While out in LA for the Pete’s Dragon Event, we had the opportunity to learn more about Disney’s new movie Moana.
I was very curious about the storyline of Moana as I felt that up until this point, I had only seen glimpses of what is going to come on November 23rd.
We met with Moana Head of Animation Amy Smeed, Head of Story Dave Pimentel, Story Artist Dave Derrick, “Mini Maui” Animation Supervisor Eric Goldberg and Development Sr. Creative Exec Jessica Julius.
It was here that I began to understand what Moana was all about and was eager to learn more and more.
Who is Moana?
Moana is the daughter of the chief in a long line of navigators. Her name means ocean. She is 16 and loves her island home, yet she is trying to discover who she wants to be. She has a Pet pig Pua. We also learn that she has a strong connection to her ancestors, the wayfinders. This connection puts her in conflict with her father chief Tui because his rule is that she is not to go out in the water.
What is the story behind Moana?
Although Moana is an original story, it is based on research of the Polynesian voyagers.
The story is inspired in part by the oral histories of the people and cultures of Oceania. Three thousand years ago, Polynesian voyagers, the greatest navigators in the world, voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering thousands of islands.
But then, according to scholars, for approximately a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows exactly why. Voyaging is a real source of pride for Pacific Islanders, a part of their identity. They were, and continue to be, some of the greatest explorers of all time.
There are many theories, but no one is certain, about what may have led to this 1,000- year gap in exploration; this sparked the filmmakers’ imaginations.
What was one of the big challenges of Moana?
Head of Animation Amy Smeed shared that one challenge they had was creating one of the characters. In Moana, water is a character and making it come to life was something the animators had to work very closely on to make it seem real.
Who is Maui and Mini Maui?
During her journey, Moana meets the mighty demigod Maui, a larger-than-life character who was inspired by multitudes of varied tales and legends about him throughout the Oceania region. Maui is a demigod that has a big ego. On different islands, he is known as a trickster and is a shapeshifter.
Mini Maui is actually one of Maui’s tattoos. He is like an alter ego, almost like his better self like a conscious. Mini Maui is a huge supporter of Moana.
Mini Maui Animation Supervisor demonstrated how I too could draw Mini Maui. All 25 bloggers began to follow his directions of using lines and shapes to create the character.
This is not a skill I usually have so I was pretty impressed that with his step-by-step directions, I made what I thought was a pretty good Mini Maui. My drawing is down below. What do you think?
We will learn that Maui, who’s on his own journey of self-discovery, reluctantly guides Moana in her quest to become a master wayfinder and save her people. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.
How did filmakers and animators create Moana so that if reflected the culture of the Pacific Islands?
The filmmakers traveled to Oceanic and the Oceanic Story Trust was formed.
Some of the main lessons learned were:
- Know your Mountain
- From the elders- know your history
- Speak gently to the ocean
Directors Ron Clements and John Musker recalled from their youth beloved novels and paintings about the Pacific. But once they began exporing the incredible tales within Polynesian mythology a few years ago, the filmmakers realized they needed to dive much, much deeper.
Everything—from how Moana’s canoe looks and functions, to plants on the islands, to the material used in their clothing—was all deeply influenced by our advisors.” Filmmakers ultimately assembled the Oceanic Story Trust that includes a team of experts—anthropologists, academics, educators, linguists, master navigators and cultural advisors—who collaborated with Disney’s creative team.
During our time in LA, we also saw a screening of the short INNER WORKINGS. It will play in theatres in front of MOANA.
Ater watching , we then had a Q+A with Director Leo Matsuda and Producer Sean Lurie.
“Inner Workings,” a new short from first-time director Leo Matsuda (story artist for “Big Hero 6,” “WreckIt Ralph”) is the story of the internal struggle between a man’s pragmatic, logical side and his free-spirited, adventurous half.
I can tell you that there were many laughs to be had during our viewing of Inner Workings as well as moments that it tugged at other emotions too.
Created by a small team at Walt Disney Animation Studios in a unique, fast-paced style that blends CG and traditional hand-drawn animation, the short explores the importance of finding balance in daily life.
Leo Matsuda is a native Brazilian is of Japanese descent. Matsuda says his Japanese side is by the book, while his Brazilian roots bring out the partier inside—so the director called on his own experiences to create “Inner Workings.”
Both movies are sure to delight and tug at the emotions of daily life experiences. I cannot wait to share it with my family on November 23rd.
For more information, visit the Moana website
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