Moana is now in theaters and has been the number one movie for three weeks in a row, which means, if you haven’t seen it yet you’re missing out on something great! This movie, as I saw one of my mommy friends say, “Disney hit it out of the park again”. Moana has a fantastic message of listening to that voice inside of you and do what you’re meant to do. You can make a difference and follow your dreams you just have to believe. Plus, when you see this movie there is amazing music by not only Lin Manual Miranda but also Opetaia Foa’I whom we fell in love with during his interview last month. We will be sharing that one very soon as well. For now, we have an interview with the Directors Ron Clements & John Musker.
The first question that was asked was about the difference between a completely animated film and a CG created film. For both Ron & John this was their first time creating a CG animated film and they had to take some tutorials and learn how the process would go. They both said that of course story creation is basically the same. There are story boards and the voice actors of course. The changes come in with animation you can get started with a pencil and paper right away. You can start testing out character development but in CG you have to build the characters in a 3D setting and make them work (RIG them) movement, shading all within that world. It takes a lot longer to set up initially. They said it was very complicated and that when they would review something for the animators there were certain parts they were supposed to ignore and they had to ask…..
JOHN: Also, we had the crazy thing when we were watching we go to these review sessions when the movie was being done in CG where we’d look at it and say okay, so is that the real sky in that shot? And they say no, no, that’s just a placeholder. Forget the sky. And we go okay, but those trees, we should take those– no, no, the trees, were going to trade those out later for the real trees. And then we’d say, so we can ignore those rocks? No, the rocks are the real thing. And we wouldn’t know looking at it why one was real and one–.
RON : It’s very complicated.
They went on to describe what was really difficult, the water and the lava monster…..
RON : And the lighting. There’s a lot of, a lot of cool things you can do. But a lot of things even that had to be figured out in the movie. Even the idea of a living ocean that has a personality of a monster, a lava monster, some of those things particularly where character animation and effects animation merge, that doesn’t– that isn’t done usually. So, and there were a lot of things just to figure out how to do it and a lot of really smart people that, that sort of said we actually don’t know how to do this. We don’t even– but we are confident that we will figure it out.
JOHN : We’ll figure it out before the end of the movie. And they did. They really did.
The thing about Disney and their movies now is that the story has to be really strong. One of the things that helps the story is how much research they put into their movies. With Moana, this is a story about the island culture of the Polynesian people. There are many stories about their history and Maui is a legend so Disney had to get this right….
JOHN: I read about this guy Maui who was unbelievable. He was you know, shape shifter. He had a magical fishhook. He could pull up islands. He had live tattoos, kind of a superhero.
John and Ron talked to us quite a bit about the research put into the movie. They had pitched John Lasseter a simple idea about Maui and he said go do some research. They spent three weeks in Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti. They met with cultural ambassadors, linguists and anthropologists and learned how the Navigators worked and just spent time connecting with the people.
RON : And their connection to the importance of respect for nature, respect for the environment and also the interconnectedness and extended families…. and the idea of your heritage and your legacy. We heard this expression in Tahiti, “know your mountain.” And your mountain is essentially everything that led up to you, all the people that led up to you, everything that happened, all of the things that if they didn’t exist, you wouldn’t exist. And, and they said,
“if you don’t know your mountain you really don’t know who you are.”
JOHN : ……….while doing research they heard from people on the island that said, we’ve been swallowed by your culture. One time can you be swallowed by our culture? So,…..we absolutely took that to heart. That became sort of our mantra as we did the movie over the course of the years and we kept people involved from the Pacific islands. We had an oceanic story trust that we bounced story ideas off of costume ideas, the way the characters looked throughout this process. We would Skype with them. They came out to visit sometimes. And case in point, Maui, in the early going he was bald. He had no hair. Some drawings were–.
RON : [OVERLAP]……a little more like Dwayne.
JOHN : We’ll do it more like Dwayne……but then when some people saw it from Tahiti particularly they said no, no, no, long hair is part of his….his power. So, he’s got to have long hair. So, we, okay, forget it. He’s going to have long hair. So we tried …..this great Polynesian football player’s long hair and people from the islands we had seen these great dudes with great manes of hair. And so we gave him that kind of hair …..
As they did their research they decided to make the movie centered on a girl instead, Moana which means ocean. She wanted to reconnect her people with their ancestors and learn to be a navigator. By focusing on her the story touches us so much more than a super hero story would have. She finds strength in herself and motivates us all to follow our dreams.
Like my friend said, they hit this movie out of the park and you need to go out and see it. They story is spot on, the animation is spot on, and the music is spot on!