When you think of vast oceans, you think of them as a barrier or a division between continents and cultures. The saying from the Pacific Islands that struck me as extremely relevant and meaningful to me is, “the ocean does not divide us, it connects us.” I grew up being drawn to water like Moana. It soothes me and makes me feel free.
Moana has so much depth and a great message that inspires me to work hard for my family, cherish my heritage, and push my limits. I love that the character of Moana is such a great role model for my daughter. It shows an empowered girl that is willing to push the limits to help her people. It teaches us about people that I was unfamiliar. It makes me want to learn more about the history of the Pacific Islands.
During my time at on the Disney lot, I got to talk to amazing filmmakers like Ron Clements and John Musker. Ron and John are just the coolest! They wrote some of your favorite Disney movies – The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Princess and the Frog, and now Moana!!
Inner Workings Documentary
As a bonus feature on the Moana Blu-Ray, there is a documentary film called “Inner Workings,” that spotlights the internal struggle between a man’s Brain and Heart. John Musker and Ron Clements talk about the film research and the exploration of the story on the Blu-Ray. John and Ron were “forced” to do research for Moana and “go to the islands in the South Pacific – Fiji, Samoa, and Tahiti.
A lot of the people at work are giving us a hard time about this, but the truth is we may have had a Mai Tai here and there but for the most part it, it was not that kind of a trip at all. We 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, and navigators. It was a life changing trip. After we had got back, we decided that the story we had before we left, we didn’t want to do that anymore. We kept Moana, we kept the character Maui, but we created a whole new story based on that research trip. The movie is inspired by that trip and many others.”
Know your Mountain
John Musker talked about the idea of knowing your mountain. “It is a cool thing, which has to do with looking to the past and the future. That you’re the soul of everything. In our culture, it’s all just about what’s here now, or what’s coming. But, the Pacific Islanders have 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 liked.”
Ron Clements was discussing the know your mountain concept from the Pacific Islands: “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 sense that people on an island have very strong this togetherness.”
Do you believe there are still stories to tell in a sequel to Moana?
According to Ron, “I’m sure there’s stories to tell. The mythology is very, very rich and, and it’s something that John talked about, a little bit, but that we were not familiar with. Somehow, we people in the western world, we’re pretty familiar with Greek mythology. I think people know that, and Norse mythology, and a lot of different ones. But, Polynesian mythology it really isn’t well known. This is just a taste of some of the fascinating stories. They’re lending themselves very well to animation.”
The people in the Pacific Islands were very open. But there was also a lot of weariness that we ran into because I think there was a feeling that the way their culture had been portrayed in, many films they felt was incorrect, and was stereotypical, and didn’t get to the heart of things. We wanted not to be that. And so, it was very just gratifying to get that response from people where they recognize a lot of things. Certainly, people in the West do not recognize. They see a lot of the little details and things that were painstaking.
Costuming for Moana
I totally geeked out when I met the costume designer Neysa Bove. “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. John Musker chimed in on the necklace “certainly on her signature necklace; John Lasseter had some strong opinions on what appealed to him and what didn’t. The idea of that necklace was a combination of the land of the sea. There was a lot of variations. But certainly Neysa would tell us, here’s six of them, I like that one. It wasn’t just us stumbling around the dark. She would say, ‘these are the different features.’ She would steer us through this, and we would defer to her sometimes, but other times we’d just say, “We like that for this reason and that.””
According to Neysa, “And 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?”
Neysa, John, and Ron did a fantastic job on making the costumes something that the kids love. My daughter just loves getting dressed up her Moana costume. I showed all of them the picture of her in her cute Moana costume with Modern Boca Mom’s Daughter!
The Producer of Moana, Osnat Shurer loves that the all the young girls wearing the Moana costume, they are standing like strong warriors. She also loves the pictures with the girls on their swing sets where they’re looking at the horizon.
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This is blog post is sponsored in exchange for an all-expense paid trip from Disney. However, as always, all experiences and opinions are my own.