‘Moana’ Clip and Featurette Showcase the Pacific Islanders’ Wayfinding Heritage
With Moana as Disney’s first Pacific Islander princess, it’s essential for the team working on the movie to do their subject justice. She’s the first non-white princess since Tiana from 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, and her story is based on a real South Pacific legend. It looks like the story and animation crew behind Moana know that putting in as much truth as they can about the Pacific Islanders’ heritage is essential to the movie. This won’t be a weak-sauce pastiche film, stitching together the bits of culture the filmmakers are interested in and eschewing the rest.
Today, a new clip from the film and a behind-the-scenes featurette illustrate just how closely the writers and animators are working with the people they’re making the film about. First, we get to hear a little more of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fabled soundtrack for the song “We Know the Way,” all about Pacific Islanders’ traditions of sailing the seas guided only by the wind and the stars. It’s a stunning montage, with landscape shots that look like they were taken from real stock footage of the islands — but it’s all CGI! How did they do that?
Well, fortunately Disney released a featurette that shows just how much work the crew behind this movie put in.
“It’s really amazing that Disney recognizes the value of working with communities of people within the various islands to help craft the story,” says Dionne Fonoti, a Samoan anthropologist and filmmaker who worked with the directors of the project to bring Moana to life. The ocean is essential to the Polynesian people, which is why, according to directors John Musker and Ron Clements, they decided to have the ocean become an actual character in the film, as Moana’s friend and helper.
And how awesome would it be, as an animator or a screenwriter, to go to the Pacific Islands for, like, your job? If I was on the production crew I’d be hoping for a whole Moana franchise, just so I could spend my days relaxing on a beach surrounded by the bluest waters in the world. You know, for work, of course.
Moana opens in theaters November 23.