Disney imagineers run with Native Hawaiian art and culture

6 10 2011

Congratulations to the “imagineers” of Aulani, the new Disney resort and spa in Leeward Oahu, for its Hawaiian theme, for doing the proper research, and for making art by Native Hawaiians so prominent in their design for this project. I took a ride out there today with my girlfriends, and we were impressed and grateful for what we saw. First off, we’re greeted by a lo‘i kalo (taro garden).

There was an obvious collaboration among local artists that has resulted in the largest showcase of contemporary Native Hawaiian art. This accomplishment is huge. From BIG architectural elements to the smallest details in interior decoration, we were pleasantly surprised at the thought and creativity incorporated into the design. Kudos, also, of course, to the artists!

I won’t tell you everything, and I’m not posting a lot of photos. I would rather you experience this venue yourself. Disney has managed to marry a family theme park with serious art and tasteful design. School’s out this week, and many Island families are “stay-cationing.” They’re really enjoying themselves. And it looks like Aulani becomes more magical at night with the Disney lighting effects.

Our Native Hawaiian artist friend Harinani Orme designed this architectural panel and two others of different images for the exterior. This is what I mean by BIG!

The ocean is right there, but there is so much to do within the hotel complex that you don’t notice it. It’s not the main attraction. Instead, guests can play with a sting ray, snorkel in a man-made reef pool, float around on a big inner tube, or frolic on the top of a man-made waterfall. I heard there’s a Menehune Adventure Trail that’s pretty cool to explore. Neat regular swimming pools, too.

There weren't too many people on the beach or in the ocean, but it was a pretty view.

When we got hungry for lunch we selected the ‘AMA‘AMA restaurant for its table service. We were aware the daily newspaper did not give the eateries at the Aulani a very good review last week. The food critic thought the menu was unimaginative and the food so-so. But I lucked out. I ordered the “plate lunch” that was a chef special of the day, and here’s what I got!

This "plate lunch" appeared on a tray like a Japanese kaiseki meal. Fresh locally grown field greens, including slices of watermelon radish, poke (raw fish), pork tonkatsu with curry sauce, and perfectly steamed white rice. $16.

My favorite place was Aunty’s Beach House, that is essentially a child care service. Aunty’s side is for ages 3 to 5 and was classic early childhood education curricula that I’m familiar with, and very well executed.

Uncle’s side includes the “garage” for older children and provides activities, computer games, movies, etc. of interest to them. When we were there, Aunty and Uncle had just left. I could hear through a key hole something about washing the dog!

In Aunty's living room, "cast member" Kawena (in green shirt) talks story with my friends Pi‘i, Gene, and Moeata. Our tour was delightful.

Copyright 2011 Rebekah Luke
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