When Disney announced the Hawaii set animated feature Moana two years ago the state let out a collective sound of joy (and in some instances a collective sigh) at a new high profile Hollywood production that shine the spotlight at the Hawaiian culture. Slowly over the course of the two years since, more details have emerged about the film most notably that Dwayne Johnson would have a major role in the film as the voice of the Hawaiian demi-god Maui.
Today Disney unveiled that 14-year old Mililani native Auli‘i Cravalho has landed the title role of Moana, and in true local fashion, she sounds just right for the role. In speaking with People magazine on landing the role and playing 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.”
Even her co-star The Rock was quick to congratulate his co-star:
IT'S OFFICIAL: After months and months of worldwide casting calls, we've finally found our next DISNEY Princess… #MOANA. I'm pumped to welcome 14yr old @AuliiCravalho of Mililani, Hawaii to our project. What's amazing about this story is that she didn't think she was good enough so she never auditioned. Fortunately, one of our Oahu casting agents discovered her singing at a charity competition and the rest is history. * An awesome lesson to all young kids out there… work hard, have confidence in yourselves and never think you're not good enough because you never know what the future holds. Congratulations Auli'i! Can't wait to work with you and watch you bring this new Disney Princess to life. #YesThatsMeOnTheRight #HisNameIsMaui #HesADemiGod #AndHePutsMoanaInHerPlace #SoHeThinks #DisneyAnimation #MOANA #TimeToSing
There’s also a nice featurette which shows Auli‘i’s casting and when the film’s producers told her that she had gotten the role:
From this short video, it sounds like the film’s creators have made the right choice. I love Auli‘i’s energy and I’m sure that will translate into her voice work that will give Disney animators a lot to work with. Because the synopsis of the film doesn’t state that Moana is a princess, I’m going to stop short of calling her a “Disney Princess” (besides, Hawaiians didn’t even have princesses). Even so, I’m sure that like myself, the rest of the state is proud to have Auli‘i represent Hawaii and Hawaiians on the big screen.
I think we’ve come quite aways from “Ohana means family. And family means no one gets left behind.”
Moana is due out in theaters in November 2016.