Moana is a 2016 American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy adventure film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 56th Disney animated feature film. It is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, and co-directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams. The film introduces Auli’i Cravalho as Moana and features Dwayne Johnson as Maui. The film features music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina. It is scheduled to be theatrically released on November 23, 2016. After directing The Princess and the Frog (2009), Clements and Musker started working on an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Mort, but problems acquiring the film rights to that property prevented them from continuing with the project. To avoid similar problems, they pitched three new ideas, and in 2011 started developing the film based on an original idea. In 2012, Clements and Musker went on research trips to Fiji, Samoa, and Tahiti to meet the people of the South Pacific and learn about their culture. Over the five years it took to develop and produce the film, Clements and Musker recruited experts from across the South Pacific to form an Oceanic Story Trust, who consulted on the film’s cultural accuracy and sensitivity as its story evolved through nine different versions.
Moana will be Clements and Musker’s first fully computer-animated film. One of the reasons for using computer animation was that the environment, including the ocean, benefited much more from the use of CGI as opposed to a traditional animation. The filmmakers have also suggested that three-dimensional computer animation is well-suited to the “beautiful sculpturing” of the faces of the people of the South Pacific. Maui’s tattoos will be hand-drawn.
Taika Waititi wrote the initial screenplay for the film. Subsequent versions of the film’s story were contributed by Clements, Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon, Aaron Kandell, and Jordan Kandell. Jared Bush received sole credit as the writer of the final version of the screenplay. Eric Goldberg worked on the animation. The film will feature music by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
After the filmmakers sat through auditions of hundreds of candidates from across the Pacific, 14-year-old high school freshman Auli’i Cravalho was cast as the lead character Moana, a young girl who sets sail with Maui. At that point in time, the design of Moana’s face and personality was already complete, and Cravalho’s obvious physical resemblance to her character was simply a coincidence. During animation production, Disney animators were able to integrate some of Cravalho’s mannerisms into Moana’s behavior as depicted onscreen. Like most animated films, the lead actors read their lines with the directors in recording sessions entirely separate from one another; Cravalho and Johnson did not meet for the first time in person until much later after production was complete.