“Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost” is a restaurant located at the far end of Adventureland at Disneyland Paris. This beautifully themed building originally housed a table service restaurant called “Explorers Club”. Over the years, both the décor and food on offer was changed. These measures raise questions like, “What did this place used to look like?” and “What inspired its original design”? In this article, retired Walt Disney Imagineer, mister Chris Tietz (Show Producer Adventureland, Disneyland Paris) tries to answer these and many other questions you might have about this wonderful place.
Among the various food facilities to be located within Adventureland, mister Tietz was requested to provide two table service restaurants as well. The people in charge of food services thought that the French culture would dictate Guests to have a sit down table service meal. One of these table service restaurants became the “Blue Lagoon” and the other became the “Explorers Club”.
In an early stage of the Euro Disney project, Walt Disney Imagineering was planning a “Jungle Cruise” attraction to be located west of “Adventure Isle”. The “Explorers Club” was to be a gateway stopping point perched at the edge of civilization and, via the “Jungle Cruise”, unexplored adventures beyond. It was the last chance for safari supplies and a returning place to trade trinkets and tall tales in exchange perhaps for a hot meal and entertainment.
The “Jungle Cruise” influence could also be seen in the nearby shop “Trader Sam’s” named after a well-known Jungle Cruise character. This shop was later renamed “Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost”.
The style of architecture of the “Explorers Club” restaurant needed to be large and colorful in order to catch the eye and draw guests toward it and the “Jungle Cruise” area beyond. Mister Tietz used reference photos such as in the book “Caribbean Style” by Suzanne Slesin and built upon using imaginative wood designs and bright colors typical of this style.
A high tower structure was added so as to be seen from a distance with the Club’s flag emblem flying high above (as can be seen in our article “Lost Treasures – Adventureland”). The lookout with telescope resembles the original “Jungle Cruise” lookout building at Disneyland developed by Walt Disney Imagineer, mister Harper Goff.
Inspiration for the open air seating areas over the waterfalls came from the “Adventureland Veranda” restaurant at Walt Disney World (recently replaced by “Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen”). The streams and waterfalls surrounding the “Explorers Club” add to its lush and remote theme. Windows with old world handmade glass and wide doors can be opened to let in refreshing breezes.
When Walt Disney and his Imagineers originally designed “The Enchanted Tiki Room” for Disneyland, it was to be a table service restaurant with colorful Macaws, Toucans, flowers, and Tikis performing above. The restaurant part of this concept was later dropped in favor of the theatrical version of the show we know today.
In tribute to this concept, mister Tietz placed two colorful macaw birds and two toucans perched in the giant Banyan type tree that had grown up right through the floor and had overgrown into the roof rafters above. These four birds were animated, but with very subtle movements. A head tilt, a feather ruffle, or a body leaning forward every once in a while so that the diners below would only catch a glimpse out of the corner of their eye. They would think, did that bird just move? Is it really alive?
The interior of the “Explorer’s Club” carried on the style of the exterior with an array of eclectic light fixtures, textures, and props collected by its proprietor or brought back by explorer’s travels.
Below is an old photo made by mister Tietz, depicting the proprietor's office area with desk, typewriter, reference books, phonograph, and charts. On the wall over the desk is a print of one of Harper Goff's paintings of the original Jungle Cruise which he designed. This scene was set up just to the right of and around the corner from what is now the food service counter. It would be on the left corner wall next to the back row of banquettes in the main tree room.
The murals in the main dining room were created by Walt Disney Imagineer, mister John Horny. They depict many different ways of travel adventures all around the globe, with just a seasoning of humor.
The table service venue did not endure perhaps because there was no “Jungle Cruise” to draw guests into this remote area. Furthermore, Disney soon found out that Guests preferred a convenient meal experience so that they could spend more time enjoying the attractions around the Park. So different foods and themes were tried out in the “Explorers Club” building over the years. Props were changed or removed (like the Club’s flag emblem, Audio Animatronic birds or the proprietor's office area), graphics were added to windows and a new outdoor patio seating was created.
Mister Tietz and his team went back and forth in the design stage whether the name of the restaurant would be "Explorer's Club or "Explorers Club" (no apostrophe). Chris presented that the "Club" was not owned by the explorers (no possessive), but that it was a place of and for explorers to meet. That’s why, in 1992, there was no apostrophe. Soon after the opening, the apostrophe was added to the signage (for reasons unclear). In 1995, the structure got its current name: “Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost”.
We would like to express our sincere thanks and appreciation to mister Tietz for all the effort made in helping us write this article. Designing Disney encourages Disneyland Paris to pay tribute to the hard work of Chris and his team by taking action to bring back details like the Club’s flag emblem or the Audio Animatronic birds. Ms. Powell, if you read this, please give us a sign and #bringbackthebirds. Because magic is all in the details, you know. Thank you.