How The Rock Took On A Sidekick Role In Moana

Credit: Giphy
Credit: Giphy

Unless you have been living under a rock – ha get it? – you have heard of Disney’s upcoming release Moana. This original tale is about the teenage daughter of a Pacific chief, who lived over 3,000 years ago in ancient Oceania. She is pulled on an adventure to save her village.

Auli’i Cravalho, the voice of Moana, brings Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson along for a ride. Johnson plays Maui, a demi-god who helped create the Earth. The character’s mythology is pulled from dozens of different iterations in different cultures.

According to co-director John Musker in an interview with Entertainment Weekly

“I dove into [Polynesian mythology] and discovered what a rich vein of storytelling it was, and in particular, the character of Maui, whom I had never heard of,” he recalls. “This guy’s a bigger-than-life character, he’s a shape-shifter and a trickster, he’s got these superpowers, he’s covered in tattoos — all these things, like, in animation that I thought would be so much fun to do, and yet I had never heard of him, which made it even more appealing to me because I thought, wow, people haven’t done something and he’s such a rich character.”

Through numerous consultations with co-director Ron Clements, the two began developing an adventure tale around Maui. The two confess that “We might have even had a pet name for him, like Mighty Maui.”

But how did Moana come to be? Well Disney animation creative chief John Lasseter loved the idea of the ancient island, but wanted Musker and Clements to take the story further. “There are a lot of myths that deal with female empowerment in the South Pacific,” says Musker. “On the island of Morea, we were talking with the Tahitian elders about [how] you’ve got to know your mountain. Unless you know your mountain, you don’t know who you are — and that was a big thing for us.”

“We developed three more possible stories, and the one we liked best was the idea of this girl named Moana, who felt connected to her voyaging past but was growing out of fashion with the world that she’s grown up in and feels this pull, but doesn’t know why,” says Musker. “Right from the pitch, it was a coming-of-age story. There was just something about building this around a young girl that just felt right.”

Well this got my attention. Moana will hit theaters November 23rd. I can’t wait!

Ilene Friedman
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