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Moana, Disney’s latest animated film, has a lot of elements that appealed to both me and my daughter.
A strong female protagonist? Check!
New and beautiful setting for a Disney film? It’s set in Oceania, so check!
Adorable sidekicks? Check!
Appreciation of the environment? Check!
A story about the connection to the past while also looking toward the future? Check!
Music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, one of our favorites? Check!
Knowing what went on behind the scenes of the making of Moana made me appreciate the film even more. Here are some fun facts about my favorite parts of Moana.
How the Ocean becomes a true character
The ocean is nonverbal, but it plays a huge role in Moana. It really is a character in its own right, displaying a great deal of personality.
The rigging team built a rig with a curved wave-like shape that could be varied depending on the need of the story in order to bring that personality, emotion, and spirit to the big screen.
Lin-Manuel Miranda brought his musical talents (as well as his dance skills)
The powerhouse musical trio met in New Zealand at Pasifika, one of the biggest Polynesian cultural festivals. Miranda was quickly pulled onstage by the dancers to join dance. It turned out to be a competition with other audience members. Miranda won, and proved that he’s a man of many talents.
“I’d been there two days already,” says Mancina. “And I didn’t even know where the restrooms were. Meanwhile, he hops up onstage and wins this contest. He’s a very talented guy.”
Miranda’s official invite to join the“Moana” musical team was not the biggest news he received that week – it was also when he learned that his wife was expecting their first baby.
Learning about Oceania and Polynesian culture
Moana is inspired in part by oral histories of the people and cultures of Oceania, and filmmakers traveled there to learn as much as they could from direct sources.
I loved that this was a new setting for Disney and that it helped educate me about Polynesian culture.
Filmmakers consulted a group of advisors called the Oceanic Story Trust (OST). Members of the trust span a wide variety of areas, including anthropologists, educators, linguists, master tattooists, choreographers, haka practitioners, master navigators, and cultural advisors who collaborated with Disney’s creative team.
Maui’s hook, which is inspired by a real constellation known by the same name in Oceania and Scorpio, is stylized to emulate the character’s prized possession.
All the characters in “Moana” wear outfits made only from materials that would have been available to them 2,000 years ago.
Speaking of Maui, he’s awesome
Dwayne Johnson (aka “The Rock”) does a tremendous job as the voice of Maui. He’s hilarious and endearing, but far from perfect. His voice fits the character perfectly.
Their appearances were originally going to match up more than they do now. Maui was originally drawn as bald. However, Oceanic Story Trust consultants from Tahiti advised filmmakers that Maui, the subject of many and varied legends, was typically imagined with a full head of hair.
Nods to Disney of the past
I love that there are a few nods to some of our old Disney pals. Some fun characters make a cameo early in the film. (Not to spoil anything, but their names rhyme with Flirt and Flush) But that’s not all. Maui’s tattoos feature “Mini Maui” that act as his conscience, weighing in on his decisions whether he asks for their opinion or not.
Watching the film, I thought that Mini Maui was a throw back to old school Disney. Turns out that’s exactly what the animators intended. They created him using traditional hand-drawn techniques by Walt Disney Animation Studios’ animator Eric Goldberg and his team. Mini Maui is akin to Jiminy Cricket, the official conscience of Pinocchio.
All facts are courtesy of Disney. Photos are ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
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