We had a chat with the chirpy newbie and it became obvious why Disney chose her for the role
Text and photos by Pamela Chow
Sporting a Vanda Miss Joaquim in her hair and an appropriately tropical dress, voice actress Auli’i Cravalho speaks with confident, contagious yet innocent enthusiasm. It’s hard to believe that she’s only 15 years old, and that this is her first stint ever – and with Disney, no less.
Cravalho voices the titular character Moana, a fiesty teenage Polynesian who ventures across the ocean to find the demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). Cravalho – who is born and raised in Hawaii – is now in town to promote the film, which releases here on 24 Nov.
We speak to the starlet about debuting with one of the biggest animation studios in the world.
Hi Auli’i! In what ways are you similar to Moana?
She grows up in an island, so have I; she’s deeply rooted to her culture, so am I… The journey that Moana goes on to find herself – that’s something that’s very close to my heart. I’m 15; I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. I get it! I’m finding who I am as well.
I got to really connect with my character and become my character. It was a lot of fun and I loved it so much.
As a Polynesian yourself, how do you feel about the film’s portrayal of your culture?
I’m very deeply proud of this film. I will admit that before I worked on Moana, everyone was a little interested and wary of the film, because we want a film inspired by our culture to be done right.
I can honestly say that I’m so proud of this and what it’s become. I’m so proud of the time that the directors and producers have taken to research and really get connected to our culture.
How did your friends react when you got the role?
My friends have been very supportive. That’s something that I really love about my family and my culture – my friends are basically my family – and my win was like their win.
They text and call and FaceTime me, and they’re like, “We’re so proud of you!” Nothing warms my heart more than knowing that I have support all the way across the ocean.