Back in July, I had the sincere pleasure of attending the early press day day to learn all about the making of Disney’s Moana. From concept to screen, we learned what it takes to turn the idea of a movie into something you then see from a comfortable chair in your favorite movie theater. The movie doesn’t come out until November 23 but I’m going to give you a few sneak previews in the meantime that will have you excited for its release!
“You may hear a voice inside. And if that voice starts to whisper to follow the farthest star … Moana, that voice inside is who you are.” ~
Gramma Tala, “Moana”
Inspired, at least partially, by the culture and stories of the people of Oceania, Moana is the CGI-animated story of a headstrong, spirited and loving 16-year-old teenager who just happens to be the chief’s daughter. Based on Motunui, a beautifully created world that will have you wanting to buy real estate in the Pacific Islands, Moana tells a story that reels you in from the beginning. Moana, a gorgeous girl with long-flowing hair, feels bound to the island by the history of her people, while having an inexplicable tie to the ocean. As the film moves along, we learn why that is, right along with Moana, played by Auli’i Cravalho.
Adding to the cast is the infamous Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, portraying Maui, an important character Moana finds on her journey. What’s the journey? You’ll have to go see the movie to find out! I will tell you, Moana has an adorable pet pig, Pua, that adds to the cute factor and people of all ages will love it. I want Pua.
Making an animated movie is far more involved and busy than it looks, though no Disney fan will be surprised. Walt Disney Animation Studios are known for accuracy and attention to detail, and Moana’s no different. In order to ensure the culture and people of Oceania were represented with the respect they deserve, Disney went to those who know it best, the Oceanic Trust.
The Oceanic Trust is a group of people devoted to ensuring the Polynesian culture and history remains accurate, down to the looks of the characters. As hair matters a lot in regards to the legend in which Maui is involved, the trust recommended that the initial character have more hair. Even down to the tattoos, including Mini-Maui, Maui’s conscience, his appearance is historically correct.
During the day, we met with the music team, the Head of Animation and his team, the story room team, character development and special effects. I loved all the meetings, as I learned more about an area of the world which I’d never been, but I particularly enjoyed hearing the details of Moana’s look. It was referred to as an “elusive process,” using photos to help develop the final look, with her personality being more complete only after her look was. The Oceanic Trust was brought in again to make sure all her attire was as historically accurate as the rest of the movie, including the tapa, aka barkcloth, the authentic fabric actually made from bark.
Even Moana’s jewelry was designed with an end goal. They went through 40 iterations of her abalone locket before deciding on the final rendition, even considering heavily the juxtaposition between the land and the sea and star carvings. Her dance costume, for the tuauluga dance, included red as a sign of royalty in the Pacific Islands. And like most of the Disney animated movies, the cast and crew went onsite in the Pacific Islands (Bora Bora, Tahita, Samoa, Moorea, to name a few) to get a feel for everything, from minor details to the big ones you see throughout the film. Even things like the range of hues in the water in that region was taken into consideration during the animation process. Realism is not in question, as the authenticity is evident even in just the small portion we saw.
So on that note, I get to be as surprised as you when the movie is completed! The rest of the day was as spectacular as all early press days are, complete with an amazing lunch with blogger and media friends, photo opps, an authentic Polynesian dance and music performance and my favorite, a dance lesson! Note — I am not a dancer but when you get the chance to learn how to dance at Disney, you take it. You jump up on that stage and you just enjoy the moment. What a memory! (I looked at quite a few photos before I decided which one to share. The one that typifies my life — me being the only one facing the wrong direction — did not make the cut.)
And here is how the pros do it!
Keep an eye out for Moana, coming your way in November, and for another blog post where I share even more. Mahalo!