Voice of Disney's seafaring princess is 'a klutz on land'

Press conference for Disney animation 'Moana' (from left) Ms Griselda Sastrawinata, Ms Auli’i Cravalho, Mr Roger Lee and Ms Osnat Shurer.
PHOTO: Berita Harian

If there's one thing that the voice actress of Disney's upcoming animated film Moana has in common with her titular ocean-loving character - besides their Pacific islander heritage - it is that they are naturals in the water.

"Along with dancing hula... I also paddle and sail out on the ocean," said Auli'i Cravalho at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Tuesday.

The Hawaiian looked every bit a Disney princess, dressed in a sleeveless Tyrian purple gown and with Singapore's national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim, adorning her right ear.

"I don't do any land sports. I run to the ocean because I'm a klutz on land," she deadpanned.

Cravalho - whose 16th birthday falls on Nov 22, two days before the film opens here - was on Singapore shores with producer Osnat Shurer, Singaporean lighting artist Roger Lee and Indonesian visual development artist Griselda Sastrawinata for a regional press conference.

The 56th Disney animated feature film tells the story of Moana, the adventurous daughter of a tribal chief, who embarks on an odyssey with demi-god Maui, voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, to save her people and restore their connection to the sea.

Peppering her sentences with "like" and "literally", the bubbly teen fawned over her co-star Johnson, calling him "super cool" and "really nice".

"Not that I was expecting him to be mean, but he's had so much success and he's this big guy in Hollywood, he's the busiest man, and yet... he gave me flowers. He's so sweet," she gushed, drawing "awws" from the audience.

Read also: Is this Disney costume from Moana racist?

Cravalho feels it is "really important" that Moana does not have a love interest.

"She doesn't need a Prince Charming because, quite frankly, you don't need anyone else to help you figure out who you are," she said, before egging Shurer on to make a sequel.

Shurer said the movie is "going to make you laugh, make you cry and make you think".

"Moana, in part, is about stopping to listen to the voice inside yourselves. The world will always tell you who you're meant to be and each one of us has a voice inside that tells us who we really are.

"At any age, any gender, to stop and to listen and to follow the call is something that I think is relevant to every single one of us."

The Israel-born producer also gave a shout-out to the "hundreds and hundreds of artists in our studio from over 25 countries", saying "that adds to the richness and diversity of everything we do".

Griselda said the film-makers have done "incredible" research in order to respect the culture that inspired it.

"We have this Oceanic Story Trust, we have archaeologists, anthropologists, fishermen, elders, tattooists, linguists, dancers. So we really involved ourselves in it," she added.

Read also: Moana's 'brown face' row leaves Disney red faced

Lee shared that the film got him "really interested" in Polynesian culture.

Maui, for example, had him wondering: "Who's this super cool guy who can pull islands across the sea and is super strong and shape-changing?" He believes the movie will have the same effect on others.

Lee told My Paper that the favourite sequence he worked on was one in which Moana ventures into a cave.

His favourite shot was when the heroine lights up a flame, saying it had "depth" and "atmosphere" and that it was a "fun sequence to showcase what lighting can do".

With a winsome smile, Cravalho said: "I am so happy and so blessed to be working on a film like this, inspired by Polynesian culture. "And I get to travel to different places with wonderful people. I mean, we're practically all family from across the sea."

andreteh@sph.com.s


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