Presented by Kraft,
this strange little show delivered a musical primer in basic nutrition and the four food groups*. When
EPCOT Center opened in October 1982, the Kitchen Kabaret was the attraction (Journey
Into Imagination's ride didn't debut until the following March) that most closely
resembled something from the Magic Kingdom. Its bright colors, screwball
humor, upbeat songs and Audio-Animatronic figures seemed altogether familiar
to anyone who had ever seen the Country Bear Jamboree or even
Mouse Revue. The greatest difference was that the Kitchen Kabaret was, in its
own way, trying to teach a useful lesson.
The entrance to the thirteen and one-half minute show
played in a theater that was later occupied by Food Rocks (which used a few of
KK's elements) and then removed to make way for Soarin', which debuted in 2006.
The aforementioned poster gallery led to a waiting area dressed up like the back
alleys of a city where singing foodstuffs were a fairly common thing.
Bouncy jazz music
saturated the bench-lined chamber that adjoined a row of automatic doors
leading into the theater. It was customary for small children to get up and start
dancing carelessly around in the middle of the room prior to show time.
Eventually a swelling medley of the show's
main musical cues began to play and signaled that it was time to jockey for
position in front of the doors. A hostess or host would get everyone in
order and deliver the usual protocol notices via microphone. Then the doors
swung open and guests filed into the theater just ahead to their left.
The theater faced a stage framed by two little stages, like a scaled-down
version of The Mickey Mouse Revue's spatial arrangement. A Kraft logo was sewn on the
main curtain. Directly above the curtain was an art deco kitchen cookware
marquee with the show's name rendered in glowing neon. Once everyone was
seated and relatively quiet, an announcers voice cued the show, "Ladies and
gentleman, Kraft proudly presents a show that has the whole town...cooking: the
Kitchen Kabaret. And now, here's your hostess, Bonnie Appetit."
The curtain in the right hand side stage went up on
Bonnie, a lady with a cartoon features dressed in her best Betty Crocker**
rags. She was perched atop a stack of huge cookbooks, and she looked thoroughly
worn out and depressed...as if she had just stood through the O Canada! film two
pavilions away. Bonnie explained that it was "time to plan
another meal," and she wasn't too excited about it. But after singing a
couple lines about the "mealtime blues," she started to let on about a way
of circumventing some of the drudgery. "The timing's right, the show's
prepared, let me serve it on up to you..." she stretched out the last note as
the curtains lifted on the main stage.
The setting was Bonnie's kitchen, which was about three times human
size and ten times more clean than most I've been in. It was appointed in
warm earth tones with white and silver appliances. To the far left was a
refrigerator, to the far right an oven. Above the counter in the middle of the scene was a large window with
the blinds drawn. It was surrounded by cabinetry. A basket of fruit sat off to the left side of the window.
No sooner did the curtain go up than the house band, the Kitchen Krackpots, rose from the depths in front of
the counter. The ensemble was comprised of oversized - even for this big kitchen - condiments, all in
Kraft-brand packaging. A mayonnaise jar led the group on beet and tuna can percussion, accompanied by
barbecue sauce on a whisk bass, parmesan cheese on a measuring cup (?) guitar, mustard on sax and
another screwy little thing that might have been horseradish on a matchstick piano. They pounded out a quick little
tune about the food groups to which Bonnie, having quickly changed into a glittering Vegas-style outfit,
provided the vocals. She belted out her intentions of "chasing the lowdown mealtime blues away" and then
the Krackpots began to disappear below the stage again.
Bonnie proceeded to introduce the first of the show's four main acts, "Mr. Dairy Goods and his Stars of the
Milky Way." As a heavenly chorus sounded from above, the
door of the refrigerator on stage right opened
slowly and the performers slid out of its recesses
in a cloud of dry ice fog. In front was Goods, a
flimsy milk carton with facial features and arms
that held a microphone. Behind him were three
female incarnations of lactose-heavy perishables:
Miss Cheese, Miss Yogurt and Miss Ice Cream. In
his '30s crooner voice, Goods introduced each of
the ladies and they, in turn, warbled a couple
lines in their own praise. Miss Cheese sounded
like Mae West, Miss Yogurt like a European sex
kitten and Miss Ice Cream like a homogenized Eartha Kitt. Soon their short revue concluded
and they retracted back into the icebox.
Simultaneously, the music kicked in for the second act: The Cereal Sisters. From atop a cabinet shelf to the
right of the sink, this trio (Rennie Rice, Connie Corn and - ouch - Mairzy Oats) of packaged products sang in the
style of the legendary and harmonically unacceptable Andrews Sisters. While a swing rhythm filled the room,
they told the story of "The Toast of the Town," a loaf of bread who played a mean trumpet. In their own
words, "he started with some dough and then he rose to be a star." The Toast, meanwhile popped up in a
couple different places and cracked off a few loud notes on his horn. He had big puffy cheeks like Dizzy
When that song was finished, Bonnie made a suggestive pun about
getting together with the bread for
"jam session." Her filthy mouth sparked the ire of the next two performers, Hamm n' Eggz, who started yelling at her for
cutting in on their territory. As they shouted, steam began to rise from the stove at stage
left. Hamm n' Eggz soon came up through the steam and began their vaudeville bantering to the repetitious
notes of a tuba and banjo. Hamm was a big full pork roast with a shirt, tie and vest who spoke from a mouth
formed by a slice through his upper torso. Mr. Eggz was (surprise!) an egg with stilt legs and a bow tie who
tipped his straw hat incessantly and wore a permanent smile. Between wise cracks and contentious digs at
each other, they sang a little bit about the wonders of meat while a slide show illustrated their
carnivorous fables over the kitchen sink. Soon their bickering got out of hand and they had to retire into the
oven again for fear of a total meltdown.
Mr. Eggz, incidentally, was the only electonic
personage to appear in more than one EPCOT Center
attraction*** - and simultaneously at that! He was
a part of Epcot Computer Central's
Computer Revue in Communicore. In that
production he didn't speak but did provide a
brief demonstration of how Walt Disney World's computers
controlled audio-animatronic figures, park guests and the Florida Legislature.
The fourth and final act began very quietly
and in the dark, as the night sky outside the
window over the sink filled with fireflies and a Latin rhythm snaked into the
soon shone on three vegetables sitting in the
sink, and the adjacent basket of fruit had spun
around to reveal faces on its inhabitants. Both
groups, known as the Colander Combo and the Fiesta Fruit, sang what was to become the entire show's
signature musical number, "Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit." The broccoli character in the center of the vegetable
trio also became the attraction's de facto icon, his high-pitched "cha cha cha" providing the perfect
counterpoint to the bass profundo moaning of Big Al, the centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom's aforementioned
Country Bear Jamboree. It was during this song that Bonnie dropped into the top half of the stage on a
crescent moon, dressed up like Carmen Miranda and singing along with the produce below. Fireworks
exploded outside the window and the serenade ended with the broccoli yelping out one last "cha cha cha."
on the moon, Bonnie sang the segue way to the finale. Then she rose up into the
ceiling and all the acts reappeared on-stage for one last potshot each at the
audience. Bonnie (back in her subdued housewife attire) reappeared on the left
hand side stage to reiterate the show's main message about the four food groups
and nutrition. The separate groups joined in as one orchestra to accompany her
in the delivery of her final dietary doctrine, which rose to a frenzied
crescendo of light and sound that culminated in an extended high note.
was the show. The curtains rolled in on each other and a host or hostess
thanked the audience for visiting and enjoying Kraft's hearty cast of
Of course, it was never explained how any of the
information imparted in this extravaganza would help Bonnie actually plan a meal. In
fact, there was no mention of recipes whatsoever. She was basically left
with a pantry's worth of musical ingredients that championed their own merits
and certainly weren't going to cook
themselves (not one of them ever actually said, "eat me"), and in the meantime
she'd lost about fourteen minutes. Never mind what kind of moral dilemma she
might be facing in the slaughter of intelligent food items with distinct
personalities. There was no contemplation of vegetarianism, just as there
was no second-guessing of a woman's place in the kitchen. Bring me steak,
Souvenir merchandise from this show was widely available during Epcot's early years. The shop just
outside the show's exit was originally known as Broccoli & Co. and offered a good selection of Kitchen
Kabaret items. From placemats and magnets to note pads and stuffed "animals," the majority of the items
depicted the Colander Combo, most notably the shop's namesake, the broccoli. Years before the show folded
up, however, this product line died off and was replaced by more generic kitchen wares.
The Kitchen Kabaret was not a masterstroke of theme park entertainment, and in that sense it was on
square footing with many other attractions at EPCOT Center. It was fun, however, thoughtfully planned,
coherent and exceptionally designed. In spite of the puns, the lyrics were
clever and the music was catchy. A number of
factors (ranging from new thinking in the science of nutrition and the departure
of Kraft as The Land pavilion's sponsor) led to the need for this show's
overhaul in 1994. It's unfortunate that none of its fine original elements
survived the transition to appear in other park attractions. They should
have put Dairy Goodz and his troupe with the polar bears in Norway and lined the
last third of Spaceship Earth's track with fruits and vegetables who were
excited about AT&T's Global Neighborhood.
One of the most interesting things about Kitchen Kabaret, to me, was its physical relationship to the Land
Pavilion in which it was located and the rest of EPCOT Center itself. It was one of three things to which you
could devote your time on just the lower level of a pavilion which made up only 1/3 of the diversions of West
Future World, which was only 1/3 of Future World itself, which was only 1/2 of EPCOT Center. The
Land was a pretty busy pavilion.
* When people like me were kids
there was this thing called the "four food groups," named in honor of the four
types of dinosaurs that were still roaming the earth. Since 1992 the "food
pyramid," which is still evolving, has enjoyed nutritional dominance.
** When people like me were kids there was this lady named Betty Crocker who
wasn't real but her fake likeness appeared on a bunch of cooking products.
She was always white and always had bad hair. The Betty Crocker brand
still exists but they aren't using a face now - to the company's credit they
have put images of black people on their website a very timely 43 years
after the civil rights movement really caught on. Betty Crocker was named
in honor of Betty Rubble, the wife of Barney Rubble who worked in Mr. Slate's
quarry with some of the dinosaurs that were still roaming the earth when people
like me were kids.
*** Both Walter Cronkite and Walt Disney had some type of role in both Spaceship
Earth and The American Adventure. But they weren't robots. As far as