WATCH: The Voice Behind "Moana" Tells Us Why She Is Definitely "Not A Disney Princess"

25 November 2016, 11:23 | Updated: 8 May 2017, 17:09

James Wilson-Taylor

By James Wilson-Taylor

We meet the voice and directors behind your new favourite Disney musical...

"If there ever was a physical altercation, I think Moana definitely could hold her own, I think she could take Jasmine or Ariel or any of the other princesses. She knows how to handle that oar and can do some damage with that".

Legendary Disney directors John Musker and Ron Clements have worked on pretty much every animated classic of your childhood, from Aladdin and The Little Mermaid all the way up to The Princess and The Frog. But something about their latest project is different. 


So, could Moana take Ariel in a fight? 

"I'm not sure. As the voice behind Moana I would say she probably wouldn't. Not saying that she couldn't, she wouldn't. She's level-headed and wonderful."



Newcomer Auli'i Cravalho is right. Moana, the title character of Disney's latest musical epic, is indeed both "level-headed and wonderful". But unlike her recent contemporaries, from Elsa to Tiana and even Merida, their is one thing she is defiantly not - she is NOT a princess!


She's a disney heroine. To me it's really important as a young lady myself, 15 going on 16, having a heroine who is not only brave for others but brave for herself, in that she journeys for herself and she figures out who she is. It's one thing to be selfless, which Moana is to save her people, but she is also brave in that she realises that she needs to figure out who she is. And that journey that she goes on I think a lot of young women can relate to and a lot of, well, just people in general that journey of figuring out who we are is just so incredibly important.

Auli'li Cravalho


It's exactly the type of strong, female lead you would want in a 2016 Disney film, just as Moana travels across the sea to save her family (alongside a demi-god, voice by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and a comedy chicken sidekick) so her bravery will inspire future generations to follow their own path. 

But wait - where is her dashing prince, ready to swoop in and save the day at the last possible second?

"Like I said, the film is about the journey and about figuring out who you are and quite frankly you don't need a love interest for that. That's all you (laughs)".

Good point!


It's an important shift in character that Disney have been conscious over their previous few films, their leading ladies no longer mere damsels in distress, but people with agency and purpose, leading the story rather than playing second fiddle to a more outlandish male figure.


There was never a romance in this story. We saw it more as an adventure story, as a hero's journey...she had to be tough, she had to be resiliant. She's full of grit and determination.

Ron Clements, Director, PopBuzz


This new attitude has clearly set the heartwarming and hilarious Moana up to be a future classic, with the songs of Hamilton's Lin Manuel Miranda set for repeat plays in family vehicles for months to come.

But what about the current crop of classics? Does Auli'i have a favourite among the pack? 

"Mulan. I thought from a young age that she was super cool because she kicked some serious butt. And she was a heroine in my eyes. She was beautiful yes but she didn;t let what other people said kind of hinder her or not allow her to do the things she thought was necessary."

Discovered through a charity singing competition in her native Hawaii, Auli'i's voice seems purpose built for a typical Disney "I Want.." song like "How Far I'll Go", no doubt ready to overtake "Part Of Their World" as the karaoke song of choice for inspiring actresses everywhere.

And what are the future career plans for Auli'i? Will we see her in front of the camera anytime soon?

"I'm also very interested in science, specifically molecular biology. Little bit different from the current path but I'm hoping to use both of my skills and just enjoy both directions that it takes me".

An acting molecular biologist perhaps?

"There we go - I like the sound of that". 

It seems that much like Moana herself, this young performer is set to follow her own journey, with no telling just how far she'll go.


Moana is out now in the US on and in the UK on December 2nd.