It's been nearly a year since we heard of the newest Disney princess to grace our presence, and now we know the voice behind the animated face!
Auli'i Cravalho was just announced as the actress who will voice the character of Moana, the "indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself. She's the kind of character we all root for, and we can't wait to introduce her to audiences."
"I didn't think I would have a chance," the 14-year-old native Hawaiian said in a press release Wednesday. "When I was little, I used to dance around the house singing at the top of my lungs. In my mind, that was performing and I loved the feeling of it. But I never imagined being in a Disney movie, being Moana—representing my culture in that way."
A casting directorsremembered an unrelated audition Cravalho did as part of an a cappella group, which had been submitted for a talent showcase for a charity. She tracked her down and invited Cravalho to try out. "Her audition was fantastic—she was such a raw talent," producer Osnat Shurer said. "Auli'i was among a small number of girls we brought back for a second round of auditions. Then we flew her and her mom over to audition at our studios in Burbank."
Director John Musker added, "Auli'i demonstrated a certain fearlessness in her auditions and call-backs. She has a playful, mischievous wit. She can project vulnerability, she doesn't seem intimidated at all by the challenges ahead, and her Polynesian background has helped shape her connection to family, hard work and music. These are all qualities she shares with Moana."
"Moana is a vibrant, tenacious 16-year-old growing up on an island where voyaging is forbidden," director Ron Clements said in a statement. "But Moana has been drawn to the ocean since she can remember and is desperate to find out what's beyond the confines of her island."
As we prepare to fully meet the latest Disney family member on the big screen (which is slated for a holiday 2016 release), we'd like to offer our reasons as to why we feel like Moana just may be one of the best Disney princesses yet...
1. She Brings Diversity: Moana is the first Polynesian princess, which adds more diversity to the Disney princess lineup, and you gotta love that.
2. New Animated Heights: Speaking of firsts, this film also marks the first CG-animated flick for Ron Clements and John Musker, the team who is responsible for The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Princess and the Frog.
3. The Nature Element Is Real: One of the things the filmmakers learned when researching this movie is that Polynesians had a very deep connection with the ocean, looking at the body of water as if they were a friend or person. So they made sure to illustrate that in the film by drawing a connection between Moana and the ocean from a very young age, as well holding onto a seashell she found as a baby.
Hugh E. Gentry/Disney
4. The Rock Is Her Sidekick: In case you've forgotten, Dwayne Johnson plays Maui, her hero and a legendary demi-god, to help her navigate the undoubtedly action-packed journey. Could you imagine how cool it would be to have THE ROCK as your partner in crime?
5. Moana's Badass: The story revolves around the new Disney princess hoping to find the long lost island she's heard about in stories in order to connect with her heritage. However, during this journey she'll have to battle bad monsters of the deep and confront a vengeful land spirit, who will be visualized with volcanic black skin and lava hair.
6. She's a Mix of Some of Our Favorites: Some of Moana's ideals and virtues remind us of other Disney princesses that we adore, such as Mulan, Pocahontas and more.
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