This morning as the sun rose over Ko Olina, Hawai‘i, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa opened its doors and welcomed its first guests. Before sunrise, while the guests were still waiting, Goofy kept them entertained.
Disney Parks & Resort Chairman Tom Staggs was here to welcome the guests and celebrate the occasion. Among the guests he welcomed: Samson Mahi and his family from Waipahu here on the island. They had been selected as honorary first family of Hawai`i to participate in the untying of a maile lei to welcome guests into Aulani.
And – I am not making this up – less than an hour later, a rainbow appeared over the resort! Be sure to check back on the Disney Parks Blog as Aulani continues to take shape in preparation for its official Grand Opening celebration in September.
Hi, I’m Rebecca, the new manager of public affairs at Disney Cruise Line, and I’m excited to be a Disney Parks Blog author. I will keep you up-to-date on the latest happenings at Disney Cruise Line, including the progress of the Disney Fantasy, the impact of our community outreach as well as our environmental and conservation efforts like this eco camp for children in the Abaco Islands.
This summer, scientists and educators working near Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay spent the season leading hands-on activities, taking field-trips and even exploring the famous blue waters of The Bahamas – all in the spirit of conservation.
As part of a long-term project, Disney partnered with Friends of the Environment, a local nonprofit, to plan and host summer eco camps for children in the Abaco Islands. Sponsored in part by Disney Cruise Line, the camps included classroom instruction and interactive programs designed to inspire children to care about the planet.
From the basics of recycling and saving water to learning how to snorkel for the very first time, campers focused on exploring the unique environment in their own backyards. They even visited Abaco National Park to swim in a blue hole, a unique and naturally occurring pool of fresh water that “floats” on a level of salt water below.
Camp culminated with a special visit to Castaway Cay, where campers were able to get up close and personal with native stingrays, learning about the animals from Disney researchers that call the island home.
In all, more than 150 Bahamian children took part in the camps that showcased the importance of appreciating and conserving the natural environment for future generations.
One of the best things about growing up in Southern California were the visits my family took to Disneyland park each year. The park was my Never Land, full of wonder and excitement that fueled my young imagination. To this day one of my favorite memories is of Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship and Skull Rock in Fantasyland.
Opening August 29, 1955, as the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship and Restaurant (later named Captain Hook’s Galley), the ship was home to a small quick-service location serving all things tuna. I remember eating my tuna burger as quickly as I could so I would have time to explore the area. I imagined I WAS Peter Pan as I navigated the waterfalls of Skull Rock, dueled with my sibling pirates on the deck and wondered how something so impossibly large as a ship could actually fly (pixie dust, of course!). Only at Disneyland could a restaurant inspire such imagination!
Closed to make way for the new Fantasyland, Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship and Skull Rock are no longer part of Disneyland park. However, they are more than just a memory as Imagineers created a fantastic version in Disneyland Paris.
EXTRA CREDIT if you can name the two other Disneyland park restaurants that opened in August 1955.
What is your fondest memory of this classic Disneyland location?
Today’s the day! At approximately 6:30 a.m. Hawai‘i time, as the sun came over the mountain, the doors to the Maka‘ala lobby of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, opened and the first guests entered. It is a time for us to look even further into the future, preparing for media from all over the world to attend a special Grand Opening event, September 20-23.
The big pre-opening event at Aulani this weekend was a Community Preview on Saturday evening. It was a great opportunity for neighbors of the resort, many of whom have made significant contributions to its successful completion, to get together and enjoy seeing Aulani in its finished state. Guests included political figures, community leaders and many of the artists whose work at Aulani is now part of the largest collection of contemporary Hawaiian art in the state.
Tom Staggs, Chairman of Disney Parks & Resorts, and Djuan Rivers, Vice President of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, each took to the stage to welcome and thank the guests and to pay tribute to the Aulani team. Local performers, including the gifted young singers of the Kamehameha Schools Children’s Chorus and the talented keiki (children) of Hula Halau Olana, provided the entertainment, and other guests included leaders of the community organizations with a focus on family and children which the Disney Aulani team has supported over the past year.
The preview also celebrated the ways in which Aulani has benefited and will continue to benefit the community, through job creation, economic stimulus, cast VoluntEARism and charitable donations. In the past year, cash and in-kind contributions have totaled more than $300,000 to organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs of Hawai‘i, the Bishop Museum and (as you may recall from a previous blog post) the KaBOOM Playground build at Ka Waihona o ka Na‘auao Public Charter School.
Can’t wait to tell you about welcoming the first guests into Aulani. Keep watching the Disney Parks Blog. I’ll be back later today.
For more from Aulani, take a look at the posts below:
One of the most popular features of our runDisney events are the medals awarded to everyone who finishes either our 26.2-mile Walt Disney World Marathon or any of our 13.1-mile half marathons. We are often asked how those medals are made. Well, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how one of our art directors designs and creates our medals.
See the posts below for more on Disney Parks marathons:
As a Disney Parks photographer, I have had the good fortune to photograph many special occasions and have enjoyed capturing the Disney Princesses many times. On this special morning, I photographed a darling little girl as she met Rapunzel for the very first time. Ava was nearing her fifth birthday (which she spent having breakfast with the princesses inside Cinderella Castle) and her autograph book lacked only one princess – Rapunzel. As a surprise, Ava’s parents took her to the Magic Kingdom Park early one morning and walked directly to Fantasyland to make sure she was first in line to greet Rapunzel. I hope these photographs speak for themselves.
Ava was thrilled, and afterward, as the family walked down Main Street, U.S.A., she could be heard announcing to Mom and Dad, “This is a perfect day!” Indeed, it was…
Here’s a look back at more magical moments from around Magic Kingdom Park:
Adorable, huh? This week, we introduced the newest member of our elephant herd at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The African male elephant (no name yet) was photographed by Gene Duncan standing with his mom and big sister and it’s one of my favorite shots of the month. The 311-pound calf is the sixth elephant born at the park. Be sure and check the blog early next week for an update and possibly a name.
Is there an attraction you’d like to see next?
Now, here’s a list of other stories we covered this week.
Check out posts from this ongoing series featured on the Disney Parks Blog which highlights different teams of talented individuals at the Disneyland Resort. There are plenty of unique jobs at the Resort and we wanted to give readers a look at what’s happening “backstage.” Which team would you want to join?
Take 5: Every Role a Starring Role at the Disneyland Resort
I posted a fun time-lapse video of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, construction a few months ago but of course, the project wasn’t fully complete at that time. Now you can pretty much see the whole resort taking shape right before your eyes.
Disney cast members have been enjoying “test stays” at Aulani so that the resort operations team can be ready when the first guests check in this Monday, Aug. 29. Check back on the Disney Parks Blog Monday for a look at our special opening day events.
Take a look back at these posts for more from Aulani:
Night of Joy 2011 is right around the corner. We are truly excited about the lineup this year, with artists representing a number of Christian Music genres including Praise & Worship, Rock, Pop, Urban and Contemporary Gospel. Hot off the press are the concert schedules for each night. Here’s how they shake out. Of course, times, stages and performers are always subject to change.
Friday, September 9
Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage
7:45 p.m. – Jeremy Camp
9:50 p.m. – Newsboys
11:55 p.m. – Skillet
7:30 p.m. – Francesca Battistelli
9:25 p.m. – Group 1 Crew
11:25 p.m. – Matthew West
Rockettower Plaza Stage
7:45 p.m. – Disciple
9:15 p.m. – Disciple
10:50 p.m. – Sidewalk Prophets
12:15 a.m. – Sidewalk Prophets
Saturday, September 10
Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage
7:45 p.m. – Jars of Clay
9:35 p.m. – Gospel Music Association Winner
9:55 p.m. – TobyMac
11:55 p.m. – MercyMe
7:30 p.m. – Sanctus Real
8:35 p.m. – Disney Gospel Choir Fest Winner
9:45 p.m. – Kutless
11:50 p.m. – Marvin Sapp
Rockettower Plaza Stage
7:45 p.m. – Vashawn Mitchell
9:15 p.m. – Vashawn Mitchell
10:50 p.m. – Chris August
12:15 a.m. – Chris August
Night of Joy is an after-hours event, held Sept. 9 and 10, 2011, at the Magic Kingdom that requires a special ticket. Event hours are 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. each evening. While artists are performing at several stages, many popular Magic Kingdom attractions also are available for Night of Joy guests. Tickets are on sale now. One-night tickets are $51.95 plus tax in advance, $59.95 plus tax day of. Two-night tickets are $92.95. Groups of 10 or more can purchase one-night tickets in advance for $46.95 plus tax each and two-night tickets for $87.95. Additional information is available at www.nightofjoy.com.