Cast Members at Disney’s Polynesian Resort Pay A Fitting Tribute to Aunty Kau’i
Last week, the spirit of Aloha ran deep at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort with the news that Kau’ihealani Mahikoa Brandt—known to cast members and guests alike as “‘Anake Kau’i” (“Aunty Kau’i”)—had peacefully passed away surrounded by her Ohana.
Aunty Kau’i was a kumu hula (hula master) performing in Hawai’i when Disney talent scouts recruited her to come to California and dance the hula three times a day in Adventureland back in 1971. She made the journey and was one of the opening day cast members to launch the 1st dinner-show luau at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. What started as a 3-month contract turned into a lifelong career at Walt Disney World. In time, Aunty became a Cultural Ambassador at the Polynesian where she could often be seen greeting guests with homemade leis and grass skirts. Or you may even have seen her teaching guests how to dance the hula as she played the ukulele. As a matter of fact, a photo with Aunty Kau’i became a rite of passage for guests staying at the Poly.
To pay tribute to Aunty Kau’i’s legacy, the day after she passed, Walt Disney World Resort President Josh D’Amaro visited her home resort with Thomas Mazloum, senior vice president of Resorts and Transportation. Together with cast members of the Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, they gathered at sunset to remember their longtime friend in Hawaiian and English and song.
Afterwards, as per Hawaiian tradition, they cast their funeral leis upon the water—an illustration of the cycle of life.
A peaceful woman who lived a life of balance and harmony, Aunty Kau’i encouraged everyone she met to embrace the joy in life. Mahalo nui loa, ‘Anake Kau’i. Your legacy lives on.
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