We already knew we’d be on board with Moana when we first heard that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had signed on to voice one of the characters. New Disney princess + the dulcet tones of our favorite muscle-y badass? 100% in. But the more we learn about the new film, the more excited we become. Today at D23 Expo, John Lasseter, directors John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Princess and the Frog) and Ron Clements, and producer Osnat Shurer unveiled more information and clips from the film. Dwayne Johnson himself even made an appearance!
Nerdist Senior Editor Dan Casey is at the Anaheim Convention Center live-blogging and tweeting the Disney Animation and Pixar panel, but because conventions are notoriously tricksy when it comes to internet, we’ll be sharing some of what he learned and saw today. Thanks, Dan!
Moana takes places 2,000 years ago in the South Pacific. Moana is a strong-willed 16-year-old princess (we wouldn’t have it any other way) who wants to learn why her people stopped exploring. They were once the strongest sailors in the world, but now they stay put. Moana’s father, King Tui, is unsurprisingly not pleased with Moana’s fervent curiosity.
Moana also has a pet piglet (!!!) named Pua and a cranky rooster named Hei Hei, who join her on her epic quest to become a navigator. Because what is an adventurous, deviant young Disney princess without some cute animals?! (Probably awesome, but the pets are an added bonus.)
Maui is covered in magical tattoos that tell the tales of all his adventures. Moana must team up with Maui to battle underwater monsters, travel to the ancient, oceanic underworld, and battle against a land spirit made of magma and volcanic rock. In fact, many elements of nature inspire characters, or, are actually characters in the film. Test footage revealed the Pacific Ocean, “personified by intelligent wave tendrils.”
Johnson shared with Disney’s John Lasseter that he’s always wanted to be in a Disney animated movie, AND that today is his daughter’s birthday. (Excellent timing.) He also bragged a bit about how handsome Maui is, and then led the audience in a traditional Samoan chant. (Oh, Dwayne. We adore you.) Lastly, Opetaia Foa’l, a superstar in the South Pacific who is working with composers Mark Mancina (Tarzan, The Lion King) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Broadway’s Hamilton, In the Heights) on Moana’s music, performed a new song from the film.
Phew! It sounds like Moana is going to be something magical, reminiscent of my favorite scene and song from Pocahontas, “Colors of the Wind” — brought to life on the open seas of the South Pacific.
Moana sails into theaters November 23, 2016.
Special thanks to senior editor and D23 correspondent/champ Dan Casey for covering this panel on the ground floor. Stay tuned for all our D23 coverage throughout the weekend right here on Nerdist, and make sure you follow Dan Casey on Twitter for up to the minute updates!
Rachel Heine is the Editor-in-Chief of Nerdist. You can have Disney sing-alongs with her on Twitter @RachelHeine.