The next two attractions in Adventureland are “Rafts to Tarzan’s Treehouse“ and “Tarzan’s Treehouse.” Disney counts these as two distinct attractions, but I have a problem with this. Since all you can do once you’ve ridden the rafts is visit the treehouse (and you must ride the rafts in order to experience the treehouse), I hardly feel you can separate the two. But once again, Disney is desperate to increase their attraction count in Hong Kong.
The rafts are the same make and model as the ones we ride to get to Tom Sawyer Island. The only difference, the rafts here bear the names of Kala and Terk. The dock is uninspired and there is no shade for the queue.
Once you reach the island, you walk through a grotto-like area with waterfalls and lush foliage. You even pass by an audioanimatronic baby elephant that squirts water. This is a nice touch.
I liked Tarzan’s Treehouse. I have never believed that all rides need to be of the “E” ticket caliber and this attraction proves my point. It’s pleasant to look at from afar. Almost anyone can enjoy it. It’s simple. And it will make you smile. What more do you need?
When I first saw Tarzan’s Treehouse at Disneyland California, I wished that Disney would upgrade the Swiss Family version here in Florida. Kids today aren’t familiar with the Swiss Family Robinson movie. They are with Tarzan.
The final attraction in Adventureland is “Festival of the Lion King.” Before I talk about the Hong Kong version, I’d like to give you a little history lesson.
When Disney was planning the Animal Kingdom, their plans called for “Beastly Kingdom.” This was going to be the land where mythical beasts lived and played. But pesky budgets got in the way and it was decided to hold off building this area until a later date. In the meantime, Disney decided to build Camp Minnie-Mickey as a sort of place holder. This would help give the park a more complete look at opening, could be built relatively cheaply, and would eventually be removed once Beastly Kingdom was given the green light. Thus was born the Festival of the Lion King.
Theatrical shows are generally cheaper to put together than building a full-fledged ride. And to save even more money, Disney used old parade floats from Disneyland California. They also built an open-air theater. Why build walls if you’re just going to tear them down at a later date? And finally, they used relatively inexpensive bench seating on risers. In the scheme of theme park attractions, it wasn’t a major investment to build the Festival of the Lion King theater.
What Disney didn’t bargain for was this show becoming the major crowd-pleaser it became. As Beastly Kingdom was moved further back on the burner, the Festival of the Lion King’s popularity continued to grow. Eventually it was decided to enclose the theater (thank goodness) and I have no idea what would happen if Disney ever did decide to go ahead with Beastly Kingdom. There would be a major outcry if they ever contemplated removing this popular show.
Since the Hong Kong version of this show was intended to be permanent, Disney pulled out all the stops when building this theater. First, the theater was enclosed right from the start. Next, the floats were custom built, not leftovers. And finally, the actual stage area is spectacular.
The basic layout of the theater is the same as the Animal Kingdom’s – a theater in the round. And like Florida, the four floats enter from two sides and take their place around the theater. But their entrance is a little more spectacular. As each float enters, it rotates and pivots before finding its spot. These floats are not on fixed tracks so they have a freedom of movement not available in the Animal Kingdom.
The stage in the center of the theater is fantastic! During the show it frequently rotates and rises in three concentric circles as the dance numbers demand. This effect is used well and adds a nice flair to the show.
Unlike the Animal Kingdom’s version, which is just a “celebration” of the Lion King, the Hong Kong version tries to tell the story of Simba. And instead of four leading actors, the Hong Kong show only has one. A leading lady introduces the show (in English), sings, and tells the story. She also has two monkey-like sidekicks by her side who translate the story into Chinese.
To be honest, I think this is where the Hong Kong show falls short. Even if you’re extremely familiar with the story of the Lion King, following their telling is difficult. I much prefer the Animal Kingdom’s “celebration.”
The Hong Kong version does not have the Tumble Monkeys, which I missed. But they have retained the “flying bird” portion of the show (albeit shorter) and they have two fire twirlers, which are more impressive than our one. In addition, the stage itself adds some fire effects while the actors are tossing their batons.
The finale of the show is great. All four floats move to the center of the stage and turn to face the audience. Then the entire stage rotates and you can see each float pass in front of you. This is very impressive!
Another interesting thing about the shows in Hong Kong”¦ If a performance is scheduled to start at 14:00 (they use the 24-hour clock here), they will tell you to arrive at the theater at 13:50 – just 10 minutes before the show. That’s when they open the doors and they are able to seat the entire theater in just 10 minutes. I liked this a lot. I hate having to arrive at a show an hour early, then sit in the theater for another 30 minutes waiting for it to start.
There are two restaurants in Adventureland, the Tahitian Terrace and the River View CafÃ©. The Tahitian Terrace is a counter service restaurant and serves Southeast Asian cuisine like barbecued noodles and wok dishes. A close observer will notice a number of tiki gods scattered around the restaurant. These tikis are the same ones that entertain guests in the preshow area of the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland California.
The River View CafÃ© is a full service restaurant and sits across from the Jungle River Cruise. Despite its name, very little of the river can be seen from the dining room. It is an open air restaurant and serves meals form Southeast Asia and several regions in China. I ate lunch here one day and it was definitely the best meal I had at Hong Kong Disneyland.
I also noticed that much of the background music playing in Adventureland is the same music you hear in the Animal Kingdom.
Next I’ll be talking about Fantasyland.