The New Look of the Great Ceremonial House at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

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Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort was one of the original resorts that opened at Walt Disney World in 1971. Last year, the South Seas-inspired hotel began undergoing major renovations. Some changes have been universally welcomed (Trader Sam’s!), while others are more controversial.

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The “re-imagined” interior of the Great Ceremonial House (i.e. the lobby) was unveiled in December 2014. Many longtime fans of “The Poly” lamented the removal of the grand centerpiece of rock waterfalls and dozens of varieties of tropical plants.

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The new focal point is now above — an impressive display of giant netted fishing floats and rattan lamps that give off a subtle glow. Venture upstairs to see them in all their glory (and get a drink at Tambu Lounge if it’s after 1 p.m.)

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A much smaller waterfall feature has been installed in the middle, but it seems kind of silly in comparison. The concept art included a statue of the Polynesian mascot on top of this, but it hasn’t made an appearance yet. (I’m guessing that’s still part of the plan since the Disney Parks Blog had a merchandise preview for a mini-figurine based on it.) (3/23/15 Update: The tiki has finally arrived!)

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From a practical standpoint, it makes sense why they removed it. (Rumor has it that the maintenance was a major factor.) It also opened up the space for more seating areas for guests waiting to check in or just relaxing. (And if you squint you can see Cinderella Castle off in the distance.)

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The downside is the feeling of stepping into a Hawaiian tropical rainforest has been lost. Hopefully they’ll be able to recapture some of that when they finish the waterfalls along the entrance path from the parking lot.

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Near the elevators you’ll find beautiful concept art from two of my favorite Disney Legends: Rolly Crump for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and Mary Blair for the New Guinea scene of It’s a Small World.

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Just outside the far end of the lobby is Pineapple Lanai, a new walk-up counter serving Dole Whip (pineapple, vanilla or swirl) with the option of getting a souvenir tiki bowl. This is where you get your fix since they removed the self-serve Dole Whip machine from Capt. Cook’s.

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So far, the restaurants ‘Ohana, Tambu Lounge and Kona are still relatively the same, but Capt. Cook’s recently received a makeover. (Stay tuned for a full review.) And as I mentioned, on its way very soon is Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, Orlando’s own version of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar.

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On top of that, there’s the April 1st debut of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, featuring 20 brand-new Bora Bora Bungalows perched over the Seven Seas Lagoon. They were built for Disney Vacation Club members but guests can also rent these two-bedroom accommodations for upwards of $2,000 per night, reportedly. (I love Disney, obviously, but that’s more expensive than staying at some of the actual overwater bungalows in Tahiti…)

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For more information on the renovations, I suggest checking out Steve’s updates on Tiki Man Pages. He also discussed Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto more in depth on episode 71 (March 2, 2015) of the Enchanted Tiki Talk podcast.

Dole Whip + Rum = A Dream Come True at Disney World

Dole Whip with Rum!

Adding rum to Dole Whip has probably crossed the minds of many who have enjoyed that frozen pineapple treat. (Sidenote: VenTiki in Ventura makes their own version once in awhile.)

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Disney World first made that wish come true at the 2013 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival with the Pineapple Promenade booth serving up Dole Whip with Siesta Key spiced rum. Last year they followed up with versions with Parrot Bay coconut rum and Myers’s dark rum, and those two offerings soon after found a permanent home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando.

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Tamu Tamu Refreshments, a counter-service spot located in the Africa section of the park, is the only place at Disney World where you can get spiked Dole Whip all year round. Apparently, “Tamu Tamu” is the Swahili equivalent of “Yum Yum,” so that’s appropriate.

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Next to the ordering area is an entryway leading into Harambe Fort, a seemingly crumbling edifice “erected 1420.” This all plays into the Imagineers’ backstory for this area’s setting, which is a fictional East African port town called Harambe. (I suggest reading more about it on the Jambo Everyone blog.)

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Here you’ll find a somewhat shaded courtyard full of tables. I’d seen this described as a quiet, hidden area to sit down but the secret must be out as there was no shortage of people the Saturday we were there.

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Be sure to admire the kigelia (also known as a sausage tree for its hanging fruit) and beautiful, “aged” walls of Swahili-inspired plaster carvings. (This is a tradition in Lamu, the coastal town in Kenya that served as the muse for Harambe.)

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Tamu Tamu’s menu offers just three savory dishes — chicken curry, vegetarian curry and African-spiced chicken salad — along with Dole Whip (regular or with coconut or dark rum), snack packs for kids, chocolate milkshakes, soda and bottled water.

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The chicken curry ($9.49) is listed as mild, but it does have a bit of a kick. It’s a great alternative to your typical theme park food of pizza and burgers, though you’ll find that at the park, too, of course. (The shorter line here is also a bonus.)

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Now, on to the part we really care about: Dole Whip with rum! Technically it’s billed as pineapple whip soft serve ($6.25) but it tastes the same although the texture is softer and more like a Frosty from Wendy’s. The serving size is on the petite side if you’re used to Dole Whip floats, and there’s not all that much rum in there (the cast member guessed less than a shot), but it’s a fun novelty. I would get the coconut rum version again.

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No alcohol is served at Disneyland (except at Club 33), so we’ll probably never see anything like this at the Dole Whip stand at the Enchanted Tiki Room. However, Dole Whip can also be found at Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt and Whipp’d, so I think I’ve got to start spiking it on my own. What rum would you pair with Dole Whip?

Tamu Tamu Refreshments on Urbanspoon

Tiki Treasures from The Story of Disneyland Exhibition & Auction at Van Eaton Galleries

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Right now, the two-room space at Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks (LA area) is so full of Disney treasures that it may be the next best thing to visiting The Happiest Place on Earth itself. (Also, it’s free and you’re probably less likely to catch measles.)

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It’s all part of The Story of Disneyland: An Exhibition and Sale, one anonymous person’s massive collection that will be auctioned off piece by piece on February 28 & March 1, 2015. A substantial portion of the items are on view to the public through February 27, Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

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The colorful castmember uniforms ($400-$600) from Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room were so popular that the fabric was sold in Adventureland stores. There were a few different patterns, with my favorite being the one featured here on the left (closeup on Instagram). On the right is a vintage hostess costume ($900-$1200) complete with nametag from the now-defunct Tahitian Terrace restaurant. In the middle is an original Enchanted Tiki Room attraction poster ($10,000-$12,000).

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The Adventureland piece with the highest bidding estimate — $20,000-$30,000 — is this animatronic member of the Enchanted Tiki Room’s chorus from the 1970s. It was apparently purchased from an Imagineer who worked on the Tiki Room and it still has all the original hardware inside.

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The same can’t be said for this feathered friend, so he’s valued a little lower at just $18,000-$20,000. How did this little birdie fly away? A cast member received it as a retirement gift from their supervisor! (Sure beats a gold watch.)

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Recognize this? It’s the finial that sat atop the A-frame ticket booth at the entrance to the Enchanted Tiki Room. According to the catalog, an Imagineer rescued this one-of-a-kind piece ($15,000-$20,000) from demolition when the bamboo and wood structure had to be torn down in 2000. Later, renowned carver Leroy Schmaltz of Oceanic Arts was commissioned to make a wooden base for it.

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Not everything will cost you beaucoup bucks, though. There are lots of things in the $100-$200 range, like these Disneyland Moai salt and pepper shakers from 1956. (These seem to appear on eBay for less every now and again, but the attention for this particular auction will surely drive up the price.)

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Now this face I really couldn’t place. Turns out it’s one of three handpainted “Nature Tree Masks” ($2,000-$4,000) that adorned the trees near the loading area of the Jungle Cruise for a few years around 1956.

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There are also six “Tangaroa-Ru Babies” that descended from the flowers of the Tangaroa tree of life at the end of the Enchanted Tiki Room pre-show. Disney Legend/Imagineer Rolly Crump designed these based on Polynesian carvings. They’re estimated to go for about $3,000 each. The deep-pocketed collector could be well on their way to building their own authentic Enchanted Tiki Room.

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Rolly Crump also designed these smaller ceramic versions ($200-$400) that were sold as souvenirs at Disneyland. The catalog notes that they’re rare finds.

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Many of the artifacts were once Disney property or official souvenirs, but there are also stashes of visitors’ personal slides and photographs from over the years. I adore this picture of these ladies posing with the Marquesan tiki that used to be in Adventureland. It’s part of a bundle of 10 amateur photos at Disneyland circa 1956-1959.

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You can browse through the entire collection in the 300-page online catalog, which is also available for purchase in a soft-cover version ($30) and a hard-cover edition ($95, including a complimentary soft-cover copy). (There’s a section dedicated to Disney World’s Polynesian Resort starting on page 287.)

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Which of these items would you bid on if you had unlimited funds? I’d love this flower boat ($12,000-$15,000) from Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room as the centerpiece for my own tiki room. Or perhaps the Pirates of the Caribbean skeleton ($60,000-$80,000) guzzling liquor for more of a Smuggler’s Cove style…

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The Story of Disneyland
Van Eaton Galleries
13613 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
818-788-2357