Widen Your World – Sunshine Tree Terrace & Orange Bird (New Version)

Sunshine Tree Terrace
1971 – present
Orange Bird
1970 – (against all odds) present
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Sunshine Tree Terrace

Altered WDW Snack Bar

Located in:
Magic Kingdom

Opened: October 1, 1971
Re-energized: April 17, 2012 

Contributing Personnel:
Jason Grandt,
Steve Vagnini

Influences evident in:
Disneyland’s Bengal Barbecue

WYW acknowledges the
thoughtful assistance of
Ed  Barlow,
Jonathan Doucette,
Dave Ensign,
Mike Hiscano,
Kyoko Hikami,
Chuck Keeler
Tony McCarson
with its research on the Sunshine Tree Terrace
or for letting me know what was going on or both

All images copyright
The Walt Disney Company.
 Text 2012 by Mike Lee



Last Update to this page: April 28, 2012 (new page for renovated snack bar)

As kids, my brother Brian and me didn’t really understood our Dad’s expression, “be careful what you wish for, dummies.”  Only when we got older did our Mom explain that she and Dad used to wish for children. Well, the joke’s on everybody else now because after years of wishing that the Orange Bird would come back to WDW, our sippy cups runneth over and we’re moving on to wishes for a Burger Chef on Colonial Drive.      Those of you who felt similar affections for the Orange Bird over the years may, as of this writing, still be sharing in the sense of surprise that attended his return to the Sunshine Tree Terrace on April 17, 2012.  It’s a case of extraordinary dimensions for modern-day WDW … a small gesture with large repercussions that one may be tempted to downplay simply because of its acute unlikeliness.  I mean, did it actually happen?  There’s no penalty for pinching yourself.* The good news is that, rest assured, it happened.  The bad news is that if you don’t have the sense to stop reading now, you’re in for a rundown of how WYW measures shock value (one jolt at a time).

First of all, okay, what ? In less time than it takes Rhode Island Red to butcher a verse of Freddy the Freshman, the Orange Bird phoenixed from the ashes of popculture purgatory to a position of prominence at the top of a crisp new Sunshine Tree Terrace sign and in person, over the fully-overhauled snack bar’s hearth … mere inches from where he once hung out in the 1970s … and presiding over the also-recent return of the Citrus Swirl.  Although the Sunshine Tree itself isn’t back (at least not yet) and the old STT’s resplendent music is sadly absent, the bird himself has come home, nearly 26 years after flitting away to who knows where.  Plus, it’s the same figure from the 1970s instead of some cockeyed re-imagining.  For sure others wished for this a long time ago and I even pleaded the case on this site, but that was just out-loud-daydreamin’, homes; nobody was actually spectin’ it.

Second, even though it appeared to come about fast, it isn’t rushed or opportunistic in terms of quality.  There is merchandise, which is no surprise, but it’s well done.  The choices made by the company in how to bring the Orange Bird back are in great taste**, striking the perfect tone between outright nostalgia and the realization that there is potential relevance for something like this in today’s WDW.  Relevance, that is, transcending a pin and extending to both a beautiful Sunshine Tree Terrace poster below the Main Street Railroad Station and a clever, custom-made STT citrus crate label as part of the snack bar’s decor.  It’s an ingenious nod to the origins of the character that also makes the absence of Florida Citrus Growers as sponsors virtually inconsequential.  While there was, yeah, at least one  guy on a blog who heard about all this and found it “a bit hard to get behind,” methinks that guy will soon enough find his behind hard to get a boot out of.

Strangest of all maybe is that while this month’s news smacks of something that prior to now could have only happened at Disneyland – where the park’s fan base has seen many gestures of respect over the years – this particular Florida thing wouldn’t even make sense in California.  It’s a move that has no apparent end goal other than to acknowledge and perpetuate communal good will felt toward a character that Disney created for Florida (as opposed to one created, like Big Al, for an attraction that merely began in Florida).  There has only ever been one Sunshine Tree Terrace and probably only ever will be one Sunshine Tree Terrace in the entire universe – here where our toucans spend New Year’s Eve in the orange groves.

* There IS a penalty for pinching certain members of the MeloD23 Singers, but all the Doodletown Pipers are fair game.

** It’s hard to say exactly when a plastic sippy cup makes the leap from cheap to well-done, perhaps, yet the Orange Bird version is fun.  $7 fun, in fact.

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And now WYW’s original Sunshine Tree Terrace page is pretty well obsolete! Since several blogs linked to it as part of their posts about the STT’s 2012 refresh, and since I don’t feel like rewriting the whole damned thing, it will stay (here), but indexed along will be this  STT page that wants to thank the people at WED, The Walt Disney Company and WDW who had a hand in this surprise.  Apparently there is a Jason Grandt at the head of the receiving line, and when I walked past him in the park a week ago he almost got a little orange hug from a dirty yellow canary.  Luckily for him, I stopped randomly grabbing strangers some time ago.

As more people have the opportunity to experience this reconstituted STT firsthand, we’ll be able to gauge its impact on casual park visitors.  Will sold-out Orange Bird merchandise be replenished?  Will the mouse-ears-orange-bird hat scheduled for a June release be the last piece to roll out or could more be on the way?  Will the walkaround character show up again?  Will the tree and music also be restored in time?  Questions that a year ago would have been the stuff of ridicule are now weirdly plausible.
It would be remiss not to mention some other sites who helped keep the Orange Bird’s memory flickering during the long period of his in-park absence.  The short-lived Little Orange Heaven, I think, was the first site to delve into Orange Bird in a dedicated fashion.  ImagineeringDisney, Passport to Dreams Old and New and Progress City USA also gave the character extended consideration long before the recent developments.  Then Fresh Roasted Corn picked up on the fragrant clues of an Orange Bird who was already in the park but just hidden underneath a metal cover shortly before the April 17th unveiling.  Nice detective work!

Thanks is also due to the “little birds” who pass information on via unofficial channels and/or who work namelessly to make good things happen just because they want to.  We know that one helped Jason Grandt locate the original Orange Bird figure that now graces the STT once more, and it is probably the same person who confirmed my suspicion that Mr. Grandt did some upstream swimming to see this thing through.  Thankfully the efforts made by him and his co-conspirators have paid off.  This is their moment and no amount of analysis, too much or too little, should diminish the acknowledgment of the hard work it took to reach a moment when so many different species  of WDW fans sat up and took notice.

This is the kind of thing that’s needed if there is a desire to see justice done not only to the company’s bottom line, but also to the very real and unique legacy that each park possesses.  Anyone could point out, soundly, that the Orange Bird came back mere weeks before the Kingdom is about to lose what’s left of an opening year dark ride (Snow White’s Scary Adventures), that he’s just a stone’s throw from a still-shuttered Adventureland Veranda or that the misplaced Aladdin carpets make the Sunshine Tree Terrace impossible to appreciate from its intended 1971 forecourt.  Conversely, it may be looked at this way: our little citrus friend resides right next to a 96.6% reconstituted Tiki Room, close to a Swiss Family Treehouse where the Swisskapolka still plays and also near a Jungle Cruise where boats still cruise through the coolest Cambodian temple in the world (sorry Angkor, no tiger).  The Magic Kingdom still has lots of great things left to appreciate and lots of bizarre problems to be fixed.  If the Orange Bird’s reappearance is just a one degree turn in the direction of righting the ship, godspeed.  But even if was the last good thing to ever happen on property from the perspective of a WDW purist, it would nonetheless be a very good thing indeed.

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