Disney is an amazing company. They blow me away with how much they care about getting the facts and stories true to life. Moana was more than just another Disney movie…it was an experience, a lesson, a way of life. They not only went to the islands to learn about the Polynesian culture, but they asked them to be a part of the entire process!
We went to the Disney Studios for a presentation on Moana. We were welcomed by Tiana Lirufau (the drummer) and two Polynesian dancers.
Bringing The Concept To Life:
Moana started over 5 years ago when directors Ron Clements and John Musker pitched their initial idea to John Lasseter. John Musker was prompted to look into the Polynesian mythology and realized that no one has ever written a story about the legend of Maui, a Demi-god, shape-shifter, trickster. John Lasseter liked their idea, but really wanted them to do more research! So the research began…as they headed to the South Pacific to learn more about the Polynesian culture and mythology.
They dug deep into the culture and met with so many incredible locals. With their newfound knowledge, they came back not really wanting to focus on Maui, but to create a whole new character to tell deeper story.
One thing that stood out for John was the idea of knowing your mountain. “Basically it has to do with looking to the past and the the future. That you’re the soul of everything.” Sometimes in our culture, it’s all just about what’s here now, or what’s coming. In the South Pacific, they had a real respect for their ancestors in the past. “I think we could take a cue from that in terms of moving forward.” Ron agreed and said, ” There’s a big emphasis on connection, and interconnectedness. They’re again, connecting to the people around you, the people that were before you, and the people who will come after you. And connecting to nature and that sort of sense I think that people on an island have very strongly this kind of, we’re all in this together, sort of attitude.”
The ocean doesn’t separate us…it unites us!
You can watch the “Voices of the Islands” featurette to find out more!
Costume designer and visual development artist, Neysa Bové took on the unique challenge of creating costumes using materials and techniques native to the islands of Oceania. Neysa has worked with Disney for the past two years. She was specifically hired for Moana and created looks that were authentic and beautiful. Style and imagination…her creations helped bring Moana to life.
Watch the special featurette called “Island Fashions” to learn more about Neysa’s creations for Moana.
The Story Behind The Tattoos & Mini Maui:
John Musker was telling us that this was their first CG film. They’ve been so used to doing hand drawn films to get the level of details that they desired, but now you can get that detail and texture with CG. The character of Maui is covered in tattoos. Those tattoos tell his story. The concept evolved to where they wanted Maui’s tattoos to tell his story…and so Mini-Maui was developed (a sort of Jiminy Cricket/his alter-ego/his conscience)…and who better to help bring Mini-Maui to life, but the man who brought to life the genie from Aladdin… Mr. Eric Goldberg.
Eric Goldberg has a long history of working with Ron and John on many films. His first film at Disney was Aladdin. It was “kind of a great gig to kind of land on your feet and get the genie as your first character. And I loved working with the two of them. In Moana, the animated tattoo character we came to know as mini-Maui, presented us with the opportunity to combine 2-D and CG animation in a way that had never been done before.”
You will want to check out the BONUS FEATURES and watch“The Elements of…Mini-Maui.”
Favorite Deleted Songs/Scenes/Lines:
Osnat Shurer ~ Warrior Face ~ “It’s a duet between Maui and Moana, and he’s sort of trying to teach her the kind of anti-theme. Like it’s all about the face you make, not how you feel inside. And, the demo that you’ll hear on the deleted scene on the DVD.” This scene would have happened right before the Shiny…but for story reasons it got cut.
Ron Clements ~ His favorite scene was between Gramma Tala and the chief, her son. “They don’t really have a lot of interaction in the movie, but this scene, there’s sort of arguing about the future of Moana, and you get a really strong point of view of each one of them. I also like that scene because it was the audition scene that we cast both Rachel House, who does the voice of Gramma Tala, and Tem Morrison, who does the voice of the chief.” Osnat Shurer had to chime in and tell us the closing line that they all seemed to love. “You’ll stop filling her head with these kind of ideas, so says your chief.” And she says to him, “This is small thinking and fear talking, so says your mother.”
John Musker ~ In the first version of the story Moana had several brothers. “One of the early screenings we had this big canoe race, where she’s basically races all her brothers, and manages to finish sort of first. And that was a fun scene. Then as the story evolved, the brothers went away, because partly because we were trying to focus more on gender not being her problem so much, as just… she’s trying to find this voice within. Who is she? So, the brothers kind of went away. But, it’s a fun scene on its own right, and it’s got some fun action and things.”
Eric Goldberg ~ “I can tell you like my favorite line that got cut from the movie. When Gramma Tala was saying that she was going to come back as a ray. And she lifts her arm and bats the skin, and goes, ‘I’ve already got the wings for it.'”
There were 8 different versions of this movie, so not all of the deleted scenes made it to the Bluray.
We were treated to a little background information about Polynesian dancing. Osnat Shurer asked Tiana Lirufau a few questions about her Polynesian culture and background.
Tiana grew up in the states, but her family migrated from the island. She was always invested in her culture…they always did the songs and dances about the myths and legends. Tiana is a choreographer for the top Pacific dance group outside the island. Tiana connected with Moana through D23. She did the choreography for the song “We Know the Way.” Every motion has a meaning in Polynesian dancing, and she showed us.
When you crawl you can dance…when you can cry you can chant.
Disclosure: I was invited by Disney to attend an all expenses paid trip to cover the #BeOurGuestEvent & other fun adventures in LA on 3/4-3/7. All opinions are my own.