This week, I had the amazing experience to attend the Moana Press Junket in Los Angeles, which included the Red Carpet Premiere of the movie, as well as interviews with the cast of Moana, including the adorable newcomer, Auli’i Cravalho. Take a peek at what the voice of Moana said in my exclusive interview with her.
Disney’s newest princess – er, HERO, of the big screen is Moana and casting the role was no easy task. Producer Osat Sanur and Directors Ron Musker and John dsfksjfds wanted to stay true to the Polynesian culture and cast someone in the role who embodied the characteristics and determination that Moana had. Luckily for them, they met the charming 14-year-old (at the time) Auli’i Cravalho, a Hawaiian native.
This beautiful girl IS Moana. Having met her during my recent visit to Los Angeles, she is everything you would expect Moana to be. She is determined (auditioning for a Disney movie at age 14!), she is well-spoken, she has a gorgeous voice, and she is beautiful – inside and out. Spend a few moments with her and you will easily fall in love with her.
On Earning the Role of Moana
Can you share with us what was that like to hear that you were cast as Moana?
I was called into technically another audition where I was told I would need to do just some more ad lib. And that was after I had already flown up to LA and I had done some recording up there. I had tried out the first time in my life in front of like real life people. Besides my mom, you know. And then that was my kind of second callback, I suppose.
And I did more adlib and they were like, “You know, could you say it a little bit more happy, like for instance if we gave you the role, how would you react?” And I was like, “Okay! Wow!” I gave forth my best shot. And that’s when they told me I was gonna be in Moana. I was crying and I was so happy. And just thrilled that, first of all, they thought that I was like worthy enough for this role. I didn’t think that I was – I could never imagine in my wildest dreams that I would be voicing this character. I was just so happy and blessed.
Take a peek at that moment for her and tell me you didn’t tear up a bit?
How does it feel to be the youngest Disney princess?
That’s pretty incredible. We the same age as the character, Moana’s 16 in the film. It kinda just worked out like that. I’m really proud of the character that Disney has portrayed on screen. Not only will people look up to her but people will begin looking up to me. That’s something I can’t quite wrap my mind around just yet. I guess I am a 15 year old who has so much more to learn. And I have so much more to grow. I just am really excited for everyone to see her on screen because I find her someone that I look up to.
I’ll admit, I was a little wary before I got put into this role.
I loved seeing the Polynesian culture play out in this film, it was so infused and beautiful. How does it feel for you and how do you think everyone’s going to react to it?
I’ll admit, I was a little wary before I got put into this role. Because I think anyone who hears that a movie is going to inspired by their culture, they want it to be done right. And we don’t want any misrepresentation, that it’s portrayed correctly on the screen. And that was how I felt. But after working on the film, I learned that we have an Ocean History Trust, made up of individuals who are elders, who are fishermen, or navigators.
Every single component, like just a small little dancing scene in there, was choreographed by a Polynesian dancer. But just the little details, even just listening to the palm trees swaying in the background, that they got all of that. Because that’s what it’s about, it’s in the fine details that I think make just the large production that much more special.
Before you started on the film how much Polynesian culture did you know?
I kind of describe Maui’s mythology and the folklore of it as my bedtime stories. Because they really were. The stories of him pulling oceans out of the sea, or slowing down the sun. I not only heard it before going to bed but also at my school. I go to an all Hawaiian school. So even voyaging across the open ocean, it’s something that we find ourselves immersed in.
The fact that she kinda looks like me is kind of uncanny…
Did you notice any of your personal mannerisms or characteristics making their way into the animation?
Yes. I have just learned not to touch my hair when I move it. But that’s something that Moana does. Also during the recording process, I wasn’t able to touch my hair or my flower. You’ll see at some point, when work needs to get done, Moana puts her hair up. Which is something that I did a lot in the booth.
She smiles a lot, which is something I don’t quite do often. There is some mannerisms in there. And of course she was actually designed before I had even stepped in there. So the fact that she kinda looks like me is kind of uncanny. And now that she shares my voice.
I was able to connect to Moana on a deeper level.
What was the biggest challenge for you during the film process?
I had a definite learning curve. I think that was certainly a challenge. I didn’t know how to kind of work in a booth. For one it was cold. I don’t like being cold, I get cranky when I’m cold. And I didn’t have anyone to bounce off of. I wasn’t rubbing elbows with Dwayne Johnson like I thought I would be in the booth.
And the directors made me feel right at home. They understood that this was my first time doing this. I think that’s also something that makes Moana relatable, that I’m not a seasoned professional. I think the emotion that I bring to her is something that is very true. And I was able to connect to Moana on a deeper level as well. So though the learning curve was there and the challenges there, I overcame it pretty well.
There were some pretty intense scenes in the movie. How did you get into the mood of being scared or strong in those moments?
It took some time. I usually have a happy demeanor. And I like to keep it that way. But for the scenes where I would have to kind of either be sad or upset, it’s all about kinda getting into the mindset. The scenes with Grandma Tala were the hardest scenes for me. I can tear up just thinking about them, because I always imagine my mom as my Grandma Tala.
Whenever I think of someone who pushes me beyond what I think I can do, but support me and love on me just unconditionally, that’s my mom. I thought of my situation with my mom. If I had stayed on my island, if it was another time, and if I decided that my journey would be something a little bit different, yet not – if I had decided to save my family the way Moana does.
It Blows Me Away…..
What were your thoughts when you saw it all come together?
I was really blown away. I have seen it in it’s kind of chalked up stages of animation where it’s not fully complete yet. Where she would go bald, or her skirt would just blow up in the air. And I was loving it then, I cried doing the songs. But now with it’s finished score and with the palm trees in the background. Or the lapping of the water, even. It blows me away, just the amount of detail that the animators and the sound guys have put in there. It’s incredible.
You’re Not a Princess, You’re a Hero
When I asked my 7 year old boy if he was going to watch this new princess movie with me, he said,” Mom she’s not a Princess, she’s a Hero.” What is your message you want children to take away from Moana, not just girls, but boys too?
I think the underlying theme of Moana is something everyone can take away. Yes, young women but also young men – be the old heroes and heroines of their own story. It’s so important. I’m 15, going on 16, and I’ve found that I can live up to Moana. And that she’s a true heroine.
She’s determined and beautiful. But being strong doesn’t mean that you don’t have your weaker moments or you can’t be as connected emotionally. Moana is all of that, and I think her journey of finding herself is something that everyone can take away from, girl or boy.
Go out on that limb because you don’t know what life has in store for you.
What advice do you have for kids trying to find their way?
When Moana popped up, it was in my freshman year of high school. And I remember thinking okay, I sing pretty well. I’m an okay actress. But how I would add up to my competition? I had seen wonderful auditions on YouTube. And I put myself down. What could I possibly give that the directors haven’t already seen? But I thought to myself, why don’t I just try?
And I had my first audition and my mom was so proud of me. That’s what encouraged me to continue on my journey. I hope that anyone else just goes out on that limb because they don’t know what life has in store for them. And please, please don’t put yourself down. Because there is so much more potential than you even know.
Moana opens in theaters nationwide Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Auli’i was just as charming as you would expect her to be. She mentioned that after all this she plans to go back to school and get a degree in Molecular Biology – she’s a smart one! But for now, she needs to enjoy this wave of fun as a member of the Disney family.
Moana is in theaters today. It’s the perfect movie to go and see with family this Thanksgiving weekend.
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Facebook: Disney Moana
Other Articles from the Moana, The BFG Blu-ray Event, ABC TV Event & Stuck in the Middle Event you may enjoy:
I’m Heading to the #MoanaEvent
Walk the Moana Red Carpet with Me
She’s Not a Princess Mom, She’s a Hero!
Exclusive Interview with Moana’s Maui, The Rock
That Time I Met Musical Genius Lin-Manuel Miranda
Exclusive Interview with Moana’s Auli’i Carvalho
A Conversation with the Cast of Disney Channel’s Stuck in the Middle
Holiday Gift Guide for Moana: Moana-Inspired Gifts
The BFG Blu-Ray: A Perfect Holiday Gift
Behind the Scenes on the Set of Speechless
A Conversation with The BFG Roald Dahl’s Daughter, Lucy Dahl
Behind the Scenes on the Set of ABC’s Dr. Ken
Nicole Scherzinger Had To Play the Role of Moana’s Mother
6 Fun Facts About Moana from Directors Ron Musker & John Clements
Disclaimer: Disney sent me to Los Angeles on an all-expenses paid press trip, in exchange for my coverage of the red carpet premiere of Moana. All opinions are my own.