A Behind The Scenes Look At Disney’s Moana!


Hey All!

A few months ago we had the awesome experience of getting a behind the scenes look at the new Walt Disney Animation Studios film Moana. I jumped at the chance to have this experience as I’ve been super excited for this film since it was announced at Disney D23 conference. I nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement at D23 when they said it was from Directors John Musker & Ron Clements. These two men shaped my childhood by bringing to life my favorite Disney animated classics Aladdin and The Little Mermaid. You know it’s going to be an amazing movie when they are behind it. If you haven’t heard of the film, it’s a CG-animated feature film about an adventurous 16-year-old teenager named Moana who sails out on a daring mission to save her people.

I always love going to the studio as they dress up the studio to look like the animated film they are working on. You can see it’s all decked out for Moana at the moment.


They even had a scale Polynesian boat on deck to take photos with!



That was just one exciting thing to see while at this fun event. The majority of the day was spent with the filmmakers and animators helping to bring this new Disney classic to life.


We first got to see the Disney short film Inner Workings, which will be playing before Moana when it comes to theatres. If you loved Inside Out, you’ll love this short!

INNER WORKINGS - PAUL layered visual development by Production Designer Paul Felix. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

INNER WORKINGS – PAUL layered visual development by Production Designer Paul Felix. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

We then got to some incredible footage from the film and meet the amazing duo Directors John Musker & Ron Clements.

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They shared the incredible amount of work and detail they are putting into this incredible film. They looked at hundreds of girls to play Moana and they eventually cast the amazing Auli’i Cravalho, who they said by sheer luck looks just like Moana. They even brought back Eric Goldberg (2D Animator of the Genie from Aladdin) to do some 2d animation for the film! They wanted the story to take place thousands of years ago, when some of the greatest sailors in the world for some reason stopped voyaging and discovering new islands. No one knows why this happened, as the Polynesian people are a spoken story people and sadly nothing was ever written about this time period. They want to tell a story that potentially answers that question and Moana does just that!

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After that incredible visual presentation, we chatted first with Jessica Julius (Sr. Creative Executive), Ian Gooding (Production Designer), Andy Harkness (Art Director, Environments & Color), and Adolph Lusinsky (Director of Cinematography, Lighting) about the set design and the THE ISLANDS OF MOANA.

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The team visited a number of Pacific Islands including Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, Aotearoa and Hawai‘i in order to create Moana’s fictional island home of Motunui. They wanted to make it really feel like you were visiting one of these islands, but at the same time they needed to capture what they could have looked like 2,000 years ago. That is when this story takes place. They paid attention to every detail from the flowers and plants growing in Moana’s village to the mountain peaks to make sure it felt authentic to the world of Moana.

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We then chatted with Bill Schwab (Art Director, Characters), Amy Smeed (Head of Animation), Malcon Pierce (Animation Supervisor, Moana), Neysa Bové (Vis Dev Artist) about how they designed the look of Moana. We saw the initial sketches to costume design to animation and learned how they created this lovely character.


They created numerous looks and styles of clothing before settling on her everyday village outfit. They also had to create elaborate costumes for her since she is the daughter of the chief of village and is almost like a princess!


I’m really looking forward to seeing Maui on the big screen, who is voiced by The Rock aka Dwyane Johnson! We learned about the making of this character as well. Maui is actually a mythical figure from Polynesian mythology. He’s a demigod – half god, half mortal, and the team drew inspiration from varied legends of Maui from across the Pacific Islands. They settled on this look which captures some of the Rocks signature looks included the peoples eye brow. He also has his magical fish hook and the ability to shape shift into any animal. Having these powers definitely helps him be the very self confident character he is in the film!  We chatted with  Hyrum Osmond (Head of Animation), Mack Kablan (Animation Supervisor, Maui), Carlos Cabral (Head of Characters and Tech Anim), and the amazing Eric Goldberg (2D Animator) about how they decided his body tattoos would come to life and how they wanted to be 2D animation. That’s why they brought on Eric. He’s creating an incredible one-of-a-kind look to the tattoos. Maui’s tattoos not only showcase all his amazing adventures and feats, but one little “Mini Maui” tattoo (as they called him) acts as his conscience as well. He’s a new modern day Jiminy Cricket and I can’t wait for you to see him in action. I love him!


The last part of the film we learned about was the incredible effects of the film. No other Disney characters have hair like these characters, so they had to create special software just for their thick bouncy curly long hairs. They also had to create special software to make the water in the film look incredible. It’s like photo real folks and unlike anything you’ve ever seen in an animated film before. We chatted with Hank Driskill (Technical Supervisor), Kyle Odermatt (Visual Effects Supervisor), Marlon West (Head of Effects), and Dale Mayeda (Head of Effects) about the process of creating the water and how many steps it takes them to make it look as good as it does. You can see some of those steps below.


The ocean plays a central role in the story of Moana and is a character itself. The artists and technologists at Walt Disney Animation Studios spent years developing the ocean’s (un)believable look and feel. Add to that the technical and artistic innovations developed to create the smoke, fire, feathers, hair, and vegetation, you have Disney Animation’s most effects-filled film to date.

This scene of a baby Moana and the ocean water almost brought me to tears! It was so beautiful and there wasn’t even dialog people!


I can go on and on about this awesome film and all that we got to see, but this post is long enough! It’s going to be a spectacular film and I can’t wait to see it once it’s done! They music is also going to be incredible, since the amazing Lin-Manuel Miranda is creating the music with Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i. It sounds fantastic from what I’ve heard thus far!

For more info on this incredible film visit the official MOANA website here: http://movies.disney.com/moana.

MOANA arrives in theatres everywhere on November 23rd!



Some photos courtesy of Disney and some are our photos.