Comic Book Review: Enchanted Tiki Room #1
I have really enjoyed the Disney Kingdoms series put out by Marvel, from Figment to Haunted Mansion. Its a fun way to look at beloved Disney Parks characters and attractions. With that, I have to express my profound disappointment in Enchanted Tiki Room #1.
The book finds Tangaroa, the Polynesian creator god and known to Disney Parks goers as the father tree who gives new life, as the narrator of the tale. He explains that every week guests in need come to the island and their lives are changed forever. Visiting the island are Agnes, a faded movie star who has trust issues with her dog, the Randy family, who think money changes everything, and Wally, who broke up with his girlfriend. The primary attraction on the island is the Enchanted Tiki Room. Here we meet Chip, a new volunteer, who also has to manage the internal drama among the birds.
My biggest concern about the book is the extremely postcolonial tone of the book. I get that, in and of itself, the Enchanted Tiki Room is a caricature of Polynesian culture capitalizing on the mid-century love of Hawaii and the South Pacific. But, at the same time, the attraction has a sense of reverence for the culture. The tikis within the enchanted gardens are based on actual gods throughout Polynesia. Each one has a story that is actually connected to reality.
With this book, I feel the culture is completely disrespected. The tiki gods are suddenly reduced to helping people out of a plane and guiding them. They're almost like the Mr. Roarke and Tatoo of the island. I would imagine they would have better things to do, frankly.
Next, the island seems to only cater to non-Pacific Islanders and yet no Pacific Islanders seem to live on this island. In all honesty, I'm not sure of the ethnicity of the Randy family, but I'm fairly certain they're not Pacific Islanders. It's strange how Disney seems to be going to great length to represent Polynesian culture in a respectful way for its upcoming animated feature Moana whereas this book goes to great length to slap Polynesian culture in the face.
And the birds have a green room where they eat chips? If this is my backstory to this attraction, it does not make me want to take the trip. I just don't understand why they went with this story. I think of the multitude of avenues they could have gone down. I'm surprised that Walt Disney Imagineering, who does have input on the story, approved such a backstory.
I also admit the artwork is not my favorite. With all due respect to Horacio Domingues, but the art seems flat. The coloring, in particular, seems odd. Absolutely nothing pops. And, this is an Enchanted Tiki Room. Everything should pop! I will say, though, that the covers are absolutely beautiful and I'd buy the issues just for the different variant covers. I purchased the action figure variant (pictured above).
I suppose hardcore Disney fans who love the attraction may be more forgiving, but I just can't get over the postcolonial tone. I finished the issue feeling incredibly frustrated and grumpy. Yet, I'll still check out the second issue and see if it gets better. I can only hope.