Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Disney's Aulani

The recently-opened Disney's Aulani resort looks like a winner. And in general, it is. However, read this "trip report" and see if you think there might be some refinements that should be taken care of before long.

In particular, there are 3 issues that I can gather out of this report:

1. There was no Lilo!

So when we arrived at Disney's new Aulani hotel in Hawaii it seemed like a no-brainer that we'd find Lilo and Stitch here to welcome Hannah to the tropical paradise that filled her dreams and imagination.

We spotted Stitch almost immediately wearing a lei and a floral print hat, but no matter how hard we looked we couldn't find the spirited and eccentric little girl who seemed such a natural fit for a Disney resort in Hawaii.

Everywhere we went in the resort, we asked: Where's Lilo? We were variously told Lilo was at school, on vacation or surfing on Kauai – but none of the answers sufficiently explained the obvious storytelling oversight.
This is very, very strange!

2. Disruptive activities that destroyed the tranquility

I was surprised by the contrived and disruptive afternoon character poolside party that featured a Disney employee, using a public address system, extolling swimmers to scream, splash and hop up on deck for a hula contest. The pump-up-the-energy vibe so upset the tranquil mood that poolside loungers cringed at the paradise-wrecking spectacle.

A similar dry-land surfing lesson for kids withChip and Dale employed more amplified pep rally exhortations that echoed throughout the resort.
Horrors. If I were relaxing and having a leisurely time, I would have left immediately and complained! What, they have no other place to do such a thing?

3. Ruining what appears to be an amazingly original show.

I would have dismissed the overexuberance as grand opening jitters if not for the Starlight Hui, the resort's marquee event held several times a week. In an effort to avoid the pan-Polynesian luau common at most resorts, Disney produced a tradition-rich show that paid tribute to Hawaii, its people and customs.

As the stirring show drew to a close, a youth counselor jumped up on stage in a but-wait-there's-more moment and called out all the Disney characters one by one. The folklore-rich show steeped in myth and legend quickly devolved into a disco nightclub with the characters leading the crowd in the "Electric Slide" and other line dancing steps typically reserved for weddings and reunions. It left me almost dumbstruck until I jumped up to boogie with Hannah, who could care less about thematic consistency and coherent storytelling.

Y'know, this "Starlight Hui" is the very thing that I would really like to experience. I don't want to see another luau. So whoever thought of having such a thing instead of a luau should certainly be applauded. They took a different route than one that is done everywhere. But then to ruin it with such ending? Who was asleep at the wheel here?

Maybe I will wait a couple more years before heading on to there and let them work out all the kinks in their theming issues.


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