Talking Family, Culture, and Girl Power with Auli’i Cravalho, The Voice Of Moana #Moana
Disney’s Moana is now open in theaters everywhere. Just last week I had the chance to sit down with Auli’i Cravalho, the beautiful young lady who plays the voice of Moana in this new Disney movie. I don’t know if y’all remember, but I interviewed her a few months ago during the Pete’s Dragon event and we actually got to interview her with her mother. The whole room was crying during the interview at the sweetness of her relationship with her mother. Auli’i has, since, turned 16. Actually, she turned 16 yesterday, the day before Moana opened! Auli’i is officially the same age that Moana is in the movie, just in time for opening day. It is always amazing to me how these little details fall into place with Disney <3 I added the video of Auli’i finding out she got the part of playing Moana because I just really think that’s something everyone needs to watch before they watch Moana. She is so sweet and so genuine. She is just like that in person. Authentic joy just surround Auli’i into the room and are apparent in everything she says and every move she makes. I just love her and cannot wait to see what she does next!
I think everyone here has seen the video of them kind of sneakily telling you that you had got the part. But for readers that have not seen that video, can you share with us again, what was that like to hear that you were going to be the next Disney Princess?
Auli’i Cravalho: Sure, yes. I was called into technically another audition where I was told I would need to do just some more ad lib. And that was after I had already flown up to LA and I had done some recording up there. I had tried out the first time in my life in front of like real life people. Besides my mom, you know. I had a lot of fun and then that was my kind of second callback, I suppose. And they told me I’d just do some more ad lib.
This is awesome but, the world continues. So she (her mom) went to work and I went with my aunt to the audition process. And I did more ad lib and they were like, “You know, could you say it a little bit more happy, like for instance if we gave you the role, how would you react?” And I was like, “Okay! Wow!” I gave forth my best shot. And that’s when they told me I was gonna be in Moana. Which was I was crying and I was so happy. And just thrilled that, first of all, they thought that I was worthy enough for this role. I didn’t think that I was – I could never imagine in my wildest dreams that I would be voicing this character. But I was just so happy and blessed. And then I told my mom. And then I had another cry fest. So, It was really good.
I loved seeing the Polynesian culture play out in this film, it was so infused and beautiful. And it made me proud. I’m not even Polynesian, I was like, oh, this is so beautiful. How does it feel for you and how do you think everyone’s gonna react to it?
Auli’i Cravalho: Oh, gosh. I’ll admit, I was a little wary before I got put into this role. Because I think anyone who hears that a movie’s going to inspired by their culture, they want it to be done right. We don’t want any misrepresentation, we want to make sure that it’s what we feel our culture’s about, that it’s portrayed correctly on the screen. And that was how I felt. But after sort of working on the film and I learned that we have an Oceanic Story Trust, made up of individuals who are elders, who are fishermen, or navigators. That every single component, whether it was just a small little dancing scene in there, that was choreographed by a Polynesian dancer. But just the little details, even just listening to the palm trees swaying in the background, that they got all of that. Because that’s what it’s about, it’s in the fine details that I think make just the large production that much more special.
Before you started on the film how much Polynesian myth did you know?
Auli’i Cravalho: I knew a fair amount, I kind of describe Maui’s mythology and the folklore of it as my bedtime stories. Because they really were. The stories of him pulling oceans out of the sea, or slowing down the sun. I not only heard it before going to bed but also at my school. I go to an all Hawaiian school. So even voyaging across the open ocean, it’s something that we find deep pride in and it’s pretty connected into our curriculum.
So my 7 year old, I asked him – he’s a boy. And I said I’m gonna to to this princess movie are you gonna go with me? He said,”Mom, no, it’s a hero movie, it’s not a princess movie.” What is your message you want children, not just girls, but boys to take away from this movie?
Auli’i Cravalho: Absolutely, thank you so much. I think the underlying theme of Moana is something everyone can take away. Yes, young women but also young men who are going to go into this era and be the old heroes and heroines of their own story. It’s so important. I’m 15, going on 16, and you know, I’ve found that I can live up to Moana. And that she’s a true heroine and that she’s determined and beautiful . But being strong doesn’t mean that you don’t have your weaker moments. Moana is all of that, and I think her journey of finding herself is something that everyone can take away from, girl or boy.
How does it feel to be the youngest Disney princess? I mean, you’ll go down in history at this point of being the youngest Disney princess.
Auli’i Cravalho: Yes, thank you! That’s pretty incredible. I’ll be the same age as the character, my birthday is on November 22nd and that film comes out on the 23rd, and Moana’s 16 in the film. It kinda just worked out like that. I’m really proud of the character that Disney has portrayed on screen. I love that, not only will people look up to her but people will begin looking up to me. That’s something I can’t quite wrap my mind around just yet. I guess I am 15 year old who has so much more to learn. And I have so much more to grow. I just am really excited for everyone to see her on screen because I find her someone that I look up to.
Did you notice any of your personal mannerisms or characteristics making their way into the animation?
Auli’i Cravalho: Yes. I have just learned not to touch my hair when I move it. But that’s something that Moana does. Also the recording process, I won’t be able to touch my hair or my flower. You’ll see at some point, when work needs to get done, Moana puts her hair up. Which is something that I do a lot in the booth. She smiles a lot, which is something I don’t quite do often. There are some mannerisms in there. And, of course, she was actually designed before I had even stepped in there. So, the fact that she kinda looks like me is kind of uncanny. And now that she shares my voice. Thank you.
What were your thoughts when you saw it all come together?
Auli’i Cravalho: I was really blown away. I have seen it in its kind of like chalked up stages of animation where it’s not fully complete yet. Where she would go bald, or her skirt would get stuck in the air. And I was loving it then, I cried doing the songs. But now with its finished score, with like I said, the palm trees in the background. Or the lapping of the water, even. It blows me away, just the amount of detail that the animators and the sound guys have put in there. It’s incredible. And also seeing other people’s faces. That was so special. My mom was holding my hair.
In the film Moana’s grandmother has a scene where she has a sting ray tattoo. If Moana would have a tattoo, what tattoo do you think she would have chosen?
Auli’i Cravalho: I’m not sure. I’ll just kinda take it to a personal level, I suppose. I’m not sure. I think tattoos are of course very permanent. And I think the journey that Moana goes on is – she understands that she’ll have many journeys after this. So I’m not sure what tattoo she would get. Although I don’t – personally I would get a tattow which is actually what I believe is the word tattoo is based off of. It’s a Polynesian kind of tattoo, I suppose. And it’s usually done – it’s quite painful, more painful than the process of a regular needle. Because it’s actually tapping the ink into your skin.
What advice do you have for kids trying to find their way?
Auli’i Cravalho: When I was thinking about show business and I was thinking about the thought of Hollywood, I was like, okay, you know what, I have the thought. Now I’m gonna be serious about it. And I’m not gonna even set my hopes too high. And so I focused myself on schooling. Which is really important. Don’t get me wrong, I focused on science and I was planning on continuing my career there. And when Moana popped up, it was in my freshman year of high school. And I remember thinking okay, I sing pretty well. I’m an okay actress. I mean, my backyard plays are directed and produced by me. Thank you very much. I don’t know how I would add up to my competition. I had seen wonderful auditions on YouTube. And I put myself down. I thought, you know what, it’s fine. What could I possibly give that the directors haven’t already seen? And I thought to myself, why don’t I just try? I’m gonna get older and I’m gonna say to myself, oh, maybe not.
I realized that all that time that my mom spent, think, okay, just try it, you never know what’s gonna come up. I was totally twisting that around in the way that she wouldn’t want me to. And I think she was away at work. And I was at school. And I thought to myself, just – if anything, I want to make her proud. And so when I had the art lesson, the first like audition in Hawaii. And it was at the Hawaii 5-0 casting studio; she just said, “I’m so proud of you”, and I was like, I haven’t even done anything. I’m not even like solid on these lines, do I know all the words to my song? I mumbled some of the words. But she was still so proud of me. And so that’s what encouraged me to continue on my journey. And I hope that anyone else just goes out on that limb because they don’t know what life has in store for them. And please, please don’t put yourself down. Because there is so much more potential than you even know.
When we interviewed you a couple months ago with your mother, one thing that I really loved was how just grounded you were. You mentioned your friends, how, yes, you were doing this role, but they were still the same. How has that changed? How has your normal life changed since then?
Auli’i Cravalho: It hasn’t changed too much. I’m really grateful for that. I have started, though, at least changed my mentality of life a little bit. But I’m still doing homework, whether it’s in the car, in a plane, a hotel room. In fact my studio teacher is outside right now. Mom is just to finding things for me to do, just to keep me normal.
I’ve actually started a schedule where I can call my friends and speak with them because I realized that I missed the camaraderie of my classmates. And I’ve always been a pretty self directed learner. Doing my studies now kind of, not necessarily abroad but always haven’t been too hard. But I realize that just the little things that I took for granted, are certainly things that I miss. So I’ve just decided to balance things. Whether it’s calling them or texting, whatever it may be. It’s finding a balance.
What kind of projects are on the horizon for you, where do you see yourself?
Auli’i Cravalho: Oh, thank you. In fact, we were just talking about this backstage, while I was getting my face done. Uh, I love this industry and I love that I get to meet wonderful people like all of you. And I get to travel to places that I would never even dream of going to. I just came back from Singapore! I mean, I have no idea what’s on the horizon for me, but I had kind of focused my thoughts in my direction I was on science and it’s something that I – for some interesting reason and fate has decided to, you know, drop things into there, make my interests tie into one another. So what I was working on was actually – I was in a science and molecular cell biology program. And I was focusing on how our sunscreen, although very important to wear it’s incredibly harmful to our natural reefs and our oceans.
So what I’m hoping to do and what I’m hoping to kind of complete as my research project in the future, is using – if you can follow – if I don’t get crazy about this. The natural algae in our system is able to absorb and refract so much light. Which gives it it’s wonderful fluorescent sometimes deep green color. And with that I’m hoping to create some kind of suntan lotion that is better for us. And better for the environment. The life of, I believe, just the land and the world stems from our oceans, and we need to protect it as kind of a Hawaiian saying, “If we protect the ocean, if we love on it, it will love on us”. So hopefully in the future I’ll continue in this field of film. As well as kind of a passion of mine which is science. We’ll see how it works out.
What has been the biggest challenge or something that pushes you out of your comfort zone, during the film process?
Auli’i Cravalho: I had a definite learning curve. I think that was certainly a challenge. Like I said, backyard plays were my thing. But I didn’t know how to kind of work in a booth. For one it was cold. I don’t like being cold, I get cranky when I’m cold. I didn’t have anyone to bounce off of. I wasn’t rubbing elbows with Dwayne Johnson like I thought I would be in the booth. I did have a writer though, Jared Bush. And he really helped me throughout the entire process, because it was all new to me.
And the directors as well, they made me feel right at home. They understood that, you know, this is your first time doing this. But that’s what we want. And I think that’s also something that makes Moana relatable, that I’m not a seasoned professional. But I think the emotion that I bring to her is something that is very true. And I was able to connect to Moana on a deeper level as well. So though the learning curve was there and the challenges there, I think I overcame it pretty well.
About Disney’s Moana:
Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows why.
From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes “Moana,” a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auli’i Cravalho) meets the once-mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity. Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “The Princess & the Frog”) and produced by Osnat Shurer (“Lifted,” “One Man Band”), “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters TODAY!
Follow Moana on Facebook
Follow Disney Animation on Twitter
Visit the official Moana website
Follow Disney Animation on Instagram
Visit Disney Animation on Tumblr