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by Dianna Ranere

Interview: Auli’i Cravalho is MOANA! #MoanaEvent

Interview: Auli'i Cravalho is MOANA! #MoanaEvent 1

Interview: Dwayne Johnson on Playing Demo-God Maui in Disney's MOANA #MoanaEvent 16

Auli’i Cravalho walks into the interview room and it has never been more apparent that she was the perfect choice to play Moana. Everything about this young woman screams the part. She is poised, head-strong, beautiful and full of life, all traits that she has imbued into Disney’s Moana.

Interview: Disney's MOANA - Auli'i Cravalho #MoanaEvent
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop / MomStart.com


So I think everyone here has seen the video of you where you learn you are Moana, but for readers that have not seen that video, can you share with us again, what was that like to hear that you were MOANA?

Sure. I was called into technically another audition where I was told I would need to do just some more ad lib. And that was after I had already flown up to LA and I had done some recording up there. I had tried out the first time in my life in front of like real life people. Besides my mom, you know. I had a lot of fun. And then that was my kind of second callback, I suppose.

So I went with my aunt to the audition process and I did more adlibs and they were like, “You know, could you say it a little bit more happy, like for instance if we gave you the role, how would you react?” And I was like, “Okay! Wow!” I gave forth my best shot. And that’s when they told me I was gonna be in MOANA. Which was I was crying and I was so happy. And just thrilled that, first of all, they thought that I was worthy enough for this role. I didn’t think that I was – I could never imagine in my wildest dreams that I would be voicing this character. But I was just so happy and blessed. Then I told my mom and then I had another cry fest. So. It was really good.


How does MOANA feel for you and how do you think everyone’s gonna react to it?

Oh, gosh. I’ll admit, I was a little wary before I got put into this role because I think when anyone who hears that a movie’s going to inspired by their culture, they want it to be done right. We don’t want any misrepresentation, we want to make sure that what we feel our culture’s about, that it’s portrayed correctly on the screen. That was how I felt. But after sort of working on the film and I learned that we have an Oceanic Trust made up of individuals who are elders, who are fishermen, or navigators. That every single component, whether it was just a small little dancing scene in there, that was choreographed by a Polynesian dancer. But just the little details, even just listening to the palm trees swaying in the background, that they got all of that. Because that’s what it’s about, it’s in the fine details that I think make just the large production that much more special.

Moana is Not Your Typical Princess Story #Moana #MoanaEvent #MoanaReview 16
MOANA – (Pictured) Moana. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Before you started on the film how much Polynesian history did you know?

I knew a fair amount. I kind of describe Maui’s mythology and the folklore of it as my bedtime stories, because they really were. The stories of him pulling oceans out of the sea, or slowing down the sun. I not only heard it before going to bed but also at my school. I go to an all Hawaiian school, so even voyaging across the open ocean, it’s something that we find deep pride in and it’s pretty connected into our curriculum.

What is your message you want children, not just girls, to take away from this movie?

I think the underlying theme of MOANA is something everyone can take away. Yes, young women but also young men who are going to go into this era and be the own heroes and heroines of their own story. It’s so important. I’m 15, going on 16, and you know, I’ve found that I can look up to MOANA, and that she’s a true heroine. That she’s determined and beautiful inside and out. But being strong doesn’t mean that you don’t have your weaker moments. Moana is all of that, and I think her journey of finding herself is something that everyone can take away from, girl or boy.

Interview: Disney's MOANA - Auli'i Cravalho #MoanaEvent 9
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop / MomStart.com

How does it feel to be the youngest Disney Princess?

That’s pretty incredible. I’ll be the same age as the character, my birthday is on November 22nd and that film comes out on the 23rd.  Moana’s 16 in the film. It kinda just worked out like that. [LAUGHS] I’m really proud of the character that Disney has portrayed on screen. I’m [STAMMERING] wonderful time that she has. I love that. Not only will people look up to her but people will begin looking up to me.

I’m really proud of the character that Disney has portrayed on screen. Not only will people look up to her but people will begin looking up to me. That’s something I can’t quite wrap my mind around just yet. I guess I am a 15 year old who has so much more to learn and I have so much more to grow. I just am really excited for everyone to see her on screen because I find her someone that I look up to.

Interview: Auli'i Cravalho is MOANA! #MoanaEvent 2
MOANA is an adventurous, tenacious and compassionate 16-year-old who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. Along the way, she discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity. Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “The Princess & the Frog”) and featuring newcomer Auli’I Cravalho as the voice of Moana, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Did you notice any of your personal mannerisms or characteristics making their way into the animation?

Yes! I have learned not to touch my hair when I’m nervous. But that’s something that Moana does. Also through the recording process I would touch my hair or my flower. You’ll see at some point, when work needs to get done, Moana puts her hair up. Which is something that I do a lot in the booth.

She smiles a lot, which is something I don’t quite do often (she jokes).  There is some mannerisms in there. Of course she was actually designed before I had even stepped in there. So the fact that she kinda looks like me is kind of uncanny.


What were your thoughts when you saw the film all come together?

I was really blown away. I have seen it in its kind of like chopped up stages of animation where it’s not fully complete yet. Where she would go bald, or her skirt would get stuck in the air. I was loving it then, I cried doing the songs. But now with its finished score, with like I said, the palm trees in the background, or the lapping of the water, even. It blows me away, just the amount of detail that the animators and the sound guys have put in there. It’s incredible. Also seeing other people’s faces. That was so special. My Mom was holding my hand. She (her Mom) actually has a line in the film.



In the film, Moana’s grandmother has a sting ray tattoo. If Moana would have a tattoo, what tattoo do you think she would have chosen?

I’m not sure. I’ll just kinda take it to a personal level, I suppose. I think tattoos are of course very permanent. I think the journey that Moana goes on is – she understands that she’ll have many journeys after this. So I’m not sure what tattoo she would get. Although I don’t personally know what I would get. Tatau, a Polynesian tattoo, is quite painful, more painful than the process of a regular needle. Because it’s actually tapping the ink into your skin.

So I think if anything, Moana is brave enough and secure enough in her own sense, to know that if she was to get anything permanent, she would make sure that it connected her to her family and to her island.


Interview: Disney's MOANA - Auli'i Cravalho #MoanaEvent 1
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop / MomStart.com


What advice do you have for kids trying to find their way?

When I was thinking about show business and I was thinking about the thought of Hollywood, I was like, okay, you know what, I have the thought now I’m gonna be serious about it and I’m not gonna even set my hopes too high. So I focused myself on schooling. Which is really important. Don’t get me wrong, I focused on science and I was planning on continuing my career there and when MOANA popped up, it was in my freshman year of high school and  I remember thinking okay, I sing pretty well. I’m an okay actress. I mean, my backyard plays are directed and produced by me. I had seen wonderful auditions on YouTube. And I put myself down. I thought, you know what, it’s fine. What could I possibly give that the directors haven’t already seen? But then this big blessing happened and I thought to myself, why don’t I just try? I’m gonna get older and I’m gonna say to myself, oh, maybe not.

I realized that all that time that my mom spent saying okay, just try it, you never know what’s gonna come up. I was totally twisting that around in the way that she wouldn’t want me to. I think she was away at work and I was at school and I thought to myself, just – if anything, I want to make her proud. So when I had the first audition in Hawaii, she just said, “I’m so proud of you”. I was like, I haven’t even done anything. I’m not even like solid on these lines, do I know all the words to my song? But she was still so proud of me.

That’s what encouraged me to continue on my journey. And I hope that anyone else just goes out on that limb because they don’t know what life has in store for them. Please, please don’t put yourself down because there is so much more potential than you even know.


How has your normal life changed since that first audition?

It hasn’t changed too much. I’m really grateful for that. I have started trig  though. Like that’s at least changed my mentality of life a little bit. But I’m still doing homework, whether it’s in the car, in a plane, a hotel room. In fact my studio teacher is outside right now. My mom finds things for me to do, just to keep me normal.

I’ve actually started a schedule where I can call my friends and Skype with them because I realized that I missed the camaraderie of my classmates. I’ve always been a pretty self-directed learner and doing my studies now kind of, not necessarily abroad but away from them hasn’t been too hard. But I realize that just the little things that I took for granted, are certainly things that I miss. So I’ve just decided to balance things. Whether it’s calling them or texting, whatever it may be. It’s finding a balance.

Interview: Disney's MOANA - Auli'i Cravalho #MoanaEvent 4
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop / MomStart.com

What kind of projects are on the horizon for you, where do you see yourself?

I love this industry and I love that I get to meet wonderful people like all of you. And I get to travel to places that I would never even dream of going to. I just came back from Singapore!

I have no idea what’s on the horizon for me,  but I had kind of focused my thoughts in my direction on Science. I was in a science and molecular cell biology program and I was focusing on how our sunscreen, although very important, is also  incredibly harmful to our natural reefs and our oceans.

So what I’m hoping to do and what I’m hoping to kind of complete as my research project in the future, is using the natural algae in our system to create some kind of suntan lotion that is better for us and better for the environment. The life of, I believe, just the land and the world stems from our oceans.

We need to protect it as kind of a Hawaiian saying, “If we protect the ocean, if we love on it, it will love on us” and return the blessing to us. So hopefully in the future I’ll continue in this field of film. As well as kind of a passion of mine which is science. We’ll see how it works out.


What has been the biggest challenge during the film process?

I had a definite learning curve. I think that was certainly a challenge. Like I said, backyard plays were my thang. But I didn’t know how to work in a booth. For one it was cold. I don’t like being cold, I get cranky when I’m cold. I didn’t have anyone to bounce off of. I wasn’t rubbing elbows with Dwayne Johnson like I thought I would be in the booth. I did have a writer though, Jared Bush and he really helped me throughout the entire process because it was all new to me.

The directors as well. They made me feel right at home. They understood that this is your first time doing this but that’s what we want. And I think that’s also something that makes Moana relatable, that I’m not a seasoned professional. I think the emotion that I bring to her is something that is very true. I was able to connect to Moana on a deeper level as well. So though the learning curve was there and the challenges there, I think I overcame it pretty well.

Interview: Disney's MOANA - Auli'i Cravalho #MoanaEvent 3
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop / MomStart.com

How did you get into the mood of being scared or strong in during the intense moments in the film?

It took some time. I usually have, like a happy demeanor and I like to keep it that way. But for the scenes where I would have to kind of either be sad or upset, it’s all about kinda getting into the mindset.

I think particularly in the scenes with Gramma Tala those were the hardest scenes for me and I can tear up just thinking about them, because I always imagine my mom as my Gramma Tala. I didn’t have a chance to bond with my grandmother before she passed, unfortunately. But whenever I think of someone who pushes me beyond what I think I can do, but supports me and loves on me just unconditionally, that’s my mom.

So in those scenes, that’s what I thought of. I thought of my situation with my mom. If I had stayed on my island, if it was another time, and if I decided that my journey would be something a little bit different, yet not – if I had decided to save my family the way Moana does.

If I decided that to be that selfless. That’s also what makes me look up to her so much. Is that she can help her family in that way. So having to just put myself into there, and when we get too much or when I was finally done recording those scenes, like I would be like, okay, stop production, with tears in my eyes and I would open the door and Mom like would literally be there. We would have like a ten-minute break of just getting out of that headspace.


What kind of voice training did you have for the role?  

I had a voice coach, I was really excited about that. Before this I had choir, school and church. I didn’t have much vocal training beyond that. I credit my singing voice to my mom because I came out screaming out of the womb and she didn’t give me a binky so I developed wonderful lungs. Which I thank my mom profusely for that.

But I kinda just lived. And I kinda just sang my little heart out in preparation for this role. I’ll say that I did go to the beach also as preparation.

I did get a voice teacher, and we would work on Skype. We worked twice a week and she has given me tips on breathing and all the things that she thought I knew but in fact I didn’t know.

Even just working on breathing and I realize that voice acting, you can’t hide much. They can cut things here and there but if it’s a more emotional scene, you’ll start to have a heavier breathing and in the song, if you’re emotional and your breathing has to get heavy, your breathing has to get heavy but you can’t get out of breath. So it was another learning curve.

Interview: Disney's MOANA - Auli'i Cravalho #MoanaEvent 11
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop / MomStart.com

 Interview: Dwayne Johnson on Playing Demo-God Maui in Disney's MOANA #MoanaEvent 16


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Disclosure: I was provided with an all-expense trip to LA by Walt Disney Studios to attend the Red Carpet Premiere of MOANA, as well as visit ABC televisions sets and attend the BFG brunch. All opinions are 100% my own.