This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Ways Disney’s AbracadaBar Has Us Under Its Spell. With the Flying Fish recently receiving a lengthy refurbishment and a completely new look, ESPN Club getting a major menu upgrade, and the debut of Ample Hills Creamery (serving some of the best ice cream on property), Disney’s BoardWalk area is now better than it has ever been. However, another new addition to the area may actually be the best improvement of all, the AbracadaBar.
Following the trend set by Sam’s Grog Grotto, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar and Nomad Lounge, AbracadaBar is an extremely well themed bar, with an elaborate backstory centered around magicians of the Golden Age. Everywhere you look at AbracadaBar, there are winks and nods to the art of performing magic. These can range from straight jackets and chains, items made famous by Harry Houdini, to playing cards, mirrors, linking rings and other items that are part of any magician’s arsenal. However, this being Disney, if you look really close you’ll see some extra special details. What are the six best? Well sit back, remember that real magicians do “illusions” because “tricks” are, well, you know…, and let’s begin our list with…
# 6 – Magic Posters
Throughout AbracadaBar there are “enchanted” posters. They normally represent several of the famous magicians who would visit the lounge in the 1930s. However, part of the the story of AbracadaBar is that one night every magician in the bar disappeared, never to be seen again. Every hour on the 13th minute, the posters change and the magicians depicted in them disappear. This is very reminiscent of the effect Be Our Guest Restaurant uses to show a transformation of a “painting” in the West Wing.
# 5 – Hidden Mickeys
Fans of Hidden Mickeys are going to need to keep their head on a swivel as there are several of them sprinkled throughout the bar area (including some in stained glass.) Our favorite though has to be what looks like a normal Ace of Clubs playing card, but instead is a cleverly designed Ace of Mickey.
# 4 – Reference to Seashore Sweets
As we mentioned earlier, while the actual food items offered by Seashore Sweets weren’t special at all, the theming of the sweet shop was actually charming. It was completely dedicated to the Miss America pageant, which has a rich history with the actual Atlantic City boardwalk dating back to 1921. Inside Seashore Sweets there were pictures of individual Miss America winners, along with assorted memorabilia from the contest. A true slice of Americana was preserved in this small candy store. The backstory of Seashore Sweets was that is was opened by two sisters who had competed in the Miss America pageant, and despite not winning, stayed in the area to open up their own store. We here at the SATURDAY SIX absolutely love when attractions pay nods to what they replaced (such as a 20,000 Leagues sub hidden in the rock work of Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, or Back To The Future’s Doc Brown featured in the queue of The Simpsons Ride at Universal,) and the fact that it is starting to transition over to restaurants and bars brings a tear of happiness to our eyes. To wit, inside AbracadaBar you will see a framed piece of newspaper that is ostensibly about the backstory of the bar’s missing magicians. If you look further down the paper, you’ll see a small story on two sisters advancing in a beauty pageant. This is a terrific tribute to previous owners of the establishment (and we are already in love with the upcoming PizzeRizzo at DHS that has a hilarious nod to Pizza Planet on its sign.)
# 3 – S.E.A. Fez
We are in truly exciting times for theme park nerds. Not only are we now getting references to former restaurants and sweet shops, but Disney has slowly been expanding the universe for the Society of Explorers and Adventures (S.E.A.) While our Tower of Terror in Florida is themed to the Twilight Zone, and the Tower of Terror in California is going to be next level bananas changed to Guardians of the Galaxy, the Tower of Terror in Tokyo Disney Sea has its own unique story. In Japan, the “Hollywood Hotel” that we know of is actually the “Hightower Hotel,” and is named after S.E.A. member Harrison Hightower III. The heavily praised Mystic Manor attraction in Hong Kong Disneyland has a story featuring S.E.A. member Henry Mystic. On one of the more recent refurbishments of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad here in Florida, a painting of S.E.A.’er Barnabas T. Bullion was added in. The Skipper Canteen at the Magic Kingdom opened last year with many nods to Disney history, but if you look around you will see the S.E.A. fez of Henry Mystic among the items. You’ll also find the “S.E.A. Shu Mai” on the menu, and one of the actual dining rooms is named The S.E.A. Room. To top it off for us theme park nerds, all of this dates back to the hallowed grounds of The Adventure’s Club in Pleasure Island.
So what does all this have to do with AbracadaBar? Well, among all the mysterious items you will see a S.E.A. fez. For the average guest, this small hat will mean absolutely nothing, but for this in the know it shows a much larger world at play and hopefully one that gets even bigger in the near future.
# 2 – Genie Lamp and Aladdin Book
What could be more magical than a genie that grants wishes? On one of the shelves of AbracadaBar you will see a genie’s lamp along with a book nearby that includes Aladdin in the title. Coincidence?
The props and artifacts on display at AbracadaBar are worth spending some of your time examining, as even small details – such as what words on are the index card boxes – have references to the world of magic (and to the world of Disney).
# 1 – The Magic Coasters
For those doubting we aren’t in the greatest timeline, allow us to present the fact that we are now in an era of E-Ticket coasters. Not only is Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar delivering several great Indiana Jones references on its coasters, but AbracadaBar takes it up a notch, using its coaster as an actual working magic trick. One on side of the coaster is a top hat and magician’s wand for AbracadaBar. The other side has a bunch of “flying fish” for the Flying Fish restaurant located directly next to AbracadaBar. By attaching string to each side of the coaster, you can create an optical illusion of the fish leaping out of the magic hat. This is based on a popular 19th century toy called a thaumatrope in which two different pictures appear to blend into one another. One of the most popular version of a thaumatrope is a bird flying out of a cage, and anyone who has watched Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow saw this illusion in action.
Honorable Mention – The Bathroom Signs
One of the details at Disney most people never pay attention to, but have some really unique designs, are the bathroom signs across property. Many of the resort lobbies and better restaurants have their own distinct bathroom signs, and AbrcadaBar is no different. The main sign alerting guests to where the bathrooms are located features a male magician and a female assistant. The actual men’s and women’s bathroom signs feature magicians, while the handicapped bathroom has a famous magic trick of a rabbit coming out of a hat. Even the baby changing station has a fun sign.
Double Secret Honorable Mention – Oh yeah, AbracadaBar also serves DRINKS
Sorry, we’re out of space. We’ll get to them another time.
So there you have it: Six Ways Disney’s Abracadbar Has Us Under Its Spell. See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles (which we just celebrated our THREE YEAR ANNIVERSARY), or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan)
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Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with co-host Aengus Mackenzie along with Meg’s Yeti To Be Named Disney Podcast.
BONUS PLUG! I know what you’re thinking. “Derek, you’re articles have turned many to alcohol in order to cope, but where can I read about the best bars at Walt Disney World and Universal?” Great question. And I have three AWESOME suggestions. The first is from TouringPlan’s own Brian McNichols with the handy Walt Disney World bars and lounges eGuide. Filled with great photos, this eGuide is an indispensable tool on your next WDW bar crawl. Next up we have the brand new DRINKING AT DISNEY book by DrunkAtDisney and his better half Rhiannon that clocks in at a whopping 330 pages. That’s what we in the industry call a tome. Lately is The Unofficial Guide to Universal by Seth Kubersky that not only has fantastic details on all the bars at UOR, but an EXCLUSIVE SATURDAY SIX written by yours truly. To quote the band N*SYNC, BUY BUY BUY!