cup or Hoopla. And given that the Library has limited capacity … Well, we don’t want any of our Guests to go away disappointed. So we’re experimenting with doing simulcasts at the Adventurers Club. Projecting the Balderdash Cup & the Hoopla out in the Main Saloon at the very same time that these live stage shows are being presented in the Library.”

To be honest, Friday night’s test of the Adventurers Club’s new video projection system wasn’t entirely a success. Why For? The way I hear it, when the video feed for the Balderdash Cup was projected out into the Main Saloon, people literally stopped in their tracks to look up at that screen.

Which — as you might imagine — totally disrupted guest flow within the Club. To the point that Friday night’s presentation of the Balderdash Cup wound up playing to only 2/3rds of its usual house because … Well, many AC visitors couldn’t actually make it down into the Library that night. They found their way blocked by all of those Guests who were standing there in place, staring up at that video screen.

Still, this new video projection system was back in operation on Saturday. And it’s a good thing that it was, because the Adventurers Club got totally slammed that night.

As one longtime visitor to the Club told me last night:

“I’ve been visiting the Adventurers Club for over 15 years now, and I’ve never seen this place that busy. At one point, the manager literally had to tell the doorman ‘One in, one out.’ Meaning that the Club was at absolute maximum capacity. And before anyone new could be allowed to enter that building, someone who was already inside the Club first had to go outside.

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The place was completely packed on Saturday night. I’m talking body-to-body. The Main Salon was so crowded that the cast members who were leading the New Induction ceremony had to literally warn the Guests who were gathered there to ‘Please be careful when you do the Adventurers Club salute. We don’t want you to accidentally take someone else’s eye out.’

To accommodate the crowds, they had both the upstairs & downstairs bars open that night. With all three of the bartenders in the Club going full tilt, serving drink after drink after drink.

According to cast members that I spoke with last night, it’s been like this for two months now. With huge crowds coming out every night in order to say ‘Goodbye’ to the Adventurers Club. Given the enormous amount of money that Disney obviously has to be making off of alcohol sales at this one Pleasure Island nightclub, you have to wonder if they’re now having second thoughts about killing off this cash cow.”

At the very least, Pleasure Island managers are now doing everything that they can to milk this cash cow. Even going so far as & increase the Adventurers Club’s capacity by changing the seating arrangement in the Library (i.e. removing most of the tables that used to be located in this part of the Club and opting to go with fixed rows of seats instead) as well as getting rid of most of the over-sized, over-stuffed chairs that you used to find in the Main Salon.

To further increase AC’s capacity as this much beloved Club gets closer & closer to its previously-announced September 28th closing date, PI officials are also talking about returning this nightclub to its original 1989 traffic pattern. Meaning that — after Guests have seen a show in the Library — they’ll then be directed to exit the Club entirely. Duck out through that door that’s located next to the bar. And then — should these WDW visitors actually wish to re-enter the Adventurers Club … Well, they’ll have to get on line with all of the other Guests who are already queued up outside of this nightclub.

Photo by Max Schilling

In the meantime, Guests are desperate to have something tangible to remember their last trip to the Adventurers Club by. Which is why the Club’s souvenir cups (Which the bartenders offer AC’s signature beverages in) are flying off the shelves. This past weekend, the AC actually sold out of those glasses that feature Arnie & Claude’s faces (i.e. those two talking heads that you’ll regularly find hassling tourists in the Mask Room). And in the coming week, the Club expects to sell through all of the Yakoose-shaped mugs that it currently has in stock.

Meanwhile the Club’s managers regularly patrol the upstairs and the downstairs. Making sure that the AC’s more rabid fans don’t help themselves to other sorts of souvenirs. And by that I mean trying to pry some of the artifacts & photographs that are currently on display in the Club right off of the walls !

Which — I know — sounds like crazy, crazy behavior. But trust me, folks. It’s a crazy, crazy time at the Adventurers Club. With people standing 5 deep at the bar in the Main Salon, with the cash registers there constantly opening & closing in order to accommodate all of those drink orders … And yet Disney officials still insist that Pleasure Island has to be closed because places like the AC just don’t appeal to WDW visitors anymore.

Oh, really? Try telling that the people who were still standing on line outside of the Adventurers Club at 1 a.m. this past Saturday night trying to get in. Try telling those folks that this PI nightclub is no longer popular. I’d imagine that those Guests might have a few choice words for you. None of which would be “Kungaloosh.”

Anyway … It’s a very sad & frustrating time for Adventurers Club fans … Made sadder still by the news that just came out of Glendale. Which has three Imagineers who were closely associated with the creation of Pleasure Island (i.e. senior vice president Rick Rothschild, executive producer Chris Carradine, director of concept design John Horny) being let go from that division of the Walt Disney Company earlier this month.

Speaking of Imagineering … The guys from WDI quietly put out the word late last week that the opening date for Disney’s Hollywood Studios‘ newest attraction — the “American Idol Experience” — has been pushed back from January of 2009 to the Spring of next year.

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Why For the delay? Well … As I understand it, the retooling of the interior of the old “Superstar Television” Theater is taking far longer than Disney originally expected. Which — given how large & lavish the sets for the “American Idol Experience” are supposed to be — isn’t really all that much of a surprise.

I also hear that Disney Parks — working with 19 Entertainment and FremantleMedia, the co-producers of the “American Idol” television series — has hatched this elaborate promotional plan for the “American Idol Experience.” Which involves this new DHS attraction being prominently displayed and/or mentioned as part of each episode of AI that airs on Fox in the coming season.

This promotional effort will culminate in late May of 2009 when the winner of next season’s “American Idol” is named. The very next day (or thereabouts), this individual will then be flown down to Walt Disney World so that they can then take part in the grand opening of the “American Idol Experience.” Which will (in theory, anyway) garner lots of free publicity for Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ newest attraction.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean WDW Entertainment still won’t be holding AIE soft opening sometime in the last winter / early spring of 2009. The way I hear it, those folks want six to eight weeks of daily performances under their belt before they then invite the press in to check out DHS’s newest attraction.

The only wildcard here is … Well, because AIE was originally scheduled to open in January of 2009, DHS managers then felt justified in cutting “Fantasmic !” back to just two days of performances during that exact same time period. But now that the “American Idol Experience” ‘s soft opening has been pushed back by at least a few weeks, one wonders if Disney World officials will now revisit their earlier decision? Perhaps return Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ nighttime extravaganza to its rightful seven-days-a-week spot on that theme park’s entertainment schedule.

Anyway … That’s the latest on AC & AIE. With one getting ready to close its doors, while the other postpones its grand opening.

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