Inspired by the history and culture of the islands of Polynesia, Moana is Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 56 animated feature, and the first CG animated feature for Disney veterans Jon Musker and Ron Clements. The film centers on the title character, (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) as she sets off on a quest to save her people. On her journey, she meets the Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), a mischievous demi-god who armed with a magical fishhook and has the ability to transform into any animal he chooses. But on this journey, the two realize that this is much more than just an ordinary adventure, it is a journey of self-discovery for the both of them.
ThatsItLA was fortunate enough to attend an early press day of the film and learn more about the film with a group of fellow bloggers back in August. But before you watch the film, which hits theaters in late November, get to know a little more about who Moana is and how she came to be.
1 – ‘Moana’ was created before Auli’i Cravalho was cast to voice the character. During the audition process “Moana” producer Osnat Shurer, spoke about how they were looking for an actress who could embody the character’s strength, fearlessness, compassion, and empathy. Clements and Musker both said that the design came first before they found the voice. “We don’t normally look for actors who match the way the character looks,” said Musker. The director admits that it can be nerve-racking for the actors because when they are recording during the auditions he and Clements are most likely animating. But it was pure coincidence when it came to Cravalho, as she just so happens to look like the lead character.
2 – Moana means “Ocean” in several Polynesian languages. Musker says Moana is unlike any of the previous Disney Princesses that came before her as she is a high-spirited 16-year-old daughter of a chief. Because the film is a celebration of the Polynesian culture and their historical ties to nautical exploration. So ‘Moana’ isn’t just about the title character setting out to discover who she is and not let others define her, but also rediscovering her roots by navigating the seas like those before her.
To help shape the characters of the film, Clements and Musker, along with the writer and producers, helped form the Oceanic Story Trust, which was a group that consisted of Polynesians from all walks of life like village elders, anthropologists, linguists, fisherman, cooks, dancers, and even tattoo artists.
3 – Because ‘Moana’ takes place 2,000 years ago, it was a challenge for the costume design team to create the clothing material that the characters would have worn. Which is why the Oceanic Story Trust was created. Working with the research material and the Oceanic Story Trust, the design team created Moana’s top that is made with mulberry tree bark that is pulled back and tactiled, while her skirt is woven pandanus leaves. Other accessories include embroidery and shells that would help make her more distinguishing. Because Moana means ocean, a lot of elements on Moana’s skirt has oceanic items that are decorated right onto her skirt. So keep a look our for stylized starfishes, shells, and other Pacific Islander influences.
4 – We all know it isn’t easy being a teenager, and ‘Moana’ will help ease some of that stress as the overall message of the film has to do with identity. I think it’s still dealing with issues that you deal with as a teenager, with all the outside influences around you,” said Musker. “Particularly if you live in a world where you seem not to fit in somewhat because of the culture around you and the importance of listening to the inner voice, to what’s inside you, in terms of discovering who you are and who you’re meant to be.”
Clements added, “Moana is trying to get in touch with this inner voice she hears through the course of the voice. It is trying to tell you to listen to that inner voice that’s telling you who you are and respond to that.”
5 – The animators tried to make Moana’s hair a part of her design and performance. This isn’t the first time that hair played a big part in the film as we’ve seen all kinds of different hairstyles for long and short hair in films like ‘Tangled’ and ‘Frozen.’ So when ‘Moana’ is going on her adventure she would most likely be wearing travel-friendly gear while also having her hair up in a bun.
‘Moana’ opens in theaters on November 23.
Read our post on the demi-god, Maui! http://thatsitla.com/maui