Disney’s newest heroine, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), has a host of colorful characters at her side, but one you probably didn’t expect to be helping her out is the ocean.
“Moana” follows the story of a young girl from the Pacific Islands, who finds she has a rather special relationship with the sea. Upon discovering that her people used to be expert navigators, Moana is struck with the urge to explore beyond the reef surrounding her island home and connect with the ocean.
Connecting with the ocean has never been much of a problem for Moana though, since it is essentially a character in the film just like any other sidekick.
Rather than animate an amorphous body of water throughout the film, which largely takes place on boats and rafts as Moana and Maui (Dwayne Johnson) set off on an adventure together, the storytellers behind “Moana” decided to incorporate the ocean itself into the quest.
Water as a character sounds like an odd and impossible goal to accomplish, but the Disney animators rose to the occasion, giving the ocean a distinctive personality all its own.
Zap2it got a sneak preview of the film and spoke to the animators in charge of the monumental task of turning the ocean into an ally for Moana.
“We needed to have the ocean itself be a character and for that to be believable as well,” says Disney animator Dale Mayeda. “We started early on with our character animators and had discussions about how we were going to do this … so that the water can interact with Moana back and forth.”
The water does interact with her — quite cutely in our opinion — and even aids her and Maui on their quest to find the fabled island that will restore balance to Moana’s world.
In terms of difficultly, Mayeda and his fellow animators faced the task of animating a fluid character who could change shape at any time, while still giving it a distinct shape and personality. It may sound like an animator’s dream, but getting the shape and feel of the ocean just right was a momentous task.
“We wanted to make sure that the water character didn’t feel like some kind of serpent coming out of the water,” Mayeda says. “It’s actually made of water.”
In the end, the water character is impressively integrated into the story, even giving Moana high fives and waving at her throughout the film.
“Moana” hits theaters everywhere on Nov. 23, 2016.