Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Whatever Became of the Placid Palms Resort?

Do you remember the Placid Palms Resort? Chances are you’ve been to its original location, and just didn’t realize it. Here’s a little story I was told back in 1989 when I was visiting what I thought was Disney’s then brand new, state-of-the-art water park:

“For as long as anyone could remember, the quaint thatch-roofed village had nestled along the shores of the sparkling lagoon, in the shadows of a great volcanic mountain. Then came the 20th century with its cruise ships, and tourists and the Placid Palms Resort . . . a special little place for lucky vacationers each year. The great storm, however, changed everything. . . a furious, unrelenting typhoon catching a small fleet of ships by surprise, and tossing them about like toy boats for one terrifying hour. But, in the storm's wake was left a remarkable scene. A surfboard had penetrated completely through a huge tree. A small boat had blown through the roof of one building. A great buoy had crashed through the roof of still another. The Placid Palms Resort was now the Leaning Palms, almost ready to topple over at any moment. A small harbor had been cut off from the sea, trapping an overturned boat and thousands of colorful fish, uh . . . plus a few sharks along the way. Nothing, however, topped the sight of the shrimp boat, "Miss Tilly," impaled precariously on the peak of the great volcanic mountain. To this day, the mountain tries vainly to dislodge its unwelcome burden with an enormous geyser of water every half hour. Well, what nature has really done is a little redecorating. The inhabitants were left with the most extraordinary assortment of waterfalls, rapids, pools, surf and all around wetness the world has ever seen. The once sleepy little resort had been turned into Typhoon Lagoon.”

Few would disagree that Typhoon Lagoon represents Walt Disney Imagineering at its very best. Its 56 acres are filled with countless details that all tie back to this central storyline. I was especially impressed with the explanation behind Shark Reef. In fact, you are immediately drawn into this cataclysmic legend when you turn into the park’s entrance. Burma-Shave style roadside signs proclaim the following:
Birnbaum’s 1990 guide also pointed out the following interesting element concerning the Humunga Cowabunga speed slides:

“Disney Imagineers, when doing research for the park, discovered that large crowds tend to gather where speed slides exist at other parks, to watch women wearing bikinis lose their bathing suit tops on the way down. Ever considerate, the Imagineers built a grandstand so that the voyeurs in the crowd have a place to sit. Modest maidens beware!”

Okay, so maybe there is one design detail that you can’t quite trace back to the Placid Palms Resort . . . (Although some clever Imagineer will no doubt claim the grandstand was from the resort's tennis courts and just coincidentally landed on that very spot!)