Disclosure: This is part of a sponsored collaboration with Disney. I received an all-expense paid trip from Disney so that I could gather and share this information about Moana & Polynesian Dance and culture. However, all experiences and opinions are always 100% my own as this post is written by me in its entirety.
Moana, like many teenagers, is the story of a young girl looking for her identity. But that isn’t necessarily how the story started – but how it developed into the beautiful masterpiece we see today. With directors John Musker and Ron Clements, producer Osnat Shurer, 2D animation supervisor Eric Goldberg and costume designer Neysa Bova the real story that came to life is that of the culture and heritage of the people of the South Pacific. Come take a tour with me behind the scenes of Moana and some lessons in Polynesian dance.
The Making of Moana
Directors John Musker and Ron Clements have worked together for a long time. It’s no wonder than that when they collaborate on a project for Disney great things come to life. They’ve worked on classics like “The Little Mermaid” in 1989 and “Aladdin” in 1992, as well as Disney’s 2009 return to hand-drawn animation, “The Princess and the Frog.”
Eric Goldberg, an expert in the field of hand animation, has been working with Ron and John for many years. His first film at Disney was Aladdin – his first character was hand drawing the Genie. Working on Moana was the first opportunity in which 2-D and CG animation were combined to create the animated tattoo character known as Mini-Maui.
The journey of creating Moana started over five years ago with Ron and John pitching an idea to John Lasseter, executive producer. John had discovered a part of the Pacific rich in Polynesian mythology and beauty, including the story of Maui, a shape shifting demig-d. Originally the story was supposed to be about Maui, but later developed into the story of Moana.
With John Lasseters blessing and Osnat’s guidance, Ron and John were off to the islands of the South Pacific to do some research. They dug deep into the culture and met incredible people. They took in everything they could from archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists, villagers, sailors, navigators. It really was kind of a life changing trip. After we got back we kind of decided that the story we had before we left, we didn’t want to do that anymore. We kept Moana, we kept the character but Maui, but we kind of created a whole new story based on that research trip. The bonus feature on the Moana Blu-ray “Voice of the Islands” gives you a look into the Polynesian culture and world.
Moana’s Auli’i Cravalho – How Far I’ll Go Movie Clip
All told there were about eight different versions of the Moana movie which resulted in lots of fabulous deleted scenes available on the Blu-ray. Like when Gramma Tala was saying that she was going to come back as a ray. She lifts her arm and bats the skin, and goes, “I’ve already got the wings for it.”
One of the biggest and most important takeaways from the Polynesian culture that continues on to this days is the idea of knowing your mountain. Which basically has to do with looking to the past and to the future. That you’re the soul of everything. The Polynesian people have a real respect for their ancestors of the past. There’s a big emphasis on connection, and interconnectedness. Connecting to the people around you, the people who came before you, and the people who will come after you. And connecting to nature. People living on an island have a very strong we’re all in this together attitude. They thrive on a belief that the ocean doesn’t divide people, it connects people.
Disney Learns A New Language
The Moana movie is being translated into Tahitian, which is a first for Disney since most speak the French language. As a special request, and as a tribute to the wonderful people of the South Pacific – Moana will be available in Tahitian! In case you didn’t know – Moana means Ocean. Every movement in Polynesian dance has meaning – waves, ocean, life, people.
Special Polynesian Dance presentation by Tiana Liufau of NONOSINA POLYNESIA INC. – video courtesy of Kim Ritter
The girls have watched Moana over and over – and I encourage you to introduce your little ones to her as well. In case you missed it in the theatres, Disney’s Moana has finally hit store shelves with the release of Moana on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD! Disney is back with another amazing animated feature which takes you on an adventure with a strong-willed girl sailing across the great oceans on a quest to save her people – and along the way finds herself.
Moana on Blu-ray is available for order now using my affiliate link on Amazon or Disney Movies Anywhere. The Moana movie is a definite must add to your Disney movie collection for the entire family to watch. All photos courtesy of Disney.
Get social online with me for the behind the scenes scoop on Moana on Blu-ray using the hashtag #MoanaBluray or #BeOurGuestEvent.