In 1991, Walt Disney World announced a new concept in how to spend your Disney vacations with Disney Vacation Club, a vacation ownership that takes takes the classic time-share basis and gives it a Disney twist. Early plans called for numerous locations outside of the Disney theme parks, including Newport Beach, New York City, Hilton Head Island, and Vero Beach.
Whereas only two of those resorts made it off the drawing board, Disney Vacation Club teamed up with D23 on July 18 to give the Official Disney Fan Community a first look at its newest location: Au'lani (pronounced OW-lani) in Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii. The word "lani" means "heavenly" in Hawaiian lingo however the name "Aulani" means "King's messenger".
After being treated to a screening of the 1937 Mickey Mouse cartoon, Hawaiian Holiday, D23 staff member, Jeffrey Epstein, quickly assured members that no hard sell techniques would be part of this evening. Disney Vacation Club staff would be on hand to answer any questions guests had on the Au'lani resort but this was not going to be your average time share info session.
After a short film featuring Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde (Captain EO, Adventurers Club, Disney's Animal Kingdom), D23 members were treated to an evening of finger foods, dancing, and some old friends. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto came to the party, all decked in their fashions of the island.
A scale model and loads of concept art sprinkled the hallways of the second floor level of the Convention Center at Disney's Contemporary Resort.
One side of the ballroom had a stage all decked out with palm trees and surfboards, while the other side had an open dance floor, DJ booth, two small buffet tables, and some drink stations.
The stage set up will host several DVC "tours" of the new Au'lani resort in order to lure new and existing DVC members to purchase into this resort throughout these next few weeks. Disney Annual Pass holders can sign up for their exclusive event Sunday, July 25, at 9am.
Any regular Disney guest holds Disney to provide excellent storytelling through totally immersive environments and this new resort in Hawaii will prove to be no exception. One thing that Joe Rohde stated in the video that as storytellers, Disney looked at the land, people, and culture of their surroundings in order to give resort guests a truly authentic island experience.
The resort will be composed of Disney Vacation Club villas, as well as standard and deluxe resort rooms, similar to the ones found in most Disney resorts. In addition, great beaches and surf as well as food offerings will be involved but the video also teased of some surprises that yet to be announced. Speculation includes a water park and perhaps a theme park-style show, a la, Country Bear Jamboree but nothing has been announced yet and those might just end up falling under the category of wishful thinking of a die hard fan.
D23 also treated its members to a photo history of the Walt Disney Company's use of the Hawaiian Islands as its inspiration through various projects. From Walt Disney's various family vacations to Hawaii to Annette Funicello's Pineapple Princess to the television phenomenon Lost numerous animated and live-action productions use the Aloha state as a backdrop to tell its story.
In 2002, Walt Disney Feature Animation released Lilo and Stitch, a film predominantly produced in the Florida facility, and depicts what happens when a mischievous space alien crash lands into a dysfunctional, Elvis Presley-loving family living in Hawaii. The lovable blue alien remained absent throughout the night, something tells me he will be hanging loose and hanging ten when the resort opens next year.
The resort is scheduled to open in August 2011 and room rates and point values have already been assigned and posted by Disney. On hand DVC staff told inquiring guests that the point system is a little different here than it is at the other DVC resorts.
Here, members will actually purchase points in quantities that will equal a one week's stay, from a Sunday check-in to a Sunday check-out. So guests will purchase that week, which will comprise of the number of points required. Like the other resorts, the amount of points required for each type of accommodation and time of year vary.
So, for instance, if a member wants to be able to say Mele Kalikimaka in December and stay in an ocean view, one-bedroom villa during Christmas, that member would be locked in for that week for the next fifty years. This resort, however, does have the same flexibility that Disney Vacation Club offers and the member can actually forgo that week and use his allotted points elsewhere within Disney Vacation Club or its Members Getaways program.
For the past few years, Disney CEO Bob Iger has been very open in his enthusiasm for more regional-based Disney experiences outside the theme parks. This resort can serve as a great litmus test on how well the Disney name plays in an area outside of the parks that has already proven to be a hit with travelers and their families.
Also, now that Mickey and Co. will have a presence this will finally give Disney fans an excuse to head across the Pacific for a more low-key, calming vacation that they might have been willing to take. And for the casual Disney visitor, Hawaii holds the standard as a premium once-in-a-lifetime vacation and with the name recognition and reputation of Disney, it could be their only choice to book.
However, as the Disney Vacation Club Ownerships have always sold at a quick rate in all its Walt Disney World-based resorts, and the two outside the parks on the East Coast has sold out, it's smallest resort, located at Disney's Grand Californian Resort and Spa in California, has not sold out. This definitely will be a resort that many Disney fans and DVC owners will want to check out but it will be interesting to see how many will want to buy into a fifty year commitment to a location that still remains very challenging to travel to due to scarcity in airline tickets and a high price tag with fares.
If you are in the Walt Disney World area in these upcoming weeks definitely schedule a time to speak with DVC representatives to have the opportunity to check out the plans for Disney's newest venture.
Signage has popped up throughout the resort as well, namely at Disney's Polynesian Resort. This keeps the buzz rolling and gives the DVC staff more reasons to be excited. In addition, this comes after an already thrilling year of Vacation Club growth with the additions of Kidani Village at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort and Bay Lake Towers at Disney's Contemporary Resort.
The previous post in this blog was Taste of Africa Street Party.
The next post in this blog is Northern European Capitals Disney Cruise, Part I.