Try Your Hand at Audio-Animatronics at the Walt Disney Family Museum – San Francisco, CA

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“It’s like a trip to Disneyland itself…It’s the third happiest place on the planet, behind Disneyland and Disney World.” That’s what Tom Hanks said about visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum when researching the man behind the mouse for “Saving Mr. Banks” — and I think many Disney fans would agree.

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First off, it’s located in a gorgeous historic building, a restored 1890s army barracks in the Presidio overlooking the San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. I highly recommend getting a snack and coffee from the cafe and enjoying the views out on the veranda when you need a break between walking through the exhibitions.

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After buying your tickets, the first room you’ll enter is filled with various awards, including the honorary Academy Award (and seven little Oscars) that Shirley Temple presented to Walt Disney in 1939 for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” It’s such an iconic moment in Disney history so it’s neat to see these statuettes in person.

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The non-profit museum, which opened in 2009, was co-founded by Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller and chronologically narrates his personal and professional history. “My kids have literally encountered people who didn’t know that my father was a person,” she told The New York Times. “They think he’s just some kind of corporate logo.” (Here’s the Disney family leaving Honolulu on the Matson Lines‘ SS Lurline after a Hawaiian vacation.)

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Walt Disney led a pretty interesting life even before he became a household name. While he was still a teenager, he lied about his age so he could enlist for World War I. These were the little souvenirs he brought back from France where he drove trucks and ambulances after the armistice.

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Another random piece of ephemera that caught my attention was this handwritten list of Walt Disney’s favorite foods that he’d made for the housekeeper. (The paper was rediscovered decades later tucked in a magazine at the house.) Spam and eggs with biscuits and honey, FTW.

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A centerpiece of the ninth gallery, “The 1950s & 1960s: The Big Screen & Beyond,” is the 12-foot model of “The Disneyland of Walt’s Imagination.” He considered the park to be an ever-changing entity and the map features original attractions as well as ones that were in the planning stages during his lifetime. If you look closely you can see Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and Tahitian Terrace.

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New to this section as of this year is “Pepe del Presidio,” a replica of the “Barker Bird” that used to beckon guests outside the entrance to the Enchanted Tiki Room. (It made its debut at a tiki-themed Animate Your Night! party presented by Tiki Oasis and Smuggler’s Cove — I bet there will be more of these in the future as the first two seem to have been pretty successful.)

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After a few minutes of video on the history of Audio-Animatronics, guests can use the joystick to control the bird’s movements and make it open its beak, nod and turn its head, move its body forward and back, and puff out its chest. Such a fun, interactive element!

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Naturally, a stop at the gift shop is a must. In addition to numerous books, pins, jewelry and shirts, there were Kuku and MarqMarq mugs designed by Tom “Big Toe” Laura for Tiki Farm.

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It was all I could do not to collect all of these Enchanted Tiki Room charms: all the parrots (Jose, Fritz, Pierre and Michael, plus the Barker Bird for $6.95 each), two designs for the tiki drummers and totems, and an E ticket ($8.95). They’re exclusive to the Walt Disney Family Museum, just in case you needed another incentive to make a visit.

Walt Disney Family Museum
104 Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94129
415-345-6800

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Recap of the Mahaloween Luau at Trader Sam’s – Disneyland

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This past Monday, Disney hosted a “Mahaloween Luau” at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. The price for the special event was steep ($125 per person) though Disney seemed to have little trouble selling out each of the four hour-long sessions.

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Whether or not you got your money’s worth has been up for discussion. We had a great time and met fellow tiki fans and runDisney participants, but I agree with other outspoken attendees that the event didn’t really live up to the expectations set by the (somewhat inaccurate) description. (For example, it was supposed to take place inside Trader Sam’s, but everybody who did the math realized that 100 ticket holders wouldn’t fit in a bar with a capacity of 55. Instead, we were corralled into a section of the patio.)

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Anyway, the event was held in anticipation of the release of a new glaze of the Shrunken Zombie Head mug. (I featured the original blue version on my list of Top 5 Spooky Tiki Mugs last year.) The one on the left with the greenish tint and orange interior is the mug that’s now available at Trader Sam’s, while the mug on the right with teal highlights was exclusive for Mahaloween.

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Servers were ready with trays of Shrunken Zombie Heads (to be redeemed with our two drink tickets) and there was a buffet table piled with tuna poke cones and chicken lettuce cups with ginger hoisin sauce.

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Pulled pork sliders and plates of our favorite panko-crusted Chinese long beans with Sriracha aioli made the rounds later on. The food was very good, but seating was limited and it was difficult to eat unless you had snagged a table.

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Brandon Kleyla, a Walt Disney Imagineering set designer who worked on Trader Sam’s, gave a brief talk about the concept art on display. Some of the Enchanted Tiki Room designs were already familiar from last year’s Disney Gallery exhibit “Tiki Tiki Tiki Realms: Celebrating 50 Years of Enchantment.”

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My favorite part was hearing about repurposed designs. As Brandon said, at Disney: “No idea idea ever fully dies.” The shipwreck in a bottle effect at Trader Sam’s was originally considered for Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, as seen in the top left design by Elmer Plummer from 1968. Some folks might remember that it was part of the dearly missed Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island in Disney World (Tim Kirk art, 1987). The shipwreck was brought up once again for the Haunted Mansion in 2002. Meanwhile, Mary Blair‘s 1970 abstract art for Disney’s Polynesian Resort forms the wallpaper pattern in the Trader Sam’s bathrooms. And finally, the Tiki Goddess formerly featured in Florida’s infamous Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management will apparently glower over the patrons at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, which is scheduled to open at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Orlando in early summer 2015.

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Another board revealed a few early concepts for the Shrunken Zombie Head mug. The first was Shrunken Ned, the “Jungle Witch Doctor” at the South Sea Traders shop in Adventureland, and the other inspired by the fellows with fezzes in the Lost Safari scene from Jungle Cruise. Different swizzle sticks were initially devised for each drink, and this would have accompanied the Piranha Pool. I really hope Disney revisits some of these ideas in the future!

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Brandon also told us more of what we can expect from Trader Sam’s in Florida. He said that while our Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar has more of a ’30s-’40s Adventureland theme, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto will be “60s-’70s nautical, kitschy” (sooooo….Bahooka, basically?) with references to “20,000 Leagues Under Sea” like a giant squid tentacle stealing from the bar. (Again, this was concept art we’d seen before.)

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New to me at least were these previews of two tiki mugs paying tribute to Tangaroa Terrace at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. I’ll have to get my hands on one of the Trader Sam’s octopus t-shirts somehow — apparently it’s also just for Florida.

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We also got a sneak peek at the second edition of the Uh Oa bowl, which has a three wise monkeys (“see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”) theme. They said it should be available at Trader Sam’s Disneyland any day now.

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Special guest King Kukulele, who we always enjoy seeing at the annual Tiki Night at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, led everyone in a sing-along of “Hawaiian War Chant” from the Enchanted Tiki Room. The Hawaiian musicians that usually perform on the patio also serenaded us.

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Since we were in the last group of the night, we weren’t rushed out of the event quite as quickly so I had the chance to pose with the shrunken head prop that Brandon had brought from Trader Sam’s.

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On the way out we were given our swag bags, which included the special event mug, hat, some Mahaloween pins, Tangaroa Terrace flyer/coupon and a canvas poster.

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I must admit I was more excited to get one of these unofficial Trader Sam’s postcards that Tiki tOny‘s friend was handing out. I was given a few extra to give away here! Leave a comment on this post about your favorite part of the Halloween season and I’ll randomly pick three winners on Friday, Oct. 10.

Related Posts:
Trader Sam’s Tiki Juju – Adventureland Trading Company Scavenger Hunt
Tiki Stitch Featured at Disneyland’s 10k Race
New Adventureland Tiki Merchandise at Disneyland/Disney Store

Tiki Stitch Featured at Disneyland’s 10K Race

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I don’t really like running, but runDisney makes it sort of fun with their races through the Disney parks. My mom and I had signed up for the Disneyland 10k this Labor Day weekend even before we found it was going to have a “Lilo & Stitch” theme. (I don’t think it was a coincidence that the starting line looked like the a-frame logo from Aulani, Disney’s resort on Hawaii.)

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To be even more specific, the 10k race was actually inspired by the Stitch tiki I’d seen at the merchandise event for the 50th anniversary of the Enchanted Tiki Room. He was the mascot logo for our bibs, t-shirts and even our medals, which had a tapa print lanyard.

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Tiki Stitch also made an appearance in a bamboo and thatch hut photo op set up at the runDisney expo at the Disneyland Hotel. Joining him was a tiki carving-style statue of the alien Pleakley. (I had to look that one up.)

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Part of the fun of these races is seeing the creative costumes people put together, like these ladies who donned Dole Whip hats.

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Most of the runners still wear something functional, but this guy really went out of the box with his Kronk (and Yzma) costume from “The Emperor’s New Groove.” I don’t know how he did the race in that!

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To get in the spirit, we decorated the backs of our shirts with tributes (made out of felt) to Pele from the Enchanted Tiki Room and tiki Stitch.

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Throughout the course there are cast members cheering you on and photo opportunities with parade floats and Disney characters. This race didn’t have as many costumed characters as the Tinkerbell 10k; instead they had several Elvis impersonators. (If you saw the movie “Lilo & Stitch,” you’ll recall Stitch was a big fan of The King.)

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However they did have “Jailhouse Rock” Elvis paired with Chip and Dale as a police officer and a prisoner.

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In the 10k race, each of the six mile markers had a different design, so that also helps with motivation to keep going.

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I even spotted an Elvis tiki on the sidelines. (The photo is a bit blurry but you get the idea.)

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At the end of the race there was a group of hula dancers welcoming everyone back. Up on the stage you can see another logo with the Stitch tiki and tikis from the Enchanted Tiki Room. If anything were to get me to enjoy running I guess it would be Disney and tikis!

Related Posts:
Trader Sam’s Tiki Juju from Adventureland Trading Company
New “Adventureland” Tiki Merchandise from Disney
Enchanted Tiki Room 50th Anniversary Merchandise Event