Film Preview: 'MOANA'

The new Disney tale involves new technology, lots of research, and good ol' Disney care

Amy Lawson Smeed, Disney's head of animation for the film "MOANA," spoke about what it was like working on the film to students at the School of Cinematic Arts on Thursday. She presented many preview clips, a behind-the-scenes look and answered questions about the film, which will be released just before Thanksgiving.

"MOANA" tells the story of Moana, a Pacific Islands native on a journey to save the island's people. Smeed said the story came from a legendary myth about the Polynesian islands. Many voyagers traveled across the Pacific Ocean, until the navigations stopped for unknown reasons. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker visited the Pacific Islands while brainstorming ideas, to gain islanders' perspectives and fill in the gaps to tell the story.

Amy described the process of developing the film's animated characters, cast and music. Disney Animation Studio looked at hundreds of thousands of drawings, in styles from many different artists, and ran through many rounds of character iterations, before finalizing the characters and plot seen in the film. "MOANA" directors' past credits include "The Princess and the Frog" and "The Little Mermaid," and they chose a cartoon-like style of character for the fearless, strong-willed Moana.

New to the film "MOANA" is The development of quicksilver, the material used in Moana's hair that allows it to sway when she walks and sails, and twirls her hair between her fingers. The animators collaborated to ensure that Moana has the same range of motion and expression as Auli'i Cravalho, the 14-year-old Hawaii native, who voice acts as Moana, in her first-ever role.

Talent in the production of "MOANA" also includes its music composers, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who worked on "Hamilton" and won 11 Tony awards; Mark Mancina, who has created music at Disney since "The Lion King;" and Opetaia Foa'i, whose knowledge of Pacific Island culture came into the film's music.

Speed has been working at Disney for 42 years. She's the first woman to hold the title of Head of Animation in a Disney animated feature film.

Watch the trailer below:

Reach Staff Reporter Alison Brett here.