Sometimes when I think about the animated film’s I screen, I’m just in awe of how much work goes into them! All the research, creating story boards, hours of animating details, and so much more… It’s amazing, isn’t it? In just a couple of months, Disney’s latest animated adventure, MOANA, sails into theaters! While in Los Angeles for #PetesDragonEvent last month, I had the privilege to get a sneak peek at some of the film’s footage and chat with select members of the MOANA creative team. Plus we able screen the short INNER WORKINGS (which will play in theatres in front of MOANA)!
As I mentioned above, we met with a few very talented members of MOANA’s creative time. The amazing talent included Head of Animation, Amy Smeed; Head of Story, Dave Pimentel; Story Artist Dave Derrick; “Mini Maui” Animation Supervisor Eric Goldberg; and Development Senior Creative Exec Jessica Julius. They told us all about how the story of MOANA came to be. So first, a little background info…
Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows why.
MOANA tells the tale of a spirited and compassionate Pacific Island teenager, who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her adventure, Moana meets the once-mighty, but charismatic and funny demigod Maui. He wields a magical fishhook that allows him to shapeshift into all kinds of animals… but that’s not all. He also holds the magic to be able to pull up islands from the sea.
As the film’s creators wanted to learn more about the culture that inspired the film, what better way to conduct research than head to the Pacific Islands!
There the filmmakers were able to put together the Oceanic Story Trust, which comprised of locals, archeologists, tattoo artists, anthropologists, dancers, linguists, and even village elders, just to name a few. The group really helped the filmmakers to ensure accurate details in the film, as well as really get a vibe for the culture and a direction for the story line.
One of my favorite aspects of the upcoming film that I learned about was the music. From what I’ve heard so far, the score is amazing. The music team comprised of three musicians. One is a well-known Pacific Island musician, Opetaia Foa’i. The second is Mark Mancina, who worked on Disney films THE LION KING, TARZAN, and BROTHER BEAR. And lastly we have Lin-Manuel Miranda, who you may know from his hit Broadway musical HAMILTON. Luckily for Disney, they got him on board for MOANA before HAMILTON’s amazing success (which I’m sure lead to his schedule suddenly becoming PACKED!).
Now onto the characters… As Moana is a “wayfinder”, the filmmakers discussed how important water is to the film, almost as a character itself! That is why the effects team really wanted to work on the natural effects of water in the film. They ran water simulations with their technology to ensure the effect created a beautiful and flowing presence of water. The scene where toddler Moana was the first water simulation the team created.
It was amazing to not only see how the water simulations worked, but also how the characters were developed! The artists come up with images of how they would like the characters to appear.
I love that Moana is such a strong character! She’s adventurous, head-strong, selfless, and as supermodel Tyra Banks would say “fieeeeeeeerce”. Definitely characteristics I love to see in a Disney Princess!
The filmmakers also wanted to make sure she was authentic. They wanted Moana to really reflect the culture of her people. They wanted to make sure the Trust was happy with the character, right down to all her little details.
One particular character we learned about was Mini Maui. The Animation Supervisor for this character, Eric Goldberg, even gave us an animation lesson on how to draw him! With the character of the demi-god Maui, his history is told through the tattoos on his body. They are drawn all over the character.
This is where Mini Maui comes in. Mini Maui is the tattoo that doubles as Maui’s “conscience” or guide in a sense. Think of him as the Jiminy Cricket of Maui’s tattoos!
One fascinating fact was that Mini Maui’s role grew larger that originally intended. Mini Maui coming to life was such a unique idea that the filmmakers loved, they definitely wanted the tattoo to interact with Maui. In a clip we saw Mini Maui pulling on Maui to get his attention, since the tattoo does not talk. Such cool animation to watch!
It was fun learning to draw Mini Maui… but I think I’ll leave animating to the professionals!!
When I came home from Los Angeles, I was so excited to tell my son all about MOANA. You see, he is very much anti-Disney Princess movies. He’s all Marvel all the time! But after some Mini Maui chat, Maui clips on YouTube, and a new tattoo… I’ve successfully created much excitement in our household for MOANA. Yes, my son can’t WAIT for this movie (just like his momma)! I think the tattoo really helped LOL.
So now let’s chat about INNER WORKINGS. As I mentioned above, this short will play in theatres before MOANA. We had the chance to partake in a Q&A with the short’s Producer Sean Lurie and (first-time) Director Leo Matsuda.
The short tells the story of the internal struggle between a man’s pragmatic, logical side and his free-spirited, adventurous half. It really explores the importance of finding balance in daily life! What’s really cool about this animation is that it is a unique, fast-paced style, that actually blends CG and traditional hand-drawn animation.
It was fun to learn that Leo was inspired by the animation for the short by the transparent human anatomy pages as seen in educational books from his childhood. In the film, you’ll meet Paul, and the struggle between his brain and his heart. You can see as Paul goes about his day, the struggle between the brain and heart inside his body. Not wanting to give too much away, there is definitely a conflict of the two between having “fun” and doing what is responsible…
MOANA Teaser Trailer
MOANA sails into theaters on November 23rd 2016!
While I attended an expense paid trip by Disney to Los Angeles, all opinions are 100% my own. MOANA and INNER WORKINGS images were provided by Walt Disney Publications.