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First Concept Art & Story Details of Disney’s MOANA

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It may still be five years away, but we now have our first look at Disney’s Polynesian-inspired animated feature, Moana!

In this gorgeous piece of artwork, we get a glimpse of the movie’s heroine, Moana, floating in a lagoon. The art style is lush and soft, and reminiscent of Mary Blair’s work. The moonlight makes the blues and greens feel cool and exotic. Notice the tiki idols in the foreground. The art piece also seems to recall Disney’s The Jungle Book.

moana-concept-art-disney

Our friends over at Bleeding Cool have some exclusive story details about Moana:

“…it’s an epic, or even mythic, adventure set around 2000 years ago and across a series of islands in the South Pacific.

The lead character, Moana Waialiki is the only daughter of a Chief in a long line of navigators. She’s really a bit of nerd, but a nerd about sea voyaging, and when her family need her help, she sets off on an epic journey. Some of the other characters are demi-gods and spirits drawn from real mythology.”

Could Moana be Disney’s very first Polynesian Princess? The story sounds rather grand and mystic, and it will be interesting to see what directors John Musker and Ron Clements (who directed classics like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin) come up with in terms of animation style (we’re still hoping for a 2D/CGI hybrid).

Disney’s Moana will release in 2018.

Image Credit: Animation Heroine on Tumblr

What are your first impressions of Moana?

About Gary Wright

Gary is a Disney nerd whose favorite animated movies are Beauty and the Beast, The Incredibles and Wreck-It Ralph. He co-hosted Episode 42 of the Animation Addicts Podcast with The Rotoscopers, just FYI. Find out more at: www.garywrightonline.blogspot.com. Follow on Twitter and Instagram: @IAmGaryWright
  • http://www.garywrightonline.blogspot.com/ Gary Wright

    Please be a musical…please be a musical…please be a musical…

    • Nathan C.

      Please be 2D…please be 2D…please be 2…oh wait.

      Dang it.

      • Fadi Antwan

        If Tangled has taught me anything, it’s that CGI can be as beautiful or even more beautiful than hand-drawn animation. Look at this for example: http://www.skylanterns2u.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/lantern.jpg

        • Nathan C.

          True, but computer-animation can’t simply replace hand-drawn animation. Both CGI and 2D are unique in their own ways.

          What I liked about Disney so much was that they made beautifully animated hand-drawn films that few studios tried to imitate. Now it feels like they want to be like everybody else due to financial problems they’re facing.

          Don’t get me wrong, I thought Tangled and Wreck-it Ralph’s visuals were pretty good, but what makes it so different from other animated releases now?

          • Fadi Antwan

            Just because Disney didn’t start the production of CGI animated movies like they did with hand-drawn (Snow White) doesn’t mean they shouldn’t produce them at all. I would LOVE and wish that Dinsey would produce a few hand-drawn animated movies every now and then, but I definitely don’t complain about their CGI movies. Visuals are not everything a movie is about (although Tangled had the best CG animation I had seen by then). Therefore your “what makes it so different from other animated releases now?” logic is wrong. It just happened that in our time that Disney is not the only major animation studio. But in my heart it’s always and will always be the best.

          • Nathan C.

            I still feel like Pixar puts out the best 3D animation, but Disney is catching on. But I do agree with your point that visuals don’t make a movie (take Cars 2, for example).

            I never said they should give up their CGI animation. I just think they shouldn’t give up on hand-drawn animation just because of a few losses. The Princess and the Frog was a good movie, but Tangled was ultimately better story-wise.

          • Fadi Antwan

            They’ve had really bad luck with their recent hand-drawn animated movies, or maybe it’s just bad marketing. The Princess and the Frog seemed too feminine for most boys to watch (I personally didn’t care), and Winnie the Pooh was released at the same time as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Seriously, Disney?). I hope Disney is not basing it’s moving away from hand-drawn animation on these two scenarios. They should try again with a smarter marketing campaign. :(

          • Danielle

            If I remember correctly, The Princess and the Frog was also competing against the likes of Avatar and Sherlock Holmes. :P

          • anii654 (Jayden-G)

            Disney is catching on, which makes sense because they use the same programs as Pixar, bt I think DreamWorks has better animation than WDAS.

            With PATF, they advertised it like a Renaissance movie in the 90s, but a lot changed since then, and did not work for children in 2009

          • Farno

            Disney owns Pixar….

          • Daisy

            I totally agree with you. Disney always makes the best CGI movies. I CAN’T WAIT to see how Moana will look like (especially CGI makes me wonder how it will look).

          • Aliscen Khaw

            i do understand too, because i miss 2D but disney has their own place in the CGI world too, you know it’s disney when you see the story, the more characters and their movements, and the most undeniable ones, the SONGS

        • http://www.garywrightonline.blogspot.com/ Gary Wright

          Yeah! Even “Frozen” looks gorgeous! (Elsa’s magic, the northern lights, glittering snow). As much as I love hand-drawn, I gotta say, CGI looks amazing these days (remember the shiny sugar crystals in Wreck-It Ralph? drool…)

          • Brandon

            I disagree. I thought a bunch of scenes in Frozen were bland. There are several shots of Arendelle that look unfinished, and when Elsa is climbing the mountain, the sky is bland and the scenery is bland. They could have made the night sky starry and beautiful. The opening segment with the ice harvesters is gorgeous, though.

          • Lithia

            Wow. Thanks for the cynical comment.

          • Brandon

            I thought my comment was fairly constructive. I shared both criticisms and compliments. But, I’d rather be cynical than in denial.

    • Celine

      It’s going to be! It’s official now! (which makes me SO happy. Polynesian music is so pretty and it would be such a waste not to make it a musical)

      • Morgan

        Unfortunately, with the trend Disney seems to be going through, it’ll probably be pop music a la “Love is an Open Door” or “When Will My Life Begin”. While both of those are decent songs, if my hunch is correct I’ll be very disappointed.

        • Celine

          Eghh I hope not, I am SO sick of that trend they’ve been keeping of. Enough of the pop garbage. Mix it up for ONCE!

  • Fadi Antwan

    O-M-G. This is perfect.

  • Stephanie

    Beautiful!

  • http://popculturesocialclub.com/ DreamDrop♥

    I need this to be a princess story.

    • http://markb4.wordpress.com/ The Animation Commendation

      I’m pretty sure it is since she’s the daughter of the chief.

      • http://popculturesocialclub.com/ DreamDrop♥

        I meant Disney Princess® story

  • Juan Nunez

    this is going to be so amazing i can tell(:

  • Md katalaves

    AMAZING

  • Max den Hartog

    Hopefully they will be usin the ‘Paperman’ technique, I would to see how that works out in a feature film and in color!

    • Celine

      Unfortunately they won’t. It’s official now. Apparently the technique is too new and they don’t want to invest in a whole (most likely 1-2 hour length) film with it just yet. I’m disappointed myself though, it would’ve been really cool if they did that.

      • Brandon

        This is partly correct. While it looks great in black and white, they can’t quite get the color to look as good just yet. That’s why they won’t do it.

  • V

    Musker/Clements? YES! Aladdin and The Little Mermaid are my favorite Disney films so cannot wait for this!

  • http://markb4.wordpress.com/ The Animation Commendation

    Wow, it seems really impressive! It’s like “Pocahontas” but 100 times better!

    • Kat Karena

      The tribe of the original Pocoahontas begged Disney, face to face, to not tell that story. No matter how pretty was, it made a mockery of the real story.
      Voyaging is major part of Polynesian culture, about 2000 years ago we lost a lot of people going past Tahiti to New Zealand. It’s a rich culture, that’s been hidden from the world. And now you have some racist film company (and Disney is a racist organisation) who want to reinvent our history?

      • http://markb4.wordpress.com/ The Animation Commendation

        Disney doesn’t mean any harm/offense. Their films will actually help bring these cultures to be ubiquitous and intriguing in the minds of the masses.

        • Brandon

          Pocahontas hasn’t done shit for the Native Americans. All it did was romanticize the past.

  • Ember Lily

    So pretty!!!!

  • Alissa Roy

    Yeah!!! This sounds awesome!!! :D

  • James

    Really pumped for this movie. I know Clements and Musker’s recent exploits have not reached the same level as The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, but I have faith!

  • anii654 (Jayden-G)

    This sounds very interesting; not a typical free-spirit like the past 13 heroines. Musker and Clements being a part of the project is very interesting, and it seems interesting (the premise). For the people thinking it is going to be traditionally animated, I highly doubt

    • TT

      well, technically its10 princesses, since the 1st 3 classic ones aren’t that much. but finally have a nerdy princess.

  • Cindy

    Looks and sounds very interesting, really hope that it would be a traditional hand-drawn movie^^

  • Butteryfingers

    Another princess movie? I’m game.

  • Debbie

    What a beautiful piece of concept art! I agree about it looking like something done by Mary Blair. Now that I’ve seen this and the story details, I’m more excited about this movie (not that I wasn’t before, of course) It’s nice to actually know something about the film, but it does make me a little more impatient to see it. I do hope that they will utilize Paperman’s animation technique and make something really groundbreaking. But this does sound like it’s going to be awesome! :)

  • disneyfanguything

    OMG I CANT WAIT!!!! I doubt the main character will be a Disney princess tho since Disney said they will take a long break of Disney princesses after frozen. and I seriously hope its in 2d cgi hybrid cause that will look AMAZING!! and judging from the concept art, it looks like shes singing. so YAY, MUSICAL!!!! XD

    • Namyli

      The film is due to be released in 2018 so hopefuly thats a long enough ‘break’ from disney princesses and that moana becomes one. That would be so amazing to have a polynesian Disney princess!

      • Jocelyn DOMINGO

        I know somebody famous in Polynesia about 10-12 years old : I’m looking for CASTING for MOANA Animation for my friend. Raumata Tetuanui (artist on FB). She’s a pretty powerful singer ! I need a help to look for the FRENCH CASTING especially !!! Thank you for you attention !!!

  • #NoWorries

    A Polynesian princess?Cool , I don’t care for Frozen.
    Definitely looking forward to this though-

  • Melody Ybona Gawliu

    I hope it’s true! i would LOVE this.

  • SkufiuS

    i doubt it will be in 2d. they already have lilo and stitch as a polynesian 2d movie.
    i hope they represent all the different peoples of the different islands with dance and music. because they are all VERY different and have unique signature feels. How great of an adventure it would be by traveling the many islands in search of some valuable item and ecountering the vast variety of languages and art and warriors and landscapes and dance and music and animals and food. and since her chief is an ancient navigator in polynesia ( the thousand island nation ) it would most likely be a coming of age story of a girl trying to prove herself as a capable sea voyager.
    i predict a storyline as a Johnny Lingo meets Disney’s Brave and Jungle Book feel.
    I know this Samoan can’t wait to see it.

  • NesianIQ

    Im excited and worried at the same time. I am a polynesian and i think the artwork is a very important aspect of this movie. No matter what island you come from in the pacific we are all very artistic and creative people from the Ti vae vae’s in the cook islands to the traditional Samoan tatoos or Tapa cloths . Im also looking forward to the music it could be very fun if they’ve done their research :)

  • kaohu69

    Let’s hope they get the STORY & CULTURE right. Would be great if they actually cast Pacific Islanders/Polynesians as the characters or at the very least a balance between that and big name stars. And NO, Tia Carrera or Grace Park just won’t do.

    • AlanaT

      Im so excited! I just hope they make her look pretty & feminine (not like Lilo & stitch) but yet representing a polynesian girl or woman correctly as well as the culture

    • Hoku

      I agree with you

  • Kapulani Antonio

    A nice Polynesian story would be great but please hire learned Native consultants and talent! Get it right.

  • Lagi Samoa

    That’s great that Disney have decided to recognize Polynesia in an animated feature, HOWEVER it it important that they consult native Polynesians as they structure the story line, form the character and create visual aids. Being Polynesian we pride ourselves in our culture, history and of course art whether it be dance, tatau, waiata, siapo, tapa, etc, etc… DISNEY PLEASE GET THIS RIGHT..I am expecting something real and beautiful that represents the people of the pacific…not hollywood. Looking at the above picture of the Moana snippet already worries me artistically….oh dear.

  • Papa Tuanuku

    How do we say Moana in Polynesia? We say ‘mwa na’, or in or in longer form, ‘more un a’. Moana means ocean in NZ, Hawaii and Rapanui Easter Island, our tupuna were great navigators, this is how the word spread over such a vast area of the moana.

  • moana

    It’s only fitting that “Moana” be a musical. Polynesian’s
    are very talented. We love music and dancing. I should know, I’m Polynesian and my name is Moana :)

  • Jocelyn Domingo

    As Musical film, some polynesians artists will be so happy, so interested to participate to the casting to become singers or musiciansin the film : don’t forget to inform the population of Polynesia for the casting…WE are waiting for MOANA then !!!

  • Jocelyn Domingo

    please, may I have a contact for the DISNEY CASTING ??? I’m looking for it !! Well, THANKS !!!

  • Kbelle10

    I’m kind of disappointed now that the art concept isn’t gonna be like “Paperman” anymore.:(

  • Tamsin

    NO MORE ADJECTIVES!! I’m sick of people forgetting Rapunzel’s name!

  • Tamsin

    Amusingly, this is going to turn into a royal It’s A Small World display soon enough.

  • Maui Tikitikiataranga

    Wouldn’t have high expectations of Disney keeping this up-and-coming Movie “Moana” – “Culturally-correct/pure”. If history of Disney producing other culturally exotic films’ of the past like “Aladdin” (Middle Eastern), “Mulan” (Asian), “Hercules” (Ancient Greek), “The Emperor’s new grove” (Inca), “Pocahontas” (North American Indian) and “Lilo and Stitch” (Hawaiian) , – are anything to go by; definitely don’t hold your breath – to EXPECT ANY CHANGE IN FORMAT! This is what I WON’T EXPECT from Disney: – A] Proper cultural consultation of the Polynesian Myths/Culture,
    B] ACTUAL POLYNESIAN Actors’ (won’t get the parts’ because their accents’ are not ‘American enough’)/Polynesian Singers singing/voice-overs (NOT Zac Efron or Miley Cyrus or some clown from “Glee” doing it),
    C] ACTUAL POLYNESIAN SONGS/music from the South Pacific like – Te Vaka, Fenua, Maisey Rika, Whirimako Black, Oceania (Hinewehi Mohi) and Angela Tuari. (Disney will probably do a cheap version of their work or replace them with a “tween girl heart throb” pop band like ‘One Direction’ for the official theme song – because the copyright of the native’s songs’ are too expensive!).
    In short; am not expecting any different with this movie. Would like to be pleasantly surprised………….hmmmm?…………time will tell.

    • Maui Tikitikiataranga

      Don’t forget this is the same dodgy lot that put sexually explicit subliminal messages’ in the “Lion King” Movie! What shall we expect this time around in the “Subliminal messages’ Department”?……….hmmmm?

      • Hinenui Te Po

        Well Maui Tikitikiataranga you’re right on the money! Disney has started with the “same old, same old” formula! They have named a Non-Polynesian/Female voice-over/Nobody-Actress – to play the role of Moana on the website IMDB. Moana will be played by Gretel Elianova – of German Ancestry. I can see the Polynesians starting to cringe!!!! LOL. Bad – but predictable start Disney! Not a good PR exercise with the culture you are exploiting and stealing. DON’T expect respect or glowing praise from the Polynesians next time you’re promoting this rubbish in their neck of the woods!

        • Hinenui Te Po

          Gretel Elianova has Thai Ancestry too! Moana – the German-Thai Princess! Gretel dear don’t go to the Otara markets in NZ and say you are Polynesian or else you will get the “Bash” ok?

  • Aida

    If Disney doesn’t put PoC as voiceovers and make the characters white-washed, I’M GOING TO BE SO PISSED!!! I’LL DO THE HAKA ON DISNEY AND STAMP ALL OVER THEIR FACES IF THEY GET ANYTHING WRONG!

  • Kittycocoalove (of SHAPE)

    I couldn’t care less about anything else right now- if she has a love life, the movie’s plot, the subliminal messages, the actual moral, etc; I just want to know if it’s 2D animation or CGI/3D. Or a “hybrid mix”? xD I mean, PoC casting matters as well, too, but I’m pretty much the only one here who seems to really ache for the animation :D