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Now Playing: Hawaii’s Most-Watched Hula Movie

Meet the people who brought you Hawaii’s Consolidated hula trailer. How this local favorite came to life; where the dancers are now.


Published:

(page 4 of 5)


 

By the Numbers

Over the past 22 years, theatre officials estimate, the trailer has been screened more than 3 million times.

1992: Number of theaters: 20; Number of screens: 60

2014: Number of theaters: 8; Number of screens: 94


Shimmin says he became respectful of kahiko, the ancient Hawaiian style of hula dancing, after watching the Merrie Monarch Festival on TV. “It is so powerful. I knew we had to have it in the trailer,” he says.

Kepa Maly, a haole who was raised from the age of 14 by a Hawaiian family on Lanai, is the chanter in the trailer. Maly’s deep voice intones, “Ku nihi ka mauna i ka lai e,” the classic chant known by almost every hula dancer. It is a mele chanted by dancers before their hula class to ask permission to enter the halau. The chant is from the epic tale of Hiiaka’s journey to Kauai to fetch Pele’s lover, Lohiau.

De Mello played all the different instruments in the score and wrote the music. He says the composition came to him in a single day. De Mello says the trailer was made in the pre-digital era when “we didn’t have the tools and toys we have today.”

He says more than 40 different versions of the trailer had to be made in the Hollywood production studio where they took the film to marry the picture to the audio. The 40 different versions were to ensure the trailer could be seen in all of Consolidated’s theaters, which at the time had many different sound systems and screen sizes. De Mello says a couple of the tiny theaters on the Big Island still had mono sound systems. “It was crazy,” says de Mello, “but a lot of fun.”

The filming was done near the Lanai Lookout, between Hanauma Bay and the Halona Blow Hole. Heine remembers they showed up for the shoot at about 8 a.m. and did not finish until after midnight.

Film director Manke says he and cameraman Ken Libby had to keep watching the tide because the shelf jutting out to the ocean on which they were working was very narrow.

Reggie Keaunui says, after the sun went down, the male dancers, who were wearing only malos, got very cold. Luckily, he says, the film crew served them cocoa and coffee all evening as well as lots of hot food.
 

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Honolulu Magazine February 2018
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