Disney’s newest film, ‘Moana’, makes a splash for the Thanksgiving season



Maria Lynn

The weather is starting to get chilly, and for those of you who feel a longing for the summer warmth, I have some very good news for you: Disney’s animated film “Moana” comes out just before Thanksgiving.  So grab your popcorn and head to the movies to watch Disney’s newest masterpiece.  This film is an explosion of culture and adventure, and it is rooted in the history of the Pacific Islands.  It combines elements of these various islands and themes of the culture of Oceania, which is what makes this film so significant in the conversation about culture.  Some of those include the Pacific Islander legends of how life was formed on their islands, which is where the story of “Moana” is rooted.  Art Director Bill Schwab came to the University on Thursday, Nov. 3, where he went into detail about his role in the film as well as explained why this film was so special to Disney.  

Schwab emphasized the fact that Disney’s research and the culture of these islands influenced the way the film was made because it was made with elements of a real place and time that exist in the world in which we live. 

The research included various trips to islands like Tahiti, Mo’orea, Samoa, Hawaii, Fiji and many others.  The Disney crew focused its research of the film on the beauty of the people they met and their ability to experience the pure beauty of the islands themselves.  One of the most prominent moments one of the directors of the film experienced was when an elder of the island of Mo’orea asked the crew something so simple.  

“For years, we have been swallowed by your culture. This one time, can you be swallowed by ours” he asked. And that is exactly what the directors and their crew did.

The film took five years to make, starting from small sketches of potential characters and ending up with a fully animated story of a young heroine finding herself through the stories of her ancestors.  Throughout its history, Disney has always considered culture when making a new film, and it is no exception with the creation of “Moana.”  Disney’s and Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter, mentioned that he wanted to make culture an especially strong presence in the animated film “Moana.”  Schwab stated that the film was only finished a few weeks ago, and that even the opening scene was still a work in progress. 

When Disney held auditions for the voice of “Moana,” hundreds of women were considered for the part before Auli’i Carvalho, a native of Hawaii, was finally chosen.  Unlike Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Auli’i was cast a year after the creation of the main character.  Johnson’s character Maui, on the other hand, was inspired by the actor and the physique of many football players and professional wrestlers. Schwab was involved in designing these characters, as well as the many animals and other mythical creatures seen on and off the islands in the film.  

When asked what the most difficult part of making “Moana” was, Schwab mentioned that starting on a character or any idea is the hardest part.  “The blank piece of paper is one of the most challenging parts of my job,” Schwab said. “Bringing the characters to the screen is another exciting challenge, but it’s a big part of my job to provide options for the designers and the directors.  I am really proud of the finished product, and I hope everyone loves it as much as we do.”  

Schwab, like the rest of the crew who devoted their time to put together another Disney classic, are hopeful that “Moana” will warm the hearts of those who have loved Disney movies their whole lives.