How Pacific Islanders Helped Moana Find Its Way
Fine attention to detail and constant feedback from John Musker and Ron Clements, the writer-director team behind Moana’s cultural advisory group The Oceanic Story Trust, has helped shape the Disney film on every level, Vanity Fair reports. Some of the film’s stars, New Zealanders Rachel House, Temuera Morrison and Jemaine Clement, also subtly helped shape the performances to fit with what they knew of Pacific culture.
House especially – such a rigidly hilarious part of Moana first-draft screenwriter Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople – turns in a voice performance oozing warmth based on the “aunties” of her Maori background.
The Oceanic Trust consisted of a group of anthropologists, cultural practitioners, historians, linguists, and choreographers from islands including Samoa, Tahiti, Mo’orea, and Fiji, this group was integral in shaping some of the finest details of Moana, from character design to song lyrics – and they certainly understand the skeptics who raised eyebrows when the marketing materials for Moana were first released.
Notes from the Trust on the kind of curtains in Moana’s home, the pits used to cook food, and inaccurate lyrics about coconut husks all resulted in minuscule tweaks that would mean nothing to audiences unfamiliar with the culture, but made all the difference to the Trust.
Moana is released this week in the United States and on Boxing Day in New Zealand.
Original article by Joanna Robinson, Vanity Fair, November 16, 2016.