Orange Bird Returns to Walt Disney World!

© Disney

The Florida Orange Bird was created specifically for the Walt Disney World where he was the representative of the Sunshine Pavilion, which included the Tropical Serenade (known today as Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room) and the Sunshine Tree Terrace, from the opening of Walt Disney World until the mid-1980s. This all was sponsored by the Florida Citrus Commission. (Read more about the Sunshine Tree Terrace, including the Florida Orange Bird, here.) During this time at the Sunshine Tree Terrace, guests could enjoy a delicious frozen treat known as the Citrus Swirl, which was a cool and refreshing blend of vanilla soft serve ice cream swirled with delicious frozen orange slush.


Unfortunately, over the years, everything that made the Sunshine Tree Terrace special began to disappear. First, the Orange Bird vanished. Then, Tropical Serenade was replaced by the Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management. Finally, the Citrus Swirl was lost. Pavilion details, such as its tiki torches, were also stripped away. It became but a shell of its former self. By the 1990s, it was tough to find the Florida Orange Bird anywhere, period. Most guests probably didn’t even notice these details being lost (except, perhaps, for the “New Management” Tiki Room, which was an abomination as compared to the original). Die-hard fans did notice, though, as these small “Disney Details” that we harp on here are what set Walt Disney World apart from so many other theme parks.

Over the last couple of years, online fascination with the Orange Bird has increased. D23 and Disney’s Pin-Trading arm have featured him on merchandise and he has continued to grow in popularity. Yet, it seemed that he’d never return to Sunshine Tree Terrace. After all, he was partly a result of the Citrus Commission sponsorship, and that sponsorship had long ago terminated. It seemed he’d only be used when Disney wanted to honor Walt Disney World’s history.

Other aspects of the original Sunshine Pavilion began returning. The Enchanted Tiki Room returned in Fall 2011. The Citrus Swirl returned in March 2012. Tiki torches and other details began returning and finally, today…

The Florida Orange Bird Returned!

D23 representatives and Imagineer Jason Grandt announced the return of the historic Orange Bird character live in Adventureland before D23 members. At this event, a new Orange Bird marquee above Sunshine Tree Terrace was unveiled! The Orange Bird has now returned to his rightful place behind the counter of Sunshine Tree Terrace, which now sells Orange Bird Sippy cups as well as the guest favorite Citrus Swirls. Additionally, there’s a new Sunshine Tree Terrace poster in the tunnel to Main Street USA that features the Orange Bird. Yep, he’s back! Merchandise featuring the Orange Bird was also released today.

Our Reaction

Much has already been written about the return of the Citrus Swirl, and why it is or is not a big deal. Michael Crawford summed up my thoughts on the matter nicely here (READ THIS!). He saved me a lot of keystrokes and wrote something more articulate than I could ever muster, but I still want to reiterate some of what he said previously.

Even if you don’t care about Citrus Swirls, the Orange Bird, or anything that has happened in this area of Adventureland over the last year, you should see this as a big deal and be happy that it has happened. It is an incremental improvement, to be sure, but it’s still a big deal. It’s a change that acknowledges Walt Disney World’s history (click for classic photos of the Orange Bird) and restores a layer of detail to Walt Disney World that is uniquely “Walt Disney World.” The new Orange Bird marquee can’t be dismissed as a simple cash-grab that is being made in an attempt to take money from nostalgic super fans (unless they start selling the marquee!). Rather, it’s a change that demonstrates that the people (at least some of them) in charge of the parks truly care about the small details and making Walt Disney World a special place. If you care about Walt Disney World’s history, it’s hard to deny the significance of the recent improvements to Sunshine Tree Terrace.

© Disney

Download the above wallpaper here, courtesy of the Disney Parks Blog.

Supporting the small victories like this doesn’t mean you’re an easily placated fan. It means that you’re giving positive reinforcement to changes you perceive as good, and the people within The Walt Disney Company who are fighting for these changes to be made can take the response to these changes into their next “battle” as evidence that people do actually care about the details. In an organization that suffers from diseconomies of scale and leadership that is often focused on trimming offerings that aren’t revenue-generating in order to increase the bottom line, a positive reaction to these small details does wonders. It demonstrates that there is value in such work, and that just because that value can’t be readily quantifiable doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be undertaken.

I know a lot of people, myself included, think that a lot of work needs to be done at Walt Disney World to restore it to its former glory as the Vacation Kingdom of the World. Just because you’re happy about one change doesn’t mean that you still can’t be dissatisfied about other changes, and praising changes doesn’t make you less of a fan (like some naysayers might have you believe).

Not everything can be a new land or E-Ticket. Each and every one of the little changes, like this, that restores some of the charm and uniqueness to Walt Disney World deserves to be praised. Over time, these little changes will add up. If Walt Disney World has taught us anything, it’s that every little detail is important.

Please click the links (to other Disney fan sites) in this article–many of them help inform as to why the Orange Bird plays such an integral role in Walt Disney World’s history.

What do you think of the return of the Orange Bird? Let us know in the comments!

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7 Responses to “Orange Bird Returns to Walt Disney World!”

  1. Christa says:

    Amen and hallelujah!

  2. Katie says:

    Great post, great analysis, and most of all, great news! Can’t wait for our next trip!

  3. David says:

    Great news! I’d never heard of the Orange Bird until a few summers ago when I came across a pin with the little fella on. I bought it straight away, not knowing how significant he was to Walt Disney World history. I just fell in love with the character. I can’t wait to see him and real life, and I really hope that a Meet and Greet is on the cards!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      A meet and greet would be great, and it was mentioned in an OrSen post yesterday as coming, but I think that might have been an error.

  4. Melissa says:

    My first visit to Walt Disney World was in 2006. Being a California girl, my Disney theme park experiences prior to that had all been at Disneyland. As such, the Orange Bird is not my nostalgia, but I’m delighted by his return nevertheless. I think it’s important that the Disney theme parks all have their own unique texture, and the Orange Bird is significant in that he represents Florida and a much-needed revival for Adventureland. I consider this a step forward in undoing the homogenization of Disney theme parks.

    Of course, this news coming a day after the announcement that the Voices of Liberty would be coming to Disneyland means it’s a step forward immediately after a step back, but I’ll take what I can get!

  5. frank says:

    I have gone to customer care every year to comment on the orange swirl. It is my favorite ride:). I haven’t been down since 2011 and am glad to hear its back. I would go and have them maker a layered drink with the ice cream and frozen orange mixture. Can’t wait to get down there and have one.

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