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+--Forum: Polynesian Resort forum
+---Topic: Polynesian facts and History started by Tikiman

Posted by: Tikiman on April 04, 2003 11:17 am/pm

I was thinking that one of the things that helped me enjoy the Polynesian Resort was to have an understanding of the culture that the designs came from. If anyone thinks it would be a nice addition to the forum I can post some Polynesian Culture facts that I hope would help enhance your experience at the Polynesian.

I think the thing that gets me the most is how some call the Polynesian resort dark, 70’s or (my favorite to hate) Brady Bunch. Ok so the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii once. Does that mean that all things Hawaiian are “Brady Bunch”? As far as 70’s, well the Polynesian was built in the 70’s and the 40’s- the early 70’s had a big Tiki pop culture but if you look at the original photos of the Polynesian in the 70’s on my web page you will see that when they updated in the mid 80’s they got rid of the 70’s stuff and replaced it with the same materials and colors that you would find in old Polynesia. They even order fabric and building materials from Hawaii for the Polynesian. Now the dark thing gets me almost as much as the Brady Bunch thing. I can not imagine the Polynesian being bright with pastel colors like the Grand Floridian. I realize some hotels in Hawaii do look more upscale and are decorated like the GF but in Hawaii many of the long lasting hotels had a huge influence from the British since they found the islands. Some resorts on the islands are true to the culture and do have the bamboo furniture and the Hawaiian prints and I have seen many that look much like the Polynesian. But the other thing here is the Polynesian is not just Hawaii. It is many islands and if you go to many of the islands that the longhouses are named after you will see those dark Earth tones and natural materials used. The Disney designers spent time in places like Samoa,Tahiti,and Hawaii to come up with the designs. The design for the Great Ceremonial House (GCH) was inspired by the royal assembly lodges in Tahiti. The longhouses were designed after authentic Hawaiian longhouses and is the reason the original houses did not have balconies outside their rooms.

Polynesian GCH construction

The name Polynesia was given to the Pacific islands by a French explorer Charles Brosses which came from Greek words “poly” (many) and “nesos” (islands). Later Dumont d’Urville defined the Pacific region by breaking it into 3 parts. These were Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. Polynesia actually only covers the area with in the triangle formed by  Hawaii, New Zealand (Aotearoa), Easter Island (Rapanui). Melanesia, located west of Polynesia and below the equator, includes Fiji, New Caledonia, and the Solomon Islands. Micronesia is home to Palau, the Marshall Islands and Guam which is north of Melanesia. All of these cultures are knows as Oceania.

Well that is your Polynesian lesson for the day. If anyone likes these facts I will add to them with some stuff on how the idea for the Polynesian came about way back when Disneyland was being built.



Posted by: RichKoster on April 04, 2003 11:37 am/pm

Yoo Hoo, Steve!

Excellent report! Please do tell us more about the history of the Polynesian Resort and how it came to be.

Posted by: mongstrol on April 04, 2003 10:12 am/pm

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your insight into the Polynesian Resort.  Your web site was really helpful to me when I was planning my first stay there last year.

I look forward to reading your post on how the Polynesian came to be way back in the pre-Disneyland days!


Posted by: RichKoster on April 04, 2003 10:54 am/pm

Yoo Hoo, mongstrol!

Thanks for joining us! Even though I see you like Donald Duck a lot (you picked that Disney Avatar), I hope you'll like the mouse-eared Disney EchoEars hat I have for you right here:

:confused: Have you ever had a Character meal with Donald at WDW? I've never heard a report from anyone who has.

Posted by: jenniferk97 on April 06, 2003 1:13 am/pm

Well, first, Steve, I definitely want to hear more about the history of the Polynesian.  I'm going there for the very first time in about three weeks.

Next, to Rich...we plan to have a character meal with Donald in the AK, so I'll let you know.  Hopefully he won't have any of his famous temper tantrums.  


Posted by: RichKoster on April 06, 2003 1:50 am/pm

Yoo Hoo, Jennifer!

Here's a suggestion if you'd like to see a temper tantrum from Donald: Call him "Daffy."

Posted by: jenniferk97 on April 06, 2003 1:53 am/pm

LOL!  Good one!!


Posted by: Tikiman on April 15, 2003 10:29 am/pm

I have all these ideas of topics to post under this Polynesian History section but finding the time to write it has been difficult. There is so much to tell but one thing that seems to come up a lot is rehab at the Polynesian. I know I have talked about this in other postings but if I put what I know about the changes at the Polynesian down here it won’t get lost in other posts.

When the Polynesian was first built the design of the longhouses and the garden areas was very representative of the Polynesian culture but even I will admit that the décor inside the rooms and the GCH had some hints of bad 70’s design. I am sure at the time it was “groovy” to most but I am glad it did not last into the 80’s.

The rooms were full of plastic furniture and bad patterns. The halls and pool areas overflowed in turquoise.  

but in the late 70’s when Oahu (now called Tokelau) was built they were starting plans for expanding and changing the Polynesian for the future. Oahu was built with “test” rooms that would give them a chance to see what room layout they liked best. This is why in some rooms of Tokelau you will find different floor plans but only in a handful of rooms and most do not know what room numbers these “test” rooms are. I believe around this time is when they removed the turquoise and yellow floor and changed the décor of the rooms but I am not totally sure of when that happened. These were replaced with the stone, bamboo and earth tones similar to today.

After the expansion of Oahu (Tokelau) in 1978 they added on the last two longhouses Moorea and Pago Pago (now called Tahiti and Rapa Nui) in 1985. The rooms were brighter but still representative to the Polynesian look.

Many worry about the age of the Polynesian but even the Grand Floridian is only a few years older than the newest longhouses at the Polynesian and since the Polynesian actually sees more bookings it gets more attention when it comes to keeping the place up. This is why every 2 years or so it gets a soft rehab to all of its rooms. A soft rehab is usually replacing damaged materials, a thorough cleaning and a fresh paint job. Also the Polynesian has seen a few major rehabs like the one I first remember that started in 1996 and finished in 1998. They gutted the rooms and changes the décor to what it is today. The room does not look too much different. The major change was the bathrooms went from bright white with tropical leaves painted on the walls to the green marble you see today.

During the rehab in the late 90’s I never did feel like the construction was a distraction or had an impact on my stay. I felt the same way when they were doing the recent rehab in 2002.

Also in the 90’s the concierge lounge was taken from the GCH lobby and Hawaii had the lounge area added onto the end of the longhouse. Then concierge went from all the lagoon view rooms to just in Hawaii and Tonga with the lounge for both located in Hawaii.

After another soft rehab in 2001 for all the longhouses they started a major reconstruction of the original longhouses in October 2001 and it is still going on.

The longhouses have had problems with moisture because of 2 things. One is because they are made of wood on the outer structure and since the original longhouse rooms were constructed using the modular rooms and plugged into the buildings (like the Contemporary) there is space under the floors where water is getting trapped. They are taking everything out of the rooms down to the structure and cementing the floors as well as redoing some of the landscaping to keep the water from flowing towards the buildings. They are also replacing much of the wood on the outer surface and stairways of the longhouses.

Inside the rooms they are rewiring and replacing the plumbing and ventilation. All the carpets and wallpaper are being replaced as well. The rooms look as they did before just new. There are no plans to do any of this to the newer longhouses.

I also got the impression that there will be some additional redesign of the lounge area of Hawaii but what no one will tell or they do not know.

The Polynesian does its best to keep the place up since they get the most repeat guests out of all the WDW resorts and they also were 1st in the amount of Honeymoons and Anniversaries. That has to say something to those who think the place is old and dark.

I hope to see the Polynesian continue to work hard to make the place a wonderful vacation destination for years to come. It has so much to offer with one of the largest standard rooms on WDW property, the best view of all WDW resorts (my opinion) and all the activities and food you could want. On top of all that I believe they have the best staff of any WDW resort. I keep trying other resorts and I never feel like I have started my vacation till I hit the beach of the Polynesian and look across the water at the castle.

Just remember when you are there to treat the Polynesian with care. If we limit the abuse the resort sees there will be less need for rehab.



Posted by: Tikiman on April 24, 2003 9:55 am/pm

To find out where the idea of the Polynesian came about you have to dig inside Walt Disney's head in the late 50's. Walt was a frequent customer of Polynesian supper clubs and loved the food and atmosphere. Because of this he wanted to open his own Tiki restaurant that would be better than any other in the world. The thing he wanted to add that made it different but sticking to the true Polynesian design was to animate the decore. He wanted to make the Tikis, birds and flowers move and talk. This was not only the birth of the idea of the Polynesian resort but Audio Animatronics which is at the heart and soul of all the Disney parks.

The project was to have 225 robotic performers directed by a fourteen-channel magnetic tape feeding 100 separate speakers and controlling 438 separate actions. This was going to be too much to put into a restaurant and still have room for tables and a kitchen so this became the Tiki Room attraction in 1963 at Disneyland.

So what does this have to do with the Polynesian Resort. This is not only when he thought about creating a resort that was themed like the Tiki room but the designs for the Tiki Room worked their way into the original designs of the Polynesian.

One of the people Walt used to design the look that later found its way to the Florida project was artist Rolly Crump who designed the statues.

Another artist who worked on the design was Marc Davis who was an animator for Snow White, Bambi and 101 Dalmations. He had an interest in Paupuan New Guinea art.

You will find these designs for the Tiki Room all over the Polynesian even today.

All of the signs around the Polynesian were created by Oceanic Arts which was one of the original Tiki carvers in the US and it created Tiki for places like Don the Beachcomber in Hawaii and even Trader Vic's.

You can still to this day find an old reject sign from the construction of the Polynesian Village Resort hanging in Oceanic Arts in Southern California.

The Polynesian has grown over the years but the heart and soul that Walt gave it will remain.



Posted by: PaulaJ on June 01, 2003 6:54 am/pm

Steve,  Thank you for taking the time to post this fascinating background.  I'm so glad I've read this before I make my first visit!  Keep 'em coming! :bowdown:
Posted by: mamaof3gals on June 11, 2003 9:03 am/pm

Actually one of the reasons we chose Poly (first time to Disney) is the fact that the ambiance of all the palms and the "darker appearance of the facade" will seem to make us feel cooler in July.  The thought of the light and brightness of CBR or Beach Club seemed like I would need sunglasses all the time just from the glare.

If you go on websites for hotels in Tahiti, there are a lot of "dark" colors resorts - it's just the style of the south pacific. Just as cape cod has greyish salt box style homes and southwest has terra cotta tones.

Posted by: cmfairygodmother on June 12, 2003 10:32 am/pm

Tikiman, Where does Tahiti fall in all of this? I am asking for a good friend that is going to Hawaii (the island) on Sunday. Thanks:)
Posted by: Tikiman on June 12, 2003 11:21 am/pm

What is your question cmfairygodmother?

Is your friend staying on the island of Hawaii?

Posted by: cmfairygodmother on June 12, 2003 12:35 am/pm

LOL, sorry Tikiman, the question is where is the island of Tahiti located within Polynesia?

My friend is staying in Kauai, and Waikiki. Any info you have would be appreciated! She leaves on Sunday with her husband. It was a surprise trip for her!

Posted by: Tikiman on June 12, 2003 1:26 am/pm

Tahiti is about 2,400 miles south east of Hawaii. I believe the closest other Polynesian island to Hawaii is Christmas Island.

It is too late to send away for the free travel packet but your friend can go onto and get info on everything like places to eat and things to do. Tell her to go to the luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center and the sub dive in Honolulu. She can look up info on Oahu (if she is staying on Waikiki beach and info on the Island of Kauai. So two islands in one trip. That is great.

If they like seafood have them get reservations for Nick's Fishmarket in Honolulu just across from the beach. Good food but not a cheap dinner.



Posted by: Tikiman on Aug. 28, 2003 5:53 am/pm

Just found out some new info on the design of the Polynesian. Sorry I get excited because I don't get info I did not know already very often.

The Kaanapali Beach Hotel has served as a role model for other large-scale operations, such as Disney's Polynesian Resort. Clyde Min, Director of Hotel Planning and Operations, said, "The Ka'anapali Beach Hotel is a great role model and 'living laboratory' for evaluating our process at Disney."

The funny part is that we stayed right next to this resort on our trip to Maui.

< >

I also have new photos of the original Polynesian Resort back in the 70's that I will put up on the web site soon.



Posted by: RichKoster on Aug. 28, 2003 10:56 am/pm

The color of the roofs match and perhaps the color of the walls and balconies were changed over time -- but the look of those buildings remind me very much of the Polynesian!

Posted by: Tikiman on Aug. 29, 2003 10:14 am/pm

I was chatting with a long time CM at the Polynesian about the Kaanapali Beach Resort and this is what the response was:

"The Kaanapoli Beach Resort also worked with our resort a few years ago on bringing more culture etc to our resort.  That was when Clyde Min was the General Manager.  A lot of updating and changes started happening then.  Instead of just being a Polynesian themed hotel, more culture and knowledge of the islands were brought in.  There was a cultural specialist that came to the resort and worked with our General Manager on making those changes so they were as authentic as possible.  It was neat to see the changes take place."

Posted by: disneyn on Aug. 29, 2003 5:55 am/pm

Since I loved Hawaii and hear all these wonderful things about the resort Now I REALLY can't wait to see this place :coolgrin:   Thanks to all the experts!!!!!  I too went to and the luau at The Polynesian Cultural Center was a highlight of our trip to Oahu.  Only 8 more days until I leave and 12 until we check in to The Polynesian Resort.  Will send a report when we get back.   :love:

Disneyn :minnie: Aloha and Bon Voyage


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