Early reports on the first footage of Disney’s next princess film, Moana (by Ron Clements and John Musker — the makers of The Little Mermaid, Alladin and The Princess and the Frog), promised both exquisite visuals and a researched look into ancient Polynesian mythology (with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson voicing the demigod, Maui). But despite visuals and backstory having been publicized, the actress voicing the titular role hadn’t been announced until today.
Earlier, The Rock glowingly posted the casting news on Instagram, saying, “After months and months of worldwide casting calls, we’ve finally found our next DISNEY Princess… #MOANA. I’m pumped to welcome 14yr old @AuliiCravalho of Mililani, Hawaii to our project.” He explains the story of how she came to be involved: how she didn’t actually “think she was good enough” and thus hadn’t initially appeared for an audition — rather, she was discovered while performing at a charity competition. Casting director Rachel Sutton told People in an exclusive video, “Auli’i was the very last girl that [she] saw on [her] last day of casting,” and The Rock concluded that it’s “an awesome lesson to all young kids out there… work hard, have confidence in yourselves and never think you’re not good enough because you never know what the future holds.”
Cravalho also spoke with People about Moana, saying she “is such an amazing character. She’s brave, she is so empowered, she knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get it.” Cravalho — who, herself, sings as a soprano in her school’s glee club — also informed the magazine that Johnson will do his own singing in the film.
In the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, Moana, a born navigator, sets sail in search of a fabled island. During her incredible journey, she teams up with her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui, to traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore.
Watch People‘s video: