Animated movies that are set in Hawaii might be something of a rare find, but they’re hardly the stuff of legend. The most popular is easily Disney’s 2002 classic Lilo & Stitch, and there’s also Aloha Scooby Doo (2005). And there are even some animated films that were partly shot in Hawaii, such as Disney’s Dinosaur (2000). Disney can’t have it all, though (even if they really do have most things), because last year saw the release of Hawaiian film The Legend of Hallowaiian, courtesy of food company King’s Hawaiian.
The story revolves around three friends – Kai, Leilani and Eddie (voiced by Stranger Things’ Noah Schnapp, Wayne’s World’s Tia Carrere and Hawaii Five-0’s Teilor Grubbs, respectively). Together they must face the gigantic Pineapplehead on the night of “Hallowaiian” (a villain wouldn’t look too out of place alongside A Nightmare Before Christmas’ Jack Skellington). When they accidentally free the god-like monster from an ancient artifact, he sets out to destroy the Big Island, so the children must team up with other legendary creatures to defeat him.
It’s no mystery that the computer animation here pales in comparison to the likes of big-budget animated blockbusters like Moana or Frozen. However, there’s still a certain charm to it, and in many ways it’s as aesthetically sharp, though not as well-realized, as 2006’s animated hit and Goonies-inspired Monster House. And there are elements of Goonies, too, with the young characters leading us on an adventure which spans the suburbs and the wilderness that’s both scary and fun at the same time – but mostly fun.
Big Island Setting
In fact, Hawaii serves as a rather vibrant setting throughout and is consequently as integral to the plot as the characters. With that said, the majority of the film’s backdrops like the sky, sea and sand frustratingly lack any sort of detail, and are often distracting. You’ll recognize some Big Island locations here, too – at least by name. The heroes find themselves lost in the jungles of Hilo, climbing the slopes of Kilauea and facing the villain at Honu’apo Bay. While of course this isn’t a live-action film, you may still wish to visit the film’s “haunts” (pun intended) if you’re a fan.
The Legend of Hallowaiian also draws upon some Hawaiian lore, including Pele, the Goddess of Fire, whom some variations of the legend say lives inside Kilauea. There’s also the Menehune, who are described as “engineers” and “mischief makers”. If you’re looking for an accurate history lesson in Hawaiian legend, though, the film is probably as faithful to the folklore as The Lion King is to the social structure of the animal kingdom on the African savannah. But then children-friendly films don’t owe reality a thing – and that’s the whole point.
Charm and Humor
Despite being a somewhat poorly-rendered CGI film that’s bursting at the seams with clichés, there’s still plenty to admire, from its timeless charm to some of its humor. But the film’s most memorable features are its inventions and creatures, from a wooden helicopter known as a “whirlybird” (you’ll want one) to the Menehune (you’ll want one of these, too). The latter are depicted as adorable teddy bear-creatures who live in the jungles of Hilo, and are not unlike Star Wars’ Ewoks. Speaking of which, listen out for Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill as Officer Duke.
The Legend of Hallowaiian has 5.0 rating on IMDB
Much like the vastly-superior Lilo & Stitch, the film touches on themes of ohana and, on the topic of Hawaiian legends it even serves up a slice of Elvis’ “Rock a Hula”. Of course, it’s unlikely to garner any real recognition as the years go by, but it’s still a fun, colour-soaked flick that celebrates the wonders of Hawaii. The Legend of Hallowaiian may have no real tricks up its sleeve in the highly competitive arena of animated movies, but this home-grown adventure still offers at least something in the way of a treat.
Dan is a freelance writer from the UK who works for a number of online publications. He’s also working on a science fiction novel, and believes the impression Jurassic Park made on him as a child – both the Spielberg film and the book by Michael Crichton – to be the source of his passion to write. He previously critiqued theatrical releases for his local radio station, while his blog ‘Curious Rookie’ remains his platform for sharing film, travel and book reviews. Dan has also visited some of the most iconic film locations around the world, and his favorite destination is the island of Kauai in Hawaii.