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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Sunshine Tree Terrace



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians and author of Jim’s Gems in The easy Guide, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

THE SUNSHINE TREE TERRACE IN ADVENTURELAND

By Jim Korkis

Walt Disney Productions entered into negotiations with the Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) for a Florida Citrus Growers sponsored Magic Kingdom attraction in 1967. A contract was signed on Oct. 22, 1969, formalizing the FCC’s underwriting of a “tropical bird show” at a cost of three million dollars. The following year, 1970, WED Enterprises created the Orange Bird character to serve as the FCC’s official mascot in promotional campaigns.

The final design of the character was by C. Robert “Bob” Moore who handled many special projects for the Disney Company, including designing the Walt Disney postage stamp and the eagle mascot for the 1984 Olympic games.

(c) Disney

When the Tropical Serenade show (a duplicate of Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room show) finished, guests exited by the Sunshine Tree Terrace for drinks, slushes, Orange sippers and the Citrus Orange Swirl. Strangely, only frozen—not fresh—orange juice was used.

From the back of the Terrace was the Florida Sunshine Tree — a large replica of a citrus tree with artificial fruit, blossoms, and leaves — which was the creation of Disney technicians who studied Florida citrus trees a long time before putting the tree together limb by limb in a combination of reality and fantasy. The tree was the icon for the Florida citrus industry and adorned the costumes worn by the cast members who worked at the location in the early days.

In its branches was the little Orange Bird. Above his head was a small screen upon which was shown happy orange thoughts from a projector in the back wall. Since, according to the song about him, the bird was unable to talk, he communicated through these orange thoughts that would appear over his head.

A fifteen minute loop of tropical music played at the location. In addition to the little figure in the branches of the tree, there was a walk-around costumed character Orange Bird with a big head and a pajama suit type body.

When the contract with the Florida Citrus Commission ran out, the bird was removed in 1986. But in April 17, 2012, the Orange Bird returned to Sunshine Tree Terrace signage and a new line of Orange Bird merchandise appeared on the shelves.

An Orange Bird statue that was on display at Sunshine Tree Terrace in the 1970s was retrieved from the WDI Sculpture Studio in California where it was found untouched and forgotten in a drawer, and after restoration was re-installed.

Over the years there were two distinct orange birds that swung on a little perch at the Terrace. The first one was a static figure on a moving swing and was there when the pavilion first opened in 1971. One of the reasons it still existed and was in good shape was that it was soon replaced at the Terrace with an improved and upgraded version that moved its green leaf wings up and down, as well as its head, as it swung back and forth giving it more of an illusion of life. That particular figure still seems to be unaccounted for at the moment.

On March 15, 2015, the Sunshine Tree Terrace traded locations with Aloha Isle Refreshments but both kept their same menus. The Orange Bird was relocated to the new location on May 29.

The figureheads of water buffalo on top of the original location were chosen because the building was so tall that it could be seen in Frontierland. It was hoped that the long horns on the stylized figures might be mistaken by guests as Wild West long horn cattle when viewed from that other land.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.
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