Thursday, April 16, 2015

Disney's "Moana" Begins Casting with The Rock

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Before you get too excited about the art included below, they are the PERSONAL WORK of Brittney Lee from a few years ago. Although Brittney is (now) a Disney artist, she did NOT create these as part of the Moana concept and development process. The reason they keep making the rounds on the internet in conjunction with Moana news is because they are beautifully rendered, animation-style examples of nature gods and goddesses, like we can expect to see appear in the film. Expect the Disney versions to be completely different though - and epic. We've been told to expect EPIC. 
The image above and at the end of the post ARE, however, official Moana images from Disney.
Now that the record is straight, enjoy. :)

I completely missed getting this up a couple of weeks ago, and the news has been (somewhat sadly) eclipsed by all the Beauty and the Beast news everywhere, however, Disney's Polynesian-based animated feature Moana has begun casting.

Dwayne Johnson (aka "The Rock") will play a "benevolent demi-god named Maui" who joins the heroine on her cross-Pacific adventure. And he'll be singing too.
Moana (2018) - The main character will be Moana Waialiki, a sea voyaging enthusiast, and the only daughter of a chief in a long line of navigators. When her family needs her help, she sets off on an epic journey. The film will also include demi-gods and spirits taken from real mythology.
(Oh my - look at all those contract papers..!)

There seems to be a good effort happening with regard to being both diverse and authentic in both casting and research (in January 2015, some Maui native teens were being auditioned for roles as well - no decisions have been officially announced).

Excerpted from a much longer article in the Huffington Post, near the end of last year (emphasis in bold is mine):
Personal work by Brittney Lee (NOT created for Moana concept art)
"I grew up reading the novels of Melville and Conrad. And the South Seas, the exotic world that a lot of their stories are set in, was extremely intriguing to me. Just looking at the art which comes out that corner of the globe -- the carvings, the statuary, the sculpture -- I thought that it all begged for this bigger-than-life treatment that you can only get with animation," John (Musker) remembered. "So to expand on that idea, I then began reading up on the mythology of this area. Which is when I came across these incredible tales about Maui, who's one of the great cultural heroes of the South Pacific." 
Personal work by Brittney Lee (NOT created for Moana concept art)
..."So Ron and I developed this very simple storyline. And John (Lassiter) being John, he said 'I love this arena. I love the bare bones of the story you've got. But this really begs for research. On the ground research.' So we were forced, as it were, " Musker said jokingly, "to go to the South Seas two years ago. We've gone twice now. Two big research trips. And those trips have been revelatory and kind of life-changing in a way. In that it made us take our very simple outline and rework the whole thing." 
"When we visited those islands, John and I were especially interested in meeting people who lived on islands where they had grown up surrounded by an ocean. We wondered how that might effect your point-of-view. And we learned a lot. We learned all kinds of things that we didn't know. We learned how the sea and the land are one and the same. How these people think of the ocean as something that unites the islands, not something that separates them," Clements recalled. "And then we learned about the great migration and how the people of the Islands take great pride in the fact that their ancient ancestors invented this way of navigation called dead reckoning which involved studying the stars and the currents. And way before the European explorers or the Vikings, these people had this very, very incredibly advanced techniques of navigation." 
Personal work by Brittney Lee (NOT created for Moana concept art)
"So many of these ideas in terms of respect for nature, respect for the ocean and the elements -- all of these things -- really had a huge influence on us and then began to make their way into this film's story," Ron continued. "Which is why Moana is now the most ambitious thing that John and I have ever attempted. There's definitely an epic aspect to this story. it is with any of these things, you just hope that -- in the end -- you can get it right." 
...much of Moana (is) taking place in the open ocean and with this film's title character encountering enormous sea creatures and mythic figures ... We've got this story that's set 2000 years ago which we're building around a 14 year-old heroine.
With such awareness and emphasis on authentic diversity being needed for this film, it should be a good boost for Disney's image overall, and especially for the princess line. No doubt we will be hearing much more about Moana very soon...

Sources: HERE, HERE, Twitter & Instagram

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