Over the summer I had the opportunity to spend a day at the Walt Disney Animation Studios and learn more about the upcoming film Moana. Moana will open nationwide Thanksgiving weekend and is the story of a teenager who embarks on a journey to help her people. Along the way she discovers more about herself and her identity. The story is inspired by the oral histories of the Oceania, the south Pacific.
As with any Disney Animated Feature Moana began with a lot of research. The Moana team traveled to the South Pacific on several occasions including trips to Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti and New Zealand. These trips not only inspired the look of the film, they also drove the story and details as the story took shape based on local tales.
The team assembled a group they called the Oceanic Story Trust. This group included anthropologists, academics, educators, linguists, master navigators and cultural advisors. They were leaned on to advise about the culture and history to help make the final film feel authentic and believable within the world that was created. The Oceanic Story Trust was available throughout the development of the film and was called on for details both big and small.
One of the sessions I attended was on the islands of Moana. The discussion centered on the island of Motunui, where Moana and her family live. This is a fictional island created for the film. Motu means island and nui translates to big according to production designer Ian Gooding. They discussed how it took its queues from the places they visited and how they worked to ensure that it did not feel like Jamaica, where Ian was from, or other tourist areas. The world that was created features over 60 species of vegetation including many from ancient Polynesia. Andy Harkness an art director on the film shared the concept of Pass, Point, Place, River and Peak that was used to describe the layout of the village.
As we get closer to the opening of Moana I will be posting more from this early preview including the short “Inner Workings” that will precede the film.