It's been a good week for throwback fans of Disney's (NYSE:DIS) now-defunct Pleasure Island in Florida. A pair of openings pay homage to Comedy Warehouse and Adventurers Club, two of the standouts from Pleasure Island's entertainment district that were nixed when that area was repurposed as part of Disney Springs.
Today we see Disney's Hollywood Studios kick off a seasonal two-week run of The Comedy Warehouse Holiday Special, an improvisational comedy show bearing the name of the venue and starring some of the talented improvisers that once anchored Pleasure Islands' nighttime attractions.
Earlier in the week, the Skipper Canteen restaurant opened at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It is themed to the nearby Jungle Cruise ride, but it has several tributes for fans of the original Adventurers Club. It even offers a signature drink -- Kungaloosh -- that was the popular toast at the now-shuttered Adventurers Club.
Disney isn't just trying to win over nostalgic diehard Disney World fans. The restaurant itself will elevate the status of the world's most visited park as a destination for foodies. You won't find burgers and pizza at Skipper Canteen. The menu is limited to higher-end fare including lamb chops, Chimichurri-doused strip loin, and curried vegetable stew. Along with the dinner menu at 2012's Be Our Guest restaurant, Disney's park has tried to upgrade the options beyond the plentiful quick-service eateries scattered across the park.
It's a smart move. Disney World regulars often categorize Epcot as the park for fancy eats with its critically praised international restaurants, but now the resort's busiest theme park is picking up its game.
It will have to do, for now. The Magic Kingdom is the only Disney World park that doesn't have a major announced attraction in the works. Some will argue that it doesn't need one -- attracting a record 19.3 million guests last year, according to industry tracker Themed Entertainment Association. However, with Disney hiking prices every year and the competition closing the gap, it can't afford to rest on its laurels.
Skipper Canteen won't be for everyone. Young families with finicky kids who don't appreciate spiced ground beef and Bechamel sauce on their mac and cheese or grilled fish served with multigrain rice may strike out on the kid menu. The high prices -- we're talking $23 for a grilled pork loin or $34 for the strip loin -- will also keep many tourists away to salvage their budgets. That's fine. When you're a theme park greeting nearly 20 million guests through your turnstiles a year, you're not going to please everybody with a single addition. Disney needs to keep raising the bar to remain the top draw in Central Florida, and a lavishly themed new eatery is ultimately incremental in achieving that goal.