The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, Part 1: Merriweather Adam Pleasure and Pleasure Island

I am a sucker for a great story, and that is just part of the reason why I love Disney Parks so much. My favorite stories are so real it’s hard to believe they’re made up by the amazing people known as Disney Imagineers. To tell this particular story, we need to go back in time to Pleasure Island.

Pleasure Island was a nightclub complex that opened back in 1989, though it has since closed. Every single night was New Year’s Eve, celebrated with a big fireworks show, from 1990-2005. Originally opening to compete with the nightclub complex known as Church Street Station in downtown Orlando, it was to offer multiple nightclubs and restaurants with one admission price. Many people believed it to be an homage to Pleasure Island from Pinocchio; a place of unabashed debauchery, just like the island from the movie, but the actual story is much much different. The complex went through many changes over the years, eventually closing in 2008, with the area eventually combining with Downtown Disney to form what today is known as Disney Springs.

Pleasure Island started with Merriweather Adam Pleasure, an industrial tycoon who established the Island. Born in 1873 (either on New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July, there are records for both) in Pennsylvania to Millionaire August W. Pleasure (known as Gold Rush Gus) and American Stage Actress Lydia LaMarr (known as “The American Venus”), he made his first million in 1891, after lying about his age and brokering commodities on the New York Curb Exchange. In 1898, he married Isabella Domenico.

It is rumored that he became a member of the Pillager’s Brigade in 1899. They travelled the world finding artifacts and antiques, which they then just kind of claimed for themselves. It is also rumored that he took part in an exhibition to the Congo along with Harrison Hightower III that same year, where they were attacked by angry natives. Around the year 1900, he became a member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers.

In the year 1900, Pleasure went on a river expedition down the Kissimmee River of Florida, where he was attacked by an alligator. While he and his family lived in Mexico, Merriweather Pleasure experienced a mystical vision of a moon-faced spirit known as the Funmeister. The Funmeister told him to travel back to Florida. It was at this time when Pleasure sold his Indutrial Empire, bought “The Bailey-Finortner Floating Arts Palace,” and turned it into his floating mansion. In 1911, he sailed down the Florida Barge Canal System and landed at Lake Buena Vista. Records again indicate this to have happened either July 4th or December 31st.

Merriweather Adam Pleasure
The Funmeister

Pleasure saw the Funmeister on the northern bank of the Ferderber Peninsula, so he knew this was where he was to settle. He ran into a Seminole Tribe, known as the “I-4 Indians,” who considered the peninsula sacred ceremonial ground. They recognized the Funmeister, though, so they granted Pleasure permission to settle, provided he continue to honor the spirit of the Funmeister. Pleasure agreed and began to develop the Peninsula. In 1912, he created Pleasure Canvas and Sailmakers, building a power station, sailmaking factory, and canvas fabrication plants. In 1913, he grew tired of S.E.A.’s stuffy nature, and started his own subgroup known as The Adventurer’s Club.

To celebrate the end of World War I, Pleasure set off the “world’s largest firecracker,” turning the peninsula into an island. In 1937, Pleasure gave his wife an anniversary gift: a large house on the north side of the island. This is now known as The Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, in the 1940s, Merriweather Adam Pleasure was lost at sea. His sons failed at running the business, and the island was destroyed by a hurricane. In 1987, archaeologists uncovered the site and it’s remains, and a reclamation project began. In 1989, then, Pleasure Island was reopened and dedicated to the legacy of Merriweather Adam Pleasure: “Fun for all, and all for fun!”

Plaque for Pleasure Island

The Adventurer’s Club was recreated as a nightclub, and it was the most popular nightclub at Pleasure Island. It was a 1930s-style British explorers’ club that featured a staff of flamboyant characters portrayed by improv actors. The club closed on September 27, 2008. It was covered in “artifacts” from various explorations and adventures. Some of the characters included Pamelia Perkins, Hathaway Browne, Otis T. Wren, and Madame Zarkov. There were several rooms that made up the club, and each room had it’s own theme and story. The larger shows were held in the Library, but you could visit The Main Salon every night to take part in the membership drive and learn the salute and the creed and become a member. The story of Pleasure Island could be found in plaques hidden all over the island. The plaque at The Adventurer’s Club read:

“This imposing building was designed to house the huge personal library and archaeological trophy collection of Island Founder and Compulsive Explorer Merriweather Adam Pleasure. Pleasure won the plans in a game of dominoes and attributed them throughout his life to noted architects Sir Edwin Luytens, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Eliel Saarinen. The building became the headquarters for The Adventurer’s Club, Pleasure’s zany band of globe-trotting friends. Exotic souvenirs of the members outlandish expeditions and riotous adventurers were displayed on the walls. After Pleasure vanished at sea in 1941, the club was sealed until it was opened to the public for the first time in 1989.

Adventurer’s Club Membership Drive Card
Adventurer’s Club Logo

When the Adventurer’s Club was closed, it’s props were sent to various parks and resorts all over the world. The Society of Explorers and Adventurers was officially created for Tokyo DisneySea and first named in The Fortress Explorations walkthrough attraction. It officially serves as the Society’s headquarters. The Society of Explorers and Adventurers then began spreading all over the world, starting with Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland in 2013, followed by Barnaby T. Bullion at Big Thunder Mountain in the Magic Kingdom in 2013, then Mary Oceaneer on Disney Cruise Line in 2014, and Skipper Canteen in Magic Kingdom in 2016.

The Adventurer’s Club
Pleasure Island’s VERY WELL KNOWN Life Size Jessica Rabbit

The building that formerly housed the Adventurers Club is now home to The Edison, which, to me, is completely awesome since Edison was an inventor.

Come back for Part 2 – S.E.A. Members and their Appearances later in the week!!

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