The attraction opened on June 23, 1963 and was the first attraction to feature Audio-Animatronics, a WED Enterprises patented invention. The attraction's first commercial sponsor was United Airlines but sponsorship soon passed over to Hawaii's Dole Food Company who remains the sponsor to the present day. The attraction was actually, at first, separated from Disneyland in the fact that Walt Disney personally owned it himself through his own company, WED Enterprises, instead of the rest of Disneyland, which was, and still is, owned by the Walt Disney Company (then Walt Disney Productions). The show was originally going to be a restaurant featuring Audio-Animatronic birds serenading guests as they ate and drank. Testaments to the original design may be seen in the restrooms located on the lanai just outside the entrance to the show itself as well as the central "Magic Fountain", originally intended to be a coffee bar. A commercial kitchen, presently unused and out of sight of guests once served the defunct Tahitian Terrace and would have served the Tiki Room as well.
Since computers have played a central role in the attraction since its inception, Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room was also Disneyland's first fully air-conditioned building. The attraction opened in an era when all things Polynesian were popular and was an immediate hit. It houses a Hawaiian-themed musical show "hosted" by four lifelike macaws whose plumage matches their implied countries of origin. "José" is red, white, and green and speaks with a Mexican accent, voiced by Wally Boag; "Michael" is white and green with an Irish brogue, voiced by Fulton Burley; "Pierre" is blue, white, and red, and has a French accent courtesy of the voice actors of Ernie Newton while red, black, and white "Fritz" has a German accent provided by Thurl Ravenscroft, who also voices Hawaiian god "Tangaroa" near the attraction's entrance. The main birds have changed color over the years. In 1965, the four host birds had almost identical plumage of white, green, yellow, and blue. The four macaws, as well as all the other birds, are plumed with real feathers with the exception of chest plumage. The chests are covered in custom-woven cashmere which allows the figures to "breathe" in a lifelike manner. The choice came quite by accident; in a planning meeting, Harriet Burns noticed a cashmere sweater that Walt Disney was wearing which moved at the elbows exactly the way the engineers envisioned. So innovative was the technology by 1963 standards that an Audio-Animatronic talking bird once located near the walkway to beckon visitors inside caused enormous traffic jams of visitors trying to catch a glimpse of it.
While waiting outside in a lanai area for the show to start, visitors are serenaded by songs from the album Steel Guitar Magic - Hawaiian Style. Hawaiian gods are represented as well around the perimeter of the lanai and each has a story to tell via Audio-Animatronics. A brief documentary of the history of the pineapple is presented as well. The story, filmed in the early 1960s and updated at the end with a Macromedia Flash presentation of a parade of Dole products, is shown on a rear-projection screen on the rear of the roof of the Dole snack bar at the entrance to the lanai. Other than the removal of a minor musical number set to the "Barcarolle" from Jacques Offenbach's opera Tales of Hoffmann, the removal of a verse of In The Tiki Room and a whistled opening of Let's All Sing Like The Birdies Sing which included José's introduction of the song as the Tiki Room's "national anthem", the show has remained the same since its 1963 inception and as such is arguably dated. One chorus of Let's All Sing Like The Birdies Sing has José crooning like Bing Crosby, Fritz scat-singing in a gravelly voice like that of Louis Armstrong and Pierre singing like Maurice Chevalier. Still, the attraction remains among the park's most popular.
The show re-opened in March 2005 to standing-room-only crowds after a seven-month refurbishment, commissioned by new Disneyland management in a bid to restore the park to its former glory for its Happiest Homecoming on Earth. Previous park management had let standards all over the park (and in fact the entire resort) slip; feathers were regularly falling out of the Audio-Animatronics, the thatched roof of the building was breaking away in broad daylight, and the movements of the Audio-Animatronics were noisy and slow. After the renovation, virtually all of the original show and storyline remained but with a digitally remastered audio track mixed by the same person who remastered sounds of Disneyland for a special golden anniversary commemoration set. The attraction also received a new sound system both indoors and out and completely new Audio-Animatronics; they look identical to the previous ones but have state-of-the-art equipment inside. Updates in technology allowed Walt Disney Imagineering to create a show for the heightened expectations of 21st Century audiences while retaining the elements of the classic presentation.
The Tiki Room would be one of the opening day attractions at the Magic Kingdom, debuting on October 1, 1971, as part of a complex known as the Sunshine Pavilion, which included it and the Sunshine Tree Terrace (which would switch locations with Aloha Isle Refreshments in 2015). Here it would be retitled Tropical Serenade and feature a different pre-show featuring two toucans named Clyde and Claude voiced by Dallas McKennon and Sebastian Cabot. After introducing themselves, they began telling a story of how they found the Sunshine Pavilion and Tiki Room within when escaping from various animals on the Jungle Cruise. A cast member stopped their story to tell them the show inside was about to start and guests entered the room for a copy of Disneyland's show. This template was used for Tokyo Disneyland's Tiki Room.
However, by the 1990s, plummeting attendance, often resulting from people leaving during the Offenbach sequence, leading to a complete overhaul of the attraction in the form of The Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management, hosted by Iago and Zazu. The old version closed on September 1, 1997, and re-opened as the new show on April 5, 1998. The attraction was criticized for its weak attempts at being hip and relevant and the general cynicism Iago's inclusion resulted in, but the attraction would not be altered until 2011 when a fire broke out in the attraction's attic. The attraction would be transformed into a version of the original, trimmed down for pacing and not including the Enchanted Fountain, which was removed for the Under New Management version and opened on August 14. The original preshow would also make a return, with the voices of McKennon and Cabot restored.
Tokyo Disneyland's Tiki Room is a blending of elements of both of its American counterparts, taking the exterior and pre-show of the Magic Kingdom version, but also featuring most of the Tiki God sculptures from Disneyland.
The Tokyo Disneyland version of the Tiki Room would go under a contemporary overhaul as well in 1999, with The Enchanted Tiki Room: Get the Fever!, utilizing new hosts and music with a story of waking the long-dormant Tiki Gods with a party. This version would be replaced by The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai! on July 25, 2008, incorporating Stitch and music from the film and television series into the show.
According to the book Disneyland Detective by Kendra Trahan, the "cast list" breaks down as follows:
54 singing orchids
4 totem poles
12 tiki drummers
24 singing masks
7 birds of paradise (the plant variety)
9 forktail birds
20 assorted tropical birds
The frozen soft-serve Dole Whip dessert served on the lanai is available in only one other place in the world other than Disneyland or The Magic Kingdom, namely Dole Foods in Hawaii. No other Disney theme parks serve the snack.
During the development of attractions for the 1964 New York World's Fair, Disney proposed a variant of the Enchanted Tiki Room to serve as a show for Coca-Cola's pavilion, titled "Legends of the Enchanted Tiki" with all the Tiki Room's elements reconfigured to fit on a tropical island set with a volcano backdrop.
The main birds all have distinct nationalities: José is Mexican, Pierre is French, Michael is Irish, and Fritz is German.
This fact can be proved not only by the birds' accents, but by the colors of their feathers as well (i.e. José is red, white, and green like the Mexican flag).