Disney imagineers Hawaiiana

SUBHEAD: Ko Olina resort designers try to adhere to ancient storylines of Hawaiian practitioners. By Staff on 24 July 2009 in The Hawaii Independent - (http://www.thehawaiiindependent.com/local/read/Kapolei/disney-resort-imagineers-try-to-adhere-to-ancient-storylines) Don’t expect any tiki gods or torch-lighting ceremonies when Disney opens its first Hawaii resort at Ko Olina in 2011, according to a local consultant working with the multinational company. image above: Rendering of "Hawaiiana" in Disney designed resort at Ko Olina, Ohau [Editor's Note: This is nothing more than a gussied-up Hawaiian-style waterpark jammed in between two high-rise hotel resort towers that are hidden in the artist's rendered foliage.] Disney, the largest media and entertainment business in the world, is abandoning its usual carefree approach to cultural interpretation and instead is collaborating with cultural practitioners to present accurate depictions of Hawaiiana. “All the perceived notions of what you’d see at a Hawaiian resort, you’re not going to see them there,” said Ramsay Taum, who is serving as a cultural resource. According to Taum, Disney has come to understand that the Hawaiians have a unique living culture that is not just a static composite of Polynesian stereotypes. “Disney has demonstrated sensitivity by trying to be culturally accurate,” he said. “They have another Polynesian-type resort in Florida already, and they admit its not an accurate depiction. They’re trying to do it right here.” The resort planners—known as imagineers—are striving to adhere to the ancient storylines in their portrayal of the indigenous culture. “I told them there isn’t room for interpretation. You cannot say that Maui did something he didn’t do,” he said, referencing the story of the famed demigod who pulled the islands up from under the water with his fishing hook. “But the way they tell the story, through, say fabric or media, is where they can be creative.” Imagineers are also working with various expert craftsmen in Hawaiian carving, construction, and other specialties. “They are getting really specific with Hawaiian design,” said Peter Apo, another consultant. For example, he noted that Disney has ascribed the term “truth of construction” to native building practices, which suggests that Hawaiians found it important to show the ties that bind two objects together. “They have been able to recognize what makes Hawaiian concepts so different from European and Asian aesthetics,” he said. “I’m pretty amazed at how seriously they’re taking this project,” said Apo. “They’re sparing no effort in trying to grasp the culture.” Disney is also paying homage to the history that surrounds the Koolina area, and stories specific to that region are expected to be implemented in the overall design. Historians familiar with the area are working with Disney to develop the conceptual flow. “Even the name of the resort, which is being discussed right now, will have a connection with the area,” Apo said. In addition to its commitment to include the local lore, the entertainment conglomerate has also attempted to build community support with nearby residents. It has sponsored local events like Waianae Sunset on the Beach and has donated $100,000 to nearby schools. There are plans to do more for the region in the future. Disney also promises to employ many residents from that side of the island when it begins to fill its anticipated one thousand job openings. “As much as they can, they want to hire as local as possible all the way to upper management level,” said Taum, who is also working on cultural sensitivity training for future hires. “In my experience, this is the most committed a hotel has been to hiring local.” Maile Meyer, owner of Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii, and another consultant continually urges Disney to connect with the Leeward side of Oahu, noting that people there have been betrayed by developers in the past. “They need to keep themselves as part of the community ... especially with training or hiring,” she said. With the resort not scheduled to open for another few more years, there is much to be done, and much that remains to be seen, as Disney continues work on the creative process and human resource development. But the mood is optimistic. “They’re trying to do the best job they can,” said Meyer. “So far, they’ve done an incredibly good job of fixing mistakes and making things right.” “I’m pretty amazed at how seriously they’re taking this project,” said Apo. “They’re sparing no effort in trying to grasp the culture. If they’re trying to understand the kumulipo (creation chant), that tells me the intellectual depth they’re trying to get at.” But, ultimately, according to Taum, the eventual course is Disney’s to steer. “We’re like the traffic controllers,” he says of himself and the other consultants. “We can guide them where to go ... but they make the decisions.” See also: Island Breath: Koloa Landing - Bigger and Uglier is here! 6/28/07 Island Breath: Kauai Lagoons - Annuls of false advertizing 3/18/08 Island Breath: Disney Ko Olina Oahu Resort set for 2011 10/24/08 .

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