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Polynesian Village of the Past
Polynesian Village of the Past
The Polynesian Village Resort Hotel has been around since opening day. It has changed and grown through the years. Many things that guests have enjoyed there have now found a home at Walt Dated World.
The "Village" part of the name was dropped in 1985. It was later reinstated in 2014.
Shops at the Polynesian
Crusoe and Son: This spot for menswear was also known as Robinson Crusoe, Esq. It was later called Robinson Crusoe's before being removed for expansion of the food court in 2005/2006.
Kanaka Kids: Children's resortwear and accessories. It was located on the ground floor of the Great Ceremonial House.
News from Civilization: Now called News from Polynesia.
Outrigger's Cove: Gifts and goods from the South Seas. It was located on the ground floor of the Great Ceremonial House. It is now the new home of the Wyland Gallery.
Polynesian Princess: Clothes for women. It was removed during the food court expansion in 2005/2006.
Trader Jack's Grog Hut: This shop is now called Samoa Snacks.
Village Gifts and Sundries: This shop is now called Trader Jack's.
Former Waterfalls in the Great Ceremonial House
The Great Ceremonial House (the hotel lobby) used to contain an impressive 250 square foot waterfall that went over volcanic rocks. There were many species of plants including anthuriums, banana trees, ferns, gardenias and orchids. For many years there were also macaws that had nesting boxes and perches near the waterfall. The waterfall was removed during the 2014 renovation, most likely to free up light and space in the lobby. Below are two videos of the waterfall from the Walt Dated World YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe for more videos.
Restaurants at the Polynesian
Barefoot Snack Bar: This spot featured fast food.
Captain Cook's Hideaway: Live entertainment by Saltwater Express (more commonly known as Stratton & Christopher) was offered at this lounge. In 1993 it became known as Captain Cook's Snack and Ice Cream Co. It was remodeled again in 2006 and called simply Captain Cook's.
Coral Island Cafe: It was also known as the Coral Island Coffee Shop. It closed on July 25, 1998 and reopened November 23, 1998 as Kona Cafe.
Eastern Winds: This moored Chinese Junk was used as a lounge.
Papeete Bay Verandah: This spot had breakfast and luncheon buffets. For many years it was home to Minnie's Menehune Breakfast. There was a Polynesian Revue in the evening. (This was separate from the Luau.) The Verandah closed in September of 1994 and reopened the following year as 'Ohana.
Tangaroa Terrace: Located in the building with Moana Mickey's Fun Hut and the Neverland Club. It closed in June of 1996. It is now used only for group functions but was temporarily serving food due to the remodeling of Captain Cook's.
Tangaroa Snack Isle: A snack bar near the pool by Moana Mickey's Fun Hut.
South Seas Dining Room: Featured an evening Polynesian buffet. It was also at one time the site of Minnie's Menehune character breakfast. For many years after closing, there was still a sign in the lobby. The space was used for focus groups participating in the Capture the Magic pilot photography program. It was later remodeled into the BouTiki Store in 2005.
Polynesian Revue Luau
Luaus are still held at the Polynesian but they have changed through the years. They used to be held outside on the beach until a covered cove was built in 1973. Through the years the show has been referred to as the Polynesian Revue, Kaui-Pono Polynesian Revue, South Seas Luau and Polynesian Luau. Mickey's Tropical Revue was a show that featured Disney characters from the mid 1980's until June of 1999. The Revue's last show was January 4, 2003 and was replaced by Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show.
In Memory of Homer "Homa" P. Leapai (1949-2006)
Selina Leapai sent this to Walt Dated World:
"My father was hired by Disney in 1971 to be the fire knife dancer at the Luau. He passed away a couple of years ago. We are trying desperately to find video of him dancing in the show. I am actually trying to find a video of him dancing with plain knives without fire. When I was young I thought it was a normal Samoan thing to dance with plain knives. Now that I am older I realized that I have never seen anyone else do this. His knives were razor sharp. I remember seeing plenty of scars on him and going with him to physical therapy sessions because he sliced his right ring finger in half! He would only dance plain knives during the first (day) show. Since you specialize in Disney past, I was just wondering if you have come across old videos of the luau that may have him dancing on them."
Selena also mentions that her Dad can be seen in the circa 1986 TV ad featuring members of "The Cosby Show". "The day after the shoot, my father went to play golf with Keshia Knight Pulliam's father, so I stayed and went swimming and played with her and her little brother all day. That was a cool thing for me since the show was so popular at the time."
If anyone is able to assist Selina, please contact me and I will relay the information to her. She supplied all of the vintage Luau pictures in this section. According to Mr. Leapai's obituary, he was the Fire Knife Dancer at Disney's Polynesian Resort for 23 years. He was also a karate master and taught for 30 plus years.
Polynesian Revue Performers
This 1980 ticket to the Revue cost $16.00.
The names of the longhouse buildings were changed in 1999. Some of the old names were kept but were assigned to different buildings.
Bali Hai (Now Tonga)
Bora Bora (Now Niue)
Hawaii (Now Samoa. Tonga was renamed Hawaii)
Maori (Now Rarotonga)
Samoa (Now Tuvalu but the former Hawaii building was renamed Samoa)
Tahiti (Now Aotearoa but the former Moorea building was renamed Tahiti)
Tonga (Now the new location of Hawaii)
Oahu (This 1978 addition to the Polynesian is now called Tokelau)
Moorea (This 1985 addition to the Polynesian is now called Tahiti)
Pago Pago (This 1985 addition to the Polynesian is now called Rapa Nui)
Fiji has never been moved or renamed.
Mouseketeer's Village Clubhouse: This was the name of the child care center before it became the Neverland Club.
Neverland Club: Child care area that replaced Mouseketeer's Village Clubhouse. It closed in April of 2014 and reopened on June 16, 2014 as Club Disney and was themed to Disney Little Golden Books. In November of 2014 the name was changed to Lilo's Playhouse.
Swimming: Guests used to be allowed to swim in the Seven Seas Lagoon.
Waves: A machine used to create waves big enough to surf in on the Seven Seas Lagoon but it caused erosion to the beach. It was only used for a few months when the resort first opened. The equipment is still at the bottom of the Seven Seas Lagoon.
Polynesian Village activities from 1972.
Reader Polynesian Memories
Reader Glenn from Ohio sent this message. Can anyone confirm the correct name of the longhouse? "The Rarotonga longhouse was formerly the "Maui" and not "Maori" as stated in your piece...unless...at some point Disney changed it from Maui to Maori. I stayed in the Maui in early Nov. '71 for 10 days before going into the Air Force. WDW had just opened and was still coping with bugs and glitches, and sod was still being laid at some locations. It was a fabulous experience. My room fee was only $25/night (the $17 room I requested was supposedly not available---although I made my reservation the previous June, ha!)
Steve Seifert remembers the longhouses this way: "Rarotonga was originally called Maui when the resort opened. It was later changed to Maori. Later in 1999 when the other longhouses changed names it would change again to Rarotonga."
Dorothy Timm writes in with this memory: "I have a memory from our visit to Walt Disney World in 1987 that I didn't see mentioned on your website. It concerns a childcare facility at Polynesian, probably what's now the Neverland Club. Shortly before our visit in November 1987, we received a form letter from The Polynesian Village Resort telling us of the "South Seas Children's Dinner Theater. It took place in the Great Ceremonial House, included dinner and "make your own sundae", a hula lesson, games, free video games, and a visit from a Disney Character. At the end of the evening when we'd used the facility, we received 8X11 sheet of paper with Mickey's signature from the "Mouseketeer Clubhouse". However, what I'm wondering is if the "South Seas Children's Dinner Theater" was the very first name of the Neverland Club, and exactly when did this childcare facility begin?"
Russ Banks remembers Captain Cooks Hideaway: "In the early years of the Polynesian Hotel, Captain Cook's Hideaway had a regular duo performing named "Stratton & Christopher", I believe. One played guitar and one played bass, and they both sang. They sang folk songs and a lot of Anne Murray and John Denver songs from that time. Between songs they talked to the informal crowd and picked on people and made jokes. They started by asking people where they were from. They also made jokes about Kissimmee. It was a popular hangout for cast members, and one of the only Disney spots selling liqueur at that time, as I remember. There were a lot of good times there."
Check out these 1972 prices!
Special thanks to BwanaBobby, fabdisbabe, dennis-in-ct, vonpluto, Great Stone Dragon, SJHYM, tonyanton, meowthew, Doug Marsh and rasvar at LaughingPlace.com for sharing their resort memories and/or pictures.
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