I probably should start with a disclaimer that I think every single press junket is fun. It’s always such a treat to interact with the collection of impressive talent that bring your favorite films to life.
This was especially true of the creative folks assembled for the Moana press junket I recently attended.
You can’t beat Disney when it comes to assembling a fine cast. And Moana has an amazing wealth of fine talent.
Just look at this interview list:
- Dwayne Johnson (voice of “Maui”)
- Auli’i Cravalho (voice of “Moana”)
- Lin-Manuel Miranda (Music by)
- Opetaia Foa’i (Music by)
- Directors Ron Clements & John Musker
- Producer Osnat Shurer
To begin with, the body of work produced by directors Ron Clements & John Musker is pretty impressive.
Their voyage (pun intended) into the world of Moana began five years ago.
It was John’s idea and he’d go into that a little bit in terms of how he was, he wanted to do a movie based on the world of the Pacific Islands and the mythology. That led to about five years ago we took a trip to Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti, which really, it was the basis of the movie in terms of the connection to navigation, to people’s connection to their ancestry, respect for nature, a lot of those ideas came from that first research trip and the movie was heavily inspired by that and people that we met have stayed involved with the movie throughout its production process to try to capture as much as we could of all the wondrous things we learned and the wonderful people that we met.
Lin-Manuel Miranda got the job the week before the Pacifica Music Festival was scheduled to begin in New Zealand. With the job offer came a plane ticket and off he went. He was suddenly immersed in the music of the islands of the Pacific where he and composer Mark Mancina, along with Opetaia Foa’i junped into a studio and just started banging on drums and started really trying to find the pulse of the movie in a way that honored the unique musical heritage and incredible rhythms that come from this part of the world.
And can I just tell you how much fun it was to watch Lin-Manuel Miranda interact with both surprisingly shy Dwayne Johnson and the adorable Auli’i Cravalho?
They describe how they worked together, specifically on Dwayne’s song, “You’re Welcome.”
I got a lot of questions from reporters this week being like, ‘How did you get the Rock to sing?’ That’s not what happened here.
“We couldn’t get him to shut up.”
When Dwayne accepted the role, he siad, “So what are you giving me to sing?” and he was really excited for this and for me, I went to YouTube, where the answers always lie.
I’m a big fan of his wrestling days and there was a time during his heel turn era where he would pull out a guitar and taunt whatever town he was in.
Mockingly, he continued, “I can’t wait to get out of Chicago.” I can’t do the eyebrow,
And so I got a really good sense of his vocal range from that 10 minute super cut and then the rest of it was just writing lyrics that embody the spirit of Maui, who is this amazing demi-god, trickster. Once I had the title, “You’re Welcome,” which only Dwayne can pull off and still have you love him and root for him, we were off to the races.
Ron Clements helpfully added: “We thought of Dwayne as the new Angela Lansbury.”
Take a look. You will love this.
Auli’i Cravalho is the most poised 15 year old I’ve ever encountered. She was delightful and articulate. She’s super excited to bring her culture to life and hopes it inspires young women to be brave and follow their passions.
She was quick to credit the Disney Oceanic Trust Story Trust for getting both the story and the details just right. There was also a lovely moment when she gave her mom a sweet tribute:
I didn’t get to really connect with my grandmother before she passed, unfortunately, but I have the best mom in the world. (points to her mom) Doesn’t she look beautiful? Whenever I thought of someone who pushed me a hundred percent and loved me unconditionally and still does and will for the rest of my life, that’s my mom.
Who’s crying? *wipes away tear*
As I’ve mentioned before in my first introduction to the Princess Moana, she is best described as fierce. She is still a teenager, but finds her courage to venture out ‘past the reef’ from her inspiring semi-crazy, fearless grandmother.
Young Moana is inspired to leave the safety and security of her island on a daring journey to save her people. Inexplicably drawn to the ocean, Moana (voice of Auliʻi Cravalho) convinces the mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) to join her mission, and he reluctantly helps her become a Wayfinder like her ancestors who sailed before her.
The film itself, much like the junket is So. Much. Fun.
Disney’s Moana opens in theaters everywhere on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016.