Disney Goes Hawaiian
On Friday, The Walt Disney Co. gave a peek of its sprawling, beachside Hawaiian resort that is under construction and scheduled to open next year. “Aulani” is Disney’s first major standalone resort away from a theme park and could serve as a model for future projects as the company diversifies and expands its vacation offerings. “This is a very special project for us,” said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “It’s unlike anything that Disney has done before; at the same time, it’s very like many of the things we do.” Aulani will have 359 hotel rooms, 481 time-share units, restaurants, a convention center, a 15,000-square-foot spa and a massive water play area that includes a volcano tube slide and a lagoon to snorkel in. It will sit on 21 acres on Oahu’s Leeward Coast in the Ko Olina development, known for its white sand lagoons, scenic golf course and colorful sunsets. Ko Olina is about an hour west of Waikiki, where most of the hotels and tourists are located. Jim Lewis, president of Disney’s time-share component, said Hawaii makes “perfect sense” with its rich culture, traditions, warm greetings, family values, friendships and storytelling. Most of the resort is currently a jungle of concrete, steel, wires and pipes with no Mickey and Minnie in sight. Aulani is scheduled to open Aug. 29, 2011, with hotel reservations to begin next month. The largest units at Aulani are 3-bedroom “Grand Villas” — 2,300-square-foot timeshare units that are larger than most Hawaii homes, sleep 12 and have sweeping views of the Pacific. While this may be Disney’s first big push into Hawaii, the company has had a long and growing relationship with Hawaii. One of the most notable is the animated film “Lilo & Stitch,” the centerpiece of a $1.7 million marketing deal between Hawaii and Disney. Other projects have included the 2001 film “Pearl Harbor” and ABC’s castaway drama “Lost,” which filmed here for six seasons. ABC is owned by Disney. In addition, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” began shooting here this summer. “We couldn’t find a more perfect place in putting a resort like this,” Staggs said.