With construction walls currently surrounding large areas of Pleasure Island, I thought it would be interesting to revisit this Walt Disney World entertainment district as it was in its very earliest of days.
Pleasure Island opened during the late spring of 1989. The 1990 Birnbaum Guide provided this description of the area’s backstory:
“Although Walt Disney World is not otherwise noted for its historic antecedents, a recent ‘discovery’ may change all that. Imagineers tell us that right beside the Empress Lilly at the Disney Village Marketplace, an island was recently unearthed where an enterprising, larger-than-life 19th century ship merchant, one Merriweather Adam Pleasure, held court.
Though the merchant sailing trade was in a decline at the time of his residence, the upsurge of leisure yachting assured the success of Pleasure's Canvas & Sailmaking, Inc. The booming business spawned Pleasure Island, a community developed to abet Mr. Pleasure's pursuit of adventure and excitement. So the story goes. . . and continues.
According to local legend Pleasure turned his entire operation over to his sons while he circumnavigated the globe, but he was lost at sea in 1939. Pleasure Island soon fell into disrepair due to the neglect of his lazy offspring. Enter Disney Imagineers, who have transformed the abandoned lofts, warehouses, and factories into an entertainment complex of nightclubs, restaurants, shops, and movie theaters.”
Here is a list from a Pleasure Island brochure that details the complex’s original nightclubs, restaurants and shops. (Click on the image to bring up a larger, more reader-friendly version.)
Like Disney -MGM Sudios that opened at roughly the same time, Pleasure Island evolved and changed quickly during its first few years of operation.
It was an extremely fun and slightly more innocent place back then. One of its debut nightclubs was Videopolis East, an under-18 only club that was inspired by a similar Disneyland venue.
The XZFR Rockin’ Rollerdrome was a skate rink by day and a dance club by night. The house band was the Time Pilots; they hailed from the planet XZFR. The building was originally Pleasure’s laboratory with a wind tunnel to test a secret flying machine he was building. It was ultimately this vehicle, dubbed the Mother Ship (and suspended from the club’s ceiling), that brought the Time Pilots to our planet.
More “histories” were provided for the other locations on the island. The Neon Amardillo was located in Pleasure’s former greenhouse. The Comedy Warehouse building was the island’s original power plant. Mannequins was formerly a warehouse used to store canvas and sewing equipment. The Fireworks Factory restaurant was well, the site of Pleasure's own fireworks factory, that was accidently blown up by a stray spark from Pleasure's own cigar. This at the time was one of my favorite restaurants in all of Disney World. I was heartbroken when they removed it in the mid-1990s in favor of the Wildhorse Saloon, just to satisy the then popular fad of honky-tonk clubs that catered to the country line-dancing crowds.
The shops at that time were equally interesting and full of atmosphere. My two favorites were Avigator’s Supply, a companion store to the Adventurers Club, and YesterEars, which sold reproductions of vintage Disney toys and merchandise.
It will be interesting to see what Imagineers will have “unearthed” when the construction walls come down sometime in the near future.