On my first visit to Disneyland, I was only four years old. The magic of the park was almost too much for my young, impressionable mind to process. No attraction filled my brain with wonder more than Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room. “Singing birds? Moving plants? And rain? Wasn’t it just sunny outside?” Let’s just say I laughed and I cried terrible & fearful “are-we-going-to-die” tears. It’s fun to revisit each time I’m in the Parks. Despite years of behind the scenes documentaries (and spontaneous history lessons when accompanied by the LP’s own Jeremiah Good and Patrick Hurd) this attraction always takes me back to the excitement of my first visit to a Disney park.
With today’s release of Marvel’s new Disney attraction-based comic, Enchanted Tiki Room #1, an all-ages title, we get to take a more fanciful look at the history of the classic attraction that ignores the animatronic realities of the mechanical birds and trees and replaces them with an other-worldly reality. The first in a five-part series, we are greeted by the omniscient narrator, Tangaroa, a talking tree with a face, who then introduces us to the island and the actual room, which has existed for time untold. It turns out, anything with a soul that enters the Tiki Room can speak their mind! In a Fantasy Island-like premise, the island is welcoming vacationers who are seeking something more from their lives, something only the island can offer. Resolution, acceptance, romance? The fates of these travelers are now in the hands of the Room Enchanted.
The first issue introduces the island as a whole and the actors involved in the series. Tangaroa provides quick bios about Agnes (a washed up actress from Hollywood), Wally (a lonely hearted young man recently out of a tumultuous relationship), and the Randy Family (a materialistic and misguided unit). Chip, a new volunteer at the Tiki Room, is hoping to push forward his career aspirations in the world of entertainment by helping out. Filling out the issue is the cold, hard fact that working with the same people (birds) for fifty years together is not without quarrel. The issue ends on a mysterious note as one last visitor encounters the island, arriving in an unusual fashion and without invitation.
If I had a concern with the issue it would be that between the lost-soul travelers, the new volunteer, the bickering birds and a cliff hanger ending, there is too much going on. As a set-up for a series, it must move fast, but I wasn’t prepared for all the information that would be presented in this one issue. I look forward to future issues handling the mythology of the room rather than expanding too much on the drama of new characters.
Writer Jon Adams, an Eisner and Harvey nominated illustrator and writer, has created a fun story to add depth to the time-honored attraction. It must be difficult to part of the Disney Kingdom and ascribe to it a back story, but the humorous undertones in Adams’ writing remind the reader not to take the outing too seriously. Pay close attention to the writing —Adams’ wicked sense of humor leaks into the narration on almost every page. The art work by Horacio Domingues delivers the kind of whimsy and color one would expect from a mystical, tropical paradise. The panels are playful and, like Adams’ prose, they offer their own surprises and fun gags.
I have enjoyed the other Marvel entries into the attraction-as-a-comic book genre. From Haunted Mansion to Big Thunder and Figment, they allow readers to connect with these amazing properties in new ways. While I never saw (and probably never will) the Steve Guttenberg Tower of Terror movie (though I did sit through the entire Eddie Murphy Mansion…ugh), these comics seem like a safe way to expand on the popularity of an attraction without the huge cost of a Hollywood film, something I’ve always enjoyed about comics. An issue can take a risk; if it doesn’t work — no big whoop. It’s just a comic book.
Four competing story lines may be too much to bite off in a 5 series comic book run, but one thing that does work in Enchanted Tiki Room #1 is that the issue captures the fun of the ride. It should delight readers that place a trip to the Tiki Room high up on their visit to the Parks. (But if you’re one of those people that uses the Tiki Room waiting area as a way to avoid the longer line for Dole Whip outside the turnstiles and then doesn’t stay for the show, you probably won’t appreciate it. You line-dodging punk!)