13 Dec 2016

'Moana' brings Pacific culture to the world

From The Panel, 4:45 pm on 13 December 2016

Moana - the new Disney-Pixar animated film that follows the adventures of the young Polynesian princess and navigator along with the superhero-demigod Maui – premiered in Auckland last night.

The film is loved by both audiences and critics (certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes at 96 percent) and has topped the US box office.

New Zealand director Taika Waititi wrote the initial script and Temuera Morrison, Rachael House, Jemaine Clement and Oscar Kightley all voice characters in the movie.

It also features the music of Opetaia Foa'i, the leader of the pan-Pacific group Te Vaka, in collaboration with, among others, the writer of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Foa'i told The Panel getting the gig was a fairy tale and he was blown away to be asked to join the team of songwriters.

“You’ve got to realise I was born on an island in Samoa with a thatched roof, no walls, and to find myself travelling from a village and ending up in the big city, and Disney, is unbelievable.”  

Moana - Te Vaka

Opetaia Foa'i, front middle with the car, with his band Te Vake. Photo: supplied

He says he has dedicated more than 20 years to highlighting the music and culture of his ancestors and a couple of times during the project he should have been sacked because he refused to do certain things.

“They [Disney-Pixar] are from a different culture … [but] I discovered that these people have great hearts, the upmost respect for the culture and they were willing to relook at things. It was awesome.”

He says it is a “dream come true” to see South Pacific culture on the world stage.

“What Disney is able to do is take this culture and place it in most houses in the world, they can do this for us, and this meant a lot to me.”

Related stories

Pacific band Te Vaka on their soundtrack to Disney film Moana

Authenticity key to Moana movie soundtrack

Disney apologises for Maui costume


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