Disney’s latest animated blockbuster Moana is largely based on the culture and mythology of the Polynesian people who originally settled Samoa, Tonga, Hawai’i, New Zealand, Tahiti, and many other far-flung islands of the Pacific.
Although Moana is from the fictional island Motunui some 3,000 years ago, the story and culture of Moana is based on the very real heritage and history of Polynesian islands such as Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, and Tahiti. In fact, once you start looking for ties to Polynesian culture in Moana, it’s hard to stop!
The plot of Disney’s Moana. Disney’s Moana has depicted part of Polynesian history in its own way, with some aspects being somewhat factual while others were exaggerated. Disney’s Moana is set on the fictional island of Motunui.
Its narrative is inspired by the legends of South Pacific Ocean cultures, including the Maori (though the extent to which Moana handles these legends with sensitivity and accuracy has been subject to some debate).
The majority of the film’s cast members are of Polynesian descent: Auliʻi Cravalho (Moana) and Nicole Scherzinger (Sina, Moana’s mother) were born in Hawaii and are of Native Hawaiian heritage; Dwayne Johnson (Maui), Oscar Kightley (Fisherman), and Troy Polamalu (Villager No. 1) are of Samoan heritage; and New Zealand-
Is Te Fiti a real place? Te Fiti is not a real place. However, the creators of Moana did base Te Fiti on Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia. Art directors Bill Schwab and Andy Harkness told Variety that the research for the film was crucial in perfecting the animation.
In the 2016 Disney computer-animated musical film Moana, the demigod Maui is voiced by Dwayne Johnson. Abandoned by his human parents as a baby, the gods took pity on him and made him a demigod and gave him a magic fish hook that gives him the ability to shapeshift.
Polynesia encompasses a huge triangular area of the east-central Pacific Ocean. The triangle has its apex at the Hawaiian Islands in the north and its base angles at New Zealand (Aotearoa) in the west and Easter Island (Rapa Nui) in the east.
Māui (Maui) is the great culture hero and trickster in Polynesian mythology. Very rarely was Māui actually worshipped, being less of a deity and more of a folk hero. His origins vary from culture to culture, but many of his main exploits remain relatively similar.
Though Brave is set in a fictional medieval Scotland, Pixar’s animators were deeply affected by the real country’s raw beauty and rich heritage, visiting Scotland both in the summer of 2006 and late 2007.
Apparently Maui was partially modeled after The Rock’s own grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia of Samoa. The connections between grandfather and grandson don’t stop there. Peter Maivia was a Samoan professional wrestler and the first of the family to enter the WWE in the late 70’s.