Meet Moana, Disney’s first Pacific-Islander princess

Moana will be Disney’s first Pacific-Islander princess.

Creators at Disney Animation Studios will visit the South Pacific in 2016 with “Moana,” the story of a 16-year-old seafarer who sets sail on a quest to find a fabled island. The film is set in the ancient world of Oceania.

“Moana” will be directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, who previously codirected three other Disney films: “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin” and “The Princess and the Frog.”

Clements and Musker revealed that the format of the feature would be a new, painter-like style of CG-animation, and that their leading lady is an “indomitable, passionate dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean,” Musker said in an interview with Deadline.com last year. “She’s the kind of character we all root for.”

While trying to find a voice for Oceania’s princess, casters decided to deviate from the Disney tradition of hiring an adult woman to do a teenager’s job.

Instead, 14-year-old newcomer Auli’i Cravalho was selected for the role. Much like her Disney doppelgänger, Cravalho is also of Pacific Islander decent — Moana is the first of the princesses from this part of the world — and is the first actual teenager to voice a Disney princess.

“Moana is such an amazing character. She’s brave, she is empowered, she knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get,” Cravalho said in an interview with People magazine.

Cravalho will be joined by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who will voice the character Maui, a demigod who helps Moana on her voyage.

And what Disney feature would be complete without a couple of catchy tunes? Much like its popular predecessors (“Tangled,” “Frozen”), “Moana” will also be a musical. The songs for the film will be co-written by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the Broadway hit, “Hamilton.” 

“Moana” hits theatres Nov. 23, 2016.