Lynn Hart: Adventurers Club and Forbidden Disney Song Writerby Wade Sampson, staff writer
MousePlanet readers seem to really love stories about the Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island. If you go to this link, you will be able to read my last column on the Adventurers Club—Who Was Madame Zenobia?—as well as links to previous columns about that unique entertainment venue.
I’ve spent almost a year doing research on the Adventurers Club and am happy that as a result I have been able to give credit to many people like Roger Cox, Chris Oyen, Rock Hall, and more whose contributions were significant, but who never received any official recognition. Surprisingly, I still have a few more stories to share.
In this column, I am going to showcase Lynn Hart who became part of the Pleasure Island project in Spring 1988. Hart wrote the music and lyrics for the "Adventurers Club All-Purpose Theme Song" and “Jump Up for Jinkiies,” as well as material for the original “Forbidden Disney” show for the Comedy Warehouse that made fun of the Disney theme park experience.
Hart recently told me:
“I’m really glad [and grateful] that you are documenting PI’s history. It was a fascinating project, and one that changed a lot of mindsets within Disney. As to feelings about the Adventurers Club and PI, I have a great fondness for both. I used to love to go to the Club and just hang out whenever I was in Orlando. When I went back to PI to stage the West End show, someone had just discovered the verses of the theme song, and they had put them back in the radio show. The last two times I went, no one there knew me, or that I had worked on the club. It was interesting to see what had changed, and what had endured. It’s really fun when they sing the theme song, although I always wished that they would occasionally review the melody.”
Hart has several Disney credits including writing additional lyrics to “Golden Dreams” when the American Adventure was updated at Epcot. He also designed the Fantasy Waters that was performed at the Disneyland Hotel (which were supposed to be updated every two years, but never were), and designed several years of the "Fantasy in the Sky" fireworks show at Disneyland.
"In 1992 (I think it was) I wrote and directed the West End New Year’s Eve show (“In With the New”) at PI," Hart said. "I revised it when the new West End stage opened the next year. Overall, it ran for three years.”
Like many people, Hart also did a great deal of non-Disney shows including writing and directing the main stage show at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas that ran for four years until they turned the showroom into more casino space; and global events such as Goodwill Games, Special Olympics, and a show celebrating the 100th anniversary of Saudi Arabia. Currently, he has a company in Amarillo, Texas called “4th Wall”. Right now the company is pitching a show called “TimeSteps.” It’s a production that combines rock music, dance, and video to tell the history and culture of America from 1955-1985 (“from Elvis to MTV”.)
Because he is such an amazing storyteller, I have eliminated the lengthy questions I wrote that prompted these responses so that you can enjoy the story of how Hart became involved with the Pleasure Island project and his contributions with little editorial interruption from me.
“I was working as a stage manager at Disneyland at the time, then freelancing as a writer, designer, and creative consultant for various entities (including Universal.) I had been recommended to be on the team by Brian Gale, one of WDI’s leading lighting designers. I was in Texas doing the lighting design for a ballet (freelance, not Disney) when I got a call asking if I could be in Orlando as soon as I finished. I made arrangements with Disneyland to be away a little longer, and went to Orlando.
“That first week, I was just a temporary consultant. I had been brought in as a concept writer and music programming consultant. Although I was encouraged to give thought to all of the clubs, my main focus seemed to be consulting on the overall programming and concept for Mannequins and Videopolis East.
“We had meetings at Pleasure Island, which at the time was a bunch of concrete slabs and shells under construction. Chris Carradine—who had the uncanny ability to draw things freehand on the white board to scale—took us through the overall project, and Rick Rothschild was in charge of entertainment development.
“I guess that I did well enough in the brainstorming meetings to get offered an ongoing consulting job. I gave Disneyland two-weeks notice.
“Back in Glendale, I was encouraged to sit in on any meeting I wanted, although Mannequins and Videopolis remained my main thrust. Since I have a legit theater background (and had written a musical a few years earlier that had received several productions) I was very interested in both Comedy Warehouse and Adventurers Club, both of which had strong elements of musical theater.
“I was invited by both Roger Cox and Tom Sherohman to attend their story and brainstorming sessions. These were an absolute hoot. The entire creative team for both projects was filled with terrifically funny people. Roger in particular was stream-of-consciousness funny and extremely unpredictable—especially when 'the suits' were in the room. I remember him using the phrase 'squeaky white sphincter muscles' in a presentation for Disney brass that had the same effect as if he had mooned them.
“I remember meeting Craig Wilson and liking him a lot, although once Roger and Tom were officially made show/project directors, his involvement became more that of a consultant, if I remember correctly. At any rate, I don’t remember him being involved day-to-day at that point, at least not in the circle of people I was with every day.
“At some point in the creative process, Roger said in a meeting that he wanted a theme song for the club. Since I was officially on the project as a music programming consultant, he asked if I knew of a composer who might be good for this kind of thing. His concept was to have a song with a short chorus that could be taught to the audience. He also wanted something for the Radio Show that was a musical telling of some tall tales.
“His first concept was to use Gilbert and Sullivan’s 'I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General' and change it to 'I Am the Very Model of a Modern-Day Adventurer.'
“He knew I had written a musical, so he thought maybe I could take a stab at lyrics to fit the music. I worked on it for several days, and didn’t come up with anything I liked. So I asked him if the whole thing might be original music. He said that would be fine, so we again tossed around some names of potential composers. He was reluctant to have me do it, because I was officially attached to the other clubs, and he didn’t want to cause problems by taking too much of my time away from them.
“Over the next weekend, I wrote the theme song. I took in a tape of me playing a synthesized organ (since it was well established by then that Fingers would be playing it.) Not wanting to put Roger on the spot, I told him that a friend of mine had written it. I gave him a lyric sheet and sang live as the tape played. Roger was noncommittal, except to go get Rich Proctor, who was the principal writer besides himself, to listen. They both listened. They whispered to themselves, and then told me that they thought it was exactly what they wanted. They wanted me to bring my friend in to talk to Rick Rothschild, so they could hire him to write all of the club’s music.
“I told them it was really me, so they went to talk to Rick, who gave his okay for me to add the Adventurers Club to my work load.
“This is so far an unnecessarily long answer to how I came to write the song, but I think it’s a nice demonstration on how WDI worked in those days. Anyone could contribute their ideas to anything, and they would be respected. This was a concept fostered by both Chris and Rick, and it seemed to flow down through the various project directors. It was a terrific creative environment.
“Anyway, I then started work on the Radio Show, which was an ongoing musical bed that was supposed to help establish Fingers’ character. It also included the musical jingle for ‘Jinkies.’
“The Adventurer’s Club music was virtually all first draft. There were no substantial changes made to the theme song, the Radio Show soundtrack, or any of the other original music that Fingers played.
“I wrote the jingle for ‘Jinkies.’ Rich Proctor told me the cereal’s name, and its tag line ('Jump Up for Jinkies!'). He said 'make the song as asinine as possible, while still being absolutely plausible as a cereal jingle.' It, too, was a first draft. Only after I had turned it in did I realize that I inadvertently had made it similar to the Club Theme [rhyming “west” and “best”].
“When I pointed this out and offered to change it, Roger said he liked it just the way it was, so it stayed. I did, however, provide a few variations to the third line, and those were mixed in sporadically by the cast."
Here are the lyrics written by Lynn Hart. According to the script for the Tales of Adventurers Club Radio Broadcast written by Roger Cox and Mel Green, “Jinkies” is the “perfect cereal for adventuring…high in protein, high in fiber…and when hurled at a high velocity, Jinkies can render an opponent unconscious. Jinkies is the only cereal aerodynamically designed with beveled edges and when combined with its amazing laxative properties…it’s always an adventure when you jump up for Jinkies!”
Make your mouth say “yes, yes, yes”!
From the East Coast to the West,
Jinkies is the best (Yes sir!)
So ju…..mp up
For Jinkies! (We love ‘em!)
(Alternate third lines written by Lynn: “Don’t think I would ever jest,” “Swallowing this treasure chest,” and “Lots more flavor than the rest”.)
I’ve given credit to Roger Cox’s writing before and am still researching the work of Mel Green who wrote some of the early scripts with Cox, so I asked Hart to share with me some information about Green.
“Mel Green—terrific writer, and a heavy influence on the style of Adventurers Club—used to love to riff on the back stories of the characters. In his mind, they were mostly aberrant and abnormal. We would be sitting in the club, and he would go off on whichever character happened to be around. My favorite 'backstory' concerned Pamelia Perkins, who, according to Mel, had an 'unusually friendly relationship with her Great Dane. It started as just a Good Dane, but became Great after a few drinks.'”
“He also loved to go in the club as just a regular tourist, and get into verbal sparring with the characters. They knew who he was, of course, but they had to go along with it. He would treat them as if they were absolutely real, and then take them to task for one thing or another. A great exchange was once had between him and Tim Goodwin, which went on for about 30 minutes, to the great amusement of all around. When Emil finally had to go, a lady who had been watching came up to Mel and said 'You know, they’re really only actors.'"
Since Joe Rohde still hasn’t spoken publicly about the Adventurers Club, I asked Hart to also share any memories of Rohde and the club.
“I was told by Joe Rohde several years ago that he and a group of friends were hiking in some forgotten corner of the world, and sang the song as they made their trek up the side of a mountain. He was such a major part of the club. I don’t think he particularly approved of some of the changes that were made over the years.
“I have one particular memory of Joe during the rehearsal period of the club. We were sitting at a table in the library while the cast was rehearsing the radio show. He had thought of a prop for the maid—a '30s version of a 'dust buster.' He drew the thing out as we sat there. It was really clever. I said to him “How the hell do you do that?” And he motioned to the cast as they were singing the full version of the theme song, and said “I don’t know. How do you do that?”
“A favorite anecdote. One day during opening week, I was in the Club, going over some music changes with one of the keyboard players who did Fingers. (I don’t remember their names, but they were both great.) We were in his booth behind the painting on stage right. A family came in the library to look around. (This was in the afternoon before the club opened. Someone in the family worked at WDW or something.) Anyway, the mother, who had seen the show, was telling her family about it. She told them that a ghost played the organ, and that it was a real ghost. Her son (about 9 or so) wanted to hear him play. The mother, thinking that no one was there, was making excuses for the ghost not being there, when the keyboardists suddenly brought Fingers to life. He played for them, then took a couple of requests. When they left, I think the mother was thinking that there might really be a ghost."
In communicating with Hart, I discovered that he was also involved in the legendary first show produced for the Comedy Warehouse when it opened in 1989. The infamous “Forbidden Disney” is another part of Pleasure Island that has never been documented.
“Somewhere in here working on the Adventurers Club, Tom Sherohman asked me if I could write a couple of concept songs for 'Forbidden Disney.' I wrote a couple of things, including the theme for the Crouton Pavilion.
“Rick Rothschild met with me, and told me I had a choice. I could either stay on the Mannequins concept team, become the head music programmer for Videopolis, or become the composer/lyricist for the whole project. I chose the latter, and joined Roger and Tom’s teams.
“Once I had done the theme song and Radio Show, there wasn’t much else to do for the Club until we actually went to Florida to mount the shows, so most of my time over the next year was spent with Tom’s team.
“Now that was an experience. 'Forbidden Disney,' in its original form, was essentially a mini-musical. Every scene had a song. I wrote all of the original music and the lyrics that went with them. The lyrics to 'SuperConcientiousFriendlyDisneyWorldEmployees' (which were brilliant) were done by Kevin Rafferty. (I hope I have that name correct. If there was a Kevin Rafferty on the project, then that’s the one. If there wasn’t, I have the name confused with someone else.) He also wrote the lawyer’s song to 'Chim Chim Cheree.'
“Rich Proctor wrote the lyrics to 'It’s Tough to Be a Fairy in the Eighties' which I set to music.
“We all went to Florida about six weeks before the Island opened to mount the shows. (This whole process was unusually long compared to a normal show mounting schedule.) The original 'Forbidden Disney”'was almost an hour and a half long.
“Michael Eisner had taken a personal interest in the show, since it was the first time ever that Disney was going to publicly poke fun at itself. So he had seen every draft of the script, heard every demo of every song, and had sent back notes on everything. He loved the show, and the idea of doing the show.
“So about four weeks before opening, he was going to attend a rehearsal. Someone came up with the brilliant idea (not) of bringing in an audience, so he could experience it with (hopefully) some real laughter. We all had a stroke, of course, since we were four weeks away from being ready to open.
“But we had no choice. Fortunately, the cast did great, the audience roared, and it looked like the show was going to be a hit. (They even had the audience fill out comment cards, and the show rated a 97—the highest on WDW property.)
“Unfortunately, this also meant that the show—which had been flying under the radar up to that point—was now exposed, and so every person in Creative Entertainment and Operations above the position of copier repairer now wanted to put in their .02 cents.
“We all knew the show had to be chopped to 45 minutes, but now instead of just the PI team, everyone on WDW property showed up to have their input. And many of them absolutely hated the show. They thought it made fun of WDW, and they didn’t like it. So started the 'Forbidden Disney' wars.
“Over the next four weeks, the show wasn’t merely edited down, it was re-written. Old scenes were removed, new ones added. Every time a new scene was added, a new song was requested. I think the original show had about eight or so songs. Over the next four weeks, I wrote over 20 songs—the vast majority of which were thrown out when their scenes were thrown out.
“Several songs were '48-hour wonders.' They would be conceptualized by the team on say, Tuesday, and then written, arranged, rehearsed, and put into the show on Thursday or Friday. This was, of course, a tremendous strain on everybody, especially considering that virtually all of the rehearsals were now being done in front of an audience.
“Two of these 48-hour songs, 'It’s Tough to Be a Fairy' and 'The Sweeper and the Kid' actually stayed in the show.
“A side note. Alan Billingsley, who was a fabulous musician, wound up doing all the arrangements for the Comedy Warehouse music and I actually bought the first two public issues of Finale, the leading music publishing software. It was version 1. I would chart out the lead sheet of the song with the melody, chords, and lyrics, then email them to Alan in California. (Early days of email.) He would do the arrangement, put it in several different keys (for the different performers) then send it back. I would then take it to the cast. Alan spent so much time on the phone with the Finale programmers that they asked him to become a permanent beta tester for them.
“The Warehouse show definitely polarized the audience. The vast majority found the show to be quite funny, and they admired Disney for having the guts to do it. Others—most notably some WDW people—absolutely hated the show, and were insulted by it. We actually got hate mail from some of these people. My favorite one said “Why don’t all you hippies go back to California and leave Disney alone?”
“I don’t know what they thought WDI was, or who had created their theme park, but they certainly wanted no part of us. I talked to one guy at one of the 'preview' performance, who sat in the back just fuming. After the show, I asked him what he thought. He hated it. He told me that it was “all these communists from California, who wanted to destroy Disney.” He was also mad at the people in California who had built Disneyland as a copy of WDW. It didn’t seem to faze him that Disneyland had been built first. He was still mad. He also told me that he was going to a prayer vigil that night. They were going to pray that Satan and all his followers would go back to California and leave them alone.
“In the original show, there was a scene where the vacationing housewife (Margo) was walking through the Magic Kingdom, and fantasizing about being one of the Disney leading ladies: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, etc. Suddenly, Snow White appears in person, and they launch into a duet, with Margo saying how wonderful everything would be, and Snow White telling it like it really is: pretty disgusting living with seven small men.
“It was a major number, about five minutes or so long. Rick Rothschild said it was his favorite scene in the show, and, reportedly, so did Michael Eisner. When we did that first rehearsal with an audience, the song went over big (as did the whole show.) We were scheduled to have a post-mortem after the show, presided over by Eisner himself.
“On the way into the meeting, I heard a voice call my name. It was Michael. He said he wanted to talk to me before the meeting. The reason was that in the meeting, he was going to say that the Snow White song was being cut. I was stunned, and said that we could make it shorter. He said that wasn’t the problem. He also said that it was, indeed, his favorite scene and song in the show.
“The issue was that just a couple of weeks earlier, Rob Lowe had done an infamous number with “Snow White” at the Academy Awards, and now Disney was suing. Michael said that we couldn’t very well sue the Academy for doing a Snow White spoof (even though the issue wasn’t parody, but copyright infringement), and then do a Snow White spoof in our own show. He apologized, but said that that was the way of the world.
“Because of this, the idea for the 'Disney Lawyer' character came into being, interrupting the show when some of the cast impersonated Disney characters.
“The sheet music for the song, which ran for many yards when taped together, was put up along two walls in the Warehouse, with a note saying that it was the first song cut from 'Forbidden Disney.'
“One of the interesting things about the songwriting gig for PI was that Comedy Warehouse seemed to be in constant flux (at least once we arrived in Florida). I wrote over 30 songs for the show, most of which were deemed 'just right,' yet only a few of which survived all the re-writing. (A couple even got recorded for show playback, then cut when the scene they were in lasted only a couple of rehearsals.)
“I could go on for quite awhile about Comedy Warehouse. It was simultaneously one of the most exhilarating yet frustrating experiences I’ve ever had. In both clubs, I found that the creative teams and the casts were just outstanding, and it was a pure pleasure working with them.”
I am going to close this column with the lyrics to the “Adventurers Club All-Purpose Theme Song” so all those huge fans of the club can have a copy. Also, don’t forget to check out the Congaloosh Society Inc.'s Web site.
Adventurers Club All Purpose Theme Song
Music and Lyrics by Lynn Hart
The Chorus is sung as part of the “New Members Induction Ceremony.. The Verse and Chorus was sung as part of the “Radiothon.”
Marching along, we’re Adventurers
Singing the Song of Adventurers
Up or down, North, South, East or West
An Adventurers life is best
Verse (each paragraph sung by a different character)
We’ve been chased by angry dingoes
Took a bath with Pink Flamingoes
Eaten Passion Fruit in East Beirut
We shot down with our guns
In the Grenadines, we rested
In the Philippines were bested
By a flummox in out stomachs
That soon had us on the runs.
I went hunting in Tijuana
Where I bagged a wild iguana
We hopped a train in old Bahrain
Purely for the fun
Then I got into hot water
Had to wed the Chieftain’s daughter
But we traded her for beaver fur
And a poison blow dart gun
We’ve hunted tigers in Tunisia
Counted geigers in Magnesia
Been shot in spots by Hottentots
Drank Dandelion Gin
Got nibbled in Bothswana
Turned to kibble by piranha
Caught Malaria in Bulgaria
By Jove, what a week it’s been!
Marching along, we’re Adventurers
Singing the song of Adventurers,
Up or down, North, South, East or West
An Adventurers Life is Best,
An Adventurers Life is Best!
“You asked about ‘Kungaloosh’. It was not a part of the original show, but I think it got added in the second or third year. I’m betting it originated with Rich Proctor, but I don’t know for sure. (He loved making up words.), “ Hart said.