Development drawing for the character Moana. Disney / Jin Kim
1. Moana was deliberately designed to have a “realistic” body type.
2. Flounder from The Little Mermaid and Olaf from Frozen both appear in the film.
Development drawing for the character Moana. Disney / Bill Schwab
3. Clements and Musker, along with a team of Disney Animation artists, traveled to the southern region of Oceania on two extensive research trips for the film.
4. Over the course of those two trips, they formed the Oceanic Story Trust. The Trust is a team of experts — anthropologists, academics, educators, linguists, navigators, and cultural advisers — who collaborated with Disney’s creative team.
Storyboard inspired by a research trip to Samoa, featuring Moana and Pua. Disney / David Derrick
5. The original story for the movie focused on Maui — the demigod trickster played by Dwayne Johnson — and Moana was a secondary character on a mission to rescue her love interest.
6. But after their first research trip, the filmmakers became more focused on navigation as a theme.
7. They also wanted to make the central plot of the movie revolve around Moana’s own issues and finding herself, and “not her relationship with a guy.”
Development drawing for the character Maui. Disney / Bill Schwab
8. Clements and Musker wanted voice talent involved in the film to have some connection to the Pacific Islands.
9. They didn’t open up auditions for Maui — they only wanted Johnson, and reached out to him directly.
10. Clements and Musker watched videos of Nicole Scherzinger on YouTube before casting her to voice Moana’s mother.
Development drawing for Maui’s hawk transformation. Disney / Bill Schwab