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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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

New “Adventureland” Tiki Merchandise at Disneyland

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Disneyland recently released a boatload of new Adventureland-themed merchandise that includes tons of tiki items. I found this trove of glasses, mugs, pillows and plates at the World of Disney store at Disneyland but all of these items (and still more that I haven’t shown here!) are available to purchase online at the Disney Store. Search for “Adventureland” and you should be able to find it all.

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It’s a bit odd that some of the items feature the tiki mascot from Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, which is a Disney World hotel and not part of Adventureland at all (or even the Magic Kingdom park). However, there is a precedent, as this little interloper also snuck in via the Polynesian Luau Party Bowl (by Kevin Kidney & Jody Daily) that was part of the Enchanted Tiki Room’s 50th Anniversary merchandise.

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I liked this Enchanted Tiki Room parrot plate ($14.95), but the lightweight bamboo material and raised screen print made it feel a bit cheap to me. (Same goes for the Poly plate above, which is the same material.)

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On the flip side, the Aloha appetizer plates ($12.95, available in red, blue and green in addition to yellow) are made with sturdier ceramic. (Though they’re still not dishwasher safe — aside from the coffee mug, none of this stuff is.)

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I was also pleased with the quality of the Enchanted Tiki Room appetizer tray and bowl set ($39.95), and I loved how it highlights each of the birds by name. That’s not something I’ve seen all that often.

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The purple scorpion bowl ($24.95) showed some promise but ultimately I was disappointed with how smudged the sculpt appeared in the finished product. I looked at a few other specimens to compare and they all had the same issue. (I’m guessing these weren’t manufactured by Tiki Farm, the company that’s previously produced several mugs and bowls for the park and Trader Sam’s. Their designs have nice, sharp details that these lacked.)

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This hefty green tiki mug ($16.95) features the graphics from the four shields that hang under the A-frame of the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. Still, this one was also missing the “wow factor” for me for whatever reason.

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Much more to my liking were these glass tumblers ($12.95), which come in two designs: the Enchanted Tiki Room tikis and the parrot logo (based on the 1963 art for the attraction).

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Another distinctive Adventureland design is this collage of logos, which Disney has printed on coffee mugs and afghan throws. Like I said, there’s way more tiki merchandise where this came from so I suggest you go check it out!

Related Posts:
Enchanted Tiki Room Easter Egg
Recreation of the Original 1963 Brochure for the Enchanted Tiki Room
More Disney & Tiki Connections