Moana is the next big film coming from Disney Animation Studios. With a Polynesian heroine at the fore, the team at Disney went to great lengths to make the movie as true to the culture as possible. How do I know this? Well, during my last press trip, we heard from some key players on the production crew.
Moana — Infusing the Culture of the Pacific Islands
Head of Animation Amy Smeed and Head of Story Dave Pimentel told us how important it was to actually visit some of the regions the movie is based on. These research trips greatly changed the flow of the movie for the better. The crew went to Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, and later to New Zealand. They learned about the great pride of the people, how their beliefs of nature shape their view of life and the ocean, the importance that’s placed on family there, and the stunning beauty of the Pacific Islands.
Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows why. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ new feature film “Moana” is about an adventurous teenager who, with help from demigod Maui, sails out on a daring mission to prove herself a master wayfinder and save her people.
— Official summary from Disney.
It was also important that Polynesian natives star in Moana. Much of the cast have Polynesian roots, including newcomer Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The music even features popular local favorites Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina. But, it was what one man said that truly impacted the team.
For years, we have been swallowed by your culture. This one time, can you be swallowed by ours?
— Elder on the island of Mo‘orea.
Story Artist Dave Derrick and Development Sr. Creative Exec Jessica Julius talked about some of the supporting characters and changes they went through. The most drastic change was that of Hei Hei the Rooster. At first, he was extremely smart but slightly sarcastic as Moana’s companion on the journey. But that didn’t seem to play well into the story. Instead, the team dropped Hei Hei’s IQ to crazy low levels. We got a peek at a few scenes in which his absence of intelligence opened the way for several fun situations.
Moana — The Story of Mini Maui
Since tattoos are such an important part to the Polynesian people, the character Maui, is covered in them. Not only that, but one particular tattoo, affectionately named Mini Maui, acts as Maui’s conscious. Just think of Jiminy Cricket as an opinionated ink tattoo. 🙂 Mini Maui plays a huge role in how Maui interacts with Moana and the decisions he makes. “Mini Maui” Animation Supervisor Eric Goldberg shared with us a few challenges of animating Mini Maui. The animation process of marrying hand-drawn animation and CG to create Mini Maui was quite involved.
He also gave us a quick drawing lesson (quick as in how fast he talked but not in the speed of me trying to draw it).
Moana — Opening Inner Workings Animated Short
Preceding Moana will be the animated short, Inner Workings. Meet an ordinary office worker who has some struggles going on between his mind and his heart. The animation is charming and the humorous tale will surely make you giggle throughout. Also, a couple of parts made me laugh and slightly grossed me out at the same time. Kids will love it!
“Inner Workings,” a new short from first-time director Leo Matsuda (story artist for “Big Hero 6,” “WreckIt
Ralph”) is the story of the internal struggle between a man’s pragmatic, logical side and his free-spirited,
adventurous half. Created by a small team at Walt Disney Animation Studios in a unique, fast-paced style
that blends CG and traditional hand-drawn animation, the short explores the importance of finding
balance in daily life. — Official summary from Disney.
I would love to tell you more about Moana but, well, we only saw clips of it. The movie was not yet complete so I’ll have to wait for more inside info along with you. I do have one fun bit that I’ll share with you in a couple of months so stay tuned. It’s AWESOME!
Moana & Inner Workings will be in theaters November 23, 2016!
- Visit the official website: http://disney.com/moana
- Like on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/disneymoana
- Follow on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DisneyAnimation
I was invited on an all-expense paid media trip as a guest of Disney in honor of the Pete’s Dragon movie. All opinions are my own.