Behind the Scenes of Disney’s Moana with Nicole Scherzinger, Auli’i Cravalho & the filmmakers

Disney's Moana is finally out on DVD. Here are some behind the scenes of this animation which will be the DVD of the Summer. My interviews with the makers of Moana include Nicole Scherzinger, Auli’i Cravalho (the voice of Moana), directors Ron Clements and John Musker, producer Osnat Shurer, as well as music writers Opetaia Foa'I and Lin-Manuel Miranda.  

 

  Disney's Moana is a movie about a young girl and her quest to save her people. Moana is drawn to the ocean from an early age, but doesn’t understand why. No one in her family has ever left the island. It’s only when she discovers her journey that she understands her connection to the ocean. Along her journey Moana meets the mighty demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson aka the Rock), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder, as well as other colourful characters. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.

 

Moana is not a princess, but more like a warrior. She is a real female hero who doesn't have time for a love interest as she is busy fulfilling her life's purpose, i.e. rescuing her people from destruction.

 

  When Disney announced Moana, singer Nicole Scherzinger who stars as Moana's mother Sina and has native Hawaiian roots, knew she wanted to be part of it.

She talked to me about her role in the film.

Q: What made you want to be part of Moana so badly?

Nicole Scherzinger (NS): I am of Hawaiian descent, and when I found out Disney was making a Polynesian-inspired movie, I knew I had to be a part of it! I knocked down Disney's doors to let me audition (giggles). It was awesome! Luckily it worked out, and I was offered the role of Sina, Moana's mother. It’s such an honour to be part of Disney’s legacy.  

Q: Sina is playful, sharp and strong-willed. How much does Nicole have in common with Sina?

NS: Plenty! Where I come from women are very strong and Sina is surely very playful but she is extremely strong-willed. She is very protective of Moana, but in the end she trusts Moana and allows her to make her own decisions. Moana has a very close relationship with her mother, her family, and her grandmother. Normally the men are the head of the house in our culture, but the women are the backbone and the spine of the family. My family women inspired me a lot. I see myself in both Moana and Sina and I see my grandmother in them.

Q: With X-Factor and Moana you have been really busy recently. Do you foresee a Pussycat Dolls reunion in the near future?

NS: I would love to be able to do more music with my lovely girlfriends and tour with them for our fans out there. It is certainly possible if the time is right. I miss the Pussycat Dolls.  

Auli’i Cravalho (voice of Moana)

   

Q: Auli’i, you are 16 like Moana, what do you have in common with your character?

Auli’i Cravalho (AC): I have quite a lot in common with Moana: I am almost 16, I’m a Hawaiian teenage girl and I am best friend with the ocean. I only do water sports. Moana has grown up on the island and I have too. It’s really uncanny how alike we are. She is also a beautiful heroine, a female role model for the modern day, and I hope to be like her one day.    

Q: What are you up to next?

AC: I cannot really tell much yet. Hopefully you’ll see more of me soon!  

The film directors Ron Clements, John Musker

  Disney's Moana filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker are renowned for The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Princess & the Frog.  

Q: Why did Disney decide to make Moana, the ultimate Anti-Princess?

  Ron Clements (RC): Moana is a hero, a bad ass who does not have time for romance. We’ll probably put labels that she’s a Disney princess, but for us she’s the strong young daughter of a chief who is not defined by who she marries or who she’s related to but she just fights for her culture.   John Musker (JM): We like to think of her as the ultimate Anti-Princess!

Q: Where does the inspiration for Moana come from?

  John Musker (JM): Moana is inspired by the cultures of the Pacific Islands. John Lasseter loves his teams to do a lot of research for each film. He told us: ‘If you’re going to tell a story set in the South Pacific you need to go there.’ So we went to the Pacific Islands. When we got there, we experienced the culture and the people and it completely changed the story we were going to tell. A lot of people don’t realise the Polynesian culture is a rich culture that is still alive today that is often misunderstood.    

Q: How did you manage to use CGI technology to look a bit like old-fashioned hand-drawn sweet looking images?

  John Musker (JM): Turning the ocean into a character in Moana was a real challenge. It was a close collaboration between effects and animation. The effects crew handled the look of the water, the believability of the water.

 

Music writer Lin-Manuel Miranda

    Since after watching Moana, I haven’t stopped singing How Far I’ll Go. It was a pleasure chatting to smiley Lin-Manual Miranda who contributed to some of the music in the movie along with Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i.  

Q: What inspired your music for Disney's Moana ?

    LMM: Mainly the Pacific Islands and the incredible culture of the people there.  

Q: You are very versatile: you compose, you sing and act. Which one is your favourite job and why?

    LMM: To me it’s all the same thing. When I am writing for a character, for Moana, I am being Moana, I am going to go and see what it feels like in her world and I am going to talk to myself until it feels true. And when it feels true, I write it down. It’s the same gig.  

Q: You are going to co-star (with Emily Blunt) in Mary Poppins (out Christmas 2018). You are in London a lot right now. What can you tell us about it?

    LMM: Yes! I can tell you that going to work and singing and dancing is the best job I have ever had. I am also loving filming in London.    

Producer Osnat Shurer

 

Q: What do you think audiences will enjoy the most of Moana?

    Osnat Shurer (OS): I hope it’ll make them laugh and maybe cry. And then when they come out, they maybe pause and reflect on who we’re truly meant to be. Hopefully they’ll also think a little bit about nature and our relationship with nature, taking a moment to observe nature. The explorers crossed the oceans and found their way through their knowledge of nature. And finally if this film makes them interested in the beautiful cultures of the Pacific Islands, I’ll be super happy!  

Q: As a producer, how much input could you have with the animation team and the directors?

 

  OS: We work as a team constantly growing in a very collaborative way: there were 93 animators on the crew and 4 directors. It started with me and the directors, and then it spanned out to the writers, storyboard artists, animators and so on. It’s the most collaborative form of art I know. Because of that, my input was welcome as well. When you work with directors like Ron [Clements] and John [Musker], it’s not like they need my input on animation but we worked on it together to find the strongest characters that we could so I felt that my input was welcome at every stage of the game.  

Q: What have you enjoyed the most in working on Moana?

    OS: Personally the chance to work with Ron and John was huge. But also the opportunity to create a strong female character able to take care of herself. Finally for me learning about the cultures of the Pacific Islands and making the friends I have made there – who will stay friends for life. Now the relationship is there, so hopefully there will be more collaboration.  

Disney's Moana products

 

  You can read the full interviews in the London Mums magazine Spring 2017 issue.

     Images’ credits: Photo by Hugh E. Gentry ©2015 Disney and by Stuart C. Wilson - 2016 Getty Images Moana. Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Save Save Save

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About Monica Costa

Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London http://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums

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