Disclosure: This event and trip to LA was an all expense paid journey sponsored by Disney. All thoughts, opinions and experiences are 100% my own!
The REAL Moana: Auli’i Cravalho and Her Mom Puanani Cravalho
I had the chance to sit down with the adorable Auli‘i Cravalho (voice of “Moana”) for an interview while I was in LA several months ago and I have been patiently waiting to share it with all of you. Aside from the fact that this movie looks like it is going to be amazing, there is a very sweet story about how the voice of the main character Moana came to be. Meet Auli‘i Cravalho, soon to be a household name, I predict. After spending some time with her, I can tell you that this young lady is not only darling, but very grounded as well. I would guess that a lot of that is the result of great parenting. Meeting her mother Puanani confirmed that for me, and together they made for a pretty neat and inspiring interview that I think you will really enjoy!
First of all, young Auli‘i was all smiles, just a real joy. When asked about what it was like working with Dwayne Johnson in this film, she responded:
He was very nice and very professional. It was interesting. He is very focused. He loves the character Maui so much because he’s Polynesian just like I am. So to see that he’s so committed to the character just made it almost overwhelming the amount of emotion that I know I put into it, I know that he puts the same amount.
Auli‘i is very passionate about her culture, and her answers made that very clear. Here she talks about her character Moana and what she thinks that Moana will bring to the table as a new Disney character:
Moana is definitely a Disney character that people will love because she’s totally bad butt. She’s really awesome. As someone who has been born and raised on the island of Hawaii so the Big Island, I love my culture. I go to an all Hawaiian school where you have to be Hawaiian to be admitted. And I speak the language as well.
To have such a beautiful young teen who shows that it’s okay to go on a journey to find yourself, it’s wonderful, because that message is universal to everyone. And also because way finding isn’t just something they made up for animation purposes. It was truly almost lost in the Polynesian culture, which is something that not a lot of people know. So the fact that it’s being shined in such a positive light and the fact that there is now a resurgence of navigation and way finding in real day-to-day life, it’s so important.
A very thoughtful young lady, she just seems to be wise beyond her years. I love how she ranked her priorities:
Family, definitely. It’s just been my mom and I for like for it’s been three years or so. I love my family and the fact that Moana kind of shares that. She loves her people and I think a lot of people say when you go to Hawaii, you’ll notice like the ambience and you’ll notice everyone is friendly because we all kind of think for each other. That’s something that I had to kind of get used to here, because it’s not like that. I don’t mean that in a negative way but I’m not sure it can be taken any other way. It’s interesting. Everyone is for themselves here, which is great, you know. If you succeed, good for you. But for everyone that I’ve ever met in Hawaii, it’s like you made it and you made it for us. And it’s I just feel so proud of that.
Her audition process was certainly a unique one and I personally loved the fact that she wasn’t looking to be in entertainment, it was really just something that happened.
I didn’t initially audition for it. My friends and I actually put together an audition to be the entertainment for a nonprofit event on the island. And we put together like a bunch of a Capella songs and my friend beat boxed and it was just really a fun experience and we sent it out. We tried out best and we didn’t get in and it was like devastating for a second. But what happened was the casting director for Disney saw that audition because she was going through those auditions as well.
So she emailed mom and I to ask if I wanted to audition, it was fantastic and the rest is kind of history.
Since Auli‘i is totally new to the voice recording process, she was so darling when she talked about her experiences making this film, and I love that she seemed to have really connected with the Disney team that she worked with in the process.
Having to record a line like ten times in a row just because there’s so many different ways you can say it. So to get that one perfect take took forever. But it was worth it, it was totally worth it. And then I got to meet the animators, which was something that not many voice actresses or actors get to do, and the animators don’t usually get to see them either. They just hear the voice and then make it work. They work overtime and they have overtime dinners practically every night of the week, they work on weekends. And the fact that they have families and they spend so much time on such an important film, it was like we bonded in a way that I don’t think either like one of us really expected.
Again, very grounded, she just seems to wise beyond her years, especially when explaining her reaction to reading the script for the first time:
When I read the script, I was just I was surprised by, again, just how much research they did. Because as a Polynesian, we believe that everything is connected. So from Malta to Makai, from the ocean to the sea, we respect that. Because we use everything. Everything. So if we take care of the land or we take care of the ocean, then it’ll take care of us. And the script really held that in there and I remember all I could think of is whoever gets this is going to do it such great justice. They have no choice because it’s an awesome script.
One of my favorite parts of this interview was when Auli’i’s mother Puanani summed up her thoughts on this journey, and she got almost teary eyed in doing so. Their relationship is such a beautiful one, I just adore how much they adore each other and how they are taking this journey together:
This was just something that she did for fun, if we could fit it into the schedule and if we could go ahead and assure all the important academic classes were taken care of, then absolutely, fit in some of that fun stuff, I think that’s very important. And, so when this came along and she had this opportunity, a part of me was just afraid, because we’re going into an area that I don’t know.
This opportunity was just so amazing and it truly is, but we are outside of what my knowledge and understanding is. I’m thrilled and I’m honored and I’m happy for her and what makes me happy is that I’m watching her and I know my child, I know every movement, the hair, the twist, the brow and everything and what these things say to me is that she truly is enjoying this. And that makes it okay. And to be in the hands of Disney. We’re in good hands. I‘m doing my mommy part and I’m staying close with her, because I need to be on this journey with her. But she’s happy and she’s thriving, and we’re in good hands. So this canoe is sailing and we’re sailing well and we’re moving forward, we really are.
At this point Auli’i’ jumps in and says: I have an amazing mom. Right?
So then all the moms in the room got all teary eyed and we laughed and cried and laughed some more. Isn’t she a doll? Such a sweet young lady, I can’t wait to see this all come to life on the big screen! This young lady is a true inspiration (in fact, my daughter dressed as Moana last night for Halloween and we haven’t even seen the movie yet!) and I am excited for yet another inspiring role model for young girls!
One of my very favorite photos from the event, my friend Karen (KouponKaren) and I with the darling Auli‘i Cravalho.
Make sure to check out my behind the scenes peek at the making of Moana and the fabulous characters in this film. I absolutely can’t wait for this movie. Here’s a fun trailer for you to enjoy:
Moana hits theatres on November 23rd!