MOANA Directors Share Secrets About Upcoming Movie at Annecy

Directors Ron Clements and Jon Musker introduced aqua-loving heroine Moana at Annecy

The upcoming animated Disney film, Moana, was given a short preview at the Annecy Film Festival by directors Ron Clements and Jon Musker. The film is on track to be released on November 23rd in the US.

With a setting on the islands of Oceania in the South Pacific, Moana explores why Polynesian explorers, once the world’s greatest navigators, suddenly stopped sailing 1,000 years ago. The titular heroine Moana, whose name means “ocean” in various Polynesian languages, is the 16-year old daughter of the aquaphobic Chief Tui. Chief Tui forbids her and the people of Motunui from venturing beyond the island’s outer reef.

The plot is focused on a myth involving trickster god Maui (voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and the disappearance of an artifact called the Heart of Te Fiti, as well as Maui’s magic fishhook. The fishbook is believed to be the tool used to create the Polynesian islands. Once she is old enough, Moana sets out to discover the secrets of her people’s seafaring past and ends up on the island where Maui has been stranded all these years.


The two of them face various obstacles, including a journey through the Polynesian underworld, and the Kakamora, which has been described by Clements as a race of “treasure hunting, coconut-clad pirates.” When a stowaway rooster named Hei Hei gets kidnapped by the Kakamora, Maui and Moana attempt a rescue. Jon Musker says this scene was inspired by Mad Max. “If you see the movie, it’s like Disney meets ‘Fury Road,’” he promised.

What’s interesting about the protagonist in this movie is that the directors were set to make Moana not as unrealistically skinny:

Rather than conform to emerging CG design style seen in such recent Disney cartoon hits as “Tangled” and “Frozen,” where the princesses have impossibly slender bodies, topped by bobble heads with huge Bratz doll-like eyes, “Moana” appears to be a natural extension of Clements and Musker’s earlier style. If anything, their young heroine is allowed to have a bit more meat on her bones, boasting a curvaceous figure still conducive to action.

Although Moana still has somewhat of the Bratz doll-like eyes, at least the rest of her looks more balanced out. We’ll point out that another polynesian movie had females with more meat on their bones as well in the movie Lilo & Stitch.

Inspired by the success of Frozen and Disney’s musical revival with animation, the directors also sought more authenticity when they found an especially talented group of musicians to help with the music:

Samoan-born, New Zealand-formed singer-songwriter Opetaia Foa’i (who founded the group Te Vaka) provides the roots to the local music traditions — just one of countless ways in which the filmmakers tried to pay respects to the Oceanic culture by incorporating local artists and experts into the project. He is joined by multiple Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created and stars in “Hamilton” on Broadway. And helping to synthesize these two incredible talents and incorporate their work into the film is composer Mark Mancina, who was instrumental in the music of “The Lion King,” adapting Elton John’s and Tim Rice’s contributions to fit the film.