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Bar Wars: Disney revamps Pleasure Island

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Published: May 10, 2006 at 3:25 PM

The bulldozers are hard at work on Pleasure Island, Walt Disney World's nightclub district in Downtown Disney. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Disney's reshaping much of the property in an effort to broaden its appeal -- while not driving away its loyal audience of hard-drinking club-hoppers. [Also known as "cast members." ;-)]

Pleasure Island opened in 1989, tacked on the west end of the Walt Disney World Shopping Village, to do battle with downtown Orlando's Church Street Station and Exchange nightclub attractions. If you just said to yourself "what are those?", well, then you see just how successful Disney was.

But when Disney expanded the renamed Downtown Disney past Pleasure Island, creating the West Side outdoor mall, that left Disney with two family-oriented shopping and entertainment zones split by a booze-fueled no-kids zone. Plus, Universal Orlando's CityWalk, with its better segeration of family-friendly and nightclub zones, provides additional competition for evening entertainment for both the park-weary tourist and the bored local.

The changes will physcially open up the Pleasure Island area, which Disney no longer requires an additional admission to visit. (Though hard tickets are required to get into the clubs.) Still, booze and kids are a tricky mix. I admit that I cringed when I read a Disney VP talk about making an area where parents can feel comfortable drinking in front of their kids.

Partyers are still welcome. But so are people seeking to relax. Or a father with children, [Disney VP for Downtown Disney Djuan] Rivers said.

"He can walk through here, and if he wants to have a drink on the street, he doesn't feel awkward with his children, and you won't feel awkward either," he said.

A Pleasure Island visitor offered a different view, at the end of the story.

"You don't want to be drunk in front of a bunch of kids," she said. "You're going to be paranoid. You don't have to worry about that downtown."

Readers' Opinions

From E on May 10, 2006 at 4:21 PM
Again -- drat! -- Disney is well behind the "needs" curve of the American out-of-home entertainment consumers. What with New Orleans having had it's recent management woes (similar, if you will to what's been happening with the wacky gals and/or gals in the endless upper echelons of WDI), making it hard to find some other hot, humid, expensive place to go to pretend to attend a conerence, what America need is a place where father, drunk on their ass, can show his 2.25 children just what he is made of (of at the least, what he ate for lunch). Not just dads, but a place hwere disaffected soccer-moms can catch the "walking cup fever" as they stagger along the ill-graded main drag of Pleasure Island, berating dad and the kids for being such a drag on their lives and souls, while trying – pathetically -- to catch the eye of the Door-Member at The Adventurer’s Club.

I kid the Mouse, of course (by the way, Mr. Lassiter, what was that e-mail address where I could send to you my cv?). Hell-fire, what the damned place needed from moment that it was first pitch to “Mookie” Eisner (remember him? Tall guy with a squinty eye, used to hang out with Sparky Katzenberg a lot?) was MORE SLEAZE on Pleasure Island! Not family fun sleaze (Hooters has that market pretty well sewn up), but actual, honest-to-goodness, “holy crap!” simulated sleaze!

Remember when (oh, so long ago in the mid-1990s) when it was a scandal when there was some astonishing Seminole woman on horse back selling shots of tequila (that is, on her nights off from The Doll House)? NOT ENOUGH! It should have been a sweaty, dark, loud, dangerous place. OK, sure, you should have had SOME idea that you would REALLY get beaten up by a couple of drag queens while standing in line Mannequins, but there should have been that thought, was back in your liquor-soaked lizard brain that something like that MIGHT happen. It should been the food-‘n-beverage version of a roller coaster: thrilling, the illusion of danger, but with a good chance of survival (Mission Space aside).

From Gareth H on May 11, 2006 at 11:15 AM
Ah, Noticed this on Monday. Walking up I thought it was a bit darker than usual! Then I noticed, as I bought the most overpriced, smallest chicken stuffed Gyro EVER (2 piece's of small chicken, a limp piece of lettuce and a slice of tomato - $6.95, the look on My wifes face - Priceless) that the big stage up the top was missing! Where had it gone? The bulldozer gave me the clue I needed to solve the case. It had been demolished. Along with a few other buildings.
It must have been about november (Maybe a little earlier) that they stopped you walking over to the market place via the bridge next to Planet Hollywood.
Now you were being forced to walk though the booze fuelled nightclub district. Careful to avoid the survey cast members, the stilt walkers and the booze fuelled teens, sorry 21+'s. Watch out for that extend queue from the cocktail shack. Mind out for people who just have to hang around at the top, and bottom, of the annoying steps. You know the ones, if you shoe size is above a 9 you'll have troubles walking down!

Ah well, glad they are going to change it but as mentioned, taking your 2.25 children through there late at night (It really happens, a lot) might not give them the best impression of Disney, and that good old Disney Magic...

While we are on the subject of downtown Disney, let me congratulate them on their upgrade to the big store. The spitting "Stitch" is a fantastci idea. Watched so many people pushing their kids though it by mistake, fantastic, and the new Pirates of the Caribbean Themeing (Just in time for #2) is brilliant...

From Erik Yates on May 11, 2006 at 8:16 PM
I never did like the idea that you have a seperate area for the night life. Throw it out there in front of everyone to see. Citywalk does, and its great. Sure it is segregated a little, with the clubs off to one side and the kids stuff to another, but its still intertwined together. Disney doesnt have anything to worry about, the kids are way too concerned with that new pirate shop to pay any attention to mom pretending to be intoxicated by her 9 dollar watered down margarita. No harm here folks.

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