The Polynesian opened on October 1, 1971 and it had 484 guest rooms (6 being suites) divided between eight guest longhouses across 39 acres. The original buildings were Bali Hai, Bora Bora, Fiji, Hawaii, Maui (later changed to Maori), Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. The resort was designed by Welton Becket and Associates of Santa Monica, California and WED Enterprises and constructed by US Steel Realty Develpoment. The rooms were constructed fully off-site and each room weighed 8.5 tons.
This was to be the place where everyone from your next door neighbor to the rich and famous, could come to relax and play. The designers wanted guests to be spellbound when they stayed at the Polynesian. Some say the feel of the Polynesian is old or representitive of the 70's, the time from which it was built, but those who know true Polynesian design can see the attention to detail that the original designers had when creating the Polynesian. From the minute you walk into the lobby and see the 2 1/2 story atrium made of lava rock and surrounded by tropical plants, until you venture through the lush landscaping on your way to the white sand beaches that line the lagoon,you will realize what Walt Disney's idea of paradise was.
The Grand Opening celebration for the Polynesian was on October 24, 1971 and it the official birthday of the resort which is one day before the Contemporary's. The opening celebration featured a spectacular night time luau on the lagoon shore.More than 1,000 guests feasted royally on authentic island delicacies, while dozens of Polynesian entertainers performed the native dances of Tahiti, Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand and Bora Bora.
The Grand Opening celebration concluded with an "Electrical Water Pageant" serpentining across the lagoon. Accompanied by lively music, the pageant starred King Neptune and his court of sea serpents, spouting whales, sea lions, mermaids and other creatures of the deep.
The post card for the opening of the what was then called The Polynesian Village. The back of the poast card says, "A "tropical island adventure" awaits guests at the Polynesian Village resort. Entertainment, food, decor and shopping all blend into a South Seas vacation atmosphere. Palm-lined sandy beaches are just a barefoot stroll away, while the "rest of the World" is reached by outrigger, sailboats, old-fashioned side-wheel steamboats and swift monorail trains."
When it opened the original shops included the Polynesian Princess, Robinson Crusoe, Esq., Trader Jack's Grog Hut and Village Gifts and Sundries. There was 6 miles of bamboo used on the Polynesian. The orignial baby sitting service was the Mouseketeer Club.
Along with the shops the Pepeete Bay Varandah, South Seas Room and Tambu Lounge opened along with the resort and to this day the Tambu Lounge has had no major changes since the opening day. The Luau also opened with the resort but was served on the beach since Luau Cove did not exist.
The Luau cove structure was built and seated 550 with a portable kitchen in May of this year. Dressing rooms were added in October.
The small building in front of the Polynesian next to the valet was constructed to store luggage.
The rooms use to have a painting in the guests' rooms "Tahitian Landscape" that was a copy of an 1893 painting by Gauguin. The original is in a Minneapolis museum.
Heaters were added to the Luau this year along with the main kitchen for the Polynesian being modified to allow for more items.
December 29th, John Lennon received the paperwork at his room at the Polynesian Village to sign that would end the group called the Beatles. As the story was told by May Pang, he was the last to sign the paperwork in the room at the Polynesian. There are photos of this happening in the room at the Polynesian in her book that can be found at http://www.instamatickarma.com . While staying in Florida someone mentioned going to Disney World with the kids. Hear her talk about it on Lou's podcast http://www.wdwradio.com/2009/01/show-103-jan-25-2009/
The photo shown is sometimes thought to be taken at the Polynesian but it was actually taken in Palm Beach the week after they visited Disney World by Ken Davidoff. There was a series of photos taken at this Palm Beach Hotel that were used by the Palm Beach Daily News. Unfortunately the color negatives were not saved so only some black and white copies of the photos survived. This photo was a colorized version of the black and white photo
The Luau area was continuing to evolve and modifications were made in June of this year. The South Seas Room had a rehab and the monorail platform was refurbished with the ticket booth being removed.
The Luau again was getting some additions. The seating in the back had risers added.
Some people that see the Polynesian now say that it looks 70's but very little of what you see now was even done in the 70's. The look of the Polynesian when it was built was completely different than it is now as you can see from the GCH picture (above left). Even the rooms had yellow, turquoise and light green colors. Now you will see earth tones and colors that were used in Polynesian culture so if anything now the Polynesian looks everything but 70's.Thanks to Robert Fleming at Disney Pix for the great photos. For more visit Disneypix.com.
The first expansion of the resort came in 1978 when they added the longhouse Oahu (later called Tokelau). This added 144 rooms, bumping the room count for the resort up to 628 rooms. They also added the East Pool next to this new longhouse that is now reffered to as the quiet pool. The new longhouse and pool are shown in the far left lower corner of this picture below.
Room service was moved to the Tangaroa Terrace (seating 262) when it was added in 1978 along with Snack Isle and Moana Mickey's
I keep hearing people say that the Polynesian never really changed the look of the rooms since they opened and that the rooms and resort still look 70's. Well those are people that never visited the resort in the 70's 80's or early 90's when they had major room renovations to change the look. The resort just about everywhere has changed and updated but stayed with the theme.
The photo to the right is of the rooms in the 70's and below and on other pages you will see how the rooms changed over the years. You can find many other great old photos at http://jefflangedvd.com/
Rest rooms were added to the Luau
Plants were replaced around the pool area and at the entrance.