Disney’s Moana is a beautiful epic adventure about a Polynesian teenager who discovers her unique connection to the ocean and how to save her people. Moana sets out on a quest to find the the great Maui, the subject of legendary tales throughout the Oceania region. It doesn’t take much time to realize that Moana isn’t the only one on a journey; Maui is also on a quest of self-discovery. So, who is Maui? Maui is not only an island in Hawaii, but also a great demi-god who inspired this film.
During an early press day for the film That’s IT LA sat in on a Q&A with Hyrum Osmond (Head of Animation), Mack Kablan(Animation Supervisor, Maui), Eric Goldberg (2D Animator), and Carlos Cabral (Head of Characters and Tech Anim). They shared their knowledge and experience with Maui. Key takeaways? He is a shape shifter, has a mini me and sports a fantastic head of hair.
Here are 7 cool facts about Disney’s Maui from the latest flick, Moana.
1. Based upon Polynesian mythology, the perception of Maui varies across the Pacific Islands. Consulting with of the Oceanic Story Trust, the creators of Disney’s Maui developed an animated amalgamation of all of those different inspirations. The island of Maui actually played a big part in inspiring this film. John Musker, one of the film directors, became fascinated with the settings and stories of Oceania. He saw Maui as a superhero-like figure with trickster elements. John, along with Ron Clements, thought that Maui would play really well into an epic and comedic adventure film.
2. Character Designer Bill Schwab designed almost every character, including the final design of Maui. Bill met with directors to discuss Maui’s appearance during the earliest animation process. An interesting tidbit, Maui was bald in early versions. After consulting with the Oceanic Story Trust, the Directors and the Producer learned that those who grew up with the legend of Maui always imagined him with a full mane of hair. The hair was incorporated into the design, and actually added a lot to the character.
3. Speaking of hair, this presented a new challenge for the Disney animators. All of the characters in this world have long curly hair. It’s also a big part of the culture, and the challenge in terms of making this style of hair work in this movie was really hard. The designers partnered with their technology group and artists to develop a new way of presenting hair in animated film that was both realistic and easily art direct-able. Hair that could perform in the film’s style of animation, while achieving a natural look.
4. This is Disney’s first movie where the characters aren’t wearing many clothes or garments. Maui is shirtless, so there is a lot more emphasis on the anatomy of the character, Maui in particular. The designers wanted a really strong male athletic figure. They referenced a lot of wrestlers, footballers, and the world’s strongest men for inspiration. They wanted to get that sense of mass, power and lot of muscle to the demi-god who is the self proclaimed “hero to all.”
5. Who can voice Maui, and convey the power and sense of charm this character possesses? Dwayne Johnson, of course. You might recognize Dwayne’s charming dimples, as Maui smiles – and that famous eyebrow raise. The animators watched video recordings of Dwayne Johnson doing his lines to help them figure out how Maui would deliver his lines. The watched the way Dwayne would accent his dialogue with head movements, as well as general gestures.
6. Maui’s magical fish hook is part of his identity. He doesn’t use it to battle monsters in the Bishop Islands, but it gives him the ability to shape-ship into various creatures. He uses these to his advantage whether he has to swim stealthily as a shark, enter a small area as a small lizard or fly great distances as a hawk.
7. Maui’s entire body is covered with tattoos. These tattoos tell the stories of his great feats and accomplishments. Within the body art is a little tattoo figure of Maui who became a character in his own right once the story developed. He is affectionately called Mini Maui, and he’s not just a moving tattoo. He has a personality, and a function in the story. He acts as Maui’s most loyal cheerleader, alter ego, but more than anything else his conscience since Maui is a bit of a trickster. He can stray from the path of good, and Mini Maui is there to pull him back.
I can’t wait to see more of this film! Stay tuned for more coverage! Moana is in theaters starting November 23rd!!