Walt Disney Animation recently announced their newest animated feature Moana to be directed by John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Frog).
The film is described by Disney sources as a sweeping, CG-animated comedy-adventure about a spirited teenager on an impossible mission to fulfill her ancestors’ quest.
The story: “In the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, Moana, a born navigator, sets sail in search of a fabled island. During her incredible journey, she teams up with her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui, to traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore.” Maui will be voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The role of Moana has not yet been cast.
The storyline fits the definition of the Hawaiian word Moana, which means “ocean.”
“John and I have partnered on so many films—from The Little Mermaid to Aladdin to The Princess and the Frog,” said Clements. “Creating Moana is one of the great thrills of our career. It’s a big adventure set in this beautiful world of Oceania.”
In a recent interview Moana director Musker said, “I grew up reading the novels of [Herman] Melville and [Joseph] Conrad. And the South Seas, the exotic world that a lot of their stories are set in, was extremely intriguing to me. Just looking at the art which comes out of that corner of the globe—the carvings, the statuary, the sculpture—I thought that it all begged for this bigger-than-life treatment that you can only get with animation.
“So to expand on that idea, I then began reading up on the mythology of this area. Which is when I came across these incredible tales about Maui, who’s one of the great cultural heroes of the South Pacific.”
That’s when Musker felt that a film could be found amid the promising potential. He and Clements pitched Moana to Walt Disney Animation Studios’ CEO John Lasseter, who encouraged them to do some research.
The pair traveled to the South Pacific two years ago, which he described as “two big research trips.”
“Those trips have been revelatory and kind of life-changing in a way,” he said. “It made us take our very simple outline and rework the whole thing.”
According to other Disney sources, Moana is a female-centric nature story along the lines of other recent successful Disney films like Frozen and Maleficent. Frozen had two lead female characters. According to industry figures, Frozen ended up grossing $400 million domestic and $1.274 billion worldwide, while Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent earned $240 million domestic and $757 million worldwide.
“Moana is indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself,” Musker said. “She’s the kind of character we all root for, and we can’t wait to introduce her to audiences.”
This is Disney’s first Polynesian-themed animated feature film since Lilo & Stitch (2002). Moana will be released in November 2016.