« August 2011 | Main | October 2011 »

September 2011 Archives

September 1, 2011

Fantasy Faire - Disneyland

Announced at the Parks and Resorts Presentation at the D23 Expo (August 2011), Disneyland will be transforming the Carnation Plaza Gardens into Fantasy Faire.


Fantasy Faire will be a storybook village square where guests of all ages step into a fairytale realm to meet the heroes and heroines of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast and Rapunzel. Concept art only, subject to change.


Families can take part in the Royal Ribbon Festival with Belle, Rapunzel and other royal court attendants for dancing and celebration. Favorite stories and characters come to life in exciting new ways in this highly-themed, magical land.

Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland Expansion - Artist Renderings

Here are more artist renderings of the new Fantasyland coming to the Magic Kingdom. (From the Disney Parks Blog)

Maurice's Cottage

The new Fantasyland will include an area dedicated to Beauty and the Beast, including Maurice's Cottage (left) and the Beast's Castle (middle).

blue line

Maurice's Cottage

Once inside Maurice's Cottage, guests can engage in a playful storytime with Belle and Lumiere.

blue line

Gaston's Pub

Gaston's Pub will be another highlight of this new area.
blue line

Gaston's Pub Interior

The interior will be themed after the one featured in the film - a hunting lodge full of antlers.

blue line

Journey of Little Mermaid

The Journey of The Little Mermaid will feature a statue of Ariel at the entrance.

blue line


Inside the attraction, Ursula the sea witch bubbles up some trouble.

blue line

Princess Fantasy Faire

Princess Fantasy Faire will be the place to meet and greet your favorite Disney royalty.

blue line


The Seven Dwarf Mine Train will whisk guests along a twisting track through a diamond mine.

blue line


Storybook Circus will be the new home to Dumbo the Flying Elephant, which will double in size and feature an interactive queue.

September 5, 2011

Final Building Block add to Disney Fantasy

This weekend we celebrated a major milestone in the construction of the Disney Fantasy. The final building block for our newest ship was placed at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany. What does this mean? It means the exterior portion of the ship is now complete and work will now focus on the interior portions of the ship. Check it out.



And the interior of this ship is going to be incredible with a new nightclub district, a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and an unbelievable new show for Animator's Palate called Animation Magic. Click here for my blog post detailing the differences between the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

While the cranes at Meyer Werft put the final block into place we captured this fun time-lapse video.

Californian Runner Humberto Rojas Cruises To Disneyland Half Marathon Victory

Louisiana runner repeats as women's division winner;
Celebrity Drew Carey finishes with personal best time;
Half marathon field pushes race weekend total to new event record

ANAHEIM, Calif. (Sept. 4, 2011) - Humberto Rojas finished the Disneyland Half Marathon pretty much where he started - in first place. The 27-year-old from Fountain Valley, Calif., led the record field of nearly 15,000 registered runners virtually from wire to wire Sunday, crossing the finish line first with a time of 1:08:14.

Finishing just behind Rojas was Jesse Kleinjan, 27, of Chicago, IL, with a time of 1:12:13. Juan Arjona, 19, of Moreno Valley, Calif., finished third (1:12:54). But no one seriously challenged Rojas.

"It's like being a little kid when you run out there (Disneyland)," Rojas said. "I live a couple miles away and I was like "how cool would it be to run inside Disneyland? It's like a dream come true."

Rachel Booth, 30, Mandeville, La., repeated as the women's champion with a time of 1:18:01. Booth, who was using this event as a training run for the Olympic trials in January, was happy with her performance.

The women's second-place finisher was Jennifer Boyd, 39, of Santa Paula, Calif. (1:23:17) followed by Susan Loken, 48, of Phoenix, Ariz. (1:23:43).

"I came to the race hoping I could pull something off," said Booth, who used the race as part of her training for a possible spot on the U.S. Olympic team. "After last year I had to come back and see what I can do. There is nothing better than running through the theme parks, Castle and all the other fun things."

Drew Carey, host of the popular game show "The Price is Right", ran in the event and set a personal record of 1:50:46. He did it while recovering from a separated clavicle that occurred while training several weeks ago.

"I am glad I did it. It was really fun,' Carey said. "I set a personal record by seven minutes - that's good with a separated clavicle. (I'm) pretty happy considering."

Other notable finishers were Kevin Broady, 49, of Brea, Calif., who won the men's Master's Division (age 40 and over) with a time of 1:13:03. Tracy Wright, 43, of San Diego, Calif., topped the women's Master's Division at 1:27:17. And Marc Aten, 37, of Moorpark, Calif., took the men's wheelchair division at 1:02:21.

Whitney Henderson, from the San Francisco area, completed an amazing goal by running the Disneyland Half Marathon as part of a run that literally stretched from coast to coast. Henderson, 24, ran from Ft. Lauderdale, FL on June 1 to the Disneyland Half Marathon.

Captain Ivan Castro, an active duty soldier who lost his vision five years ago in an attack in Iraq, completed the 13.1 mile course with the help of a guide and a shoestring tied between them.

The Disneyland Half Marathon, the "Happiest Race on Earth, featured runners from 49 states and 23 countries who completed the course that weaved through the two Disneyland Resort theme parks - Disneyland and Disney California Adventure - and by Angel Stadium of Anaheim with hundreds of cheering fans, Disney characters, music and spectators along the way.

Participants who completed the half marathon received the newly created medal designed around Disneyland Resort's iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle. In all, more than 20,500 runners participated in the weekend of events, setting an event record.

September 8, 2011

'Tis the Season to Be Spooky! Disneyland Resort Celebrates Halloween Time 2011 Sept. 16 Through Oct. 31

ANAHEIM, Calif., Sept. 7, 2011 -- The spirit of Halloween Time will invade Disneyland Resort this fall with Disney villains, Mickey Mouse and his friends in Halloween costumes, along with the seasonal transformations of Haunted Mansion into Haunted Mansion Holiday and Space Mountain into Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy. Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort begins Friday, Sept. 16, and will continue through Halloween, Monday, Oct. 31.

The after-hours Mickey's Halloween Party, a separate-ticket event* which has become an annual highlight of Halloween Time for trick-or-treating families, will take place in Disneyland park on 10 special Monday, Tuesday and Friday nights: Sept. 30 and Oct. 3, 7, 11, 14, 18, 21, 25, 28 and 31. Tickets are available at Disneyland.com/halloween.

Mickey's Halloween Party invites adults and children to dress up in costume and trick-or-treat at the resort. These party participants can also "mix in" with regular Disneyland guests for three hours prior to the start of Mickey's private bash. Highlights of Mickey's Halloween Party include:

  • Newly themed dance party: Guests can mix, mingle and dance with some of their favorite Disney characters at the new "Piratepalooza" at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante. The popular "Buzz Lightyear's Intergalactic Space Jam" returns to the Tomorrowland Terrace for more dancing fun.
  • New character photo locations: Guests will meet Stormtroopers at Tomorrowland, Phineas & Ferb at Plaza Gardens Stage, and Duffy the Bear in his pumpkin attire at Town Square, Main Street, U.S.A. Eight additional photo locations feature princesses, Disney villains and more Disney and Pixar pals.
  • The special opportunity to play in Disneyland for three hours before the party starts
  • Trick or Treating - candy and healthy treats - in the ultimate Disney neighborhood
  • The "Halloween Screams" fireworks spectacular, hosted by "Master of Scare-omonies" Jack Skellington (presented exclusively for guests of Mickey's Halloween Party)
  • "Mickey's Costume Party" cavalcade, performed twice nightly
  • An opportunity for everyone in the family to attend the park in costumes
  • Nearly all the favorite Disneyland rides and attractions

Tickets purchased in advance for Mickey's Halloween Party are $49 most days, while tickets purchased on the event days are $59. All tickets to Mickey's Halloween Party on Friday, Oct. 28, and Halloween Night, Monday, Oct. 31, are $64.

Favorite Disney characters, including Mickey himself, will dress up in fun, fall costumes. It's the ideal environment to eat special holiday treats, play interactive games, listen to "spirited" music and watch a nightly character cavalcade that celebrates the season.

For Halloween fun at Disneyland, guests will enjoy Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy in Tomorrowland. The experience begins as a typical Space Mountain adventure, but suddenly launches voyagers into a haunted section of the universe. Ghosts appear out of the starry darkness and swirling galaxies of Space Mountain, reaching out as if to grab guests as they speed through space. The exhilarating drops and curves of the journey are punctuated by piercing screams, creepy sound effects and haunting music.

Jack Skellington also returns to take over the Haunted Mansion and bring back Haunted Mansion Holiday to New Orleans Square in Disneyland. Transformed to a mix of Halloween spookiness and Christmas tradition, Haunted Mansion Holiday is inspired by the classic animated film "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas." Jack's return to the Haunted Mansion includes the traditional Halloween/Christmas gingerbread house in the Mansion Ballroom, with some special spooky surprises in this year's design.

Halloween Time offers frightfully delightful fun for children and adults.

  • For spine-tingling fun, drop in at The Twilight Zone™ Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure park, where a "supernatural" event happened on Halloween evening, 1939, forever haunting the building.
  • Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland is transformed for the Pumpkin Festival. More than 300 pumpkins will be on display and none of them are the same!
  • Visitors to Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland will find ranch animals, pumpkin carvers, Halloween decor and activities for youngsters.
  • Meeting Disney characters will be easier than ever as Disney villains gather to plot Halloween mischief at "it's a small world" Mall in Disneyland, while other characters in spooky attire greet guests in Town Square, Main Street, U.S.A.
  • Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland will honor Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead with traditional skeleton figures on display Sept. 16 through Nov. 2.
  • Special Halloween treats will be available in Disneyland, including menu items such as Zero's Ghostly Ghoulash, served in a dog dish in honor of Zero.

For more information about Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort, see www.disneyland.com/halloween. This site will be updated with frightfully fun details.

September 14, 2011

New Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Is a Family Paradise with a Touch of Disney Magic in Hawai

Guests of All Ages Will Discover the Beauty, Stories and Fun of the Islands

KO OLINA, Hawaii - Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, combines the beauty and spirit of the Hawaiian islands with the magic of Disney storytelling and guest service, creating an unforgettable family vacation experience.

Set on a beautiful lagoon along the coast of Oahu, Aulani welcomed its first guests on Aug. 29, 2011.

Aulani serves as a gateway to the fun and enchantment of the islands, noted Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.

"We are thrilled to welcome guests from around the world to experience Aulani," Staggs said. "This resort is a unique and exciting project that combines the magic and storytelling of Disney with the rich culture and beautiful scenery of Hawaii. It is the ultimate family paradise with a touch of Disney magic."

Hawaiian heritage and Disney magic

Each day of their stay, Aulani guests can customize their experience - relaxing on the beach or in Laniwai, a Disney Spa, playing in the pools or discovering the island on a specially planned excursion. Among the unique experiences at Aulani are gathering at the fireside Mo'olelo for storytelling (mo'olelo is the Hawaiian word for story) and spotting statues of Menehune, the legendary island little people, hidden throughout the resort.

Aulani traditionally means "a messenger of a chief - one who delivers a message from a higher authority." The name Aulani is fitting, as the resort serves as a messenger of the Hawaiian spirit, people and culture.

"The name 'Aulani' expresses a connection to tradition and deep storytelling - and its roots are in this land right here," said Joe Rohde, senior vice president and creative executive, Walt Disney Imagineering, who led the design of the resort.

"We want this resort destination to reflect the vibrant culture that surrounds it. We believe in artistry, in excellence, and in the beauty of a well-done thing. Our commitment to excellence mirrors the cultural values one sees in the arts of Hawaii."

Aulani occupies 21 acres of oceanfront property in Ko Olina, adjacent to a nine-acre, crystal-blue lagoon and white-sand beach. Ko Olina is 17 miles from Honolulu International Airport and less than an hour from Waikiki Beach.

When all phases are complete, Aulani will include 359 traditional hotel rooms and 481 two-bedroom equivalent Disney Vacation Club villas in two towers, each featuring rooms that offer thrilling views of the ocean, mountains and the magnificent, lush surroundings.

Something for everyone

Family-friendly resort amenities include the 18,000-square-foot Laniwai, a Disney Spa, with 15 treatment rooms and a fitness center. Many spa treatments draw upon Hawaiian healing traditions.

Aulani also features two signature restaurants - the full-service 'AMA'AMA and the buffet-style Makahiki - offering foods unique to Hawaii.

  • At the chic, beachside 'AMA'AMA, ocean breezes soothe the spirit as chefs use fresh local ingredients and island flavors to create distinctive dishes at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu includes vegetarian options and classic cocktails with new twists, plus desserts house-made daily.
  • The buffet-style Makahiki offers guests breakfast among Disney characters or, in a magical midday transformation, dinner in artful surroundings, including a stunning ceiling light sculpture and beautiful wall murals hand-painted by local artists.

Young guests have their very own kids' club, Aunty's Beach House. Here children can explore Hawaiian culture through supervised entertainment, including interactive touch tables, wildlife and nature programs, arts and crafts, Disney movies and traditional Hawaiian games.

Children of all ages will delight in Waikolohe Valley, Aulani's seven-acre water play area. The overall landscape mimics the flow of a watershed as it moves from the mountain to the ocean, complete with the Waikolohe Stream, the resort's mysterious (yet fun) tube-floating watercourse. Here guests encounter bubbling water, a cloaking mist and several hundred feet of additional surprises.

Adventure, conventions and weddings, too

For those who love waterslides, Tubestone Curl, the resort's tube slide, and Volcanic Vertical, Aulani's tunnel slide, provide thrills galore. Guests will also interact with native Hawaiian fish, including angelfish, butterfly fish and tangs, in the 3,800-square-foot Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon, the only one of its kind on Oahu.

The Makai Preserve conservation pool offers an interactive experience that allows guests to stroke the velvety backs of gentle stingrays (available by reservation only). A portion of the proceeds from this activity will support research and conservation efforts in Hawaii through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. Water activities at Aulani also include a quiet adult pool, wading pool and, for the ultimate relaxation, sunset-facing whirlpool spas.

Looking beyond its own magical grounds, Aulani offers a menu of discovery excursions with the aid of local experts. These include exploring tropical forests, hiking local mountains, sailing aboard catamarans, swimming with dolphins, cooking with local chefs, following a ghost tour and more. The excursions are specially designed for Aulani guests by Adventures by Disney and feature a knowledgeable, friendly Adventure Guide.

Aulani is the ideal place for events. When all phases are complete, groups will find nearly 50,000-square-feet of meeting space, including a 14,545-square-foot conference center, the main ballroom (which is divisible by six), four breakout rooms and generous pre-function space.

Since outdoor events are so popular in Hawaii, Disney also has created three distinct event lawns, including an oceanfront wedding lawn for Disney Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons.

September 16, 2011

A Taste of the Islands on Menus at Aulani

KO OLINA, Hawaii - Hawaii is a melting pot of cuisines - tastes of home brought to the islands by immigrants from China, Portugal, Germany, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan. Mix all of those sunny tastes and you get Hawaii's multicultural fare.

"At Aulani, we're showcasing the abundant produce, the fresh seafood, the classic tastes of Hawaii," said Executive Chef Patrick Callarac. "From simple plate lunches that are a typical part of the cuisine to local whole salt-crusted fish for two cracked open tableside, dining is a big part of the Aulani story."

'AMA'AMA - Contemporary Island Cooking

Inspired by a beachside house, 'AMA'AMA-Contemporary Island Cooking is a stylish open-air restaurant just steps from the ocean.

The entryway is framed with a design inspired by the ancient fish traps still used by local fishermen, opening into the spacious dining room with a thatched roof, walls of mosaic, rough stone, or painted in cool shades of blue remindful of the waves of the ocean. A concrete fountain and reflecting pool are the restaurant's fishing-themed focal point.

"'AMA'AMA is a fish abundant in these waters, a local favorite," said Callarac. "This restaurant, open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is right on the ocean, an attraction in itself."

For breakfast, you can go for simple bacon and eggs or waffles, but the menu takes you to the Pacific Rim with dishes such as seared island fish, tamago, miso soup, steamed rice, fried seaweed and pickled vegetables; sweet potato and Portuguese sausage hash with poached eggs and marinated hearts of palm; or the traditional "Loco Moco" breakfast with a sunny-side-up fried egg, white rice and hamburger patty topped with gravy. The signature breakfast dish is chocolate milk-dipped haupia (how-pee-YAH) bread French toast stuffed with bananas and peanut butter. (Haupia is a traditional coconut-milk based sweet pudding.) And 100 percent Kona press pot coffee is the favorite morning beverage.

Lunch features American favorites with a twist: an Angus chuck burger with avocado, shaved radish, and Maui onion-tomato jam; Kālua roasted pulled pork sandwich in steamed rice buns; crab and lobster rolls with wasabi mayo and cucumber; and sustainable catch fish tacos with slaw and salsa.

At dinner, sustainable fish roasted in the wood-burning oven is a signature entrée, as well as whole, salt-crusted catch for two, cracked open tableside. "The salt seals in moisture and flavors, and the fish steams without drying - and makes a dramatic presentation," said Callarac.

Signature starter is a bigeye tuna and sea asparagus poke "martini," also finished tableside. Other small bites include steamed manilla clams with smoked pork belly, lemongrass and espelette pepper; Hamakua mushroom tart with baby arugula, coriander crème fraiche and Parmesan; grilled jumbo shrimp with hearts of palm; and an apple banana and Maui onion soup au gratin.

Main dishes range from a seafood stew with lotus root, vadouvan (French curry), herb aioli and croutons to a grilled New York strip with creamed Swiss chard, soufflé potatoes and poivrade sauce. Of course, grilled lobster (from a farm on the Big Island) is on the menu, served with vanilla sauce and a Korean pancake. For vegetarians, there's goat cheese ravioli with local baby vegetable stew.

A daily, four-course, prix fixe showcases cuisines from around the globe, such as the "Japanese Influence" with Peking duck salad with scallion pancake, miso-glazed shutome (swordfish) with jasmine rice and mochi ice cream with green tea cookies. Other prix fixe menus include Polynesian, Korean, Portuguese, Latin, traditional and new influences.

AMA'AMA' features more than a dozen cocktails, including the KonaRed Lemon Drop with Ketel One Citroen Vodka, fresh lemon juice, organic agave nectar and KonaRed superfruit antioxidant juice, and a classic Tropical Mai Tai with Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, amaretto and tropical juices topped with a float of Myers's Original Dark Rum. There also are wines by the glass and bottle.

Sweet endings are classics with flair, such as a Floating Island with guava, strawberry and lychee sorbet; coconut panna cotta with chilled passion fruit broth and green tea tuile; and pineapple tarte tartin with caramel cream.

Breakfast costs $7-$21; lunch, $8-$24; dinner entrées $31-$53.

Makahiki - The Bounty of the Islands

While 'AMA'AMA has the natural beauty of the ocean just steps away, the interior of Makahiki, showcases beautiful works by local artists, from paintings to glass art. In the entry, artists Butch Helemano and James Rumford collaborated to convey the story of the Makahiki season of peace, play and renewal. (The Makahiki season is the traditional Hawaiian celebration of the harvest.) Rumford sketched the designs and wrote texts for Helemano's wood carvings that illustrate the sights and events of the Makahiki season. Also in the restaurant, artists Al Lagunero and Solomon Enos collaborated on a mural that depicts feasting and gaming. As day turns to night, the restaurant lighting gradually turns from rose to indigo with the setting of the sun.

With a buffet that's open daily for breakfast and dinner, the spirit of the Makahiki is celebrated in the fresh and flavorful cuisine.

Starting with breakfast, the spread includes everything from a simple Continental offering to a Western breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, potatoes, pancakes, waffles, French toast - even baked beans with barbecued ham. The Chinese/Japanese buffet has soy milk, dim sum, crispy dough, wok-fried noodles, seared island fish, tamago, greens, miso soup, steamed rice, dried seaweed and pickled vegetables.

For youngsters, the "Keiki Corner" features fruit, yogurt, granola, waffles, pancakes, baked chicken strips, scrambled eggs, sausage, turkey bacon, frittatas, breakfast pastries and chocolate milk-dipped Haupia bread French Toast stuffed with bananas and peanut butter.

Favorite Disney characters celebrate with diners at "Aunty's Breakfast Celebration at the Makahiki" on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays.

Breakfast is served from 7-11 a.m. Cost is $32, $18 ages 9 and under.

The casual dinner buffet features line-caught sustainable seafood, fresh salads with local greens, rotating carving stations, Asian-inspired entrees and house-made desserts.

"Our goal is to get as much as we can from the local farmers," said Callarac.

A melting pot of cultures, the expansive buffet features starters from a Nicoise salad to cheeses, lobster bisque and cioppino. On ice, shrimp, marinated squid, scallops, mussels, lobster and tiger prawns showcase the abundance of seafood.

Entrees might include sustainable catch in banana leaves, seafood paella, grilled poke, roast duck with plum sauce and chicken wrapped in seaweed. For Asian flavors, there's sushi and sashimi, Chinese pork buns, fried noodles, dim sum and wok-fried seasonal vegetables.

The grill heats up with chicken wings, pork chops, Asian-spiced lamb chops, sausages and assorted satay, while live-action stations feature pastas with vegetables, meatballs, clam stew, Portuguese sausage, and carved meats or fish.

"Keiki Corner" for youngsters offers macaroni and bay shrimp salad, chicken and sweet corn salad, finger sandwiches, chicken noodle soup, crudités, pasta Lai, hot dogs, mini burgers, grilled mini steak, fish dog, pizza on a stick, Asian chicken strips, grilled chicken breast, spaghetti pizza, carved ham, macaroni & cheese with fresh peas, seasonal local fare such as poin fritters.

And there are plenty of sweets, such as chocolate brownies, no-sugar-added mango cheesecake, guava cupcakes, pineapple-coconut cobbler, molten chocolate cake, banana cream puffs and coconut bars.

Hours are from 5-10 p.m. daily. Cost is $43; $21 ages 9 and under.

Off the Hook

Next door to 'AMA'AMA near the ocean is Off the Hook, inspired by a fisherman's seaside shack, decorated with makau, or fish hooks, cowry-shell lures, shark-tooth knives and specially carved fish-shaped stones.

Open daily from 11 a.m. for tropical drinks and small bites, Off the Hook's signature is the Feast of the Sea platter, a build-your-own taste of the islands with oysters, prawns, clams, Keahole lobster and Kona abalone. Also on the menu are hamachi and ahi sashimi, prawns satay on sugar cane skewers, Kobe beef sliders, Peking duck flatbread, cheeses and a dessert sampler.

A colorful school of fish swims above the bar, which serves creative cocktails including a Wild Hibiscus Royale Sparkling wine cocktail, Island Red Sangria, a Pineapple Papaya Cosmo and Big Island Iced Tea. Non-alcoholic drinks range from a passion colada to a pineapple ginger splash. There's beer on draft - Big Wave Golden Ale, Fire Rock Pale Ale, Longboard Island Lager, or the seasonal Aloha Series. And every day there's an 'ike mua, or "discovery drink of the day."

Other Dining

Also near 'AMA'AMA , One Paddle, Two Paddle offers quick-service sandwiches and wraps, and housemade desserts. Lava Shack, across from the Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon, serves a traditional an "plate lunch" of cold fried chicken, meats and cheese or chilled miso-glazed salmon. Pāpālua Shave Ice is on the pool deck, and Rip Curl Yogurt Bar at the Laniwai Spa offers yogurt with fresh fruit and other toppings.

At opening, private dining is available 6 a.m.-midnight, later expanding to 24 hours. The menu features Hawaii-inspired specialties for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Aulani Excursions Present the Wonders of Hawaii Illuminated by Disney Magic and Expert Guides

KO OLINA, Hawaii - Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, has been specially conceived to offer guests the Hawaiian vacation of their dreams. The Aulani vacation experience extends beyond the magical grounds of the resort to include adventures throughout the island of Oahu.

Guests at Aulani - adults, teens, children and families - will discover a menu of excursions that satisfy a broad variety of tastes, such as:

  • Exploring a tropical garden to discover a beautiful waterfall
  • Hiking through an authentic Hawaiian rainforest
  • Cruising aboard a catamaran greeted by playful dolphins
  • Cooking with local celebrity chef Sam Choy
  • Learning about the art, culture and legends of Hawaii in its great museums
  • Riding horseback through a lush valley where movies and TV shows are filmed
  • Following a ghost tour of haunted island locations

Many of these excursions have been specially designed for Aulani guests by Adventures by Disney and feature knowledgeable and friendly Adventure Guides who weave stories and magic into the experiences as only Disney can do.

Aulani offers dozens of excursion options. Some are as traditional as a visit to Pearl Harbor, Dole Plantation or Diamond Head. Some are classic beach experiences: surfing, parasailing or a luau.

Others are characterized by that "Disney difference" - the uniqueness of a Disney vacation in Hawaii. Among these special excursions are:

  • A catamaran voyage, including dolphin spotting, snorkeling and, in season, whale watching
  • Kayaking on Kailua Bay and a storytelling hike on a nearby island and bird sanctuary
  • A nighttime journey through the "haunted places" along the Waianae Coast
  • Exclusive surfing lessons from the Honolulu City Firefighters who comprise Hawaiian Fire Surf School
  • Immersive tours of the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Bishop Museum, where Aulani excursion participants will discover the art and culture of Hawaii and be inspired to creations of their own
  • A visit to Honolulu's Chinatown market, followed by a private cooking class featuring local and traditional specialties with famous chef Sam Choy
  • An exclusive sightseeing and storytelling adventure through the beautiful Kualoa Ranch, with its private beach, movie and television locations, and fish pond said to be constructed by the Menehune (the legendary little people of the island)
  • A visit to the North Shore of Oahu and Waimea Falls, where families will discover a lush botanical garden, ancient Hawaiian games and activities hosted by a local Aunty
  • Hiking along a hidden trail in the Manoa Valley (rich with stories of the Menehune) to a 200-foot tropical waterfall

For those in search of a multi-day exploration of the islands, Aulani offers an excursion package themed to the traditional Hawaiian concept of interconnectivity between the land and the surrounding sea. The three-day excursion includes a day devoted to the sea, with private surfing lessons and a catamaran voyage; a day devoted to the land, with adventures in Kualoa Ranch and the North Shore Waimea Valley; and a day of interconnection, featuring Kailua Sea Kayaking and an exclusive cooking class with Sam Choy.

Aulani has an excursion adventure waiting to fulfill any Hawaiian vacation dream.

Blissful Weddings with a Tropical Flair Await Couples at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

KO OLINA, Hawaii - A picturesque setting with island flair awaits couples seeking to exchange vows at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu.

With seamless service, world-class amenities, and the unparalleled imagination guests have come to expect from Disney, Aulani is the perfect place to start the "happily-ever-afters." With Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons, guests can enjoy a one-stop-shopping experience and relax, knowing every detail from photography and floral to menu and island excursions will be their "fairy tale wish come true."

Unforgettable ceremonies with a dash of island romance will unfold at Makaloa Garden, a flora-filled outdoor enclave with a serene view of the Pacific's endless horizons.

Idyllic receptions reflect the wonders of Hawaiian culture with music, food and traditional floral accents such as white kukui blossoms, pink cottage roses and yellow hibiscus in outdoor pavilions or lush garden settings. Local touches - ukulele players or colorful Hawaiian bouquets - may be woven throughout the occasion.

After the pomp, the oceanfront resort offers the perfect haven for the honeymoon of a lifetime. Adventurous couples can hike Diamond Head, set sail on a romantic catamaran, or snorkel at Rainbow Reef, the saltwater lagoon. They can indulge in a couple's massage at Laniwai, a Disney Spa, relax in the mineral pools or enjoy authentic treatments inspired by the elements of the island. Poolside cabanas are an ideal escape for lovebirds seeking enhanced privacy.

Disney Wedding Planning experts help create each couple's dream experience - as they have for thousands of couples already. Disney Fairy Tale Weddings are custom designed to meet the needs and budget of each couple.

Pricing is comparable to the current Wishes Collection, starting at $4,000 for nuptials as early as fall 2011. For more information, visit disneyweddings.com or call 321/939-4610.

Aulani Builds on Hawaiian Spirit of Caring for Land With Green Technologies, Design Elements

KO OLINA, O'AHU, Hawai'i - Inspired by the Hawaiians' deep relationship with nature, which is embodied in the term, mālama 'āina, or "care of the land," designers implemented a broad array of green technologies and elements that promote sustainability, energy efficiency and eco-consciousness at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa.

"Early Hawaiian society was founded on the principal of kuleana," said Joe Rohde, vice president and executive designer for Walt Disney Imagineering. "Kuleana means that you are here now because, seven generations ago, someone was mindful enough to care about you, the future generation, and made sure that you would have what you needed not only to survive but to thrive."

With that philosophy as the guide, here are some ways that green technologies and philosophies have been implemented at Aulani.

Construction Conservation

  • Disney architects used a "cool roof" technology, which reflects the infrared spectrum back into the atmosphere, reducing the roof temperature and helping to keep buildings cool. Also, Aulani features organic "green roofs" above the spa fitness center and the kitchen at 'AMA'AMA. The green roofs increase energy efficiency by deflecting the infrared spectrum and providing natural shade.
  • Imagineers selected "certified wood" for use through much of the resort. For the wood to earn certification, forest managers address a range of environmental aspects, including sustainable harvest levels and prompt forest regeneration.
  • Elevators are energy efficient, using nearly one-third less energy than traditional elevators. They also don't require petroleum-based lubricants, based on fossil fuels. Emergency stairwells have energy-saving lighting technology, with a bi-level emergency lighting that keeps stairwells illuminated with minimum code lighting at all times. When a person enters the stairwell, sensors activate and the lighting level increases.
  • In spaces such as ballrooms and meeting rooms, air quality is monitored using "demand ventilation," a technique that measures the carbon dioxide being emitted from spaces when large numbers of guests gather. Air can be customized for the number of people in the room.
  • Heat pump technology is used to capture waste heat from air-conditioning chillers, and to repurpose it for hot water, which is then used throughout the resort. When guests turn on a hot-water faucet, part of the energy being used to heat that water is derived from the air conditioning chillers. This reduces the resort's total water usage.
  • Heat pipes are embedded within the air-conditioning system on top of most buildings at Aulani. The pipes serve as a "superconductor," or heat transfer mechanism, which allow fresh air to de-humidify before coming into the buildings. Sealed copper tubes span the incoming and outgoing air paths, with high conductivity that lets them transfer heat by single-phase convection. Since they don't have mechanical moving parts, heat pipes require minimum maintenance and they help Aulani exceed the resort's mandatory energy performance standards.
  • Aulani utilizes cooling towers to support the air conditioning and cooling systems. The towers remove the waste heat that's generated by the building's chillers in an effort to lower total water usage.
  • A technology known as "Variable Frequency Drive" (VFD) reduces the amount of energy that gets consumed by Aulini air-conditioning systems. VFDs are motors that respond to changing energy demands. For example, if hotel rooms are not occupied, the VFD motors automatically respond and decrease the energy demand.
  • Aulani uses only low-volatile organic compounds (VOC) or VOC-free paints and coatings, as well as only low-VOC or VOC-free adhesives and sealants. All carpets and carpet pads throughout the resort are Green Label Plus, certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute, which means they meet the stringent low-VOC or VOC-free requirements and are among the lowest emitting carpets and carpet pads.
  • Indoor air quality standards have been established for the resort by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
  • Low-flow faucets and fixtures reduce water usage.
  • The Aulani construction team successfully recycled more than half of the construction waste materials that were generated on site. Materials that were recycled included concrete, concrete masonry units, wood, metal, steel, aluminum, cardboard and glass, as well as green waste from planting materials.

Guests Can Participate In Conservation

  • Aulani has a resort-wide recycling program, including cardboard, aluminum, paper and plastic, as well as food waste. Electronics, batteries, and light bulbs also are recycled.
  • Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon and the Makai Preserve share nature up close with Guests. The preserve is home to the graceful hīhīmanu brown stingrays and other colorful creatures of the sea. "By creating these experiences for our Guests we hope to enlighten and entertain, and also raise awareness about the importance of supporting conservation here, at home and globally where the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is supporting projects," Rohde said.
  • A lo'i kalo, or taro field, at the entry of Aulani has four varieties of kalo, grown and harvested for consumption. The field is planted, harvested and maintained by community volunteers.
  • Aulani guests can control the lighting as well as regulate the temperature of their rooms. In addition, lānai door interlocks automatically shut off the central air-conditioning when a lānai door is opened.
  • Aulani guest rooms feature compact fluorescent lights, which are four times more efficient and can last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
  • The parking garage also offers 34 electric car-charging stations.

September 17, 2011

Escape With Signature Treatments at Laniwai Spa, Aulani

KO OLINA, Hawaii - From a rainwater suite to a special spa retreat just for teens, "the gift of water" plays a starring role at Laniwai, a Disney Spa at Aulani.

The Hawaiian word laniwai (lah-nee-vai) means "freshwater heaven," and the spa lives up to its name with more than 150 treatments, including the only outdoor hydrotherapy garden on the island of Oahu. Also exclusive to Aulani is the Painted Sky youth spa, featuring relaxing treatments created especially for teens.

"Laniwai is a place where everyone will feel special," says Lucia Rodriguez, spa director. "Teens will enjoy an experience created just for them, and there is a suite just for families. Guests will have many wonderful ways to enjoy Laniwai."

With 18,000 square feet indoors and 5,000 square feet outdoors, the area includes a 2,000 square-foot Lift Fitness Cardiovascular Center, 15 treatment rooms and a full-service salon for hair, makeup and nail services.

"Laniwai celebrates the Hawaiian connection to nature," explains Rodriguez. "The design embraces the cultural and even the spiritual significance of anuenue, or rainbows, by combining elegantly reflected light, brilliant color and healing water features."

Inside Laniwai

  • 15 treatment rooms including a couples room and a flex room for treatments for two-plus guests, including families.
  • Treatments include body polish, vitality baths, massage, body treatments, facials, outdoor treatments.
  • Signature therapies include Lomilomi massage incorporating lomilomi "pressure point" sticks and warm river stones; and Kilikili, including exfoliation and massage with coconut oil under streaming jets of warm waters.
  • Signature exfoliations, body cocoons.
  • Dressing rooms for men and women include eucalyptus-infused steam, dry sauna and relaxation room. Also a separate space for co-ed relaxation.

Kula Wai Hydrotherapy Garden

  • The only outdoor hydrotherapy garden in O'ahu features herbal pools, reflexology path, six rain showers, cold and hot whirlpools. Blend your own body polish.
  • Signature treatment Kilikili (meaning "fine gentle rain"), offered in Lilinoe rainwater suite. Includes a body polish followed by Lomilomi massage with coconut oil under warm, gentle rain.
  • "Nature's Soaks," 25-minute vitality baths infused with flowers, fruits, herbs and oils.

Mikimiki Fitness Center

  • Open 24 hours. No charge for resort guests 14 and older.
  • Life Fitness cardiovascular and strength training equipment.
  • Kinesis machine, free weights.
  • Classes including yoga, beach workouts, aquatic exercise, meditation, tai chi.

Painted Sky Teen Spa

  • 1,500-square-foot spa for ages 13 and older.
  • Includes a yogurt bar, relaxation area, computer station, D.I.Y Iliahi mixology bar (do it yourself) to blend personalized Hawaiian body polishes, perfume and face masques.
  • Daily programs and a special teen treatment room for manicures, pedicures, facials and massages.

Full-Service Salon

  • Four manicure, four pedicure, two hair stations.
  • Make-up for all ages.
  • Treatments for youth.

Aulani Architecture, Landscape Blend Magic of Disney, Splendor of Hawaii

KO OLINA, Hawaii - Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa celebrates the history and culture of the Hawaiian islands with a design that seamlessly melds the traditional with the contemporary. It also showcases one of the largest collections of contemporary Hawaiian art in the islands.

"Disney is about storytelling," said Bo Bolanos, principal concept designer for Walt Disney Imagineering. "With Aulani, we combine the beauty of storytelling and family - elements important to Hawaiian culture and to Disney - with a touch of magic."

The goal was to create a project that honors and respects Hawaiian culture " and inspires guests to go see the rest of the islands, said Bolanos. "The culture is a living culture," he explained. "With Aulani, we are telling you the story of Hawaii - from the mountains to the ocean - through the eyes of Disney, weaving together culture, art, legends, stories and places with a basis in history, but with current interpretations and an eye to the future."

During the design of Aulani, Walt Disney Imagineering studied the culture and history, and worked with local Hawaiian cultural advisers, including Auntie Nettie Tiffany, whose family has cared for the nearby area called Lanikūhonua, and who is now the kahu, or guardian, for Ko Olina on the island of Oahu, where Aulani is located.

Together, the architecture and landscaping immerse guests in the story, as Walt Disney Imagineering Landscape Architect Jeff Morosky explains. "Aulani is a marriage of resort architecture, site topography, geology, landscape, water, wind, solar patterns . . . We analyzed all of that, understanding that the Hawaiian theory of living with the aina, or land, is a critical part of island life," Morosky said.

The ahupuaa is the traditional division of land, extending from the top of the mountain to the sea, encompassing all the resource zones that families needed to thrive. Through both landscape and architecture, Aulani incorporates this important cultural idea in its design, with the lobby area as the mountaintop, the Waikolohe Valley below, extending out to the Pacific Ocean. (Wai is the word for freshwater, and kolohe means "mischievous.")

Aulani exemplifies state-of-the art resort design, but with an impressive amount of fantasy.

"The resulting design is deliberately architectural, an inspiration for the future, but a way to pay tribute to a rich culture that is still very much alive today," said Bolanos, the concept designer.

In fact, Aulani is the first resort tower in the islands to honor Hawaiian architecture and symbols throughout, paying homage to the culture. "The adze bracket, a traditional chiseling tool, for instance, is used symbolically throughout the resort as a metaphor of transforming a natural material into a manmade product - just like it was used in the early days to transform wood into a canoe or a piece of furniture from the beams in the porte-cochere to canopies and trellises," Bolanos said.

The Story Begins as Guests Arrive
Beautifully designed with a balance between the manmade structures and natural surroundings, Aulani relates to the environment and design traditions of the islands. At the resort's entry is a loi kalo (taro terrace) embodying the important cultural and spiritual ties of the people to the land, each other and 'ohana. Kalo is believed to have the greatest life force of all foods and is an important staple from early times to the present. "This loi kalo near the front door says something unique about Aulani," said Morosky, the landscape architect. "It's a manifestation of such an important part of Hawaiian life - not only to guests, but to the local community."

From traditional to contemporary, art is an integral part of the story and the Aulani architecture. With more than 50 pieces decorating the resort, including oils, acrylics and watercolors, batik on silk, sculptures, wood carving, and bas relief, Aulani showcases one of the largest collections of contemporary Hawaiian art in the islands.

"Aulani is a living gallery just like Hawaii is a living culture," Bolanos said.

The resort's most dramatic interior space is the Makaala, the grand, open-air lobby where layers of meaning begin to be revealed. (Makaala means "eyes wide open" and "alert.")

"The more you look, the more you see," said Bolanos. A rock outcropping forms the lobby's foundation, anchoring the sleek porte-cochere that transitions to a flooring of coral and lava stone. A dramatic view westward to the ocean is directly across from the entry; on each side is flowing water, one a rushing stream, the other tranquil.

"This reflects the idea in Hawaiian culture that there is a symbolic balance and harmony of masculine and feminine elements, the two streams joining in a waterfall that cascades into the gardens toward the beach," Bolanos continued. Also in the lobby, a mural along one wall reflects the masculine theme while one along the other wall features a feminine theme.

"There are so many patterns, stories and layers," said Bolanos, "all part of the philosophy of maka'ala."

Stories Throughout the Resort
Aulani's Waikolohe Valley was inspired by Oahu's Mānoa Valley, with the tall walls of the surrounding resort creating the "edges" of the valley. Morosky explains: "We created a place with broad canopy and flowering trees, a forest setting with water woven through the garden. The valley is rich and lush with trees and shrubs, transitioning out to the beach with palm trees, more sunlight and long views out to the water." The setting is ideal for Aulani recreation, including a 321,000-gallon swimming area, a children's interactive water-play area, a snorkel lagoon, a conservation lagoon with stingrays and other local species, a kids' club, spa, lounges and restaurants.

Construction techniques also create a history lesson, taking inspiration from the building traditions indigenous to Oahu. "In Waikolohe Valley, we took references from Hawaii's railings, bridge structures and aquaducts . . . some of the walls along the Waikolohe Stream represent stone construction along the canals in Honolulu," Morosky explained. "The Menehune Bridge children's water play area is made to look like timbers of `Ōhi`a wood, a legendary tree that is native to Hawaii."

The art of Hawaiian lashing, a centuries-old construction technique that uses a braided or twisted cord instead of nails, is showcased throughout the resort. One of the most visible structures that uses lashing is at the 'AMA'AMA entry and main dining area. "Nobody has done this sort of construction at this scale for more than 100 years," said Bolanos. "We found an older craftsman who does traditional lashing to work with us."

Bolanos compares the architectural detail to the Arts & Crafts design philosophy in the U.S. made famous by such luminaries as Greene & Greene in the late 1800s. "How the wood pieces come together, the trellises, canopies, big beams, it's all very articulate and refined."

And while rockwork and much of the structures are manmade materials, Hawaii's beautiful natural elements are used as finishing touches. "For instance, we didn't want to disturb nature by collecting stones," Morosky said. "Rocks and stones are considered to have spirits and are living, so we tried to be respectful of natural resources." When the site was excavated, Disney saved the coral boulders and placed them along the beachfront walkway as places to sit and gather.

The Imagineers had fun with the oceanfront restaurants and lounges, crafting a whimsical story of a fishing family that fell in love with the land in the 1890s and built the first structure (Off the Hook lounge) where they lived. As the family grew, they built a second hale, or thatched-roof dwelling, from the 1910 era, then two more buildings ('AMA'AMA and One Paddle Two Paddle). "The story goes that when Disney developed the property, these four 'historic' buildings, built up until the 1930s, were here," said Bolanos. "Again, it's our tribute to Hawaiian culture with an eye to the future."

Bolanos and Morosky agree that the resort rings true in both its details and overall design - and that as the landscape grows and the buildings mature, Aulani will become even more beautiful.

"What we've accomplished based on history only will get better with age," Morosky said.

September 18, 2011

Hawaiian Artistry Combines with Disney Fun in Aulani Room Décor

KO OLINA, Hawaii - When guests arrive in their rooms at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa on Oahu, they will find welcoming décor that blends Hawaiian tradition and Disney whimsy. Working with local Hawaiian artisans, Disney Imagineers have created a charming and relaxing environment inspired by the fine arts and crafts traditions of ancient Hawaiians.

Earth-tone print fabrics in the rooms take their cue from traditional Hawaiian kapa cloth, characterized by the subtle intricacy of its elegantly embossed patterns. Retro Hawaiian floral print fabrics, locally known as "bark cloth" and popular in the 1930s and '40s, provide touches of colorful vibrancy on accent pillows.

Outrigger canoe posts and beams work their way into the design of bedroom headboards - along with clever butterfly joints evoking the ancient Hawaiians' method for artfully repairing their prized wood calabash bowls.

The homage to Hawaiian culture in the room décor is accented by Disney touches - distinctive "hidden Mickeys" which guests may discover only on a Hawaii family vacation at Aulani.

In the corridors outside the rooms, wall coverings are embedded with a host of native cultural references - from poi pounders to fish traps to sea urchins - and more "hidden Mickeys" camouflaged within the richly patterned surfaces.

All Aulani rooms have lanai balconies or porches. Standard hotel rooms sleep up to four guests and feature flat-screen televisions, DVD players, small refrigerators, coffee makers and tea service, ceiling fans, wireless internet service and an in-room safe. Parlor suites sleep up to five people.

Disney Vacation Club villas range in size from a deluxe studio with wet bar to a three-bedroom Grand Villa with private balcony. The villas can accommodate from four to 12 guests, and special features include whirlpool tubs, stacked washer-dryers and fully equipped kitchens.

Aulani Showcases One of the World's Largest Private Collections Of Contemporary Hawaiian Art

KO OLINA, Hawaii - The legacy of Hawaiian artistry is celebrated at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, with one of the world's largest private collections of contemporary Hawaiian art displayed throughout the resort.

"Every piece of art is part of a larger Hawaiian story, as told by Hawaiian artists," said Joe Rohde, senior vice president and creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering. More than 50 pieces decorate the hotel, including oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings; batik on silk; sculptures; wood carvings, kapa and bas relief.

Among the highlights:

  • Three carved ki'i, or images, depicting the three brothers of the demi-god and folk hero Maui grace the resort's entryway. (The word ki'i appears as "tiki" elsewhere in Polynesia.) , The ki'i are the combined works of three generations of local artists: master carvers Rocky Jensen, Pat Pine and Jordan Souza. Jensen, the celebrated carver who still works with a ko'i or adze, created the more traditional ki'i. Pine, the second oldest of the group, created a more modern and contemporary ki'i. Souza, the youngest contributor, celebrates the untold possibilities of the future in his work. By uniting their talents, these three artists have created a powerful work that is essentially timeless.
  • Master carver Rocky Jensen also created three powerful ki'i at the entryway of the lobby. As guests enter, they are flanked by a ki'i representing masculinity on the right, and a ki'i representing femininity on the left. The two images pay respect to ancestors. The third piece, topped with the image of the 'io, or Hawaiian hawk, represents the many generations of Hawaiian people who descended from these ancestors.
  • The backdrop for the front desk will feature an impressive collage, "Rainbow Wall," created by students in kindergarten through Grade 12 from across Hawaii. Each was asked to capture the essence of the islands in a photograph focusing on a single color. The 138 photos combine to exemplify the beauty of the islands - flowers, plants, animals and places - in brilliant shades of green, red, purple, pink, red, blue, orange and yellow. The mural was done in conjunction with the Hawaii Arts Alliance and the State of Hawaii, Creative Industries Division.
  • The lobby mural by Martin Charlot is divided into masculine and feminine sections, outlining the works of men and women in traditional Hawaiian life. The painting hangs beneath kapa-style bands that run along the walls of the lobby, each representative of the sea, land and sky, further divided into masculine and feminine sides.
  • The kapa bands that run along the walls of the lobby are the work of Dalani Tanahy. Each ban represents one of the three realms: land, sea and sky. These sections are further divided into distinct masculine and feminine sides. The masculine bands represent Kū, a god of many domains who often is associated with masculinity and male power. The feminine bands represent Hina, the goddess often associated with femininity and tranquility.
  • "Pele and Hi'iaka" acrylic mural in the lobby's transverse corridor arch by Doug Tolentino shows a trio of powerful gods. Pele, goddess of fire, sits in the canoe next to her favorite sister, Hi'iakaikapoliopele. Their brother, the god Kamao'oali'i, uses his shark form to serve as their guide and protector. Together, the trio makes a voyage across the seas. Hi'iakaikapoliopele means "Hi'iaka in the bosom of Pele"; when Pele and her clan made the original voyage to Hawai'i from Kahiki, Hi'aka was unborn, existing only as an unhatched egg and held close to her heart.
  • At the other end of the lobby corridor, Doug Tolentino's painting of "Kanaloa and Kāne" portrays two of the major gods of Hawaiian beliefs. Mo'olelo, or stories, tell of the two venturing across Oahu and creating many natural water sources along the way. Kanaloa, ever on the search for a source of water to mix awa with, asks Kāne to pierce the land with his digging stick and bring forth life-giving water. From their adventures come Oahu's freshwater springs.
  • Also in the lobby, a map of Oahu was created and given to Aulani by the children of nearby Nānāikapono Elementary School with the guidance of local artist and educator Meleanna Meyer. Students were asked to illustrate pictures of their favorite places on the island, and the images were placed on the map - a testament to Hawaii's keiki, or children, and their strong sense of place.
  • Near the grand staircase that leads to Makahiki - The Bounty of the Island restaurant, local artist Mark Chai created a series of sculptures that capture the sense of play that is so important to Hawaiian cultures. One sculpture is of papa holua, or Hawaiian sled, for racing down mountainsides. Another sculpture is inspired by the Hawaiian board game similar to checkers, called kōnan. A third is a lupe, or Hawaiian kite. Each sculpture is made from recycled materials, emphasizing the Hawaiian aloha 'āina, or love of land.
  • In the entry to Makahiki - The Bounty of the Islands restaurant, artists Butch Helemano and James Rumford collaborated to convey the story of the Makahiki season of peace, play and renewal. (The "Makahiki season" was the ancient Hawaiian New Year festival.) Rumford sketched the designs and wrote texts for Helemano's wood carvings that illustrate the sights and events of the Makahiki season. One carving shows an ahupua'a, a stone pillar capped with the image of a boar that marks the boundaries between island districts. (Offerings were placed on the pillars during Makahiki.)
  • At Nā Pua Place, local painter Brooke Parker gives a clear view of the traditional ahupua'a, the land divisions that run from the mountains to the sea. By dividing the islands into these slices of land, Hawaiians of old made sure that every community had access to all the varied resources the island had to provide. Farmers of the uplands would share their crops with the fishermen of the seaside and receive gifts in return. Aulani is designed like an ahupua'a, with the lobby as mauka, or mountainside, and the Waikolohe Valley below running out to the sea.
  • On the exterior of the two towers, bas relief sculptures rise 15 stories. One, by Carl Pao, takes a Hawaiian oli - an aloha or welcome chant - composed by fellow artist and musician Doug Tolentino and interprets the words into a visual design. The chant speaks about the rising and setting of the sun and moon - and one bas relief faces towards the West, the other towards the East. Traditional Hawaiian concepts of balance between masculine and feminine, night and day, and sun and moon are echoed.
  • Also on the building exteriors, bas relief sculptures by Harinani Orme show an outrigger canoe on the open ocean, a vital mode of transportation in day-to-day life in Hawaiian history. Celestial bodies in the sky above the canoe represent the importance of the sun and moon as navigational tools. Another Orme bas relief is a tribute to the goddess Hina - a kind and nurturing figure known and beloved throughout Polynesia - towering over the Waikolohe Valley. Orme depicts Hina with her kapa tools laid out before her. A third bas relief by Orme stands at the end of the Waikolohe Valley opposite the Hina bas relief depicting Hina's son, the demi-god Māui. Orme layers detail after detail of Māui's exploits in the mural. One tale has Māui lassoing the sun to slow the speed of its journey across the sky, lengthening the days. Another has Māui flying the first kite. The most popular story details his attempt to capture a strong and magical fish which could unite the islands.

September 20, 2011

AVATAR Coming to Disney Parks


Long-term agreement will bring AVATAR themed lands to Disney parks, with the first at Walt Disney World in Orlando

BURBANK (September 20, 2011) - Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide is joining forces with visionary filmmaker James Cameron and Fox Filmed Entertainment to bring the world of AVATAR to life at Disney parks. Through an exclusive agreement announced today by Disney, Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox, Disney will partner with Cameron and producing partner Jon Landau to create themed lands that will give theme park guests the opportunity to explore the mysterious universe of AVATAR first hand. Disney plans to build the first AVATAR themed land at Walt Disney World, within the Animal Kingdom park. With its emphasis on living in harmony with nature, Animal Kingdom is a natural fit for the AVATAR stories, which share the same philosophy. Construction is expected to begin by 2013.

"James Cameron is a groundbreaking filmmaker and gifted storyteller who shares our passion for creativity, technological innovation and delivering the best experience possible," said Robert A. Iger, President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. "With this agreement, we have the extraordinary opportunity to combine James' talent and vision with the imagination and expertise of Disney."

"AVATAR created a world which audiences can discover again and again and now, through this incredible partnership with Disney, we'll be able to bring Pandora to life like never before. With two new AVATAR films currently in development, we'll have even more locations, characters and stories to explore," said James Cameron. "I'm chomping at the bit to start work with Disney's legendary Imagineers to bring our AVATAR universe to life. Our goal is to go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling, and give park goers the chance to see, hear, and touch the world of AVATAR with an unprecedented sense of reality."

The agreement announced today gives The Walt Disney Company exclusive global theme park rights to the AVATAR franchise and provides for additional AVATAR themed lands at other Disney parks. The other locations will be determined by Disney and its international theme park partners. James Cameron, Jon Landau and their Lightstorm Entertainment group will serve as creative consultants on the projects and will partner with Walt Disney Imagineering in the design and development of the AVATAR themed lands.

"This exciting new venture combines the world of AVATAR with the enormous reach of Disney and the incomparable talent of Jim Cameron," commented Fox Filmed Entertainment chairmen Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman. "While Jim is bringing audiences further into Pandora with the next two chapters in the AVATAR motion picture saga, the theme park attraction will likewise bring a new dimension to the amazing universe he created."

"AVATAR is a uniquely powerful franchise that has global appeal with audiences of all ages. Its spectacular settings, intriguing characters, imaginative creatures, and strong themes of family and loyalty make it a perfect fit for Disney," said Thomas O. Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "We can't wait to give our guests the ability to journey to Pandora and explore the incredible immersive world of AVATAR in person."

In addition to setting a global box office record, AVATAR has been hailed as one of the most innovative and visually stunning movies ever produced. With its advanced motion capture and 3-D digital projection technologies developed by James Cameron and his team, moviegoers were able to connect with the world of AVATAR in new and engaging ways.

This new venture complements Walt Disney Parks & Resorts' strategic efforts to continue to invest in its core theme park businesses around the world while simultaneously expanding into other parts of the family vacation business.

September 23, 2011

Disney Cruise Line Doubles the “Aloha” with Second Hawaiian Cruise – Disney Wonder Bound for the West Coast in 2012

CELEBRATION, Fla. (Sept. 22, 2011) - Based on an overwhelming response to its first Hawaiian itinerary, Disney Cruise Line is adding a second Hawaii cruise to its 2012 schedule. The addition of a second Hawaiian voyage complements a diverse array of Disney Cruise Line itineraries departing from the West Coast, including cruises to the Mexican Riviera, Pacific Coast and Alaska.

With a majority of its West Coast sailings originating from the Port of Los Angeles or the Port of Seattle, a Disney family cruise vacation is more accessible to guests from the western United States.

"We listen to our guests, and shortly after we announced our first Hawaiian voyage it was clear our guests wanted more options to visit Hawaii," said Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz. "This second sailing to Hawaii is part of a wide variety of Disney Cruise Line vacation options for families in 2012 including new itineraries, regional homeports and the debut of our newest ship, the Disney Fantasy."

2012 Los Angeles Schedule

Two Hawaiian Sailings"

For the first time, Disney Cruise Line will offer two special voyages to Hawaii from Los Angeles, calling on Kahului, Maui; Nawiliwili, Kauai; Honolulu, Oahu; and Hilo plus Ensenada, Mexico.

The 15-night Hawaiian itinerary, which includes nine days at sea, departs April 29, 2012. The newly added 14-night Hawaiian itinerary, with eight days at sea, departs Oct. 14, 2012.

The Disney Wonder will sail through the breathtaking beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, where guests can experience the famous beaches of Waikiki on Oahu, see the views from high atop the summit of Haleakala Crater on Maui, take in the lush tropical gardens and waterfalls of Kauai and, on the Big Island, explore the natural wonders of the world's most active volcano.

Rates for the Hawaiian cruises start at $1,800 per person for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy.

Mexican Riviera

The Disney Wonder is scheduled to sail seven-night Mexican Riviera cruises from the Port of Los Angeles for the majority of the year - throughout winter, spring and fall.

Rates for the seven-night Mexican Riviera itinerary departing from Los Angeles start at $707 per person for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy.

The Disney Wonder will also sail four seven-night Pacific Coast cruises from Los Angeles (on Sept. 16, Sept. 23, Sept. 30 and Oct. 7), calling on San Francisco, San Diego and Ensenada, Mexico.

Rates for the seven-night Pacific Coast itinerary departing from Los Angeles start at $770 per person for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy.

2012 Seattle Schedule

Beginning May 28, 2012, the Disney Wonder will sail a total of 14 seven-night cruises from the Port of Seattle to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska, and Victoria, British Columbia.

These cruises will combine the natural wonder and adventurous spirit of Alaska with the unparalleled, family-friendly experience found on a Disney Cruise Line ship. Disney Cruise Line works closely with Alaskan tour operators to create exclusive-to-Disney family-friendly Port Adventures that allow guests to best experience Alaska's natural beauty and rich history.

On their Alaskan adventure, guests can explore magnificent glaciers and fjords in Juneau. In Ketchikan, they can fish for salmon and learn about local culture through hand-carved totem poles. In Skagway, Disney Cruise Line guests can traverse panoramic landscapes by railway, or pan for gold like miners from the famous Klondike gold rush.

Rates for the seven-night Alaska cruise itinerary departing from Seattle start at $917 per person for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy. Sailings depart May 28, June 4, 11, 18, 25, July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, Aug. 6, 13, 20, 27.

2012 Galveston Schedule

Beginning Sept. 22, 2012, the Disney Magic will sail 12 seven-night cruises from the Port of Galveston to the Western Caribbean, calling on Grand Cayman and Mexico's Costa Maya and Cozumel.

A Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic offers families a tropical getaway with world-class entertainment and impeccable guest service found only on a Disney Cruise Line vacation. Guests will enjoy three magical days at sea to explore all of the fun aboard the Disney Magic and three days in port to lounge on warm, golden beaches, to swim and snorkel in azure waters or to shop in exotic marketplaces.

Rates for the seven-night Western Caribbean cruise itinerary departing from Galveston start at $840 per person for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy. Sailings depart Sept. 22, 29, Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27, Nov. 3, 10, 17, 24, Dec. 1, 8.

2012 East Coast Schedule

Sailing from New York

Beginning May 25, 2012, the Disney Magic will sail a total of 20 cruises from New York - including eight-night cruises to the Bahamas and five-night cruises up the New England coast to Canada plus two-night cruises that will give a sampling of the Disney Cruise Line experience over a weekend:

Eight eight-night Bahamas cruises will include a day at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay; Nassau, Bahamas; and Port Canaveral, Fla., with an opportunity to visit the nearby Walt Disney World Resort.

Nine five-night cruises up the New England coast will call at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick.

Three two-night cruises (June 15, July 13, Aug. 10) are perfect for a quick weekend getaway.

Sailing from Port Canaveral

The Disney Fantasy will depart on her maiden voyage March 31, 2012, and will sail out of Port Canaveral on seven-night Caribbean itineraries, with a stop at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.

The Disney Dream will sail three-, four- and five-night cruises from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas and Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.

Pricing reflects category 11C standard inside stateroom, Government Taxes and Fees not included.

September 26, 2011

Walt Disney Imagineers Develop Dumbo for the Disney Fantasy

"What's more 'Fantasy' than a flying elephant?"

That's the thought that inspired Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) to select Dumbo and his pal, Timothy Q. Mouse, as the characters who will represent the new Disney Fantasy cruise ship.

Check out the video below (shared by WDI), in which Imagineers Joe Lanzisero, Bob Zalk and Jason Abruzzese offer a behind-the-scenes look at how the new Disney Cruise Line ship's icon came to life.

September 27, 2011

Walt Disney World Resort Celebrates 40 Years of World-Class Theme Parks and Resorts

Magic Kingdom Opening Launched Disney Empire in Central Florida


Once upon a time, a fairy tale castle rose on the edge of a Florida town where citrus grew, egrets waded and cattle roamed. In the shadow of the blue-spired castle named for the princess Cinderella, magical lands sprouted whimsical shows and attractions for world-weary families wishing to shed their cares and embrace a day of fun and fantasy.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - It was October 1, 1971, and Magic Kingdom turnstiles began to spin after three weeks of trial runs by nearly 100,000 selected guests from throughout Central Florida. Twenty-two park attractions opened, and 5,000 costumed cast members (employees) made their debut as guests took a dive aboard 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, flew through the air in flap-eared Dumbo the Flying Elephant cars and met the iconic film character who started it all - Mickey Mouse.

The Magic Kingdom premiere 40 years ago, followed three weeks later by a star-studded grand-opening event with Bob Hope, Julie Andrews and other luminaries, put Walt Disney World Resort on the map. It was the most talked-about destination in the Western world, but no one could imagine what it would become.

"There were all kinds of predictions and expectations about how it might grow, but not very many people I knew had expected that it would grow the way that it did," says Charles Ridgway, veteran Disney publicist. "I knew that there were great expectations, but when we started out, they were relatively limited expectations."

Back then, just two of the current 25 Walt Disney World themed resort hotels opened- the Contemporary and Polynesian. Not until the 1980s, when two more theme parks, a water park, a nighttime entertainment complex and multiple Disney hotels rose across the landscape, did Walt Disney World establish itself as a multi-faceted, world-class vacation destination.

Making Disney Dreams Come True

In the 40 years since guests first strolled down Main Street, U.S.A., Walt Disney World Resort has blazed brave new entertainment trails based on its founder's fertile imagination and his vision that the resort would always be evolving.

"Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland . . . the blessing of size," Walt Disney said after the "Florida Project" was announced in 1965. "There's enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine."

In 1982, Epcot opened as a theme park celebrating innovation and discovery rather than as the "city of tomorrow" Walt initially had envisioned. In 1989, Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios) brought Tinseltown magic to Central Florida to showcase movies, television and animated treasures from the Disney collection. In 1998, Disney's Animal Kingdom first welcomed guests to explore a world of exotic, extinct and imaginary animals. The park is a fitting tribute to Walt Disney, who once lived on a farm and whose love for creatures great and small shone in his Academy Award-winning film series Tru-Life Adventures.

As each new park took root and thrived, the Magic Kingdom churned out a blizzard of pixie dust, adding thrills like the iconic Space Mountain, high-tech interactive rides like Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and immersive experiences like Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. A late 20th century wave of Walt Disney Studios animated film classics inspired a treasure trove of additional Disney attractions. Beloved characters like Ariel, Simba and Nemo found homes at "Voyage of the Little Mermaid," "Festival of the Lion King," and "The Seas with Nemo & Friends."

Even in the midst of those mega-park expansions, Walt Disney Imagineers - the creative designers, architects and engineers behind each new attraction - dreamed up new water adventure parks, resort hotels, Disney Vacation Club properties, a wedding pavilion, more championship golf courses and multiple dining, sports, shopping and nighttime entertainment venues. In 1998, Disney Cruise Line would extend the Walt Disney World entertainment experience to the high seas.

Ever since the Magic Kingdom opened, celebrities from across the planet have visited. Presidents and princesses, rock stars and movie stars have been photographed at Walt Disney World. A long lineup of Super Bowl heroes like Phil Simms, Hines Ward and Emmitt Smith hopped on planes to be Magic Kingdom grand marshals after appearing in post-game "I'm Going to Disney World!" television commercials. Musicians, dancers and other talents have performed at events ranging from the yearly holiday Candlelight Processional to springtime Flower Power concerts.

Could Walt Disney have imagined the outcome when he first snapped up more than 27,000 Central Florida acres for his new themed world? Maybe. Maybe not. But he knew the potential was there when he said: "Part of the Disney success is our ability to create a believable world of dreams that appeals to all age groups." Surely he couldn't help but be delighted to know that 60,000 well-trained cast members keep Walt Disney World Resort humming 365 days a year to welcome "kids" of all generations from around the world.

Entertainment Innovation in Action

As entertainment technology became more cutting edge, the ideas and plans of Disney's dream makers took shape in the form of innovative thrill rides and attractions. Engineers programmed the 13-story "haunted" Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios so that new thrills could be added to the storyline and the runaway elevator's drop sequence could be changed. Soarin,' at Epcot, combines an IMAX high-definition projection system with a realistic motion-based ride system to take thrill seekers young and old on an exhilarating journey across the skies of California.

Imagineers collaborated with Pixar to break new ground at Turtle Talk with Crush in The Seas with Nemo & Friends pavilion in Epcot. Using computer graphics, digital puppetry and image projection with live improvisational banter, the attraction features a wildly popular real-time conversation between the surfer-dude turtle, Crush, from the film, "Finding Nemo," and children in the audience. No two shows are alike.

In the spring, a new 3-D version of the long-popular Star Tours attraction based on the iconic Lucasfilm "Star Wars" films debuted with immersive new twists and more than 50 different ride experiences at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

"The things that we do as Walt Disney Imagineers are extremely complex, yet our goal is to make them look like magic to our guests," says Bruce Vaughn, WDI Chief Creative Executive. "It's a real mix of innovation and new technology blending creative imagination with technical knowhow."

Magical New Horizons

In keeping with Walt Disney's vision of an always-changing Florida entertainment kingdom, a lineup of openings is scheduled in the years ahead. In 2012, Disney's Art of Animation Resort opens and another new ship joins the Disney Cruise Line fleet. In coming years, Downtown Disney will transform into a waterfront district with a modern twist on an early 20th century port city and amusement pier. The vibrant district will expand dining options by 25 percent and invite guests to explore stylish new boutiques and a lakeside park. A new shopping, dining and lodging district is slated to rise just outside Disney's western gateway, and a 900-acre luxury resort by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is on the drawing board along with an 18-hole championship golf course as well as single- and multi-family homes and vacation homes.

And one of the most anticipated projects is taking shape right now as construction progresses on the largest Magic Kingdom expansion in history. The park's Fantasyland will double in size, with initial phases beginning to open in 2012 featuring attractions based on blockbuster Disney films like "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Dumbo." When The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster opens and princesses like Aurora and Cinderella hold court at Princess Fairytale Hall, the Disney storytelling legacy will have a compelling new showcase, says Phil Holmes, vice president of Magic Kingdom park and 40-year Disney theme park veteran.

"As an opening day cast member, I'm excited to see Fantasyland further transformed into Walt Disney's original vision of a place where fairy tales come true," says Holmes, whose first park role was as a Haunted Mansion greeter. "By showcasing modern-day classics like 'Beauty and the Beast' alongside Walt's first animated feature, 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' our cast members will bring these stories to life in a way like never before, creating even more wonderful memories for our guests."


"WALT DISNEY WORLD is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney" and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney's dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place - a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn - together."

- October 1, 1971 Dedication on Main Street, USA, by Roy O. Disney

Return to Blog Central

About September 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Disney and Florida Attractions News Blog in September 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2011 is the previous archive.

October 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.