Way back in December, action icon Dwayne Johnson came aboard to provide the voice of a demigod named Maui in Disney's new animated adventure Moana, which has been given a November 23, 2016 release date. The story follows the title character, a young girl who teams up with Maui on her journey through the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, to find a lost and fabled island. Today, People has our first look at the title character, who will be voiced by 14-year-old Hawaii native Auli'i Cravalho. Here's what the actress had to say about getting the chance to play the new Disney princess, Moana.
"From baby time to now, I wanted to be a Disney princess and then I wanted to be a singer or an actress. Moana is such an amazing character. She's brave, she is so empowered, she knows what she wants and she's not afraid to get it, and I think that's something that I can relate to as well. I just love watching how she goes along in this wonderful movie and grows as a person and helps her culture along the way."
In April, Dwayne Johnson revealed that he will be singing in the movie. It was actually Auli'i Cravalho's singing that helped her land the role, after an Oahu, Hawaii casting agent discovered the teenager's vocal abilities during a charity competition. She was then flown to Los Angeles, where she met directors Ron Clements and John Musker, and eventually landed the role. Here's what she had to say about getting the chance to work with Dwayne Johnson.
"I am very excited about that, my gosh. I've never heard him sing before so it's going to be really interesting!"
Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Frog, Aladdin) are directing Moana from their own screenplay, with Osnat Shurer (Oscar-nominated Pixar shorts One Man Band, Boundin) producing. The music will be composed by Tony-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (Broadway's "Hamilton," Tony-winning "In the Heights"), Grammy-winning composer Mark Mancina (Speed, Tarzan, The Lion King) and Opetaia Foa'i (founder and lead singer of the world music award-winning band Te Vaka). While hundreds of talented people from across the Pacific Islands were eager to try out for the role, Cravalho set her sights firmly on her sophomore year of high school.
"I didn't think I would have a chance. When I was little, I used to dance around the house singing at the top of my lungs. In my mind, that was performing and I loved the feeling of it. But I never imagined being in a Disney movie, being Moana-representing my culture in that way."
Fortunately, the film's Hawai'i casting director remembered an unrelated audition Cravalho did as part of an a cappella group, which had been submitted for a talent showcase for a charity. Feeling the local teen would be perfect for the Disney role, she tracked her and her mother down and invited Cravalho to audition. Said producer Osnat Shurer.
"Her audition was fantastic - she was such a raw talent. Auli'i was among a small number of girls we brought back for a second round of auditions. Then we flew her and her mom over to audition at our studios in Burbank."
Said director John Musker.
"Auli'i demonstrated a certain fearlessness in her auditions and call-backs. She has a playful, mischievous wit. She can project vulnerability, she doesn't seem intimidated at all by the challenges ahead, and her Polynesian background has helped shape her connection to family, hard work and music. These are all qualities she shares with Moana."
Added director Ron Clements.
"Moana is a vibrant, tenacious 16-year-old growing up on an island where voyaging is forbidden. But Moana has been drawn to the ocean since she can remember and is desperate to find out what's beyond the confines of her island."
Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast South Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped - and no one today knows why. From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes Moana, a sweeping, CG-animated adventure about a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission to prove herself a master wayfinder and fulfill her ancestors' unfinished quest. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auli'i Cravalho) meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), and together, they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous fiery creatures and impossible odds.
Cravalho has already started recording for the role. Walt Disney Animation Studios has released a new video that shows actual footage of Auli'i Cravalho's online casting session, where the filmmakers told her that she had landed the role of Moana. We have a new photo from the movie which shows the title character and Maui together, along with new concept art. What do you think of the new Disney princess Moana? Chime in with your thoughts after checking out the video and artwork.