The team behind Walt Disney Studios’ upcoming animated feature "Moana" introduced the teenager who will star as the lead character and said they couldn’t be any happier with their choice of Aulii Cravalho, a 14-year-old from Mililani.
They heaped praise on Aulii during a press conference at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina.
"She’s the youngest actress we’ve worked with, but she is really remarkable in a lot of ways," said Ron Clements, who is co-directing the film with John Musker. "She feels a lot older. She seems very smart and very mature and very grounded."
Cravalho, who is a sophomore at Kamehameha Schools, took it all in stride as she handled interviews for the first time.
"It’s a little bit overwhelming, I’ll admit, but I’m really excited and happy," she said in an interview. "I have a great support system."
Her character, Moana, wants to be a navigator, a wayfinder who can journey across the ocean by reading the stars like Nainoa Thompson and Hokulea.
According to Disney, the story takes place 3,000 years ago in Oceania where Moana — “a spirited teenager on an impossible mission to fulfill her ancestors’ quest” — sets sail for a fabled island. During her journey, Moana teams up with Maui, and together they encounter “enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore.”
Maui will be played by Hollywood heavyweight Dwayne Johnson, who brings his own Hawaii connection to the project: He lived in Hawaii off and on as a boy and attended McKinley High School when he was a freshman, playing football for the Tigers.