Disney Overhauls Classic Attraction, Removes All Original Characters Forever

in Disneyland Resort

Entrance of Disneyland

Credit: Miranda Jones / Flickr

Disneyland has removed multiple original Disney characters from one of their newly returned attractions.

tarzans treehouse disneyland
Credit: Disney

Last year, The Adventureland Treehouse, inspired by Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson, returned to Disneyland in a fresh, new way. Initially, Swiss Family Robinson held the theming for the treehouse, but then Tarzan took over once the IP became popular.

In 1999, the Treehouse embraced the animated world of Tarzan, but this recent update throws those vines aside in favor of a more classic theme park experience.

 

A traditional bamboo water wheel partially submerged in a stream, surrounded by bamboo fencing and lush greenery.
Credit: Disney

Spearheaded by Walt Disney Imagineering, the reimagining brings us the Adventureland Treehouse Inspired by Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson (yes, quite a mouthful!). This new title reflects the shift towards a bygone era of theme park wonder. Gone are the high-tech elements and digital flourishes; instead, the focus is on clever mechanical creations and good old-fashioned storytelling.

Through abstract elements, environmental storytelling, and ingeniously crafted mechanical animals—keep an eye out for Jane the Ostrich—Adventureland Treehouse has received a modern yet nostalgic revamp. Various details, like a sizable waterwheel injecting vitality into Adventureland paths, pay homage to the original narrative, which drew inspiration from the 1960 Disney film Swiss Family Robinson.

However, despite its ties to the Swiss Family tale, even with anonymous family names, Imagineers have clarified that it’s not solely the Swiss Family story.

However, while the treehouse draws inspiration from the classic story, it doesn’t simply recreate it. The Imagineers have opted to keep the family names anonymous, subtly distancing themselves from a strict interpretation. This creates a unique space – a rare theme park attraction that isn’t tethered to a specific Disney movie or franchise.

An outdoor feast setup with rustic wooden tables filled with plates of food, mugs, and containers, surrounded by nature and antique furnishings.
Credit: Disney

In this way, the Adventureland Treehouse stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Disneyland itself.

Over the years, the park and its creator, Walt Disney, have become their own powerful form of intellectual property. Disneyland has transcended mere entertainment, evolving into a cultural institution that thrives on generations of shared memories and cherished nostalgia. The latest iteration of the Adventureland Treehouse is a delightful reminder of this enduring magic, offering a fresh experience steeped in the park’s rich history.

Guests have also noticed these changes, as it is clear that the original characters from Swiss Family Robinson are gone. Some guests believe that Disney has done this so that they can imagine themselves as the family who occupies the treehouse, and others believe that Disney just did not want to go back to the exact same concept as they previously had. Initially, the treehouse was home to Father Robinson, Mother Robinson, Fritz, Ernst, Francis, Duke and Turk, and Roberta.

An offensive portrayal of pirates in 'Swiss Family Robinson' (1960).
Credit: Disney

Disney has also said that they plan on adding Disney S.E.A. references into the attraction with these more anonymous characters.

For the uninitiated, the Society of Explorers and Adventurers constitutes a clandestine society comprising fictional personas from Disney Parks worldwide. While many Disney attractions draw from movie intellectual properties, numerous others are crafted from original narratives, boasting their own unique characters. From Hotel Hightower to the Jungle Cruise, the characters encountered by Disney Guests daily are intricately linked within this interconnected web.

S.E.A. Crest
Credit: ITM

Characters already integrated into the park lore are:

  • Harrison Hightower III
  • Professor R. Blauerhimmel
  • Lord Henry Mystic
  • Doctor J.L. Baterista
  • Barnabas T. Bullion
  • Unknown Cold Weather Adventurer
  • Captain Mary Oceaneer
  • Artist Charlton J Taboret
  • Jock Lindsey
  • Professor Garrett Reed (reportedly disgraced)
  • Maestro D’Elfman (a nod to Danny Elfman)
  • Vitale Robustelli
  • Captain Brieux
  • Merriweather Adam Pleasure
  • Camellia Falcon
  • Dr. Albert Falls

The daughter’s observatory is a haven for the aspiring explorer.

A telescope cobbled together from salvaged barrels stands proudly amidst antique astronomical tools and star charts. Her dreams of joining the prestigious Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.) are evident everywhere. Bookshelves overflow with S.E.A. manuals like “Guide for Prospective Members” and “Who’s Who Compendium of Membership,” alongside the official bylaws.

A leather-bound book emblazoned with a makeshift “Official Member Fan Club” label sits next to a wooden box containing a “Membership Application Kit” – both proudly displaying the S.E.A. insignia. Even the banner outside her observatory declares her allegiance with the society’s logo.

A treasured artifact rests on a writing stand: a 1938 letter from S.E.A. member Aya Kouame-Beauciel. The message details the shipment of high-powered lenses, requested by the daughter, to Dr. Kon Chunosuke’s field office at the Jungle Navigation Company (JNC) headquarters. Apparently, a friendly colleague named Alberta has agreed to hold onto them until the aspiring explorer can claim them.

Intriguingly, this letter sheds light on a seemingly ordinary box tucked away in the Jungle Cruise queue. A wooden crate stamped with “Hightower Industries” and marked “Fragile” might just hold the very microscope lenses mentioned in the correspondence.

In 2021, The Hollywood Reporter announced that the Magic Kingdom Universe — the worlds within the Disney Parks — will be explored in the new series, and the first part of that series will explore the S.E.A.

“The media giant is teaming with For All Mankind creator Ron Moore to develop a franchise for streamer Disney+ that is set in Disney’s beloved Magic Kingdom. The first project in the works as part of the so-called Magic Kingdom Universe is The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, which is set in a world where all the themed lands and characters of the Disney parks and classic films actually exist in another reality.”

While the show has yet to debut or make massive headway, it certainly is something Disney can build on in the parks through the new Adventureland Treehouse Inspired by Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson.

Adventureland Treehouse inspired by Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson
Credit: Disney

“We don’t get many opportunities to do this,” says Imagineer Michele Hobbs, one of the key architects of the Adventureland Treehouse revamp. “I think the treehouse, for most of us, is a once-in-a-lifetime endeavor. Honoring Walt’s legacy and the legacy of the original Swiss Family Treehouse was important to us and the fundamental reason for creating this new IP. While the original IP was fantastic, we wanted to build upon that in today’s day and age and bring a new family in with their own unique qualities.”

At Walt Disney World, the original Swiss Family Treehouse lives on.

So, it appears that by creating characters such as “Dad is an inventor who does all the cooking. Mom is a music lover with a collection of magical instruments. The girl loves the stars and has a great spot to watch the night sky. And the nature-loving twin boys have a menagerie of exotic plants and jungle animals,” which has allowed Disney to stick with a more timeless feel, with small hints of possible future IP.

What do you think of Disney keeping the Swiss Family Robinson name yet replacing all the original characters? 

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