There was More. Much More.
It all began with a helicopter. The executive team at the Polynesian Cultural Center wanted guests to experience some of Hawaii’s natural wonders while on site at the Center. With a full IMAX theater on location, they were convinced that the best opportunity was an immersive, large-format film that would take guests up close to remote beauties of the islands they could never discover for themselves. The Center hired famed director of photography, Reed Smoot, who lifted off in a chopper and spent a week capturing colorful, aerial perspectives of the Hawaiian coast and countryside – iconic footage of the Pacific’s untouched natural landscapes. The Center’s leadership was pleased. Smoot had gathered what they had hoped for. But what they didn’t know was that imagery of the islands was only the beginning of what guests would experience in their IMAX theater. There was more. Much more. Beyond sweeping landscapes, the film would immerse guests in a feeling – the feeling of what it’s like to be Hawaiian, to stand on the shoulders of your people’s ancient history, to love the earth for everything it means and all it brings to you and to those you love, and to feel, deeply, the blood of the ancients running through your veins. Yes, the new PCC IMAX film was about to become much, much more. And that’s where WB Creative comes in.
After their successful collaboration on the nighttime spectacular, HA: Breath of Life, the Polynesian Cultural Center re-engaged WB to help them craft a powerful guest experience from the IMAX footage captured in the Hawaiian backcountry. In meetings with executives and cultural leaders, WB led a series of discussions focused on drawing out, capturing, and finding the best way to express native Hawaiian’s deeply held thoughts and feelings about the earth and its importance in their culture. WB listened carefully, enraptured and overwhelmed by the richness of the insights shared. The feelings expressed for Mother Earth and her bounties went far beyond the environmental activism so prevalent in our society. These people wanted to protect the earth, of course, but their motivation was much deeper and much more visceral. For them, the land was a source of identity. The earth could teach them who they are and who they are meant to become. It was a part of them, and they were a part of it. With these and other rich insights, WB began crafting a narrative that would build on the IMAX footage to create a stirring, emotional symphony intended to take guests on a journey – a journey into the heart and soul of the Hawaiian people.
During the coming months, WB worked closely with the PCC and production teams engaged in the project. From an initial rough edit of the footage captured and based on the rich insights captured in the initial meetings, WB crafted a vibrant narrative, intended for delivery by an older Hawaiian man with an iconic, weathered voice. The character would share, through voiceover narration, what he had learned about himself, his family, and the earth at the feet of his grandmother. At WB’s recommendation, a second shoot was planned on location in a rural cave. There, actors portraying the narrator as a young boy along with his grandmother and extended family gathered to hear the stories of their people. WB directed that shoot in concert with director of photography, Reed Smoot, who returned for this second unit. One iconic shot was more important than any other. As the boy sat in the cave, listening to the stories of the ancients, the camera would dolly toward him, closer and close to his face, focusing on his dark brown eyes. Through those eyes, viewers would be transported into the natural world, where the beauties of Hawaii would teach them innumerable truths about life, love, family, joy, pain, and the triumph of the human spirit.
With all needed footage captured, WB flew to Los Angeles where a final edit of the film was crafted. Noted Polynesian actor, Al Harrington, was hired to voice the narrator and worked with the WB team to craft his performance. EMMY award winning composer, Sam Cardon, was brought on to score the film, and WB worked closely with him, providing initial creative direction, temp audio samples, and feedback throughout the production process. Additionally, the team at Mike Lee Design, creators of theme park attractions throughout the world, implemented new Technifex technology into the Center’s IMAX theater that would allow the film to be accompanied by surround sound FX, 4D motion, and authentic Hawaiian scents.
The film, branded as “Hawaiian Journey,” debuted to eager crowds in March 2013 and has been hailed as “a breathtaking cinematic experience,” “brilliant,” and “one of the best exhibits” at the Center. And while guests are impressed by the stunning imagery and world-class special effects, their comments often center on what they can’t fully describe: what they feel. What guests experience at Hawaiian Journey is more than a great movie and more than an exciting theme park event. Rather, in just 14 minutes, the film takes visitors on their own journey. And in the landscapes and stories of ancient Hawaii, they discover their own hearts, their own families, and their own appreciation for life once again. And that’s much, much more.
Taking visitors on a journey of self-discovery that changes their perspectives on life, love, and family? That’s Creative that Matters.
Are you looking to develop impactful customer or guest experiences? Let’s talk. We would love to bring Creative that Matters to your organization.