Pleasure Island (Walt Disney World Resort)
The former logo of Pleasure Island.
|Location||Walt Disney World Resort, Downtown Disney, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, U.S.A.|
|Owner||The Walt Disney Company|
|Operated by||Walt Disney Parks and Resorts|
|Opened||May 1, 1989|
|Closed||September 27, 2008|
Pleasure Island was an area of the Downtown Disney shopping, dining and entertainment district at Walt Disney World Resort. It officially opened on May 1, 1989. In September 2008, all of its clubs were closed, however, its retail stores and restaurants remain open. On November 18, 2010, Disney announced that it would be renamed and rethemed to Hyperion Wharf. This revitalization project was expected to be completed by spring 2013. However, the Hyperion Wharf concept is on indefinite hold and is being rethemed to Disney Springs.
Pleasure Island opened emulating Church Street Station in Downtown Orlando, Florida. At that time, this was a highly successful gated attraction which offered admission to multiple clubs for one price.
Pleasure Island is thought[weasel words] to be named for 'Pleasure Island' from the book The Adventures of Pinocchio, upon which Disney's 1940 film Pinocchio is based. In the book, children on the island are allowed to play and never work. These unsupervised children smoke, drink, and generally misbehave (sometimes in adult-like ways). They are eventually punished by being changed into donkeys that are forced to work in salt mines. But in reality, this Pleasure Island was based on the fictitious legend of its owner, Merriweather Adam Pleasure, and was carried on into one of its clubs, The Adventurers Club.
Every night at midnight, "New Year's Eve" was celebrated at Pleasure Island with a fireworks show. This tradition lasted from 1990 through New Year's Eve 2005.
On June 27, 2008, Walt Disney World Resort announced that over the next two years, Pleasure Island's night clubs would be replaced with new stores and restaurants. Disney denied rumors that these changes were due to a decrease in attendance there, stating instead that the company is responding to guest feedback asking for more family friendly experiences. The entertainment venues, including night clubs and comedy clubs, ceased operations on September 27, 2008.
- Former coaches from the Fort Wilderness Railroad, which operated from 1973–1977, were used as ticket booths located at the entrance to the island.
- Effective January 1, 2007, the dance clubs reverted to a policy which required guests to be age 21 or older. Minors could still visit the Comedy Warehouse and Adventurers Club, as well as the shops and restaurants on the island.
- Effective June 27, 2008, customers who purchased annual passes to Pleasure Island can receive a pro-rated refund for that purchase, due to the September 2008 scheduled closure of all of its nightclubs.
Changes in 2006-2009
- Major renovations to Pleasure Island were made in March 2006 in an attempt to reverse declining attendance. These changes included the closing and dismantling of the West End Stage and the Hub Stage. Since there was no longer an entry fee, the free entertainment provided by these stages was attracting large groups of local teens which was considered undesirable. The area formerly occupied by the West End Stage is the location of the new pedestrian bridge to Downtown Disney West Side and provides visitors a greater line-of-sight view from Pleasure Island to the West Side. The removal of the Hub Stage opened a small area to a view of the lagoon located behind Pleasure Island, including a dock.
- In late June 2006, a life-size Jessica Rabbit sign above the facility of "Pleasure Island Tonight!" was removed.
- The construction of new docks allow boat transportation links between West Side, Pleasure Island, Marketplace, and Disney resorts across the lagoon and up the Sassagoula River.
- In late June 2008, Disney announced that the six remaining night clubs at Pleasure Island would close by September 28, 2008, to make room for additional family-oriented entertainment. Disney officials stated that the Pleasure Island nightclub closures are in response to customers who desire more broad-based dining and retail opportunities.
- In 2009, a building that previously housed stores and a fast food restaurant was completely renovated by E-Brands, the operator of the Samba Room restaurant in Orlando, into Paradiso 37, a Central/South American-themed restaurant.
- In February 2009, amid rumors of a partial reopening of Pleasure Island, Disney announced that three former clubs would become available for private party rentals. Motion, Soundstage Club, and Adventurers Club were available for rental through the end of March 2010.
September 27, 2008 was Pleasure Island's last night. Among the capacity crowd were many of its past actors and cast members, some of whom started to line up at 9am to ensure entrance to what would be a very emotional and busy night.
Highlights included Frankie and the West End Boys playing on the waterfront stage.
At midnight, "New Year's Eve" was celebrated one last time. A fireworks show was complemented by popular songs heard on the island over the years. The final song played in Mannequins was "Everybody’s Free ( To Feel Good)" by Rozalla. With that, Pleasure Island was officially shut down. By the next day, many of the clubs' signs and logos were being removed or painted over.
On November 10, 2010 Disney announced Hyperion Wharf would be the new name for Pleasure Island. The new theme of the island would be an early 20th-century nautical warehouse district. $3.2 million in new lighting features were to be added, in addition to a waterfront entertainment area and a lighthouse structure. No names for shops, restaurants or entertainment venues were announced. There was no indication that any of the former clubs would reopen.
Permits and plans showed the buildings which formerly housed the Motion and Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club, Adventurers Club and BET Soundstage Club would be demolished. The buildings which formerly housed the Comedy Warehouse, 8TRAX and Mannequins clubs would remain. Demolition of Motion and Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club took place between December 2010 and February 2011. Earlier in 2010, the bridge from the Downtown Disney Marketplace to Pleasure Island was widened to accommodate a new, wider pedestrian pathway across the island.
Further club demolitions have not taken place as of June 2012 and original renovation plans are on indefinite hold. References to the Hyperion Wharf name have been removed from Disney websites as they retheme whatever they plan to build.
On December 3, 2012, Disney allowed the trademark for Hyperion Wharf to expire.
Disney Springs, announced on Thursday 14 March 2013, is the expansion and redevelopment of Downtown Disney that will see it approximately double in size. Construction begins in April 2013 and will be complete in 2016. Disney Springs will double the number of shops, restaurants and other venues for guests to explore, resulting in more than 150 establishments. In addition, Staggs noted, Central Florida stands to benefit from the expansion with more jobs, tax revenues and business opportunities.
Drawing inspiration from Florida’s waterfront towns and natural beauty, Disney Springs will include four outdoor neighborhoods interconnected by a flowing spring and vibrant lakefront. In addition to a new gateway with a signature water tower and grand entry, the destination will feature:
- The Town Center, which offers a sophisticated mix of shopping and dining along with a promenade where guests can relax, refresh and reconnect.
- A colorful and thriving commercial district called The Landing with inspired dining and beautiful waterfront views.
- The family-friendly Marketplace that will continue to delight guests of all ages by combining new experiences, such as an over-the-water pedestrian causeway, along with classic Disney favorites, including an expanded World of Disney store.
- A West Side that provides an exuberant atmosphere with lively entertainment, along with a series of new elevated spaces that provide both shade and an overlook to the activity below.
Collectively, these efforts will not only have an impact within Walt Disney World, but will also have an economic ripple effect on Central Florida. The project will create an estimated 1,200 construction jobs and nearly 4,000 operational roles.
Disney will share more details on specific experiences coming to Disney Springs in the future. Construction is slated to begin next month with new areas opening in phases. Disney Springs is expected to be complete in 2016.
The restaurants and shops on Pleasure Island are expected to remain open during the renovations that are required in order to shut down its entertainment venues.
- Fulton's Crab House — A seafood restaurant which has been operated by Levy Restaurants since March 10, 1996. It originally opened on May 1, 1977 as the Empress Lilly. The head chef is Frank Walason.
- Paradiso 37 — A North, South and Central American restaurant named for the 37 countries located in those areas, and includes a food court section as well as an upscale tequila bar. It features a focus on dishes famously sold by street vendors in those countries. This restaurant is managed by E Brands, and was the first new restaurant to open from the Pleasure Island renovations which began in 2008. It is located in a building which formerly housed shops and a fast food restaurant. Dishes include sandwiches, steaks, chicken, and an extensive appetizer menu. Paradiso 37 opened on June 4, 2009.
- Portobello Restaurant — An Italian restaurant patterned after an osteria. It opened with the clubs in 1989. Portobello Restaurant was known as Portobello Yacht Club until renovations in late 2008.
- Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant — Operated by Great Irish Pubs Florida. It opened in October 2005, replacing Merriweather's Market and the Pleasure Island Jazz Company.
- T-rex Cafe - Opened in 2008 as a Pleasure Island venue. Similar to Rainforest Cafe, it features animatronic animals (specifically prehistoric animals) in a themed setting. This is a marketplace restaurant according to some maps. It is operated by Landry's Restaurants.
For many years, a number of small shops and boutiques were located between the Adventurers Club and Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club. Many of these shops closed in March 2006 as part of the renovation of the island. However, Disney has begun to reintroduce selected stores on the island.
- Curl by Sammy Duvall — A surf-themed retail establishment operated by Florida-based water skier Sammy Duvall. Curl opened in 2008, replacing Superstar Studios.
- Fuego by Sosa Cigars — A cigar bar which opened in 2007, located near the center of the island.
- Orlando Harley-Davidson — A "gear shop" operated by Orlando's Harley-Davidson franchiser. It opened in 2005, located near Raglan Road.
- Superstar Studios — A long-time "make-your-own-video" studio which was replaced by Curl by Sammy Duvall in 2008.
- The Jessica Rabbit Store - A store featuring nothing but Jessica Rabbit from the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. A neon leg-swinging Jessica sign used to hang over the building until the store closed in 1992. In 1993 it was relocated to the West End Stage where it resided until 2006.
- The Empress Lilly — An authentic recreation of a 19th-century paddle steamer boat in Rococo (Louis XIV) style. It was operated by Disney and named in homage to Walt Disney's's wife Lillian. Upon becoming Fulton's Crab House, the boat lost its paddle wheel and smokestacks. It was divided into four separate restaurants and lounges, including the Baton Rouge Lounge, Steerman's Quarters, Fisherman's Deck, and the Empress Room.
- Fireworks Factory — A pyrotechnics-themed restaurant operated by Levy Restaurants. According to the island's fictional backstory, Merriweather Pleasure manufactured fireworks in the building until one of his cigars caused an explosion. The restaurant was decorated with authentic pyrotechnic props from the Grucci family. It operated from 1989–1997, and was replaced by the Motion dance club.
- Merriweather's Market — A food court that operated from 1989–1993, and was replaced by Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant in October 2005.
- Planet Hollywood - Although this restaurant is still at Downtown Disney it was a Pleasure Island attraction when it opened in 1994. In 1998 it moved to West Side.
- 8TRAX — A 1970s and 1980s themed dance club. It closed on September 27, 2008. The club opened in 1994, replacing:
- Videopolis East — Opened in 1989, playing new wave music on 170 video screens. In 1990 it was renamed Cage, adding more progressive music before closing in 1993.
- Adventurers Club — A 1930s-style British explorers' club that featured a staff of flamboyant characters portrayed by improv actors. The club closed on September 27, 2008.
- BET Soundstage — A hip-hop and R&B dance club operated by Black Entertainment Television (formerly BET Holdings Inc). It closed on September 27, 2008. The licensing agreement with BET Holdings Inc. was created before Black Entertainment Television was purchased by Viacom in 2000. The club opened in 1998, replacing:
- Neon Armadillo — A club featuring live country music bands, it operated from 1989-1998.
- Celebrate Tonight — An outdoor dance party featuring DJs and cast members known as the Party Team. Focused mainly on families with children, it opened in early April 2009 and closed on June 26, 2010. It took place in the large brick expanse between the former Comedy Warehouse and BET Soundstage, an area renamed Celebration Plaza.
- Comedy Warehouse — A nightclub which featured an improv comedy troupe. It originally featured a parody show called "Forbidden Disney". The club soon attracted a large return audience. The move to the improv format after a couple of seasons was made to keep the show fresh. The club closed September 27, 2008.
- Mannequins Dance Palace — A techno-trance multi-story dance club which featured a revolving lighted dance floor. The club featured nightly light shows with synchronized music and live performances by human "mannequins". The club closed on September 27, 2008.
- Motion — A dance club which featured Top 40 music videos. It closed September 27, 2008. The club opened in 2001, replacing:
- Fireworks Factory
- Wildhorse Saloon — A country music dance club and BBQ restaurant which opened in 1998 to capitalize on the country/western dance craze at the time. It was operated by Levy Restaurants and Gaylord Entertainment Company, which also operated a Wildhorse in Nashville, Tennessee. They eventually sold their interest in the building back to Disney, and the venue closed in 2001.
- Pleasure Island Jazz Company — A club featuring live jazz musicians which opened on August 27, 1993. It was replaced by Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant in October 2005.
- Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club — A rock-themed dance club which featured live bands (usually local cover bands). It closed on February 2, 2008. The club opened on April 4, 1990, replacing:
- XZFR Rockin' Rollerdrome — A short lived club where guests could strap on skates and dance to rock and roll
- West End Stage - A stage used for events every night. The roof of the stage was torn down in 2009 and most of the stage was taken to the Disney Boneyard with small parts intact. It was replaced by Celebration Plaza in 2009.
- AMC Pleasure Island 24 - In April 1997 these theaters opened as a Pleasure Island attraction but in January 1998 AMC became a part of West Side. The name was changed in 2010 to AMC Theaters Downtown Disney 24.
In popular culture
- "Itchy & Scratchy Land", a Simpsons episode from 1994, features the family visiting the theme park Itchy and Scratchy Land, an obvious parody[opinion] of Walt Disney World. Marge and Homer visit "Parents' Island", which features a '70s-themed dance club where New Year's Eve is celebrated every night.
- The March 2006 South Park episode The Return of Chef showed the character of Chef becoming a member of a club called the Super Adventure Club (intended to parody Scientology). The layout of the headquarters of the Super Adventure Club was patterned after the interior of Pleasure Island's Adventurers Club. It is believed that the research for this episode was done on South Park co-creator Trey Parker's honeymoon.
- Disney Announces Changes For Pleasure Island - News Story - WFTV Orlando
- The party's over at Pleasure Island: Disney to shut down 6 nightclubs - OrlandoSentinel.com
- "Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World - WDWHistory.com".
- Pleasure Island to Close September 2008
- Bevil, Dewayne (Mar 5, 2009). "E Brands". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
- "Paradiso 37 menu". WDW Magic. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
- "Portobello Restaurant Official Website". Portobello Restaurant. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
- Pleasure Island News & Information Website
- Save P.I.: The Radio Revolution website
- Stop Disney from Closing Pleasure Island Facebook Group