On November 23rd, Walt Disney Animation Studios gives us “Moana”! So far the hot topics surrounding this CG-animated feature film have been about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and the amazing Auli’i Cravalho. While those two play very important roles in the film, none of it would exist if it weren’t for the people creating the world and characters of Moana. I got the chance to learn all about that while in LA for #PetesDragonEvent on behalf of Disney last month, and I’m sharing it with you today!
When I say ‘none of it would exist if it weren’t for the people creating the world and characters of Moana‘ I should actually go one step further because without the ‘oral histories of people and cultures of Oceania‘, who inspired the story, there wouldn’t even be a story to create a world and characters for. So, it all began with research that we heard about from Head of Animation Amy Smeed, Head of Story Dave Pimentel, Story Artist Dave Derrick, and Development Sr. Creative Exec Jessica Julius.
Three thousand years ago, Polynesian voyagers, the greatest navigators in the world, voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering thousands of islands. But then, according to scholars, for approximately a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows exactly why. – Director, John Musker
The crew set out for the Pacific Islands, to learn everything they could to make the story of Moana as authentic as they could. That was a big factor for Auli’i, in taking on the role of Moana, but more on that in November when I can share our exclusive interview with Auli’i Cravalho. 😉 Two trips loaded with culture and information, they came away with ideas, images, and inspirations to infuse into the creation of Moana, which means oceans.
We heard many times that the ocean doesn’t separate the islands, it connects them. Voyaging is a real source of pride for Pacific Islanders, a part of their identity. They were, and continue to be, some of the greatest explorers of all time. What they did was quite sophisticated, borderline miraculous. – Director Ron Clements
The people of the Pacific Islands speak gently to the ocean, because they believe the ocean is alive and unites the islands. Listening to Head of Animation Amy Smeed and Head of Story Dave Pimentel tell us the stories, made my hair stand on end. I want to learn so much more about the Pacific Islands and I’m even more eager to see where they take the story of Moana. We got a sneak peek at a scene (image from that scene below) that really showed us how the ocean come alive, and let me tell ya….less than a minute and I was choked up.
We have developed a world that’s a slightly caricatured version of the Pacific Islands we’ve experienced. The colors, already rich, are pushed a little. We want the look of this film to be so enveloping that you want to jump right in. – Director, John Musker
Little Moana above is so adorable, but I’m guessing we don’t see much of her. While learning about the characters of Moana, the focus was on Moana as a teen. Do you see Auli’i Cravalho coming through in this drawing?! It’s amazing how much she looks like the Moana, an adventurous, tenacious and compassionate 16-year-old who is struggling
to find her true self. Sound like any teenagers you know? 😉
The story of Moana is one of finding your identity and yourself. Does she listen to her father and follow in his footsteps to one day lead their island? Or does she go out into the sea, where she is drawn, but yet is a place the people of her village are forbidden to venture into? The animation of her character is feminine and fierce, strong and soft, beautiful and wise. At least, that’s what I see. What about you?
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”
Everything down to the embellishments on the clothes were thought out thoroughly when creating the characters of Moana. They also created a Quick Silver Technology for the hair.
Another one of the main characters of Moana is Maui,, voiced by Dwayne Johnson who can act, sing, and has Samoan roots! He’s perfect for the role of Maui, a shapeshifting demigod who is charismatic, funny, and has a body covered in tattoos. Not just any tattoos though. These tattoos tell the tales of his extraordinary feats.
Maui is responsible for the trouble that threatens Moana’s people. He’s paying a price for his actions and is somewhat of a lost hero, a shadow of his former self. Moana needs him to right his wrongs and restore what’s been lost. – Director, John Musker
One tattoo that is going to become a favorite in the movie, is Mini Maui. A mini-version of Maui, this tattoo acts as his conscience. Mini Maui was hilarious in the few seconds we saw him – laugh out loud hilarious. Surprisingly, Mini Maui wasn’t originally in the film, but I’m so glad they added him in later, and all his antics.
Because Maui has no shirt on in the film, his muscles, skin, and anatomy were very important. Giving him a Mini Maui tattoo that is almost like his conscious, but can move and do things to Maui’s body, added even more depth to his character.
We even learned how to draw Mini Maui with the help of Mini Maui Animation Supervisor Eric Goldberg! I love drawing demos and I’d like to think I’m getting better each time, but art was never a strong skill for me.
While learning about creating the world and characters of Moana, we also enjoyed a screening of the short, Inner Workings, that will play in theaters in front of Moana in November. After the screening, we chatted with the Director, Leo Matsuda (Story Artist for Big Hero 6/Wreck-It Ralph) and Producer, Sean Lurie!
Inner Workings 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.
This short will make you laugh out loud, tug at your heart strings, and make you think in a good way. If you need a reminder of why it can be good to let loose, Inner Workings is it.
Catch Moana in theaters on November 23rd and stay tuned for my exclusive interview with Auli’i Cravalho on November 1st!
For more on Moana: