Disney’s Moana Press Day Adventures

MOANA - (L-R) Directors Jon Musker and Ron Clements present at the Moana Long Lead Press Day on July 27, 2016 at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, CA. Photo by Alex Kang. © 2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
MOANA – (L-R) Directors Jon Musker and Ron Clements present at the Moana Long Lead Press Day on July 27, 2016 at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, CA. Photo by Alex Kang. © 2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

With the holidays rapidly approaching, it also means a new Walt Disney Animated feature film will be released! Coming in November is “Moana,” a tale about a chief’s daughter on a South Pacific Island who strives to find her calling in life by going on a daring adventure to discover her ancestors’ past.  Recently, I had the incredible experience of being able to meet the amazing directors Ron Clements and John Musker (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid), some of the head animators, screenwriters, and other talented crew members give presentations about “Moana”.

The day started off in a casual, yet incredibly magical way: having breakfast at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, with the director duo Clements and Musker also there, chatting with us. A pretty incredible start to a Disney lover’s day!

 

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.

Inner Workings

We then were able to see the upcoming Walt Disney Animation Studio short film “Inner Workings,” that will be shown before “Moana” once it hits theaters. The film’s director Leo Matsuda talked about how his own childhood, being part Japanese and part Brazilian influenced the short’s main character and the storytelling style. The short film was a wonderful mix of hand drawn and CG animation, and has a story tangible to most people: trying to decide whether you should listen to the passions of your heart or the logic of your head.

The Islands of Moana

After getting to see “Inner Workings,” we had a fun-filled day of learning all the ins-and-outs of making “Moana”. In the first presentation, “The Islands of Moana,” we learned about how the Islands of the South Pacific inspired the setting for the film.  Disney’s Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter made sure the animators and directors had the most important tool needed to execute the look of the film: research! The creative team journeyed to numerous Polynesian islands to learn about the nature, the oceans, the culture, the food, the people…everything and anything to help them portray an authentic and beautiful movie.

One thing that they discovered about the Islands’ cultures is that water plays such an important role, it’s almost like a person with its own individuality. To portray this aspect of the cultures, the filmmakers introduce water early on in the film with having its own caring, yet playful personality.

Young Moana interacting with the Ocean.
Young Moana interacting with the Ocean.

Effects

The ocean also played a crucial role within the effects department. Not only does much of the film take place on the ocean, but the whole island where Moana’s village is located is surrounded by water. Hank Driskill (the Technical Supervisor), Kyle Odermatt (Visual Effects Supervisor), Marlon West (Head of Effects), and Dale Mayeda (Head of Effects) gave us a wonderful presentation on how the team worked tirelessly on finding and developing the latest technological and artistic tools to make the ocean’s personality come to life. In the screenshots below, where the ocean gives Moana a “high five” you can see how much work goes into every detail, with multiple layers of effects in each shot:

MOANA effects progression image, featuring Animation (top), Simulation (middle), and Render (bottom) passes.
MOANA effects progression image, featuring Animation (top), Simulation (middle), and Render (bottom) passes.

And of course, if you have seen any pictures of Moana, one of her most notable features is her gorgeous, full head of hair. Long hair, we learned in this presentation, is quite difficult to animate! Computers don’t automatically recognize when long hair is present in front of someone’s chest. So each shot someone’s hair is down in the film had to be manually lifted to the correct position. I was astounded by the dedication of the team to work tirelessly on her hair to make the character look as authentic to the Polynesian culture as possible.

 

The MOANA filmmakers embarked upon research trips to the Pacific Islands to learn about the cultures that inspired the film. They were given the opportunity to assemble the "Oceanic Story Trust," a group of anthropologists, archeologists, fishermen, liguists, tatto masters, dancers and elders who help keep the film's story grounded in respect for the cultures that inspired it.
The MOANA filmmakers embarked upon research trips to the Pacific Islands to learn about the cultures that inspired the film. They were given the opportunity to assemble the “Oceanic Story Trust,” a group of anthropologists, archeologists, fishermen, liguists, tatto masters, dancers and elders who help keep the film’s story grounded in respect for the cultures that inspired it.

More to come!

It was an amazing day of learning the inner workings of Moana. I can’t wait to share more with you about what I learned at my day with the Moana crew. Stay tuned to learn more in November!

Moana comes to theaters November 23rd.

 


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