After a worldwide search, Walt Disney Animation Studios has announced the casting of newcomer Auli’i Carvalho to voice the title character for their new feature film “Moana”.
The Native Hawaiian joins Dwyane Johnson in a tale about a young teenager who sets off an adventure “to prove herself a master wayfinder and fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest”.
Johnson will be voicing the character of Maui, a demigod who assists Moana in her fantastic voyage.
Carvalho, 14, was busy preparing for her sophomore year in high school before getting word of the possibility she could get the role. She was the very last girl to audition for the part, according to casting director Rachel Sutton.
“I didn’t think I would have a chance,” she said. “When I was little, I used to dance around the house singing at the top of my lungs. In my mind, that was performing and I loved the feeling of it. But I never imagined being in a Disney movie, being Moana—representing my culture in that way.”
Disney producers had their sights set on finding the right person to voice Moana by casting someone from the Pacific Islands and found Carvalho with the aid of their Hawaiian casting director, who remembered her from an unrelated audition and tracked her down.
“Her audition was fantastic – she was such a raw talent,” said producer Osnat Shurer. “Auli’i was among a small number of girls we brought back for a second round of auditions. Then we flew her and her mom over to audition at our studios in Burbank.”
Co-director John Musker was also impressed with Carvalho’s talent and poise.
“Auli’i demonstrated a certain fearlessness in her auditions and call-backs,” said director John Musker. “She has a playful, mischievous wit. She can project vulnerability, she doesn’t seem intimidated at all by the challenges ahead, and her Polynesian background has helped shape her connection to family, hard work and music. These are all qualities she shares with Moana.”
As for the movie, co-director Ron Clements promises plenty of action and thrills in Moana’s quest to discover the world around her.
“Moana is a vibrant, tenacious 16-year-old growing up on an island where voyaging is forbidden,” he said. “But Moana has been drawn to the ocean since she can remember and is desperate to find out what’s beyond the confines of her island.”
Disney will release “Moana” in U.S. theaters on November 23, 2016.