Seventy years after his first ride on Hawaii surf, Mickey Mouse is finally coming back to the islands.
Disney's plan for a hotel complex in Hawaii is far from another Disneyland, both in distance and concept.
But Walt Disney Parks & Resorts' first venture in the islands will add 830 hotel and vacation time-share rooms, a fantasy-laden water play area and an 18,000-square-foot spa to Kapolei in the rapidly expanding Ko Olina resort on West Oahu. The complex is expected to be completed in 2011.
It'll be the first such complex for Disney away from a theme park, combining a 350-room hotel with 480 vacation villas on one of Ko Olina's four man-made lagoons, which already feature a Marriott hotel and time shares, a luxury condominium project and wedding chapels.
"We plan to offer the opportunity for our guests to vacation in a completely new way, very different than they do at our theme-park resorts — when they come here to Hawaii … to discover Oahu, to discover the Hawaiian Islands," said Disney Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo.
The resort is expected to hire 1,000 "cast members," Rasulo said. Many will come from Oahu's relatively low-income Leeward Coast.
He noted that one of Walt Disney's earliest films, "Hawaiian Holiday" of 1937, featured Mickey on a surfboard in the islands.
Disney has several themed resort hotels near Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida, but has never built a hotel and time-share complex that will stand on its own. Hawaii has no full-scale amusement park.
Rasulo had said there were no plans to expand the resort into a theme park.
The time-share units will be part of the 350,000-member family-oriented Disney Vacation Club, which has eight other resorts.