Finally! A Disney princess who doesn’t need a prince to help her ‘find herself’

By Pieter van Zyl
30 July 2016

No damsels in distress here!

In the new animation movie Moana – with songs guaranteed to turn into annoying earworms – the 16-year-old Moana Waialiki (pronounced Mo-ah-na) takes viewers on adventure-filled journey across the sea.

A few snippets were shown at the recent Comic-Con event in San Diego in the US.

In response to a question of what makes this Hawaiian princess different to the Disney princesses who’ve gone before one of the directors, John Musker, answered: “There is no romance in the movie. Moana is her own hero and will not be letting anybody else define who she is.”

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In one of the teasers a baby Moana “meets” the ocean, one of the most important characters in the film. The audience was fascinated with the way the water moved and reacted to her – it’s pure Disney magic!

“She’s got some serious guts,” says 15-year-old Hawaiian, Auli'i Cravalho, who lends her voice to the lead character. “She’s really courageous and beautiful as well.” Auli'I hopes that viewers see the characters as a heroine rather than a princess.

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The newcomer admits that there are a few similarities between her and Moana. “I tend to talk a lot — and talk quickly — so there’ll be a little bit of rambling in some scenes. And she touches her hair a lot, and I do that when I’m nervous.” In other film teaser clips, which can be viewed on YouTube, we see how Moana makes the acquaintance of Maui, a demi-god of the wind and sea who is able to change shape. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – who else? – borrows his voice and a touch of personality to this wonderfully entertaining character. He also sings one of the songs in the film. He joked about his musical efforts by tweeting: “I just tried not to screw it up.”

He even got a chance to flex his former WWE muscles when his character uses a fish hook to take on the demon of earth and fire in an epic fight.

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According to Dwayne the characters of Maui is confident, accomplished and used to being the centre of attention. “He discovered practically every natural resource we enjoy today.”

“He's also extremely selfish and lives for only the most important person in his life: himself,” says the Central Intelligence star.

“I've never played a character with this kind of personality and deep-down heartbreak. With all the characters I play, I'm usually the one galvanizing people around me to get better and ‘Get the job done,” but this time he says Moana is the one inspiring Maui to accomplish great things. He describes the film as a “beautiful and powerful journey.”

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The story plays out 2000 years ago in ancient Oceania in the South Pacific. An imbalance between man and nature threatens Moana and her people and she teams up with Maui to try and save the island. Her best friend, the adorable pig Pua, accompanies them.

On the journey they come up against the coconut monster, Kakamora, and a giant crab, Tamatoa and unlike in other Disney movies the animals don’t talk in Moana.

New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison plays Moana’s father, chief Tui, in whose steps she is trying to follow. Hawaiian-born former Pussycat Doll Nicole Sherzinger speaks for Moana’s mother, Sina. And Rachel House, known for her roles in the Whale Rider and Hunt for the Wilderpeople speaks for Gramma Talla, Moana’s grandmother and confidant.

Moana is directors Ron Clements and John’s first film which has been created almost entirely with computers – one thing that is hand drawn is the character Maui’s tattoos. Their previous films were The Little Mermaid and Alladin.

Moana will arrive in South African cinema’s in November.


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