On Hawaii Admission Day (also known as Statehood Day) , we look back on Walt Disney’s fondness for the 50th state, which he visited on several occasions and included in both his animated and live action productions.
Walt Disney’s connection to the Hawaiian Islands began (as it did for many) when the rise of the cruise and tourism businesses turned Hawai’i from a distant paradise to a genuine destination. The Matson Line’s SS Malolo began the first regular service to Honolulu from the West Coast in 1927. Matson co-financed construction of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki, which opened the same year, catering to luxury travelers who came to enjoy Hawai`i’s beaches and exotic culture.
Walt and Lillian Disney made their first trip to Hawai`i in 1934, sailing on the Matson liner Lurline from Los Angeles (via the Port of San Francisco) on August 10th. They arrived in Honolulu the morning of Thursday, August 16.
“Walt’s arrival in the islands was big news, rating a headline at the top of the [Honolulu] Advertiser’s August 17 front page, accompanied by photos of both Walt and Lilly,” reports Disney scholar and biographer Michael Barrier.
The Advertiser reported that, “He had no sooner set foot ashore than he was besieged with invitations to go here, go there, meet this one, and do that for someone else.”
Walt coyly replied, “I don’t want to do anything except lie on the beach in the sun and wiggle my toes in the sand.”
Read more of our historical account of Walt Disney’s travels to Hawaii, a place beloved to him in both his personal and professional life, in The Wonderful World of Walt: Aloha and Mahalo, Walt Disney.