Walt Disney Animation Studios will take audiences to ancient Oceania this Thanksgiving in their latest epic, Moana. In the company of other Disney animated South Pacific fair (i.e. Lilo & Stitch), Moana looks to introduce us to some of the Oceania's most colorful characters, from our adventurous titular protagonist Moana to her trusty pet pig Pua and the ever-so-confident demigod Maui. However, Moana, Pua, and Maui aren't the only characters in this epic odyssey, as we have come to find this morning when USA Today revealed the expansive cast of colorful personalities in the film. Read the full two articles on Moana's cast of characters and official first looks all after the break!
Auli‘i Carvalho hopes that fans of her adventurous teen in the animated Moana will call her a heroine rather than a Disney princess.
“She’s got some serious guts,” says the 15-year-old Hawaiian newcomer, who voices the title character. “She’s really courageous and beautiful as well.”
Whatever you consider her, Moana (pronounced "Mo-ah-na") sets sail on a truly epic voyage with trickster demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) in the film directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the team behind The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. The movie's music is written by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Set 2,000 years ago in the South Pacific, Moana (in theaters Nov. 23) finds its brave lead wanting to hit the seas since sailing is in her DNA, though her parents are split on her making any kind of trip. An imbalance between man and nature has put her people in peril, so Moana enlists the help of the more experienced but down-on-his-luck Maui to join her on a quest to save the island and deal with the occasional coconut monster or giant crab.
“They really affect each other a great deal, and Moana goes through a coming-of-age hero’s journey,” says Clements.
Musker reports that Cravalho was “totally fearless” as Moana, and she acknowledges that the animators put some of her own quirks into the character.
“I tend to talk a lot — and talk quickly — so there’ll be a little bit of rambling in some scenes,” Cravalho says. “And she touches her hair a lot, and I do that when I’m nervous.”
Maui, a shapeshifting dude who’s not sure he wants to get back in the superhero game, does need some convincing to come aboard Moana's raft. He’s been marooned on an island for a millennium and has lost his mighty magical fish hook.
“He’s sort of a walking billboard of his exploits,” Musker says. “He’s got all of his great feats tattooed on his body, and because we’re doing animation, those tattoos can come to life and tell his stories.”
Johnson says Maui is confident, boundlessly accomplished (“He discovered practically every natural resource we enjoy today") and is used to being the center of attention, but there’s a satisfying duality to him.
“He's also extremely selfish and lives for only the most important person in his life: himself,” Johnson says. “I've never played a character with this kind of personality and deep-down heartbreak.”
Maui's character arc hits home in many ways for him, too, in that valuable lessons about bravery and perseverance can come from a youngster who still believes in hope and discovery.
“With all the characters I play, I'm usually the one galvanizing people around me to get better and ‘Get the job done,’ ” Johnson says. “So this relationship between Maui and Moana, where Moana is the one inspiring Maui to greatness, is such a beautiful and powerful journey.”
Directors Ron Clements and John Musker built worlds of colorful characters with their Disney classics The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, and Moana is no different.
At home and during her seafaring quest to save her people, Moana (voiced by Auli‘i Cravalho) interacts with various personalities, some friendly and some crabby. Here's a rundown of the high-profile supporting cast for the animated film (in theaters Nov. 23):
Chief Tui and Sina
Voiced by Temuera Morrison, Tui is the chief of Motunui Island and Moana’s overprotective father, who doesn’t understand his daughter’s innate need to sail the Seven Seas. “He’s seen bad things happen because of this imbalance of man and nature, so he wants everybody to stay inside,” says Clements. On the other hand, Moana’s mom, Sina (Nicole Scherzinger), is sympathetic to her child’s concerns. “She’s very warm and supportive of her daughter, but she’s trying to negotiate the difference between the two of them and be this peacemaker,” he says.
Moana’s grandmother (Rachel House) is a pivotal character who shares the teen’s passion for the ocean. “Tala is kind of the village crazy lady,” Clements says. “She has a close relationship with Moana, closer really than her parents in some ways.” The elder woman also recognizes the bigger problems facing her people, "so she really helps propel Moana on her journey to solve these things,” Musker says.
Tamatoa (Jemaine Clement) is a comically villainous 50-foot crab from Lalotai, the realm of monsters. He and Moana’s voyaging partner Maui (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) have a history, Clements says. “In fact, Tamaota is in possession of Maui's valuable fish hook, which he desperately wants back.” Tamatoa also has a big song in the movie and a deadpan sense of humor. The actor is “a wonderful improviser, so we’ve encouraged him to let loose," Musker says. "He’s put in some very quirky, funny Jemaine-isms into the script.”
Heihei is a dimwitted rooster (Alan Tudyk) who tags along on Moana’s journey. He doesn’t have any actual lines — instead, Tudyk came up with his own voice for the character with rooster crows and other sounds. While Heihei is in a sense more anthropomorphic than the other animal characters, “he may be stupider than most chickens you have met,” Clements says.
The very cute little pig doesn’t have a voice but is Moana’s best friend and constant companion. “While the rest of the island is hesitant for Moana to sail and think she’s kind of crazy to go into the ocean, Pua — aside from being a pig who’s unable to tell her she’s crazy — joins Moana on every journey she goes on,” says Cravalho.
Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows why.