I’ve always loved a good story. That’s probably one of my biggest draws to Disney – the ability they have to connect to people through storytelling. Perhaps I’ve never taken the time to really understand the amount of time and research that goes into making a movie, but this time I paid attention to Moana. Directors Ron Clements & John Musker, Producer Osnat Shurer, Costume Designer Neysa Bove and “Mini Maui” 2D Animation Supervisor Eric Goldberg spoke to our group at the Be Our Guest Event in the Walt Disney Studios Animation Building about the making of Moana. One profound statement changed me.
“For years we’ve been swallowed by your culture…one time can you be swallowed by our culture?”
The Making of Moana
Moana was a movie in the making for over five years. Did you know originally the movie was about Maui, but the story later changed to focus on Moana? Directors John Musker and Ron Clements talked about their research for the film on the Moana Blu-ray. They traveled back and forth many times to islands in the South Pacific such as Fiji, Samoa, and Tahiti. And most importantly, they received input from the people that lived there.
John said, “We really did dig deep into the culture. We met with so many incredible people and we learned so much from them from archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists, villagers, sailors, navigators and it really was kind of a life changing trip.”
Voice of the Islands
Hands down my favorite bonus feature on the Moana Blu-ray. It’s an in-depth look at how Pacific Island people and cultures inspired the filmmakers to create the story of “Moana.” One of those people was Papa Mape who asked, “For years we’ve been swallowed by your culture..one time can you be swallowed by our culture?”
That statement hit me in the gut. Yes, I love singing “How Far I’ll Go,” “You’re Welcome,” and “We Know the Way” with my daughters! We sing the soundtrack all the time. However, this is their story. The people of the Pacific Islands want us to know their story and celebrate it! Let’s get swallowed by their culture, because it’s amazing. Not only that, but sometimes when we forget about ourselves and stop worrying about me, me, me, that’s when we’re the happiest.
I think it hit home with me, because as a child I wasn’t so proud to be a Latina. I just wanted to fit in. Living in Ecuador and traveling to Bolivia where my ancestors are from helped me gain an appreciation and love for where I come from. If there had been a Disney animated film about people that looked like me, perhaps I would have had a different attitude.
The Details and Costumes
The question I asked was about costumes, of course. I have 5 daughters and we love clothing and accessories! Every detail was taken into consideration of traditional attire and even painstakingly so. They wanted to get it right.
Costume Designer Neysa Bove said, “For costuming or design, you have to create so many renditions because how I like to design, is present so many options and let these guys go shopping; I would say go in her closet and pick. To give you an idea, just for the necklace, we went through 20-something different design for one costume.” WOW!
Even Maui’s tattoos were carefully placed and reviewed.
Neysa: “At the end of the day, I would always look at it and think, “If I was a little girl, what would I wanna wear?” So, I always think that when I look at it. Like, would I be excited to wear that?”
Considering my daughter and her friends are dancing in their talent show as Moana, I think she nailed it. And it’s not just little girls who like to hang with Moana. We are warriors. Another thing I love about Moana’s character is that it’s inspiring little girls (and women) to stand strong.
My Favorite Question
Perhaps my favorite question asked in the Q&A was, “What was one thing that you saw from the culture that’s still living within that region that you wish that we over here sort of would embrace?”
John Musker: The idea of knowing your mountain is a cool thing, which basically has to do with looking to the past and to the future. That you, you’re the soul of everything. That you had sometimes in our culture, it’s all just about what’s here now, or what’s coming. But they had a real respect for their ancestors in the past. I think we could take a cue from that in terms of moving forward. That’s one of the things I really liked.
Ron Clements: There’s a big emphasis on connection and interconnectedness. They’re again, connecting to the people around you, the people that were before you, and the people who will come after you. And connecting to nature and that sort of sense I think that people on an island have very strongly this kind of, we’re all in this together, sort of attitude.
Where’s my praise hands emoji?
Polynesian-Themed Dinner and Dancers
After the presentation, we were treated to a Polynesian-themed dinner and learned about Polynesian Dance from Tiana Liufau. She explains what the movements mean and represent. The dancers were incredible. I could totally do that, right? Ha! The movements are stunning. Here’s a video provided by Kim Ritter from Two Kids and a Coupon!
MOANA is on Blu-ray now! (affiliate link) Also, check out the Moana Blu-ray bonus features! The whole spirit of this film is joy and full of life. When I watched it again with my daughters after I returned home, I saw it in a different light. I saw the story and the culture.
Oh yeah, and I got to talk to Ron Clements and John Musker at the dinner! I tried to hide my fan-girling, but y’all, they also directed The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Princess and the Frog. I die.
Thank you to Disney for inviting me to L.A. for the Be Our Guest Event and to learn more about the making of Moana.