By and large, the Walt Disney World Resort knows how to eat.
Hollywood Studios has four or five incredibly solid dining options. Epcot is a virtual foodie wonderland. While not covered in restaurants, Animal Kingdom at least brings in some unique Asian and African fare. And, frankly, every one of the moderate and deluxe resorts throws up a respectable offering.
Then, for years, there was the Magic Kingdom. In addition to what was a standing no-alcohol policy, there was also no real flagship dining at the park either. Sure, they had “The Liberty Tree Tavern” and “Tony’s Town Square”, but those were far from “destination” restaurants. I think it’s easy to forget about ‘Cinderella’s Royal Table” because to me, while it was there, it never really felt accessible. It was more of a dining experience than a restaurant in a more traditional sense.
Then, mercifully, the “Be Our Guest Restaurant” opened at the end of 2012 and things changed. In addition to elegantly working in it’s “Beauty and the Beast” theme, the food is exceptional and the service is superb. It’s so good in fact, best of luck to you getting a reservation less than six months out or, for that matter, walking in before 9:00 P.M.
Well, one of the overlooked little gems of the D23 expo was the announcement that the “Be Our Guest” is about to get some help. Due to open in late 2015, the new “Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen” restaurant threatens to delight diners with some nostalgic technicolor throw-back Disney Magic.
I love everything about this decision. Putting it in Adventureland – the smallest of the themed areas at Disneyworld – and then theming it to what has become a minor attraction, just all seems incredibly bold.
Let’s not pull punches here. People visit Adventureland for “The Pirates of the Caribbean” and with “Pirates” finishing up an extended refurbishment (expected to reopen at the end of September), Adventureland has been a ghost town this summer.
I’m not saying Adventureland has bad attractions, but by modern standards, the “Swiss Family Robinson Tree House”, the “Enchanted Tiki Room” and the ‘Jungle Cruise” itself, are all incredibly dated. They don’t offer thrills. They don’t really appeal to the younger generations.
But boy do they have nostalgia.
The Robison family’s tree house recalls those golden days of “Walt Disney’s World of Color” and serves up a nice reminder that Disney’s early successes were inspired by literature. “The Enchanted Tiki Room” plays to that 1950’s post-war fascination with the pacific islands – a time when America’s dream vacation was to a Hawaiian beach, wearing a lei and listening to Don Ho.
Then you come back around to the “Jungle Cruise”. It’s as if a National Geographic magazine and the film, “The African Queen”, had a baby and that baby had an iron stomach for puns and terrible humor. Everything about it is old and dated and perfect – from the shrunken head salesman to the auto-animatronic elephants shooting water from their trunks.
This attraction bores my children to death and I love it.
Epcot tells us that Disney knows food. The “Be Our Guest Restaurant” tell us that Disney is taking Magic Kingdom dining more seriously. The fact that they made the “Jungle Cruise” the inspiration for this new endeavor, shows they remember where they came from.
I couldn’t be more excited.
The “Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen” is set to open at the end of 2015. If you missed it, Dwayne Johnson is also set to start in an forthcoming “Jungle Cruise” film.
I guess everything does eventually come back around again, doesn’t it?
(Photos: Disney Parks Blog)
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