The Adventurers Club was a themed nightclub in Pleasure Island at the Walt Disney World Resort. It was styled after a private club for world travelers and explorers and was set in 1937. The walls of the club were covered with artifacts and photographs from various explorations. The Adventurers Club featured animatronics, puppets, and a cast of adventurers who performed in shows and improvisational comedy while mingling with the club's patrons. Shows and conversation were often laced with innuendo, and the patrons might have been welcomed as guests, given fictitious names and "recognized" as fellow adventurers, or simply referred to as "drunks".
The Adventurers Club opened with the rest of Pleasure Island on May 1, 1989 as part of a fictional legend about the island's previous owner, Merriweather Adam Pleasure, and back-story describing each of the buildings' former uses. As told in this backstory, the Adventurers Club was built by Pleasure as a library and personal museum for his extensive collection of books and artifacts and a place to entertain his fellow explorers and adventurers.
The Adventurers Club's unlikely hero, Emil Bleehall, is based on a semi-autobiographical character Cox created. He is a little guy from Ohio who wins over the higher authorities and gains their respect and admiration with his seemingly awkward, modest, but ultimately unique crowd-pleasing talents. Cox felt it paralleled his own story at Disney. A docudramatic version of Cox’s journey at Disney by Sandra Tsing Loh, called, "It Happened in Glendale" from her Book, Depth Takes a Holiday was performed on the radio show, This American LIfe episode "Something for Nothing."
Until December 31, 2005, every night in Pleasure Island was celebrated as New Year's Eve. The clubs show schedule was set to create a break near midnight to allow people to go outside to see the fireworks, and to accommodate the noisy explosions that resulted. One of the launch points for the nightly fireworks was the Adventurers Club's rooftop.
On September 26, 2009, props from the Club would be sent to Hong Kong Disneyland. The props were to be worked into the Mystic Point expansion.
The last public performance was held September 27, 2008 to overflowing crowds. The Adventurers Club reunited for one last performance and "membership renewal" at the Disney D23 Destination D event on Sunday, November 23, 2014 at around 8:30PM in the Disney's Contemporary Resort Fantasia conference building and rooms. Additionally, members of the Adventurers Club appeared during the 2017 Half-Marathon Wine and Dine Weekend as a character photo-opportunity along the path.
The Adventurers Club was designed and created by Walt Disney Imagineering in the late 1980s. Walt Disney Imagineering is the design and development arm of The Walt Disney Company, responsible for the creation and construction of Disney theme parks worldwide. Chris Carradine, the Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering, played a significant role in the creation of the club.
The origins of the club were recently described by Craig McNair Wilson, who worked with the dramatic team for the club. According to Wilson, "it came out of our collective, shared love of the world of the pith helmet and all that circled around it. It was the place we always wanted to go, but it didn't exist."
There was an actual adventurers club, called the Ends of the Earth Club, created in 1903. Its members included Mark Twain, General John Pershing, Admiral Robert Perry, Gutzon Borglum (the sculptor of Mount Rushmore) and more than 100 other prominent businessmen and academics located, primarily, in the northeastern United States. However, there is no evidence that the Disney team was aware of the existence of the club.
The Adventurers Club's role in the greater backstory of Pleasure Island describes it as having been the personal library of Merriweather Adam Pleasure. His growing collection of books and artifacts from around the world had begun crowding the Pleasure family home enough for Isabella to demand something be done with them. Using plans Pleasure won in a game of dominos he would often attribute to famous architects like Sir Edwin Luytens, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Eliel Saarinen, the Adventurers Club opened in 1932 and would become Pleasure's favorite place on the island where he would entertain his fellow explorers and adventurers.
- Hathaway Browne - Aviator, and the club's resident innuendo-making ladies' man.
- Otis T. Wren - Club Treasurer and ichtyologist.
- Fletcher Hodges - Absent-minded Club Curator, he is said to have "mounted every object in the club."
- Pamelia Perkins - Club President.
- Samantha Sterling - Explorer and cabaret singer.
- Emil Bleehall - Contender for the Balderdash Cup. Hails from Sandusky, Ohio. The character used to be portrayed as a plaid sport coat-wearing country bumpkin, but is now depicted as a "Junior Adventurer" in a costume that is a pastiche of a Boy Scout uniform. During the final performances, both characters appeared in the show (as Emil Sr. and Emil Jr.).
- Graves - Club Butler.
- The Maid - There were many maids who work in the Adventurers Club and participate in its activities. The only character that changes identity depending on which actor is playing her.
- Madame Zarkov - A mysterious roma woman who makes rare appearances at the Club. This character usually replaces that of Samantha Sterling for an evening. Both Samantha Sterling and Madame Zarkov appeared in the final performances at the club.
- Colonel Critchlow Sunchbench - Club Gleemeister. The colonel is a cable-controlled puppet worked from behind the scenes. He is usually "on duty" (sitting dormant), but he wakes up to lead the new inductees in the club song, and occasionally to converse with guests in the Main Salon.
- Babylonia - A giant stone face on the wall in the Main Salon, the goddess of women and all things fertile, who sometimes speaks.
- The Yakoose - A mounted animal head that occasionally moves and speaks, either to guests or to Babylonia.
- Arnie and Claude - A pair of talking masks in the Mask Room.
- Beezle - A genie whose head appears in the Treasure Room.
- Fingers Zambezi - A haunted organ that provides the music for the Library shows (with animatronic motions that usually have little to do with the music, and timbres that morph from theatre organ to practically any other keyboard instrument, according to the needs of the show).
- Emil Bleehall, Sr. - Emil Bleehall's father. Only appeared on the club's closing weeks.
- Sutter Bestwick - Another normally unseen character who is supposed to be a competitor for the 1937 Balderdash Cup. He, too, is unable to attend due to Otis' exploits. Sutter is also a past winner of the Balderdash Cup for 1930. His only appearance was on the club's closing weekend.
- Chilton Thompson - Although mentioned in the Balderdash Cup and the Radio Broadcast, he is a never seen character that is supposed to be the sound effects man for the Radio Broadcast (but never shows up). He is also a past competitor for the Balderdash Cup, but, due to Otis Wren's doing, is unable to attend for 1937.
- Sheila Griffin - A never seen character, which is supposed to be playing the role of Gretta in New Year's Eve episode of "Tales of the Adventurers Club", but for some unknown reason, does not show up to the Radio Broadcast
- Marcel - A man in an ape suit. Appeared during the early days of the clubs existence, and in the Hoopla of the club's closing night, during which he invited the permanent members of the Adventurers Club to accompany him on a year-long safari.
- Plaid Monkey - This was an invented character by the performers in later years. He was sometimes joked about, but very rarely made appearances. The character was a quick combination of the Marcel monkey mask and plaid jacket props that were no longer in regular use.
- Nash - In the early years all bartenders were simply called Nash, no matter who was actually working that job at the time.
- Dave the Soundman - The name of the Tech of the day, no matter what the Tech's name actually is.
- The Zebra Mezzanine - The top floor of the club. The club entrance leads into the mezzanine, which forms a circular balcony around the Main Salon. The walls feature many artifacts, and a framed parchment of the Club Creed. Primarily Graves' domain, the adventurers spend limited time here except for certain rituals (e.g. an exorcism or the Rhythm Ritual). This area featured a rarely used extra bar near the staircase into the Main Salon that was only used during particularly busy nights.
- The Main Salon - The central room of the club. The Main Salon houses the nightclub's primary bar, and also has a small stage from which the adventurers often speak or lead shows such as the New Member Induction Ceremony. The centerpiece of the Main Salon is a larger-than-life statue that some say is titled "Zeus Goes Fishing", but alternatively referred to as "God with Rod". It is a replica of the famous Artemision Bronze. The walls of this room are filled with even more artifacts than on the Mezzanine, and many have placards giving their history and importance to the fictional former owner of the island, Merriweather Pleasure.
- The Mask Room - A small room off the Main Salon that features several shows throughout the night. The walls are covered with masks from around the world, many of which move and laugh. Two large Bacchanalian-inspired masks at the front of the room, Arnie and Claude, also talk and move their eyes.
- The Treasure Room - Another small room off the Main Salon, the Treasure Room contains additional artifacts gathered by the club, and also hosts several shows throughout the night which feature the genie-head-in-a-lantern special effect.
- The Library - This room is the largest in the club and hosts the larger (and mostly scripted) shows, many of which are musical in nature. This room also includes an additional bar, and is the home of Fingers Zambezi.
The Adventurers Club offered many shows throughout the night. The main shows were hosted in the library, which seated over 100 people, while smaller shows occurred in the Mask Room and Treasure Room, seating about 40 people each. The times were not always fixed, but there were plaques next to each room to show the schedule for that particular evening. The shows mostly follow a script and order of songs and jokes, but performers would sometimes make running jokes about guests' behavior, dress, or place of origin. Some guests would be invited to participate. Shows include:
- Welcome Party (Library). Samantha Sterling and Fletcher Hodges throw a welcome party to get the open house off to a good start.
- Radio Broadcast (Library). Otis and Pamelia lead a version of their weekly old-style radio broadcast, "Tales of the Adventurers Club", in which half of the cast is missing and must be replaced by audience members (can't do a half cast show). The broadcast is a serial radio show, akin to those of "The Shadow" or "Little Orphan Annie".
- The Balderdash Cup Competition (Library). The Adventurer of the Year wins the Balderdash Cup. The Balderdash Cup ceremony always ended with Emil Bleehall winning, as judged by crowd applause. However, on the club's final night, the crowd decided to applaud and cheer for Otis T. Wren, allowing him to win the cup for the fourth time.
- The RadioThon (Library). The club uses its radio broadcasting ability to attempt to raise $2,000 and save the club from losing its lease, finding some trouble along the way.
- The New Member Induction Ceremony (Main Salon). Every night in the Adventurers Club is the night of their membership drive. The ceremony is performed 3 times throughout the night, hosted by different characters each time.
- The Club Salute - This is where new adventurers learn the true meaning of the club's greeting, "Kungaloosh!", and the secret salute to accompany it.
- The Club Creed - A recitation of the Official Creed.
- The Club Song - The Colonel is awakened to teach the crowd the club's anthem, though he usually misunderstands which song is expected of him at first.
- Samantha's Cabaret (Library). Featurer Samantha Sterling performing musical numbers.
- The Maid's Sing-Along (Library). The Maid leads the audience in song.
- The Rhythm Ritual - A show centered in the Main Salon that leads into the Hoopla. The Ritual usually features all the adventurers looking down from the balconies of the mezzanine as they take turns performing humorous solos on percussive instruments. The ritual usually builds to a crescendo as they come downstairs into the Main Salon, all playing their instruments together. Then the Colonel responds to the sound by coming off duty and shouting out rhythmic but often nonsensical phrases for the patrons to repeat, finalizing in the announcement of the Hoopla.
- The Hoopla - The Adventurers Club evening finale. At the end of the Rhythm Ritual, the Library doors open and the guests are seated. The Hoopla is hosted by Samantha Sterling, and always begins with a sing-along of "The Happy Wanderer". There are usually two or three other numbers performed by other adventurers, then the show is always concluded with Samantha leading everyone in "When the Saints Go Marching In", with each remaining adventurer creating a verse. The actors either invent a new verse on the spur of the moment or reuse one they've previously found to be effective.
There were shows done in earlier operational years of the club, but for various reasons were discontinued. These include the beer tasting session (where guests would vote on the beer of the evening), "Fingers Plays Requests" (where guests would try to stump the organist's knowledge of tunes), Madam Zarkov's show, and more.
During the Club's run, several unique traditions emerged. Some date back to the opening day of the club, others were added over the years.
- Kungaloosh - "Kungaloosh" is the Club's official greeting and its official beverage.
- Club Salute - The official means of recognition between members of the Adventurers Club. It is a three-step process. First, place the heel of your right hand just above your navel and wiggle it like a swimming fish. Then, raise that hand to your mouth and take a drink from an imaginary glass of the properly chilled adult beverage of your choice. Finally, raise your hand above your head and declare "Kungaloosh!"
- Hoopla - The Bon-Voyage Hoopla was traditionally the final Library show of the night. Whenever one of the members of the Club were to mention the word "Hoopla" it was traditional to shout "Hoopla!" back at him or her.
- All-Purpose Theme Song - The Adventurers Club All-Purpose Theme Song was sung at all major club functions, including all New-Member Induction Ceremonies and during the Club's radio broadcasts.
"Marching along we're adventurers
Singing the song of adventurers
Up or down
North, south, east, or west,
An Adventurer's life is best.
- The Club Creed
We climb the highest mountains,
just to get a better view.
We plumb the deepest oceans,
cause we're daring through and through.
We cross the scorching deserts,
martini in our hands.
We ski the polar ice caps,
in tuxedo looking grand.
We are reckless, brave, and loyal,
and valiant to the end.
If you come in here a stranger,
you will exit as a friend.
~Merriweather Adam Pleasure
Club Founder 1927
- The Club Motto - "Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you, but always dress for the hunt!"
Another tradition was when a regular performer left the cast, a custom-designed artifact with obscure references to that person was placed on display to memorialize them; many of these were kept in a locked cabinet in the Treasure Room.
In the club's early years, they offered a newsletter called the Adventurers Almanac that featured short stories and letter sections exploring the backgrounds of the different characters. The Almanac would also allow subscribed members to send their own artifacts to the club, though Disney's legal department would shut down this part of the idea and the expense of printing the newsletter for a small readership lead to its cancellation.
Throughout the years the costumes of the main characters changed several times. Emil Bleehall originally wore a plaid jacket and resembled a traveling salesman. This was later changed to a green "Junior Adventurer" outfit, reminiscent of a Boy Scout uniform. Hathaway Browne wore a Green Jacket, which was later supplanted by a leather aviator coat. As a result of the many layers of the newer costume, his character was often the object of jokes during the hot Florida summers. Fletcher Hodges went through one of the more strange transitions, switching from a professor lab coat to a "ponga" skirt with boxer shorts, then back to pants again. Pamelia Perkins originally wore a purple dress, then graduated to a blue dress with a prominent "Club President" sash. She continued to wear the sash through the rest of her costumes, including a bright dress reminiscent of a peacock (complete with a stuffed peacock hat) and her final costume, which was a red and blue kimono.
The later costumes were more outrageous than the earlier ones to make the characters stand out, and sometimes at the desires of new show directors. The cast would sometimes also add personal touches of their own, with some wearing different hats or carrying props.
Connection to the Jungle Cruise
There are several cross references between the Adventurers Club and the Magic Kingdom Jungle Cruise attraction, both themed to the same era of time. Some of the artifacts in the club are attributed to scenes on the Jungle Cruise. The fastpass machines at the Jungle Cruise are designed to resemble travel trunks. Two of these have nametags on the top, one with Emil's address, and one with Pamelia's. Recently the tags have gone missing, either from vandalism or a deliberate redesign of the machines. In addition, several "artifacts" throughout the queue are labeled as belonging to a private collection from the Adventurers Club, including its physical address.
The Skipper Canteen restaurant has the Perkins Thai Noodles named after Pamela Perkins and uses Kungaloosh as a name for a dessert.
Connections to the Society of Explorers and Adventurers
Artifacts from the club such as some of the living masks were relocated to the Explorer's Club Restaurant at Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Point. Framed journal pages accompanying the masks dated to June 19, 1908 have Lord Henry Mystic noting seeing the eyes move when he had them in the house and deciding to move them to the restaurant to ease his mind.
At the Aulani resort kids club, Aunty's Beach House, a portrait that once hung in the Adventurer's Club and a letter from Pamelia Perkins identifies and retcons the figures depicted as being of a predecessor to the Adventurer's Club known as the "Pillagers Brigade" with a younger Harrison Hightower III of Tokyo Disney Sea's Tower of Terror among them, years before he joined SEA and eventually found the Shiriki Utundu Idol.
Further connections to SEA emerged in the Skipper Canteen with the SEA membership fez of Merriweather Adam Pleasure being found on display near the SEA room. More props from the Club can be found throughout the restaurant.
- https://www.thisamericanlife.org/62/something-for-nothing/act-four - "Something for Nothing."
- Wade Sampson, "Craig McNair Wilson Remembers the Adventurers Club," Mouse Planet, Oct. 29, 2008, http://www.mouseplanet.com/8558/Craig_McNair_Wilson_Remembers_the_Adventurers_Club.
- "Ends of the Earthers Foregather Here Again: And Astonish Mark Twain with Some Very Brief Reports," New York Times, Feb. 17, 1906, at 9.
- "Gathered From the Ends of the Earth to Dine," New York Times, March 31, 1904, at 5.
- Wade Sampson, "Craig McNair Wilson Remembers the Adventurers Club," Mouse Planet, Oct. 29, 2008, http://www.mouseplanet.com/8558/Craig_McNair_Wilson_Remembers_the_Adventurers_Club; see also IMDB bio for Chris Carradine, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0139935/bio.
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