With MOANA opening today in theaters, we wanted to share some facts we learned from the cast and filmmakers at the press junket we were invited to last week. In attendance was Dwayne Johnson, Auli’i Cravalho, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ron Clements, John Musker, Opetaia Foa’i, and Osnat Shurer.


REVIEW: Soundtrack for MOANA is a beautifully crafted tapa cloth of classic and contemporary sounds

For those who have been stuck under a crab shell for the past couple of months, MOANA is a story of a young girl who must cross the ocean on a quest to save her island and to help the demigod MAUI find his hook and bring back the heart of Te Fiti. We absolutely loved the movie, and you can read our review here.

Here are just the few tidbits we learned about MOANA! ENJOY!

  1. MOANA is filled with Polynesian Pride

    While working on the film, many of the cast and crew took trips to Hawaii to explore the culture. Cravalho said, “I will admit, and I will admit this truthfully, that before I was working on this film, I was a bit wary of it. Because I think when anyone thinks of someone making a film inspired by their culture, they want it to be done right. And Disney has done a wonderful job.”

    Composer Opetaia Foa’i also said, “My journey has been from the village to the city… There are many other cultures that will see this movie and be interested in it, but there are also, there will be Polynesians who were born in the cities who will then start the journey back to the village. That’s what I’m thrilled about.”

    Dwayne said “I feel like the Polynesian people are going to be incredibly proud of this movie. Overall, all cultures by the way…I think what’s going to touch upon all of us, regardless of where we’re at in the world, where we’re from, cultures, class, religion, is the voice.”

  2. The ROCK really does SING

    Most of us are use to the Rock’s tough exterior, but for this role, he had to go out of his comfort zone, and actually sing! Miranda explains, “‘How did you get The Rock to sing?’ That’s not what happened here. When Dwayne accepted the role, he said, ‘so what are you giving me to sing?'”

    “Dwayne’s the new Angela Lansbury.”

    —John Musker

    Miranda elaborated, “He was really excited for this, and for me–I went to YouTube, where the answers always lie, and…I’m a big fan of his wrestling days and there was a time…where he would pull out a guitar and taunt whatever town he was in. And so I got a really good sense of his vocal range from that ten minute supercut, and then the rest of it was just writing lyrics that embody the spirit of Maui, who is this amazing demigod/trickster god…and once I had the title ‘You’re Welcome,’ which only Dwayne can pull off and still have you love him and root for him, we were off to the races.”

    According to Dwayne, “One of the best times I’ve ever had in my career was working on this project and certainly working on that song, because also like, we all love challenges, and this was a challenge that the bar’s set so incredibly high in a Disney film to sing!” Musker joked “Dwayne’s the new Angela Lansbury.”

  3. Auli’i Cravalho is a perfect princess

     We asked her how she felt about being Moana,  “This is my first job. It’s been an incredible journey for me. I’m fifteen going on sixteen, and I’m working with the best people in the entire world of whom are making a film inspired by my culture–a culture I have lived every day of my life. That is something so incredibly special for the rest of the world to see…for me, as someone who is hoping to continue in show business (now that I’m in ‘show biz,’ which is really exciting)…I was wondering how would I continue in this and still be Polynesian? And that might be an interesting concept…As I might potentially leave my home, what does that make me? Does that still keep me Polynesian? Am I still grounded and rooted in the way that I want to be? And I can honestly say ‘yes.”

    She further commented, “Because being surrounded by my family and by the Hawaiian culture every day, it seems as though I would never lose it. But to have a film like this that will inspire me, and to have a character that will inspire others as well to become rooted in who they truly are…that’s something that inspires me and that I hope will inspire others as well.”

    She is just perfection and a wise sole being only 16 now. We know she will go far in her career!

  4. The Hamilton Cast is thanked in the credits

    One might wonder why the Hamilton Cast is thanked in the credits besides the fact that Miranda is one of the composers for the film and also wrote the smash hit musical Hamilton. But we actually learned that the cast actually did the scratch demos, and he was working on MOANA during Hamilton, AND he credited being able to work on MOANA when the craziness of Hamilton was going on.

  5. Cameos from other Disney characters

    Without giving away who and where, there are definitely a few cameos from some of our favorite past Disney characters. Keep your eye out in the film and also in the credits!

  6. MOANA has been five years in the making

    Musker and Clements have been the masterminds behind some of our most beloved films from Disney; THE LITTLE MERMAID, ALADDIN, and HERCULES, just to name a few. They explained how MOANA came to fruition.

    Ron noted, “It was John’s idea and he’d go into that a little bit in terms of how he was, he wanted to do a movie based on the world of the Pacific Islands and the mythology.  That led to about five years ago we took a trip to Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti, which really, it was the basis of the movie in terms of the connection to navigation, to people’s connection to their ancestry, respect for nature, a lot of those ideas came from that first research trip and the movie was heavily inspired by that and people that we met have stayed involved with the movie throughout its production process to try to capture as much as we could of all the wondrous things we learned and the wonderful people that we met.”