Who are these figures playfully hiding in the foliage around the site of Aulani? They might be the Menehune. According to Hawaiian legend, the little Menehune (men-neh-HOO-nay) are shy folk who come out mostly at night. They are said to be gifted, possibly magical, craftspeople and if you come across a work-in-progress bridge or canoe (as you just might, when visiting Aulani), chances are it’s the work of the Menehune.
You may not spot them right away, but when Aulani opens to guests August 29, 2011, the Menehune will be there, represented by carvings concealed throughout the resort – under tables, in the forest and hidden in corners where they are most likely to be first discovered by kids. The Menehune will have had a hand, unseen, in the construction of Menehune Bridge, the children’s interactive water and slide play area at the resort. And the legend of the Menehune will animate the Menehune Adventure Trail, an interactive journey of discovery that will bring their story to life for Aulani guests.
Along with the fun of their adventures and concealment (“like Easter eggs,” as Imagineer Joe Rohde says), the design of the Menehune statues in Aulani demonstrates the research and dedication to Hawaiian culture that the Disney Imagineers have put into the creation of the resort. Various versions of the Menehune legend depict them as mischievous elf-like characters or as a real, ancient people who lived freely on the islands before being forced into hiding by the arrival of Polynesians from Tahiti.
The legend of the real, ancient Menehune suggests that some of them found refuge on Necker Island, northwest of Kaua`i, and that their life on the island is suggested by mysterious images found in the ancient stone structures there. The Aulani Imagineering team, working with subject matter experts and reviewing the collection at the Bishop Museum of history and culture on O`ahu, took cues from the Necker Island images in designing the Menehune who will populate Aulani.