FSM Media

by Dianna Ranere

Interview with Disney Legends Ron Clements and John Musker #Moana #MoanaEvent

Interview with Disney Legends Ron Clements and John Musker #Moana #MoanaEvent

Interview: Dwayne Johnson on Playing Demo-God Maui in Disney's MOANA #MoanaEvent 18 Imagine sitting in a room and waiting for, essentially, Disney royalty to walk in. That’s what it was like to be waiting for Disney legends and recent Golden Globe nominees  Ron Clements and John Musker. Together they have worked on such Disney classics as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin among many others, and now Moana.

Interview with Disney Legends Directors Ron Clements and John Musker #Moana #MoanaEvent

Moana was your first primarily computer animated film, how was that different? Were there new challenges or new opportunities you had for that?

RON: Some things are the same in terms of the script and the story-boarding and the voice actors. I mean that really isn’t different. But the actual production process is quite a bit different. We had to actually have tutorials before even the movie started.

JOHN: Steve Goldberg gave us a tutorial and said these jobs don’t exist in CG. These do exist and it’s a whole different thing and one of the big things is in hand-drawn you can get going a lot quicker. In CG they’ve got to build the characters, literally sort of create them in three-dimensional space. They’ve got to rig them which means they’ll put all the armature in there so they can move around.

RON: There’s 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 isn’t done usually. So 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.


Interview with Disney Legends Directors Ron Clements and John Musker #Moana #MoanaEvent 2

You have both directed three out of the now five movies of Princesses of color for the Disney film franchise. What steps did you take to like respect the culture but yet share it?

RON: Well, the big thing was we did a huge research five years ago when we first pitched the movie. We spent like three weeks in Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti. We met with cultural ambassadors, linguists, anthropologists, sailors and chiefs.

JOHN: We got to sail in Fiji and navigators and we really tried to connect with those people. We really try to connect with the culture and learn how proud they were of their background as the greatest navigators the world has ever seen.

“Know your mountain”


RON: The importance of respect for nature, respect for the environment and also the interconnectedness and extended families . 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:  An elder on the island said to us, for years we have been swallowed up 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 the Oceanic Story Trust that we bounced story ideas off of costume ideas, the way the characters looked throughout this process.


Interview with Disney Legends Directors Ron Clements and John Musker #Moana #MoanaEvent 9
©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

I read somewhere that the movie started about Maui and then it evolved to Moana. Can you tell us more about that?

JOHN: I was intrigued with the area of the Pacific islands and then that led me to read Polynesian mythology and then I read about this guy Maui who was unbelievable. He was a shape shifter, he had a magical fishhook. He could pull up islands. He was covered in tattoos, kind of a superhero. And I was like why has this never been done in a movie before? I showed it to Ron then we pitched a simple idea to John Lassiter. It was even kind of called the Mighty Maui actually, was sort of the original title. Then John’s like you got to do research. You got to go to the islands.

When we went there and we heard about navigation and it was really Ron’s idea, what if we have a character called Moana, which means ocean and we built it around her, someone who wants to be a navigator like her ancestors?  We sort it as a true grit type story where she really is this determined, forceful individual and she teams up with kind of a washed up, some down on his luck–.

RON:  It was really a hero’s journey  for Moana. She’s on a quest to save her people. She faces numerous obstacles. She’s resilient. She’s also empathetic, which is an important part of who she is and, and fearless and that she really finally proves herself and becomes the person that she’s meant to be.

Interview with Disney Legends Directors Ron Clements and John Musker #Moana #MoanaEvent 4


How does it feel to have worked on The Little Mermaid and now on Moana? Did the transition of 2D to 3D change the way your vision developed for the end result?

JOHN: Well, it was interesting even just in a superficial way and that a lot of the CG animators are in their 20s and 30s. They saw Little Mermaid when they were eight years old, and they are like this is what got me in animation.  So, that was kind of fun.

Ron: I worked with Frank Thomas who’s a legendary animator who was my mentor and he was 62 and I was 20 and now I’m 63 and we’re working with a lot of very, very young people that are really excited and gung ho and they’re just so eager and it was really great.

JOHN: It was fun on this movie though because in terms of the CG and the hand-drawn we got to use both.  Eric Goldberg who did the Genie and Aladdin did the mini-Maui tattoo. So, we were able to incorporate hand-drawn elements. They were thrilled to get a chance to work with Eric where they would do the CG Maui and he would do the hand-drawn part and they could kind of learn from Eric and see his techniques in terms of the acting and his timing and his comic sensibilities. It’s been fun for us to learn new things and work with new artists.



 I noticed some Easter eggs in Moana. 

RON: There are many…… We will tell you what they are but not where they are. And they’re really interesting and some are very difficult. Some are a little easier, some are not. But Olaf is in the movie. And you might think how can a snowman be in there but he’s in there a couple of times.

Interview with Disney Legends Directors Ron Clements and John Musker #Moana #MoanaEvent 6
©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

JOHN: In a tricky way. Flounder from Little Mermaid is in there briefly and Flash, the sloth from Zootopia.

Interview with Disney Legends Directors Ron Clements and John Musker #Moana #MoanaEvent 7
©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

RON: Baymax.

JOHN: And, and Wreck-it Ralph and is in there very briefly. You may have seen Wreck-it Ralph.

Interview with Disney Legends Directors Ron Clements and John Musker #Moana #MoanaEvent 8
©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

RON: He’s in the end and the reason he’s in there is there’s been a little tradition in the last few years that, that there’s something acknowledging the next film. So our production designer at the last minute said, let’s put Ralph in the credits because he’s going to come up. So, we saw and we liked it and said yeah, let’s leave it in there.


Interview with Disney Legends Directors Ron Clements and John Musker #Moana #MoanaEvent 5


Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


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.