I have only seen bits and pieces of the soon to be released “Moana.” And, I did see those bits and pieces with the animators of the movie, and then chatted with the new Disney Princess star who voices Moana, Auli’i Cravalho! Therefore, for the sake of disclosure, I am fully biased in my discussion of the movie. The details about the inner workings of this production are remarkable, read about some of them in my earlier Moana post!!
We were Auli’i’s first big interview session. She is a young teenager, so she is always accompanied by her mom, Puanani. Her mom’s excitement and emotion almost had all 25 of us bloggers in tears. Auli’i was just a regular teenager on the big island of Hawaii in High School that decided to audition for the role of this new Disney Princess that would represent the Pacific Islanders, a first in the history of Princesses. The family’s excitement upon hearing that Auli’i got the part was felt by all of us!
For centuries, the greatest sailors in the world masterfully navigated the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, 3,000 years ago, their voyages stopped for a millennium – and no one knows exactly why. From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes “Moana,” a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who is inspired to leave the safety and security of her island on a daring journey to save her people. Inexplicably drawn to the ocean, Moana (voice of Auliʻi Cravalho) convinces the mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) to join her mission, and he reluctantly helps her become a wayfinder like her ancestors who sailed before her. Together, they voyage across the open ocean on an action-packed adventure, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills her quest and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.
Auli’i had also attended the red carpet event the night before our interview (as we did) for the Pete’s Dragon Premiere, which was her first red carpet walk, so we were all sharing in the excitement of the previous evening!
We learned that Auli’i, like most actors voicing an animated character, had never seen anyone else from the film. She mentioned that she only met Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson two days earlier, for the first time! At that point, mom, Puanani Cravalho made a fun comment about meeting The Rock, but that has to stay between the bloggers. Needless to say that is when we all fell in love with momma Cravalho!
Auli’i said. “So he was very nice and very professional, and he’s very- it was interesting because I mean this whole process of recording without meeting someone was something that I was not prepared to do.” Which is something that always amazes me! What great actors and actresses they all are to be able to voice their characters while being alone in a sound booth or playing off the Director making believe he is the other characters.
And Auli’i met the animators as well, something that rarely happens, which I found surprising,
“So to get that one perfect take took forever. But it was worth it, it was totally worth it. And then I got to meet the animators, which was something that not many voice actresses or actors get to do, and the animators don’t usually get to see them either. They just hear the voice and then, you know, just work but I got to animate some of it, like I, I did a walk like the Egyptian pose like, like totally awkward, like totally wrong proportions, her neck was like four heads tall but it was so much fun, because they put in so much work.”
Then we went back to chatting about the three month period from when Auli’i and her mom found out that Auli’i would be Moana, and when they could announce it to their friends. They both said it was a tough secret to keep, and Auli’i told us that her friends were very happy for her and said that she still has to take her tray up after lunch like everyone else. They were keeping it real for the new Disney Princess, while the Internet was going wild with the news! We also learned that it was almost an accident that her audition for a local non-profit show happened to get seen by a Disney casting director, and the rest is history. Personality wise the mother and daughter agreed that the performer inside her was always there, from putting on fashion shows at home to singing. But Auli’i was considering a law or science career when this all happened, this was not a career path she had foreseen.
And then Puanani talked about how they are regular people, not folks who trained for this type of career from a young age. She knew her daughter liked to perform, and she encouraged it as a hobby, but it was her school work that was most important as Auli’i is an honors student! And then mom shared from her heart and touched all of us, and we all felt emotional:
“I don’t know this part. And this opportunity was just so amazing and it truly is. But we are outside of, of what my knowledge and understanding is. I’m thrilled and I’m honored and I’m happy for her and what makes me happy is that I, I’m watching her and like I know my child, I know every movement, the hair, the twist, the brow and everything and what it says to me is that she truly is enjoying this. And that makes it okay. So, and to be in the hands of Disney, it’s just- we’re in good hands. And so I’m doing my mommy part and I’m staying close with her, because I need to be on this journey with her. [LAUGHS] but and she’s happy and she’s thriving, and we’re in good hands. So this canoe is sailing and we’re sailing well and…”
This level of honesty about their experience touched me deeply. We were 25 parent bloggers sitting and listening to this mom share about how this was an unexpected experience, that this was an unknown part of their journey as mother and daughter, but she was going to trust that Disney would take care of them. I have participated in some amazing interviews, but this was the most emotional one I have ever sat through. I am so grateful for this experience, and I cannot wait to see the full Moana!
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Visit the official MOANA website here: http://movies.disney.com/moana
MOANA arrives in theatres everywhere on November 23rd!
And here I am with the new Disney Princess, Moana, Auli’i Cravalho!
Disclosure: Disney invited me on this press trip and paid all of my expenses. No other compensation was received. All opinions are always 100% my own and honest.