This amazing piece of Disney history opened in Summer of 1963 and was the FIRST attraction to feature the amazing spectacle we know today as Audio Animatronics.. Now before we even get into that.. let's discuss what it was BEFORE the birds even were being wired.. The Tahitian Terrace!
Even before that was being figured out, there was a restaurant there from what I've found on the Internet just was called the Cantina? This was all in 1955-1962, known as the Plaza Pavilion & mentioned as the Plaza Lanai [if anyone knows otherwise, please leave a comment!] Thanks to Daveland's website (and borrowing your photos..!)
We can see some amazing images from the Adventureland area where the Jungle Cruise drops you off and you'd be right smack in the middle of the Cantina and then some time later named The Tahitian Terrace!
here's another great shot of the stage show that you'd get to see while you dined on Polynesian inspired eats! from what I heard the food was excellent, and the shows would dazzle audiences all day & night!
and here you have a video from Walt Disney's After Dark program that was on the Disneyland USA DVD set (Walt Disney Treasures) which was filmed in 1962 most likely for Walt Disney's World of Color. Here you see a good portion of the stage show & crowd and from what I gather they were pretty blown away by these foreign cultures!
here is one of the signs you'd see when you walked up to the restaurant area..
here's a great shot of a family enjoying their food.. speaking of which if you wanna see what kinda food they offered, Daveland & Tiki Central has great photos of their Menu! (link is above & below)
as you can see, Disney jumped on the Polynesian crazy from when it came home with our Sailors & Military men. Even such, at this time we were experiencing places such as Donn the Beachcomber, Trader Vic's and of course our beloved Tiki Ti! From what I've gathered on this Polynesian getaway, they paid extra detail to preserve the true essence of a Tiki restaurant. Unlike the bar code of no windows to hide the outside world, Walt made the outside another escapism. When I visit Disneyland it is my escape, you forget about EVERYTHING. So it must've been nice to watch small little Jungle Cruise boats toot by as you're watching some amazing dancing & authentic Hawaiian rituals being done right before your eyes!
here is the message you would read from the inside of the Menu. As you can read here they really wanted the guests to feel at home and away from the troubles of the 'then' modern world. I've been reading numerous posts on Tiki Central (here), and on Micechat (here) , they are amazing! These stories I've been reading have been such a great insight to what happened at this once luxurious attraction that sadly gave way for the new (closed in 1999 for Aladdin's Oasis) and now remains as another greatly missed Disneyland relic. In all fairness they did gain back the cred by building Trader Sam's & Tongaroa Terrace however it is not the same vibe as it was in 63'. I am not complaining at all just saying that things change, trends die, and you end up with what the world goes with..
Ok so in the early inceptions of the Pavilion's dining experience, Walt thinks, wouldn't it amazing if while you're dining there were birds singing all around you?
here is neat video from the Walt Disney Treasures DVD that features some clips from the World of Color show. here we see Walt discussing the magic that goes behind putting on the show narrated by Jose himself! (voiced by the late Wally Boag.)
Originally there was going to be a restaurant / tea room inside of the giant Tiki house but for some reasons I think the plan might have started out that way but then became a full attraction. If you notice inside the house where the fountain is, there is still some storage spaces underneath from where it was going to be a COFFEE station! So the birds got set & the song was written, and VOILA! we have our birds overhead singing one of the best songs ever!
here's another cool video featuring some more Tiki Room enthusiasts. (if you hear a weird ringing during some segments, it's normal you're not going deaf..)
here is a good close up view of Fritz, and you can see the amazing detail on him!
as you can see, I could literally keep going with the great job they did here but I'm sure you can see from the photos & ramblings that it's definitely something you should see yourself!
as for the Tahitian Terrace, in 1999 came that dreaded day..
here is the sad sight that was the closing of the Tahitian Terrace. 1999 and I remember going to Disneyland and knowing it was there but it definitely lacked the same elegance & prestige it once did in it's hey-day but as all good things, they always come to an end.
I'm sure you're bummed to get to the end of my little story but if you want further reading & viewing.. PLEASE visit the links above. I'm so glad they exist so I could borrow their images and direct you all back to their sites so you can see how amazing this attraction really is!