From the WDW Radio Archives…
On last night’s WDW Radio LIVE show (WDWRadioLIVE.com), I brought you with me to and through Disney’s Polynesian Resort for a walking tour at sunset of the grounds and Great Ceremonial House. We also looked at and discussed the construction of the new Disney Vacation Club Tower, and I remarked how the idea of a tower at this location was not something new, but was planned for from the very beginning, as early concepts for Disney’s Polynesian Resort featured a 12-story tower before evolving into a more architecturally authentic “village” layout.
So in the spirit of aloha and the origins of Disney’s Polynesian Resort, I went back into the Archives this week to Show 111, where we boarded my Walt Disney World Wayback Machine and looked at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort through the years… at least up until 2009 when the episode first released. We turned back the clock to a time before Walt Disney World was even a vision in Walt’s mind, and look at how his personal interests influenced what would become the model for themed resorts that would follow. We explored the Polynesian Village through the years and looked at some of its additions, changes and lost experiences. It’s also interesting to hear how we discussed what the resort was like today (today being 2009), and then speculated as to what the future may hold… or should I say may have held. Were we right? Let’s see…
In this episode, you will be able to:
- Discover the fascinating history and authenticity behind Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
- Uncover the unique theming and exquisite amenities offered at the beloved resort.
- Explore the captivating changes and expansions the resort has experienced since its grand opening.
- Understand the incredible impact the Polynesian influenced in shaping Disney World’s legacy.
- Discuss the potential future of the resort as a Disney Vacation Club property, and its implications.
My special guest is Steve Seifert, the man behind Tiki Man’s Unofficial Polynesian Resort Pages and a dedicated expert on Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. With a keen interest in the resort’s unique history and Walt Disney’s personal connection to its development, Steve has become a trusted source of information for Disney enthusiasts. His passion for Polynesian culture and Disney history shines through in his engaging conversations with host Lou Mongello. Together, they explore the fascinating story of the Polynesian Village Resort, from its early concepts to its enduring legacy.
The key moments in this episode are:
[00:01:04] – Overview of the Episode,
[00:04:17] – Looking Back at the Polynesian Village Resort,
[00:08:14] – The Tiki Room and the Polynesian Village Resort,
[00:13:09] – Authenticity and Design of the Polynesian Village Resort,
[00:14:56] – Theme of Polynesian Resort,
[00:16:14] – Immersive Experience,
[00:18:58] – Opening Day,
[00:25:01] – Unique Features of Polynesian Resort,
[00:30:00] – History and Evolution of the Polynesian Resort,
[00:33:31] – The Evolution of the Polynesian Resort,
[00:37:48] – Millennium Renovations and Updates,
[00:39:35] – Recent Upgrades and Potential Changes,
Share your thoughts in the WDW Radio Clubhouse, or call the voicemail at 407-900-9391 (WDW1) and share your story on the show.
But for now… sit back, relax, and enjoy this week’s episode from the Archives on the WDW Radio show.
You can listen to the original episode in it’s entirety at WDW Radio # 111
Let me help you build your brand and business and turn your passion into your profession, or speak at your event, conference, or school! – Learn more at LouMongello.com
Comment and share your questions, thoughts, and tips in our WDW Radio Clubhouse Community on Facebook or call the Voicemail and be heard “On the Air” at 407-900-9391
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Lou Mongello: Aloha my friend, and welcome to another episode from the WW Radio Archives. I am Lu Mane, and this is show number 725. And each week we're gonna select an Evergreen episode to share with you that maybe you haven't heard before. With that you haven't heard in a long time.
From interviews to top tens, relevant reviews, guides, way back machines and more. It's a great way to visit or revisit some of our favorite episodes, including ones that you've suggested from the archives. We're also gonna have some fun and experiment with this new episode in your feed, including maybe some top five, some solo segments, some Disney in a minute, reviews and audio format.
And of course, taking ideas and inspiration from you. But for this week on last Night's WW Radio Live show, which you can find in the live archives on the WDWRadio.com website, on the Facebook page, or in the clubhouse at WDWRadio.com/clubhouse, I brought you with me two and through Disney's Polynesian Village Resort for a walking tour at Sunset.
It was beautiful of the ground and great ceremonial house. We also looked at and discussed the construction of the new Disney Vacation Club Tower, and I remarked how the idea of a tower at this location wasn't something that was new, but something that was planned from the very beginning and early concepts for Disney's Colonian Resort.
Featured a 12 story tower before evolving into a more architecturally authentic village type layout. So in the spirit of Aloha and the origins of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, I went back into the archives this week to show number 111 where we boarded my Walt Disney World Wayback Machine and looked at the Polynesian through the years, at least up until 2009, when the episode first released, we turned back the clock to a time.
Before Walt Disney World was even a vision in Walt's mind, and look how his personal interests influenced what would become the model for the theme resorts that would follow. We also explored the Polynesian Village through the years and looked at some of its additions, changes and lost experiences, and I think it's also interesting.
To hear how we discussed what the resort was like today, today being 2009, and then speculated as to what the future may hold, or should I say may have held, will rewrite. We'll see. I'd love you to share your thoughts. In the WW Radio Clubhouse and be part of the community and firstname.lastname@example.org slash clubhouse.
Call the voicemail with your thoughts about the Polynesian at 4 0 7 909 3 9 1. That's 4 0 7 900 w DW one, and I'll share your story on an upcoming show. Don't forget, you can also connect with me on Instagram. I am at LouMongello, but for now, Sit back, relax, and enjoy this week's episode from the Archives on the WW Radio Show.
Steve Seifert: Oh.
Lou Mongello: This week I wanted to dust off the old way back machine and try something a little bit different. And rather than taking a single step back in time and looking at a location or the parks as a whole, I instead wanted to pick a single place and try and take a number of trips back through its history from its beginnings to today and maybe even a peak into the future.
And many of you sent or called in great feedback. About the Lost Resorts of the Magic Kingdom segment I did a few weeks ago, and many of you were fascinated by the history and what almost was, so I thought we would maybe hang around the lagoon a little bit longer and take a look at some of the early origins of a hotel that really helped to define what a theme resort would be for generations of guests to come.
And that's Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. And when you say Polynesian, one name probably comes to mind, Don Ho. But since Mr. Ho is not available, I got the next best thing. And he is Steve Seifert, known as the Tiki Man. He runs the Definitive Polynesian website called Tiki Man's unofficial Polynesian Resort Pages website.
So Steve, welcome back to the show buddy. How you doing, Lou? Did you like how I called it Polynesian Village? Given, you know, that's good stuff. Giving credit back to the, to the old days. It is. I'm an old school Polynesian guy. Um, that's where we stayed back in the, you know, 71, 72, and when we first started going.
So that was
Steve Seifert: the place
Lou Mongello: to be. Yeah, absolutely. And, uh, I, I've, I've relatively fond memories since I was about three or four at the time, but, uh, you know, I, it, I wanted to have you back because we had a great time. We talked about the Polynesian at length way, way back when, when the show first started, but this time we wanted to look at it.
Really not from a trip planning aspect, but really more from a historical perspective and start out not just pre Polynesian Village Resort, but pre Walt Disney World and even pre Disneyland. Cause we wanna look back at Walt Disney himself and his travels and how they lead to, you know, kind of what we see today.
Not just in the resort but in the parks as well.
Steve Seifert: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the, the best thing about the Polynesian is it hasn't changed. Much over the years, other than becoming more current. But the important part is, is it kind of has the soul of what Walt wanted originally. And there's not too many resorts there that you can say really.
Walt got his hands on.
Lou Mongello: Exactly. And, and it's, I think a lot of people don't realize, cause when we talk about Walt Disney World, you know, people from Disney, well this is where Walt walked and, and true. Unfortunately, Walt didn't get to see his dream come true, but he did have very much a hand in it. And the Polynesian particularly.
Had much more of a personal connection to Walt because of things he was doing literally decades before.
Steve Seifert: Yeah, absolutely. He, um, he had such a fascination with Hawaii and it, for me, it was what brought that, brought on that fascination. That's what I wanted to find out. And what kind of made him have such an important role in the ideas for the Polynesian and, and why it was so important for him to have that themed resort at Disney World, where he basically had a blank slate to start with whatever he wanted.
Lou Mongello: Exactly, and, and talk about how, you know, trips that, like I said, started back in the thirties for Walt, ended up not just influencing, we know, an attraction in, in Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but obviously how, how that carried over, um, his original intent carried over to the Polynesian.
Steve Seifert: Yeah. If you dial your way back, machine back to, uh, 1934, you would end up in a, if you were in Oahu, You would see a very different island than it is today.
Less crowded. People had to take boats to get there. The, the main hotel was the, um, Royal Hawaiian. Um, it was kind of the spot for celebrities and, uh, and his first trip was in, uh, on August 10th, uh, 1934. Him and his wife, uh, took a boat over to Oahu and that was kind of them getting their first taste of the islands and that.
From then, then on, he was kind of hooked to the whole relaxed and tropical feel of, um, having a vaca for him that was a vacation. Right.
Lou Mongello: And we know the story about, um, how some of that and some of his ideas for what would eventually become the enchanted tiki room came from not just his fascination with audio animatronics, but the fact that he wanted it to be a restaurant.
That too came from his own personal experiences. In Hawaii in some of these islands visiting a lot of the, the old, old time supper clubs.
Steve Seifert: Yeah, he was, um, I think I, I never did find out if it was something that he attended, um, before his trips to Hawaii, but I think the supper clubs were kind of big in the, uh, forties and fifties and it was something that he had spent a lot of time going to, and he was aft after the, the experiences he had at the different Polynesian Supper clubs.
He just had it stuck in his head that he was gonna make. The best Polynesian Supper Club that there was, and the project, uh, started to evolve and get designed. It was gonna be 225 robotic performers. By a 14 channel magnetic tape, feeding a hundred separate speakers and controlling 438 separate actions.
Um, this is eventually became the tiki room attraction because to try and design it into a restaurant with all the mechanisms and, and well everything you see in the tiki room and have room for, you know, a kitchen and tables and place and a bar. It was just gonna be, Too much in one place. So all of those ideas, instead of getting thrown away, ended up transforming into what we see as the tiki room now.
Lou Mongello: Yeah. And if you actually go out to Disneyland and look at the difference in the way it's laid out versus the Walt Disney World version, you could almost get the sense of seeing how it would've been initially designed as a restaurant. Uh, and I think the, I think the really cool thing too, that as we talk about Walt and his influence and his love and his passion for this, how we're sort of coming full circle now with Disney building.
A vacation club resort in Hawaii.
Steve Seifert: Oh, that's true. Yeah. Now they're, for the first time you're gonna have Disney, um, in the, in the state of, uh, Hawaii on Oahu, on the West Shore. And that'll be very interesting to see how that turns out. I think it's a good way to continue on the, the tradition of the, the kind of the Hawaiian theme is part of Disney.
Lou Mongello: More importantly, Steve, this is screaming research trip for you and I.
Steve Seifert: Oh, that's for sure. Tiki Fest 2011 will
Lou Mongello: be in. Oh, see, I like how you think. I like how you think. I will be there. I'm RSVPing now,
Steve Seifert: so. So yeah. Well, I'm halfway there compared to you, so, uh. I I'm I'll, I'll meet you there.
Lou Mongello: That, you know, well, it's easier now.
It's a, it's a plane ride for me. It was a boat ride for Wal, so
Steve Seifert: that, that's right. I mean, it took him, uh, five or six days to, to get there. So you obviously have to love the place to be able to, to take on that with not a whole lot to see in between. True. But the, uh, you know, the, the best part about this love that and fascination that he had, that transformed into the tiki room and.
And I think that there used to even be, I remember a, um, a restaurant that was next to the tiki room that had, um, kind of the luau dancers and, and Polynesian food that's, uh, no longer a restaurant, but, but still there is kind of an empty spot in Disneyland. But, um, a lot of those ideas when he then, Started thinking about what he wanted in, in Disney World.
Um, they started drawing up, um, car, uh, they even had some of the cartoonists with them. Mark Davis, yeah. Had done some of the, uh, cartoons, uh, that became the tikis, um, that are used in the tiki room. And if you look at a lot of the tikis that are in the tiki room and around the outside of the tiki room, it's the same ones that you'll find, um, at the Polynesian.
So a lot of that has, that, that whole flavor is kind of what started the feel for the Polynesian resort, right? Or the Polynesian Village
Lou Mongello: Resort. Thank you very much. Yeah. And, and Rollie Crump again, legendary. Imagineer also had a hand in, in helping to design a lot of these things. Uh, that's right. Not just bringing in, you know, their visions, but that, that.
I mean, we gotta remember, this is obviously before my time, but back in the fifties and the sixties, there was this tiki craze. I mean, there was a huge pop culture phenomenon, but you can definitely sense if you, if you know or I'm familiar with Rollie's work, you can sense his and Mark Davis's designs that en ended up coming into Disney World's pollination.
Steve Seifert: That's very true. Uh, and, and the interesting part is a lot of this, um, Connection with Hawaii for Walt. Uh, there very little of it is written in Disney books or Disney history books, but there's uh, quite a bit of it I've found in books about Tiki and the tiki culture and, and it's, it's funny that it's kind of been left out of the, the Disney history as much as it's had such a role in now the rides in, in a resort.
Lou Mongello: And, and one thing too, and we know this with everything that Disney does, is. The level of authenticity that they wanted to get even early on, you know, early on was very, very important to them to get that authentic look and feel in everything they did from the layout to the long houses, to the signage around the resort as well.
Steve Seifert: it, it's, um, it's funny that you hear a lot that people think it's, um, it is kind of tiki bar or seventies, but if you really look, they paid. I mean, just like with everything Disney does, they research and they pay attention to the details. And while people might not think it's authentic, a lot of the stuff around there really is not only looks the way that, uh, it represents something from an island, but.
Uh, like you say, the signs and the tikis, um, that were originally at the Polynesian were carved by, um, oceanic arts here in California, which were, are still famous. I mean, they're still open and they're famous for doing tikis. They're one of the last places that has survived, uh, the kind of the death of the tiki craze.
And, and now it's kind of. Coming back to life, but they're still around. And, and they do it the, the authentic way. They don't just mass produce these, these tikis and they made all, all the signs were all hand carved and the tikis were all hand carved for the Polynesian. So it was very authentic. And if you think
Lou Mongello: about what the original concept was gonna be, For the Polynesian.
Remember, it wasn't gonna look the way it does now. It was this 12 story. I mean, it was a high rise, you know, very relatively mo, I mean the modern shaped building, um, sort of a, with a, a large slope and an angle down the side, they must have this epiphany and realize that, that that is not the way to do it.
They have this now central ceremonial house and then the longhouse is around it, which I think we both agree probably works a little bit better.
Steve Seifert: Yeah, I think, uh, the, it's interesting how drastically it changed. Um, it was gonna kind of have. The, almost like a, um, representing what you would see in a modern day resort in Hawaii at that time, which would've been kind of more of a modern, larger, uh, building with surrounded by some huts that were maybe more exclusive rooms out along the beach area.
And it, it's, it's interesting that that idea just kind of went by the wayside and, and it turned into what it was, which I think in a way it probably ended up better. I don't know that. The original theme would've held up as well, uh, throughout the years as what they ended up doing for the Polynesian when they, when they built it.
Lou Mongello: Right. Well, when we talked to about the story of Walt Disney World and the story, how it's, it's brought into everything in, in the Magic Kingdom. I think part of it too was the new design that they ended up going with. It is more of a coupling of the theme between the resort and near, you know, adventure land, which is often the distance, but geographically close to where the Polynesian is, much as the contemporary reflects tomorrow land.
The Grand Floridian re uh, reflects Victorian era of Main Street usa.
Steve Seifert: Right. Um, well, of course if they would've built the Asian there, that would've really thrown off the seam all theme altogether. But, but yeah. Um, that, that's one of the things that I think I really enjoy about the Polynesian is it gives me that adventure land feeling.
Mm-hmm. Um, whether or not people think that's, you know, too cartoonish and not representative of, of a true Polynesian resort. I think it has a great mix of both. I think it has that little bit of a Disney flavor, but a lot of authenticity to, um, you know, the buildings and the structures that are there.
Lou Mongello: and I think, you know, and off the top of my head, I can't think of any other resort on property where you walk through those doors and you feel as though you no longer in okay, maybe Wilderness Lodge, but you are no longer in, you know, central Florida, but you are. You know, you're not on the mainland, you are now on some tropical island somewhere else, and you even get that feel as you walk the grounds.
Steve Seifert: You know, you, you even, I can remember, I still remember the first time that I was there and I had taken the monorail around and I was, you know, as a kid, the contemporary was just amazing. It was something I always wanted stay in. But I remember coming back, we were either going to the park or coming back and stopping and picking up passengers from the Polynesian and then the doors opened up and even from that distance, With, with the palm trees out around the, the monorail and looking into the lobby from, even from the monorail, it really did have a, a different feel almost like you weren't, you, you were somewhere else.
And, and I think that's really a big part of it for people. They're not just pulling up to a hotel where you see the outside of a building. You just really feel engulfed in the theme.
Lou Mongello: And Steve, you back me up on this one. I've, I've talked about this before. You know, it's, There's like a smell, you know, there's a smell when you walk into the pollination, and maybe it's because of the waterfalls outside, but it, it's, it's part of that immersive experience, like you said, that you're hit with the second you, you walk up to it not even before you walk in through the doors.
Steve Seifert: There is absolutely, um, some people say they don't like it. Some people, uh, they, they love it. Um, it's, it is, it's that atrium, it's that water. It's that. Well, I, I was gonna say humid, but I guess all of Florida's human, but this is a good human, but it really is. And you know, it's amazing. I can come home and, and my bag will still smell like it and, and you know, I'll just have to kind of keep it out.
So I feel like I'm at the Polynesian for another week. But, um, yeah, there, there really is a, a distinctive smell, especially to the lobby. And, and it really is, it's all the, it's, it's the, the, the plants that fill the atrium and it's, and it's the waterfalls out front that kind of all come together and, and give you that, that smell.
That distinctive Polynesian
Lou Mongello: smell. See, thank you. I know, I knew I wasn't crazy, so, but,
Steve Seifert: um, well, I didn't say you were cra weren't crazy, but, well, I'll agree with not about
Lou Mongello: this, right? So, all right, let's, um, let's, let's fast forward the machine just a little bit because, um, let's go to October 1st, 71. The Polynesian and the Contemporary are the only two resorts that open, and I say simultaneously in quotation marks cuz technically one opened.
Before the other. And, uh, there's an interesting story too, behind the, that first official day of opening of the Polynesian.
Steve Seifert: That's right. And you, and, and you can help me out with that a little bit. Um, it, uh, was originally planned for the contemporary, which I, that that was supposed to be the flagship resort of the, of the two opening.
Um, was supposed to open ahead of time and, and the, and the press was supposed to stay there, but because of, um, delays in setting up the rooms, um, which we all know now, were originally kind of plugged into place, um, with all the, uh, fixtures and. Carpet and pipe, everything ready to go didn't quite, uh, match up too well in the contemporary.
And I guess they, they must have, uh, had a be better success with, uh, getting the rooms in and ready along with the rest of the resort at the Polynesian. So they kind of did a, a mad switch to, uh, the Polynesian to have the, uh, press end up staying there. The on, so it basically opened hours before the, uh, the contemporary did.
Officially, it was the first one to open.
Lou Mongello: Right. And, and, and Charlie Ridgeway, uh, retells a, a great story. Um, he was obviously in charge of publicity at the time, and they have all this press coming in. You know, obviously this is a huge thing. You know, the, the first theme park outside of Anaheim, the press is coming in, there's about 500 rooms at the Polynesian.
Not even a hundred of 'em are ready yet. So they decide to have the press office at the Polynesian, September 30th. It's 11 o'clock at night. He's running around. And it's a mess. I mean, there's no carpeting, no wallpaper. There's bare light bulbs. There's, you know, people sawing and hammering and doing everything else, and he has to leave because he's staying.
Even Charlie has to stay offsite. He's gotta stay at the Hilton on Sand Lake Road or somewhere around there. They don't wake him up on time. So he flips, he flies out to the Polynesian, running late, expecting there to just be mass chaos. He walks in. There's beautiful chandeliers. All the wallpaper is hung, the carpets on the floors, phones are ringing, everything.
Everybody's connected and the newspaper guys are standing there, you know, drinking coffee, eating their pastries, looking at, you know, Charlie saying, okay, you know, let's go, let's get started. What's going on? You know, it was a, it was truly, it was a construction site four hours before, and then it was, it was the flagship resort, uh, you know, at, on October 1st.
Steve Seifert: Right. Yeah. And they didn't realize that the, the glue was still wet on the wallpaper, but it all looked good. Um, yeah. And, and I remember, um, hearing him talk about that, and it seemed like, uh, he was really amazed at how well they got everything together and, uh, in, in such a short time and almost like it had been ready for weeks.
Um, and, and it's interesting. That the contemporary kind of became the flagship because, um, at the time and, and, and prior to Walt's passing, when they were kind of selecting where the different resorts would go, the Polynesian was somewhat considered the prime. I, I, I saw a document where it was labeled the prime acreage overlooking the castle, and, um, including four beautiful beaches.
So it was kind of lined up just with that perfect view right at the castle. Granted, it's not as close as the contemporary, which the contemporary has beautiful views too, but it really just kind of set a perfect backdrop and it just set it far enough back that, like you say, it kind of feels like it's almost, especially at that time, like it was alone on its own kind of on, its on a des desert, a deserted tropical island.
Um, and. Of course now the, the, it's been crowded out by other resorts, but, uh, it must have just been an amazing site back then when there was really not much else around it. True.
Lou Mongello: And we look, we talk about location, location, location and, and all these amenities and all these things that the Polynesian have yet, like you said, the contemporary was the flagship resort.
And you wonder, was it a combination of the fact that the contemporary used these very modern techniques for a very modern hotel and or the fact that. Maybe people weren't ready to buy into such a dramatically themed resort because that's not what was being built everywhere else. I mean, there were just normal hotels that the 12 story high rises.
And here's something where it's that immersive experience that Disney is gonna take a gamble and obviously revolutionize the the hotel industry by doing.
Steve Seifert: That's true. I mean, even if you, um, go to, uh, a lot of Hawaiian, uh, hotels, resorts, uh, there was very few that were themed that, that, well, um, they were, they were much more modern than, than the Polynesian has ever been.
Um, the nice thing is the, the Polynesian has that authentic and, you know, older Polynesian look, but it still has kind of the, the modern amenities and always, and has always kept up on those amenities throughout the years.
Lou Mongello: And it's funny, I, I laugh when you say modern look because when you look back at old pictures and you see the oranges and the browns and that very seventies look to Gene Polynesian, but at the time it, it was, it was, it was modern and it had a lot of, uh, it had a lot of wonderful, great amenities.
I got four words for you. Traitor, Jack's grog hut. Has there ever been a better name before shopping a Disney resort?
Steve Seifert: I don't think they had very much grog in there though. That's the only problem.
Lou Mongello: And I've been corrected to make sure that I pronounce the PAE Bay. Ver tell You're the pa, you're the tiki guy.
What's the prone
Steve Seifert: correct that that's, that's the capital of Tahiti. Uh, Pepe
Lou Mongello: Ohana is just so much easier to say, isn't it? Yeah.
Steve Seifert: For some people they just can't spell it right.
Lou Mongello: So, But before we move a, a little bit farther along to some of the changes maybe that that took place, there were some things that maybe weren't there opening day, but were there very early on that definitely bear mentioning, and first and foremost, I, I think a lot of us probably know about the old wave making machine off Beachcomber Island, which is the island that you can see, uh, right off the beach.
And people wasn't there for very long, but they actually had this, this wave making machine so that people could participate in and swim in the seventies
Steve Seifert: Lagoon. That's right. They, um, they did try and experiment with having a wave machine that would not only, uh, it, it's original. The original theory behind it was it would give the sound of crashing waves.
So kind of add that noise in the background as you, you walk the beach and, and around the resort. And there's theories that they were trying to make it large enough waves to surf on. Others I've talked to that were around then said, no way, no how, just wouldn't happen. Um, and it, it didn't last very long.
It was actually almost, some people like to theorize that it was on for a while and, um, it really was almost shut down immediately because it started to erode the beach, um, right away after it was, uh, Put into, into place and in action. Um, they, I guess they tried to revive it again in the, in the later seventies, I wanna say 75.
Was it 75? Trying to look at my own site for this stuff. Um, sometimes I gotta read it too. Uh, but, uh, uh, again, it it, they just couldn't get it set up to, to work properly. It, it, it actually would've, uh, been pointed more towards, uh, the beach that's now, um, where Lu Alcove is, um, located. Right. Um, but uh, yeah, unfortunately that was something that, that just, just didn't make it.
Um, I guess Disney couldn't come out up with magical sand that wouldn't erode. Right.
Lou Mongello: And the other thing too, that, that always fascinated me about the Polynesian was the very unique variety. Of watercraft. There was the giant water, uh, the war canoe. There's this 40 foot war canoe again that guests could rent out, take, um, onto the lagoon.
Very unique. I unfortunately never had a chance to personally get into a bob around boat.
Steve Seifert: And you know, so far I've never even seen a picture of
Lou Mongello: one. I've seen one picture, I, there's like one picture that floats around the internet and um, and it is not me in it cuz I never had a chance
Steve Seifert: to do it, but they were, and supposedly it had a stereo system in it too.
Lou Mongello: I mean, again, very unique. They were sort of these round giant tubs with an umbrella on top. Um, how you steered it, I have no idea. There's very, very little information. About Bob Brown boats. I'd love it if a listener happened to be in one and can remember. I, I'd love to hear some more detail, but I think the, um, the one that was most interesting to me, and actually was a trivia question a couple weeks ago, was the Eastern winds, which was a real Oh yes.
Steve Seifert: Chinese junk. Chinese junk. Yep. 65 foot, um, used to have, um, uh, cocktails, cocktail lounge on it. And I even recently at, at first I thought maybe they had just sat there, you know, docked and people kind of enjoyed being on the boat and having cocktails. Um, But I, I had seen pictures somewhere where they actually sailed it out to, um, the islands at the time.
Lou Mongello: Yeah. And you could, you could go out just for a cruise. You could get right Bar service, you could have food. You could make it a full, I mean, you could get a full crew compliment out there for, and I think the coolest thing is that, is that Broadway, Joe, Broadway, Joe Namath actually supposedly, I don't know if that's urban legend or not, but uh, bought the Eastern winds and.
What he did
Steve Seifert: with, oh, I think I, I, that's right off of eBay, right?
No, I think I did, I did hear that too. So I, it'd be interesting to see where he put it. And, and
Lou Mongello: I'd be interested to know where it is now and if maybe the current owner knows, you know, it's, uh, it's legacy as being part of the Polynesian, but, um, let's fast forward a little bit more. Take a couple of quick.
Hops on the way back machine because since it's opening, obviously like all the resorts, it's gone through some change. It's gone through some expansion. Um, and I guess really the first kind of major change as far as from a guest perspective might be, might be in 73 when they, like you said, when they built Lu Al Cove.
Steve Seifert: Yeah, that's true. Um, before that and for the, um, well, the official. Grand opening of the resort was October 24th, 1971, which is my wife's exact birthday day and year. And no, that's not why I married her, but it helped. But they, um, yeah, yeah, it did. It did. That was part, that was on her resume. So, um, but they ha they brought in dancers from, I, you can actually see these on YouTube.
The, they're opening ceremonies. They had dancers from all the different, uh, Polynesian Islands. And they had a huge ceremony out on the beach and I guess part of that lasted, they would have kind of a, the luau without the dinner, um, out on the beach, um, at night cuz Lu Alcove hadn't been constructed. So they finally said, well, let's make this a show, a dinner show, and let's have a place to put this in.
So they constructed what is now lu alcove.
Lou Mongello: That must have been, again, that's something I wish I could have gotten a chance to see is the authentic. Luau on the beach. You know, you have Cinderella Castle in a distance, and, and that just must have been something special.
Steve Seifert: Yeah, I even the, um, the electric water pageant was designed for the opening ceremonies of the Polynesian.
And to this day, you know, with, um, it's evolved over the years. The soundtracks evolved over the years, but it's still basically what was made for that opening ceremonies. So let's go,
Lou Mongello: let's jump forward about five years or so, because. Walt Disney, new World, doing very, very well, obviously first, uh, of, of, I guess two really major expansions come to the Polynesian Village.
Steve Seifert: Yeah. Um, Tokelau, which was, um, Oahu back then when it opened, longhouse was kind of, it was unique because, um, was not the original construction, which was, um, the buildings you see, uh, the original ones had the no balconies on the second floor. And they were the original, uh, slid in rooms. Um, and when, uh, Tokelau opened up in, uh, 1975.
1975, no, I'm sorry, 1985. Okay. Is that right? Tokelau was 70? No, no, no, I'm sorry. 78. 78. Thank you. Thank you very much. Um, it was, Kind of it, it was gonna be the prototype for what they would do for any further expansions. The, uh, rooms were lar the, they, they were, you know, constructed in the building. The hallways were larger, the rooms themselves, uh, were quite a bit larger.
Um, it added on, um, 144 rooms. So it was actually the largest longhouse there at the time. Uh, it unfortunately, uh, removed. Uh, some people liked, they had a, um, a golf course, a miniature kind of a putting green, um, just where the, uh, east pool at a quiet pool is now. And of course, that had to go away, um, during that construction.
Um, the, and when that building was built, it had a couple of different rooms in it. They kind of did, um, experimental rooms. They had some that had double sinks and they had some that had sinks outside of the, uh, bathroom area. And, um, all this was the first time they would have balconies on all the upper floors.
Um, so it was kind of their, their test bed for. What the future rooms would look like at the Polynesian.
Lou Mongello: Right. And, and originally the, the original rooms and longhouse didn't have the balconies because that was meant to emulate a, a traditional Hawaiian longhouse. Is that, was that the reason why?
Steve Seifert: Yeah, that's the, that's the theory behind it.
Um, I wonder how much that really flies. I, I think that, I think that's the truth behind it. Uh, um, when they first designed it, now you gotta wonder why did they put the balconies on the, on the third floor. Right. But, uh, But I think they got smart and they decided that it was time to propel keys on all the rooms that didn't have a patio.
Lou Mongello: Right. And some other changes, um, happened as well. The, there's, there were the old names and then there were the new names. Like for example, uh, you correct me if I'm wrong, Tonga was renamed Hawaii, uh, Bali High was renamed Tonga. That those name changes start taking place. They will take place over the next couple of years.
Uh, quick jump. 85, they now add Tahiti and Rapanui. 95. We now get, um, the veranda now becomes ohana, but 96 is, is, this is another sort of milestone because you get a, a, not a construction thing, but more of a facelift, a as it
Steve Seifert: were. Yeah, 96 was, um, they had in the mid to late nineties, they had a general manager, uh, Clyde men that was very, he was, he was from the islands.
He wanted to kind of start a whole new feel and philosophy for the resort, and it kind of started with. Purging out the remains of the evolution of the rooms and the, and the, uh, great ceremonial house from its seventies and eighties. Look, um, They kind of went with more of the earth tones. They got rid of the teal and yellow tiles in the great ceremonial house and put in, um, the rock that you see now on the floor.
Uh, the rooms got a transformation with more authentic, um, patterns on the beds and the bamboo rails and, uh, the, the thatched cover over the, over the bed and it, and it was really, It was really a big change for them. Um, and like I said, it also became, um, a big philosophy. They had a, uh, they started with a, uh, cultural awareness called the Magic of Polynesia.
And this is something I'm recently finding out about and I've been getting some documents on, and it's amazing that it would kind of became the model. For many of the resorts, uh, the, the Polynesian was always kind of a test bed for things, but it was, this was kind of the introduction to this culture that was kind of the way, it was a, it was a way that you were going to treat the guests and how you were gonna treat each other as a co, as coworkers.
And it was just kind of that whole aloha feel to the resort and their, and their staff.
Lou Mongello: Right. And, and it really, it transcended just the look of the resort for maybe that seventies. Brady Bunch Greg Wear and the Tiki Idol kind of, kind of look right to a real authentic, you know, by, by bringing in this authe.
And again, like I said, that that spirit of aloha, that that sense that you get when you are welcomed into the, into the resort now carries over back from, uh, the mid to late nineties. That's right. Uh, jumping forward a little bit, uh, the Millennium 2001, uh, again, there's construction that takes place.
Because there was a lot of, uh, there was a lot of problems with some of the original longhouse buildings.
Steve Seifert: Yeah. Big, big changes. Um, you know, certain things were put off because cuz of budgets and maybe not knowing what to do about 'em. Um, that started with, uh, the original longhouses since they were modular, they had gaps below the, the, uh, especially the ground floor rooms and in between the walls and.
In some cases, in some of the buildings, you'd kind of have, we talk about the smell, but it's not the good smell that we associate with the Polynesian. It's more of a kind of a musty smell. It would get into, uh, and around the, the buildings from the trap moisture. So they decided, It's time to, they wanted to gear up for a, another new renovation, but before that they were going to kind of redo the, the original, uh, longhouses.
So they, they went through, they gutted the rooms, they filled it all in with cement, um, redid, you know, the, the flooring and the walls and, and got 'em kind of back to kind of their pristine, um, Look and feel. Um, even though the, at that time the look hadn't really changed from what they had changed it to in the nineties, but then they had bigger plans for the millennium, um, starting with the, uh, the removal of the old pool, um, which kind of in interestingly enough, originally had a, a diving board that didn't last very long.
But, uh, uh, many liked that pool. But, uh, I think. Most people will agree that the, the new volcano pool and slide are, are a big improvement along with the, the zero entry. And then that then transformed into a, uh, an increased budget for redoing the. Almost everything you look at, a lot of people say that the Polynesian looks old, but they removed everything.
They removed pieces of the roofs, they removed the wood exteriors. They piece piece by piece. And bit by bit of all those buildings and most of the grounds in the, in the new millennium were. Pretty much removed and replaced. And, and of course that led into the, the design we see now in the rooms with the flat panel TVs and all the new furniture.
Um, a lot of that furniture, which was, was hand done and, and shipped in from overseas, um, was then transformed in the, around 2005 is when they started that that look, uh, changed to the look
Lou Mongello: right. So, you know, they get the infrastructure in place. They, they take care of all that. Then we get this update, which while being more modern, I, I stayed in there a few weeks ago, uh, for just one night, is you still get that authentic Hawaiian feel even though there's a plasma TV on the wall.
Um, the decor, even the bathrooms and the entrance way. Um, it, it's not a contemporary, you know, resort type of feel, but it's a more modern Hawaiian style feel.
Steve Seifert: Yeah. Yeah, it's, it's kind of interesting. Um, people can go to my site and look at some of the, um, I have pictures of the, the test rooms and, um, they had some experimental doors.
It, it's the same thing they go through with every big redesign, but it's kind of neat to see the different thoughts that they had for the different curtains and the, and the different patterns and the wall textures. And, um, and even one year when we stayed in, Um, uh, the room we usually always stay in, in Hawaii, they had tried, uh, instead of the wallpaper that you see now, they tried kind of a, um, a putty textured kind of a, a tan wall that was kind of, I thought it was kind of a, a neat, uh, change to the room.
But they, they really took a lot of time and thought to making it, like you said, updated but not lose the, the feel of the resort. Mm-hmm. Right. And
Lou Mongello: you even see that too in the great ceremonial house again, they, they sort of, Took out everything that was old is new again. You know, they brought in boutiquey, they brought in the Wildland gallery.
Um, they, they opened up
Steve Seifert: Captain Cooks. Yeah. Redid Captain Cooks. Um,
Lou Mongello: and, and it's, it's, it's beautiful. And it's, it's, um, it's still sort of conveys that same feel that you get, you don't lose anything like that. It hasn't been, they haven't gotten away from that original intent that I think, like, as we said, started back in, in the, the mid to late nineties.
Steve Seifert: Yeah, that, that's right. And, and, um, I think if anything, the, the, the look is, is really evolving well at the resort. I mean, there's. I don't ever really see them do a big change like that and just, just stand back and cringe. I think they've always really been thoughtful and understand the history behind the resort and really come up with good ways of evolving it without it being, you know, kind of getting away from its, its tradition.
Lou Mongello: So Steve, I'm gonna put you on the spot. I'm gonna put you in the, in the driver's seat, and I don't let anybody just drive the way back machine, but I'm gonna put you and I'll, and I'll let you sort of fast forward a little bit and sort of ask you what do you think. The future might hold for the Polynesian?
Or what do you think might be coming or what is something maybe you would like to see added or changed about the resort?
Steve Seifert: Well, what I think's coming uh, is probably something that we've all talked about and all heard of and that's probably D V C. I hear as many people say No, as I hear say yes. So that'll be interesting because.
I think they'll have to remove many of the rooms and, and have less to have the DVC there. So that'll be curious to see if that happens. What I would like to see happen. Wow. Um, it's hard. I don't like, I mean, I, like I say, I like the changes, but I wouldn't want to see it change much. A a, a lot of the little things that I can think of.
That need to change are, are, are just small things and it's just me. It's just me being picky cuz I, I see so much of the resort kind of so up close in every last little detail that I, I can see things that if I was there in charge of things, I would kind of tweak this or tweak that. But I really would hope that it never gets away from kind of the original idea for the resort.
Lou Mongello: Uh, Steve, as always, uh, I have such a good time doing this with you. I love sort of looking way back at, uh, the old Polynesian, so thank you very much.