Disney's Moana has been a family favorite movie since it first hit the theaters in November 2016. After stealing the hearts of parents, children, and young girls looking to forge their own paths in life, it continues to receive a lot of love today. With two Academy Award nominations for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song for "How Far I'll Go," it's no surprise that the movie has reminded audiences of Disney's powerful and moving storytelling techniques.
However, even the most dedicated Disney movie-watchers might not know about these behind-the-scene secrets! Here are 10 things you didn't know about Disney's Moana.
10 Polynesian Culture Was The Inspiration Behind The Movie
To make sure they got the storytelling spot on, Moana movie directors, John Musker and Ron Clements, took trips around the South Pacific to get inspired. One of the things that came as a result of these trips that translates the most on-screen is the Polynesian influence that's present in the film.
Drawing from traditional Polynesian mythology, many of the characters names and stories are based on actual ancient Polynesian tales. The outfits both Moana and Maui wear are also inspired by traditional Polynesian clothing. Many fans of the movie have also expressed a huge appreciation for the chants and songs that mirrored traditional music.
9 Maui Is Based On Real Demi-God Maui
What a lot of movie-goers may not know is that the character of Maui - voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - in the movie is that he wasn't just a character written for the screen. This Maui is actually based on Polynesian mythology's own demi-god, Maui.
In the myths, Maui is the son of a god and a mortal woman, which makes him a demi-god: Half-human and half-god which is how they also portray Maui in the movie. As legend tells, Maui also created islands and aided many humans on his travels to earth from the heavens. His song "You're Welcome," in the film also captures this ancient story.
8 Auli'i Cravalho Found Singing In Hawaii
After singing at a charity competition and being spotted by a Disney casting agent at the time, 14-year-old Auli'i Cravalho was cast as Disney's newest animated princess. Born and raised in Hawaii, Cravalho quickly became a crowd favorite as her quirky voice and beautiful singing inspired many young girls across the world.
Her Hawaiian background and culture, though different from Polynesian traditions, still allowed her an understanding of how to approach Moana as a character to voice. Working on the Disney filmed opened many entertainment doors for Cravalho, including her performance of "How Far I'll Go" at the 2017 Oscars.
7 Animation Inspiration From New Zealand Islands
Among many of the islands that the Moana directors visited on their South Pacific trip was the country of New Zealand. What many people may not know about the film is that many of the animated islands pictured on-screen were modeled, sketched, and colored to mirror the island scenery of New Zealand.
Disney also had New Zealand native, Taika Waititi, write one of the first drafts of scripts for the film, but he left the years-long project to work on a few other films. Nevertheless, the New Zealand influence remains present in the film, especially because many of the musicians hired to play for the film's score - including New Zealand native Opetaia Foa'i who helped write the song "We Know The Way," - had roots tied to the island as well.
6 Songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda's Worked On Moana For 8 Years
Many musical lovers are familiar with the name Lin-Manuel Miranda. He's the creator of the Tony-Award winning show Hamilton: An American Musical, but what most audiences don't know is that though Hamilton took Miranda seven years to write. Though now famous for his Broadway stories, Miranda was actually signed with Disney to write music for Moana even before the idea for Hamilton popped into his head!
Miranda has reached a new range of fans that stretch way beyond the streets of Broadway. By penning movie favorites like, "You're Welcome," "We Know The Way," and everyone's new favorite Disney song to sing, "How Far I'll Go," Miranda has opened doors for himself as a songwriter for Disney films. You can catch some of his new songwriting in the Disney's upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.
5 Flounder Appears In The Movie
Though a little hard to spot, fans of Disney's The Little Mermaid were excited when they found out that Flounder makes a tiny cameo within Moana. In the scene where Maui uses his magic to take Moana to a 2D, hand-drawn, animated world, Flounder can be seen floating around in the ocean. While he is grouped together with other fish, his signature blue and yellow stripes are easy to spot for any Little Mermaid fan.
A lot of scenes from Disney's Little Mermaid also helped the Moana creators make the film the best island, water, and ocean visuals they've ever made. From the way the water moves to the creatures in the ocean, next time you're watching the film, keep an eye on the amazing animation.
4 Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Was The Only Actor Disney Wanted To Play Maui
Upon creating the character of Maui, Disney only had their eyes set for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to play Maui. No auditions were held for this role, and no other actors were invited to play him. When asked by the Disney team if taking part in the film as Maui was something he wanted to do, Johnson gratefully accepted.
While a familiar household name to those who are fans of wrestling or fans of The Fast and The Furious movies, Johnson playing Maui helped him reach a younger audience, inspiring children to sing along to Maui's song "You're Welcome." Johnson has also revealed that his inspiration for the way he played Maui came from his grandfather who was known for his tribal tattoos and his admirable desire to be a helping hand to others.
3 Miranda's Song "Shiny" Was Inspired By "Under The Sea"
Lin-Manuel Miranda has stated that a lot of his inspiration for writing the songs from the movie came from traditional island music, but also from The Little Mermaid. When writing a song for Tamatoa, the crab - voiced by Jermaine Clement - Miranda has admitted that he wasn't exactly sure how to write a song for a crab to sing, until Sebastian's "Under The Sea," suddenly popped back into his head.
The song "Shiny" reveals Tamatoa's love for collecting riches in his dark home below the sea. Clement approached the song with a David Bowie-esque kind of voice, giving Tamatoa unique character and another chance for audiences to laugh during the film.
2 The Name "Moana" Means "Ocean"
Every name has a meaning, right? Nobody's name is just simply a name. If you were wondering exactly what Moana's name means, fittingly - it means "ocean."
Tracing back to Polynesian roots, "Moana" can mean "ocean" or "large body of water," and is a word that has no gender. Just as Moana in the movie seems so connected to the ocean and to the water's magic, it only makes sense that this is the name of Disney's latest heroine, and the name for the entire film. Since the movie's release, many fans of the film have begun naming their cats, dogs, and even new-born babies Moana, after the film's portrayal of the brave hero.
1 Astronomers Were Brought Onto The Disney Team
The story of Moana and Maui in the film actually takes place at an estimated 2,000 years ago. It's a time when technology doesn't exist. There are no GPS's or Google Maps that will help Moana navigate her way across the ocean and back to her home island. What explorers and islanders did to sail their ships across the sea, then, was read the stars.
Disney hired a team of astronomers to give their input as to what a South Pacific night sky might look like if someone like Moana were to actually set sail. This amazing scene can be spotted in different parts of the movie where Maui tells Moana that the skies and the stars will her find her way home.