Mickey Mouse and his pals rode their first wave onto the shore of Hawaii in 1937, presenting the Rainbow State to the world in an animated short film titled Hawaiian Holiday. Directed by Ben Sharpsteen, the movie features Walt Disney as the voice of Mickey Mouse. It became the first production released independently from United Artists. This eight-minute film begins with Donald Duck, Minnie, Pluto and Mickey gathered under coconut trees and playing slide guitars while dancing in grass skirts; as it continues, every scene lives up to the audience expectations of Hawaii: surfing, ukulele, lei, and the endless stretch of beaches. An instant hit in the theater, Hawaii Holiday marked the beginning of Disney’s fascination with this string of islands in the Pacific.
Twenty years after the release of the film, under the direct supervision of Walt Disney, Disneyland opened at Anaheim, California. Disney transformed a small portion of the theme park into a Polynesian themed attraction called “Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room,” featuring tropical animals and dance performances. In an era where Polynesian culture was immensely popular, the Tiki room became a huge success and was then copied in the Magic Kingdom at Disneyworld and Tokyo Disneyland. The Tiki Room serenades the visitors with Hawaiian music and presents the tale of Hawaiian gods through short films and Audio-Animatronic. Visitors flooded the Tiki Room trying to catch a glimpse of the wonder of Polynesian culture and animatronic technology.
Disney returns to the islands in 2002 during the production of Lilo & Stitch, a heart-warming animated film revolving around the idea of “Ohana”, the Hawaiian tradition of family. Taking place in the island of Kauaʻi, the movie is one of the few Disney productions that depicts the present day (as opposed to fairy tales and mythological stories); while choosing the location, the director traces Disney’s relation with Hawaii back to the ‘30s, when he picked natives to voice the characters. The movie received positive reviews from both the audience and the critics and started off a franchise both on TV and the big screen.
As Disney expands its business from media to real estate, it seizes the opportunity to open a resort in west Oahu, not too far away from Honolulu. Steering away from the crowded Waikiki beach, Disney Aulani Resorts offers various packages for family vacations and special programs for the kids. The first family resort outside of its themed parks (according to a report by Leland Kim from Hawaii News Now), Aulani continues Disney’s magical romance with the Rainbow State.
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The Culture Columnist, Asheley Gao:
My name is Asheley Gao and I’m a junior at Cal, majoring in History of Art and minoring in French. I grew up in Asia, the land of dragons and jasmine green tea, as a kid with too much imagination. Indulging myself in exploring different cultures and what they have to offer (art, movies, cuisine, you name it!), I’m on my way to becoming a woman whose country is the whole world. Along with all the excellent writers at Unleashed, I would love to share with you my adventure and take you all around the world.