If you’re cringing at the thought of returning home after your Hawaii vacation, you’ll soon have an animated reminder of your time in the islands. That’s because Disney is set to release a new film called, Moana, next year, and an Oahu teen will be the new Disney Princess.

Disney executives recently cast 14 year-old Aulii Cravalho of Mililani as the lead character, named Moana. According to Disney, the story takes place 3,000 years ago in Oceania where Moana, “a spirited teenager on an impossible mission to fulfill her ancestors’ quest,” sets sail for a fabled island. During her journey, Moana teams up with Maui, and together they encounter “enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore.”

According to People magazine, initially, Cravalho didn’t think she had the chops to make it all the way, “I was getting through my freshman year, and there were already so many great submissions over YouTube.”

Turns out, a casting agent discovered the teen and her singing talent and helped her find her way to Los Angeles to see directors Ron Clements and John Musker, who also directed The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.

At a Press Conference at Aulani on Oahu, Musker commented on Cravalho. “She was so sweet and so honest,” Musker said. “There is almost a storybook quality to the way this worked out.”

Cravalho, who is a Native Hawaiian sophomore at Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama told People Magazine, “Moana is such an amazing character. She’s brave, she is so empowered, she knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get it, and I think that’s something that I can relate to as well. I just love watching how she goes along in this wonderful movie and grows as a person and helps her culture along the way.”

sketches for the movie,

Photo: Disney

Ideas for the movie, "Moana" have been discussed since 2011.

Playing opposite Cravalho? None other than Dwayne Johnson, who plays Maui in the film. He spent part of his youth in Hawaii. Cravalho is especially excited to work alongside Johnson, who will play a demigod named Maui whom Moana encounters during her travels.

“I am very excited about that, my gosh,” Cravalho told the Honolulu Star Advertiser,”I’ve never heard him sing before so it’s going to be really interesting!”

According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, the directors discussed the story in early 2011 and pitched it to John Lasseter, Disney’s chief creative officer. Lasseter told them to focus the story more, and that sent the directors on a research trip to Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti, where they learned about wayfinding, the practice of navigating by using the stars, ocean currents and other natural features as guides.

By early 2012 their pitch was successful, in part because they ditched a romantic subplot to focus on navigation, Musker said. They knew they had an adventure, too.

press conference with men speaking at the podium and a poster in the backgorund

Photo: Disney

Disney executives were at Aulani on Oahu recently to promote the film, which stars a local teen.

“The South Pacific was the source of the greatest voyagers the world has ever seen,” Musker told the Honolulu Star Advertiser, “They found their way across great oceans, from west to east, the greatest act of navigation the world has ever seen.”

Speaking of navigation, you can experience your own journey when you book the Hawaii Inter Island Tour with the Trilogy Discover Lanai. Take the Original Discover Lanai Tour, which is a re-creation of a two-year sail through the South Pacific. Like Moana, you can try your hand at nautical voyaging while relaxing and playing on board and on excursions.

Watching Moana may not be EXACTLY like coming back to Hawaii, but at the very least, it will inspire you to make a return trip!

Moana, featuring our Hawaii Disney Princess, is scheduled to be released Nov. 23, 2016.


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