By Jim Korkis
Home to the world’s largest outdoor surf pool (not just a wave pool), it was part of the 1989 expansion of Walt Disney World that also saw the opening down the street of the Disney MGM Studios theme park, now Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Its creation was inspired by the success of the River Country water park located in Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground (closed a while ago). The popularity of that attraction was so great that it could not accommodate all of the guests who wanted to enjoy it.
According to the back story created by the Disney Imagineers for the new water park: “A furious storm once roared ‘cross the sea, catching ships in its path, helpless to flee. Instead of a certain and watery doom, the winds swept them here to Typhoon Lagoon.”
That same fictitious storm from 1955, known as Hurricane Connie, inflicted near total destruction on the nearby island belonging to the descendants of Merriweather Adam Pleasure as well.
The typhoon drastically changed the small Placid Palms resort village and to make matters worse, a resultant earthquake and volcanic eruption left the community almost in complete ruins. Surfboards, fishing gear, boats and other nautical items were flung wildly throughout the area. Trees toppled not only onto some of the buildings but into them as well.
One old ship tanker was completely overturned but today guests can walk into it and through the portholes see sharks and nearly 2,000 fish swimming by in a man-made reef. Many species of marine life, not necessarily native to the area, were deposited in the surrounding waters by the wind and water.
Even a pair of jaws from the fictional Sharkus Gigantus (reminiscent of an actual prehistoric shark known as a Megalodon) washed up on the beach.
The plucky inhabitants used their ill fortune to transform Placid Palms resort into the Leaning Palms resort, referencing the fact that some of the remaining palm trees were almost completely uprooted and now lean.
The local residents resourcefully rebuilt their town as best they could with the flotsam and jetsam of “found” objects. The much beloved Walt Disney Imagineer, Randy Bright, summarized the effect back in the 1980s: “Upon entering Typhoon Lagoon, guests find themselves in a ramshackle, tin-roofed island village landscaped with cargo, surfboards and other marine wreckage left by the great storm.”
Guests immediately see one of the unfortunate boats stuck atop the entrance sign as they turn off Buena Vista Boulevard to go toward Typhoon Lagoon. A series of signs inspired by the famous “Burma Shave” advertising roadside signs of yore that told a story in rhyme on succeeding signs , tell the story of Typhoon Lagoon in rhymed snippets before the guests even get to the parking lot.
The main entrance to Typhoon Lagoon is a mixture of bits and pieces of ships damaged during the typhoon. Wheelhouses and cabins were reformatted into ticket booths with a mast and a sail creating the marquee. High above the booths is a row of nautical flags that spell out “Welcome to Typhoon Lagoon”.
On the right hand side is a sign that is a “key” to deciphering what letter of the alphabet each flag represents. Nearby is a line of flags that translate to “Piranha in pool”.
Besides, the non-stop water fun, guests can just stretch out and relax in the magnificently landscaped venue and enjoy some of the amusing storytelling details that surround them in this hidden oasis from the frantic theme park experience.
MORE DISNEY WORLD HISTORY POSTS FROM JIM KORKIS
- “Summer Magic” on Main Street
- Muppets and Mama Melrose
- Peter Dominick and the Wilderness Lodge
- Dixie Landing and Port Orleans Riverside
- The History of Splash Mountain
- The First Disney World Hotel
- The “Sharing the Magic” Statue
- The First Disney World Monorails
- The Water Park River Country
- The Epcot Fountain
- The Fireplace at the Wilderness Lodge
- Sid Cahuenga at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Spaceship Earth
- Downtown Disney
- The Missing Resorts
- Echo Park Homages
- Typhoon Lagoon