Editor’s Note: During WDWNT’s Stage 89 event celebrating the 30th anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios this year, we had the pleasure of meeting Rain Blanken, the “frying pan-wielding” content editor at WDW Magazine. She had the brilliant idea of pitching an Adventurers Club piece after getting to meet some of the original cast during our exclusive Pleasure Beach event, and here at WDWNT, we’re always looking to honor the greats. Check out her in-depth piece on the past, present, and future of the Adventurers Club, and get ready to embrace the adventurous life and yell, “Kungaloosh!”
“We went through ‘Shock and Denial’ and ‘Pain and Guilt’ pretty fast and went straight to ‘Anger and Bargaining’ — and became quite active in the petitions and letter-writing campaigns.”
lan Janosko’s reaction to the closure of the Adventurers Club in 2008 may sound extreme, but as I spoke with other adventurers at Stage 89’s Pleasure Beach event in April 2019, it was clear that these feelings were typical among those who know the club salute by heart.
In a pith helmet and bare feet on the shore of Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, I joined in the enthusiastic chant and performed my first club salute — 11 years after the Adventurers Club was supposed to be over.
In case you haven’t been initiated into the club, hop on over to the WDW Magazine blog, where Janosko, as the self-proclaimed #1 Adventurers Club Fan, helped me to explain what even Disney PR had trouble getting across: The Adventurers Club wasn’t just a bar or lounge, it was a completely immersive experience.
“Marching Along, We’re Adventurers”
For those of us who never had the chance to adventure as Merriweather Pleasure intended, we have to lean on the memories of past Adventurers, who are never shy nor placid about their experiences.
I knew nothing about the Adventurers Club before the Pleasure Beach event, and what I heard that night on the sands of the Yacht and Beach Club was equal parts mind-blowing and heartbreaking.
It seems like if you’ve met someone who went into the Adventurers Club, they emerged die-hard and ready to rave about what Janosko recalls as “Undoubtedly the best thing Disney ever built.”
Fans were so strongly inspired and shaped by the club that they’ve been gathering since, recalling tales of expeditions as if still strolling through the Main Salon. Whether sharing photos in one of the many Facebook groups or at planned reunion events, what started out as a fictional club is now a bonafide community of real-life adventurers.
“Singing a Song, We’re Adventurers”
Janosko, who first visited the club at age 6, then went on to become a Jungle Cruise Skipper, certainly goes about his business as though the club is still open each night — so he didn’t hesitate to let me know about the goings-on of club members since the 2008 closure.
The ConGaloosh Society Takes Off
About a year after the Adventures Club officially closed, Janosko attended the first reunion, held on September 26, 2009, by The ConGaloosh Society. The club building was still standing and retained all of its decor, available for private rentals.
Organizers Robert Croskery and Michael Gaven were able to secure former Adventurers Club actors for a night that included fan favorites like the Radi-O-Thon and Bon Voyage Hoopla.
The night was followed up by an evening of Pleasure Island History, presented by Disney historian Jim Korkis at the Royal Plaza Hotel, which included a club favorite, the ridiculous Balderdash Cup competition.
But 2010 brought about a disheartening change of venue. The beloved outpost “was gutted”, says Janosko, of its ancient artifacts and curiosities and it was no longer available for private events. Holding reunions inside the Adventurers Club among artifacts procured from around the world by the legendary Imagineer Joe Rohde himself was no longer an option.
“Up or Down, North, South, East or West”
Ever the optimist, Janosko tells the tale of a historic pivot, “…so we had a show held on the Streets of Cairo at the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular [in Disney’s Hollywood Studios], where the characters did an amazing job of performing the club shows in a vastly different setting!”
While the loss of the club was devastating, adventurers discovered that year that no matter the setting, their camaraderie lived on.
The reunion event was again followed up with an evening at the Royal Plaza Hotel with Jim Korkis reflecting on the club, a costume contest, and a Q&A panel of cast members.
So our intrepid adventurers no longer had a club, but remained strong with a new setting for the celebration, right? Not so fast.
No Characters? Now That’s A Challenge.
In 2011, Disney pumped the brakes on the 3rd year of ConGaloosh, stating that the characters and songs would not be made available for events. In light of no actual Adventurers Club venue and the lack of characters and club songs, what is an adventurer to do?
Janosko volunteered to write a good old-fashioned Adventureland Challenge scavenger hunt to get our adventurers excited about being out in the field.
Adventureland Challenges was a feature of Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland from 1996 to 2000, eventually replaced by the current automated “A Pirate’s Adventure”.
As Janosko tells it, “Before The Magic Carpets of Aladdin was dropped in the middle of Adventureland, there was a huge planter in the location. In front of that planter, there was a giant stone head, and in front of that stone head there was a sign that said, ‘Save Adventureland: Find the Golden Idol and Win A Fabulous Prize!’”
It’s fitting, then that this game for explorers to recover the Mystic Golden Idol of Adventureland for the Jungle Cruise Skippers (a part of the S.E.A. storyline through which the Adventurers Club lives on), would become a staple in reunion celebrations for years to come.
So again in 2012, Janosko wrote new Adventureland Challenge, but it had to be canceled at the last minute — nothing seemed to work out.
Janosko said, “The Fourth year of ConGaloosh, was the roughest, the Challenge I had written for the day was canceled at the last minute and all the hotel events fell through. Things looked like we had come to the actual end of the Club…but that’s when a meeting took place.”
“An Adventurer’s Life is Best”
Five years after the club closed, The ConGaloosh Society was feeling the pinch. They could no longer gather in the Adventurers Club building, there were no characters available to celebrate with, and the past year’s event was a bust.
But when the dashing Hathaway Browne’s engine gave out, did he accept a grim fate? No, he made an emergency landing near Cleveland, and so, too, our intrepid adventurers carried on.
Janosko remembers, “Robert Croskery pulled me aside and said that with the fifth anniversary of the Club’s closing we had to have a huge event to celebrate the Club.” teamed up with fellow explorers, including Robert Croskery, to form Adventurers in Charity.
Adventurers in Charity Takes the Reins
And these new Adventurers Club meetings reached for a higher purpose. Each club actor represented a charity for the event (i.e. The Actors Fund, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, A Better Life Pet Rescue) and each charity received a portion of the funds raised.
With Disney no longer allowing the Adventurers Club characters to be portrayed at events, the actors were instead invited to enjoy the festivities in a different way than before. “We once again gathered at the 535 Holiday Inn, but we had a full complement of club actors, but in attendance as themselves and not the Characters performing bits and songs from the Club that were not Disney owned”, Janosko remembered.
And that night, Ian Janosko stepped into the shoes of a very prominent club member that Disney had not stipulated in its “do not use” policy.
“…we did need to induct new members into the Adventurers Club since not everyone attending the event had been to the Club. For that Robert Croskery and Club Founder Merriweather Adam Pleasure, played by yours truly, led the room in the Club Salute, the Club Creed and The All-Purpose Club Theme Song.”
At each gathering, those in attendance would vote on which three of the represented charities would receive a slightly larger donation.
The Adventurers in Charity event went on for six years — and each following year was themed after a line of the Adventurers Club Creed:
- “We climb the highest mountains, just to get a better view.” took place on the peaks of Mt Everest.
- “We plumb the deepest oceans, cause we’re daring through and through.” was underwater in search of the mythical Atlantis Bar and Grill.
- “We cross the scorching deserts, martini in our hands.” Was amid magic carpets and belly dancers.
- “We ski the polar ice caps, in tuxedo looking grand.” took place under the aurora borealis
- “We are reckless, brave, and loyal, and valiant to the end. If you come in here a stranger, you will exit as a friend.”, was a combination of each previous theme.
Janosko said of the last gathering, “As we finished the final Adventurers In Charity on Sept. 29th, 2018 it was almost like we had gone through the final night at the Club. Emotions were high, the actors were in top form and we had raised a fantastic amount of money for the actor’s charities.”
Over the course of its 6-year run, Adventurers in Charity raised over $40,000 for charities including the American Heart Association, Red Cross, and the American Cancer Society. Not a bad legacy for a long-gone lounge with nonsensical shows and puns suitable for the Jungle Cruise.
When I asked Janosko if he thought the Adventurers Club fandom was slowly dying out over time, he exclaimed, “The Club will never die! The fans of it are still out there and very vocal!”
Disney has kept the Adventurers Club story alive via its S.E.A. references all over the world, giving club veterans a unique position we haven’t really seen before in the history of attraction closures. With the characters and storyline living on, Adventurers Club fans are encouraged to keep their community alive.
While the Adventurers Club was open, fans would write letters to their favorite characters and await the quarterly club newsletter. These days, Facebook groups like the Society for Explorers and Adventurers and, The Congaloosh Society keep club members in touch.
Rebuilding The Adventurers Club Headquarters
As an avid Adventurers Club historian, Ian Janosko is a constant figure in those communities, doing his part to keep the club alive. In fact, if you want to take a tour through the long-gone club, you can walk through a virtual recreation by “BrerBen” created via Garry’s Mod.
Janosko remembers seeing the unfinished virtual club for the first time, “I watched it and teared up as the camera went through the revolving front doors and saw the inside of his creation!”
The structure of the club was in place, but it was missing much of the key decor that made it feel like home. But wouldn’t you know it, Janosko had the goods. “…from the day the closing was announced I had been photographing every artifact in the Club.” Of course he did.
Janosko provided thousands of photos for reference, and the result is the only version of the Adventurers Club building that guests can walk through. Look for Janosko immortalized for his contributions at the 3:50 mark.
Whether swapping stories at club reunions or in the wild frontier of the internet, the adventurers are still out singing their songs.
The Pleasure Beach reunion was my initiation (literally — the cast conducted a New Member Initiation Ceremony) into one of the most ambitious and immersive experiences ever created by Disney Imagineers.
It was enough to make me nostalgic for a place I’d never set foot in. But it looks like the legacy will live on, and I’ll be saluting with my fellow members again, soon.