"From 1971 to 1994, the Adventureland Veranda sat at the entrance to Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland and welcomed travelers with airy open porches, dark burnished wood interiors, lazily turning fans, and a healthy serving of mellow exotica music. For nearly a quarter century this mysterious mood and mellow tone rolled out across the entrance to Adventureland, creating a very different mood than what welcomes you to the area today. And the music was essential in setting the scene.
Now, after several years of chasing down Jack Wagner’s music selections, I believe I’ve come to know that there were two Jack Wagners: the innovative, dedicated Jack and the Jack who was more willing to slap together any old appropriate music. Certain styles of music seem to have ennervated him more than others, and it seems to me that he truly found his raison d’être when compiling music for Adventureland. No mere aural wallpaper, many of these loops are carefully considered masterpieces.
One myth that seems to dog Wagner is that he put together his musical loops from records he had sitting around his house, and although he was a former DJ and so almost certainly had more than a healthy amount of music, this idea is absurd. Looking at the track listings for things like Bi eus im Schwyzerland, Vol. 3 it’s easy to imagine Jack plodding back off to the record shop in hopes of finding just one more LP of Swiss Music, because Music of the German Alps was a bust.
But I completely believe the story when it comes to the Adventureland tracks. Jack seems to have loved exotica music, and once you start identifying and decoding the tracks, you start seeing the same music popping up again and again. And guess what? He had terrific taste for the stuff.
So the Adventureland Veranda tracks hold a special significance for me. But first we have to ask: where did the music play, and what did this mean? Since this particular restaurant has been closed for the better part of a generation, let’s establish some sort of understanding of the layout of the Adventureland Veranda. Let’s look at this 1977 Magic Kingdom blueprint:
(Bet you didn’t know that odd circular sun room past Aloha Isle was named the South Seas Terrace, did you? Well, neither did I.)
The main interior section of the restaurant where the service counter, cashier, condiments and some tables were located was a large semi-circular room denoted here by the yellow section. The bulk of this room survives intact and may, as of this writing, be seen by visiting the Tinker Bell character meeting space.
The red sections on the diagram are the actual Verandas for which the restaurant is named. These also still exist, although today they serve as storage rooms. The south-most section nearest the pedestrian pathway from the Adventureland bridge was used as a character greeting location for many years. Although their sliding shutters are no longer invitingly open as they once were, the verandas of the Veranda still live on.
The final blue section on our diagram which rambled out towards the breezeway is the only part of the original Veranda to not survive until the present day; it was absorbed by an expansion of the public bathrooms in 2009. This was the furthest-flung seating and the tables and chairs were still there until 2009.
The First Music Loops - 1971
For several years now, an hour long loop of music identified as “Adventureland Veranda 1973” has been circulating in a new digital dub of an old tape circulated amongst collectors. I’m not only pretty certain this is authentic, I also believe that it is the original 1971 music. It also, to me, represents Jack Wagner’s unique genius for background music. It’s worth remembering that Wagner was working on the original slate of 1971 Magic Kingdom loops blind - there was no park to go to to observe in situ, and his probable one trip to WED up in Glendale was full of art that may or may not have been translated into reality. It’s worth remembering that WED themselves often described the Veranda’s exact theme in uncertain terms. The Preview Edition Guide describes the Veranda as an “old Caribbean village setting”, while a blurb in the Orlando Sentinel describes it as “south seas food in a Tahitian setting”, neither of which are really correct. The Veranda combines Caribbean, South Pacific, Pan-Asian and Continental influences into a synthesis all its own.
How inspired and unexpected, then, that Wagner’s music is heavily Asian-tinged - sometimes lush, sometimes seeming to be authentic world music recordings, but always intoxicating, with the music bleeding in and out of chimes from a bamboo wind catcher - much likes ones that hung inside the restaurant’s upper level balconies.
Interestingly, this hour-long loop seems to only be half the story - it represents what played in the interior of the restaurant. The exterior seating areas had an entirely different loop! I was first made aware of this by Mike Cozart, who reported the existence of another hour-long loop associated with the Veranda which featured entirely different music selections with the sound of exotic bird calls mixed over the music. Without much to go on for this lead, I filed that away in the back of my head until last year, when I was combing through live audio recordings from 1983 sent to me by blog reader Dave McCormick. Several times during his trip, Dave and his friend stopped to sit at those verandas facing the Magic Kingdom hub, and faintly behind their conversation could be heard unfamiliar exotic music with bird calls mixed on top!
Thanks to John Charles Watson on TikiCentral.Com forums we now know that the song captured by Dave in 1983 was “I’ll Weave A Lei of Stars For You”, from the Webley Edwards/Hawaii Calls Orchestra LP “Soft Hawaiian Guitars”. Samples from this same record appears in later Wagner loops for Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland.
Although two loops for one restaurant seems extravagant - one inside and a different one outside - it is consistent with my finding about the early Wagner loops, which suggest that the Magic Kingdom originally had more unique loops in more places than was strictly necessary, and that over the years these loops were often retired or combined with others.
Both of these loops, and probably the mellow “Exterior” loop that for now remains a mystery, are real corkers, and to me perfectly encapsulate why these early BGM tracks obsess me. The ingenuity of the music selections, the chimes Wagner probably recorded on his porch, the fading, and the sequencing creates room tone which perfectly complements the desired mood. This is where background music, so often just aural wallpaper, edges into the sublime. So head out to the kitchen, whip up a hamburger, top it with Kikkoman teriyaki sauce and a slice of pineapple, then hit play on these exotica tracks and chew slowly - you’re in Adventureland now.” - Foxx Nolte, Passport To Dreams Old And New
I will listen to this as I work on my story set in the South Seas and see if it helps my writing be better.