Walt Disney Animation Studios will unveil its animated buddy adventure Zootopia in March 2016, and has a second 3D animated feature film - in the form of Moana - scheduled to follow later in the year. Moana is also the latest Disney animated movie directed by Ron Clements and John Musker: the duo that helped usher in the Disney Animation Renaissance that began in the late 1980s, with such titles as The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Princess and the Frog under their belts.
Moana was featured at the Disney company's D23 Expo back in August 2015, with Dwayne Johnson - who voices the title character's sidekick in the film - in attendance to help start generating buzz for the movie. However, now that a voice actor has been found for Moana's namesake, Disney has pulled the curtain back a little further, by unveiling the designs for the lead characters Moana and Maui (Johnson).
Moana herself will be voiced by newcomer and native Hawaiian Auli'i Cravalho, as revealed in a newly-released featurette for the film (see the video above). You can check out the official synopsis for Moana below, followed by the first promotional still released for the animated movie:
Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast South Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one today knows why. From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes “Moana,” a sweeping, CG-animated adventure about a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission to prove herself a master wayfinder and fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest. During her journey, she meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), and together, they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous fiery creatures and impossible odds.
The Moana project is not only striving for a certain level of authenticity in terms of how its presents its Souther Pacific mythology, but also with regard to the ethnicities of the people involved on both sides of the camera, too. Besides featuring Cravalho and Johnson (who, after all, is half-Samoan) voicing the leads, the animated feature is also being written by Taika Waititi - co-writer/director of What We Do In the Shadows and potential future director of Thor: Ragnarok - who hales from the Raukokore region of New Zealand. Furthermore, the animated film's score will be partly composed by New Zealand guitarist Opetaia Foa'I, in collaboration with Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) and Mark Mancina (Tarzan).
As such, there's a healthy mixture of both rising talents and seasoned animated filmmaking veterans working on Moana, to make sure the final result is another good (maybe great) Disney cartoon feature that also clears the bar for diversity and authenticity in representation in modern times. The blend of fantasy adventure - explored through Disney's family-friendly lens - promised by the movie's synopsis just makes the whole thing sound all the more promising.
Plus, Moana won't be the only upcoming Disney adventure flick that's shaping up to be a fun thrill ride with The Rock, as it were...
Moana opens in U.S. theaters on November 23rd, 2016.
Source: Walt Disney Animation Studios