Long before tiki was a resounding trend, Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room gathered popularity back in 1963 with its Polynesian-themed animatronic show in the wildly popular theme park. Amazingly, KCET has now uncovered the unbelievable early machinations behind the Tiki Room’s most important showpieces: the room’s singing parrots, dancing flowers and other robot performers. According to their research, the marvelous movements were developed with secure technology from the 1950s U.S. nuclear weapons program.
Before the theme park opened in 1955, Walt Disney read a series of Wernher von Braun’s articles detailing the challenges and benefits of a space program. After suggesting a collaboration with the father of rocket technology, Disney signed on Von Braun as a technical advisor to help oversee some of the mechanics of the park. Von Braun would later go on to expand his role with Disney, even hosting three episodes for ABC of a show called “Walt Disney’s Disneyland.”
The TV special was a deft PR move at the time, as the ABC special helped finance the future theme park. The partnership also allowed Von Braun to familiarize the public with space travel, while working with the U.S. military to create ballistic missiles.