Can you imagine being 14 years old and being cast as Disney’s newest Polynesian heroine? We got to sit down for an Exclusive Interview with Auli’i Cravalho herself to talk about MOANA and her experience as being cast in a Disney animated film at such a young age.
I was invited by Disney to attend the LA Red Carpet Premier and Press Junket for the #MoanaEvent, #TheBFGBluray, #ABCTVEvent and #StuckInTheMiddleEvent. This special invitation is an all expense paid trip, but all magical opinions are mine alone.
Exclusive Interview with Auli’i Cravalho #MoanaEvent
Being able to sit down with the young actress Auli’i was such a treat! She is a young girl who got to make her dream a reality in real life. She’s the sweetest young lady and I know that with her talent, positive outlook, and the support of her family she will be working in the industry for a very long time. Can’t wait to see where her adventures take her next!
So I think everyone here has seen the video of them sneakingly telling you that had gotten the part. But for readers that have not seen that video, can you share with us again, what was that like?
Sure. I was called into technically another audition where I was told I would need to do just some more ad lib. And that was after I had already flown up to LA and I had done some recording up there. I had tried out the first time in my life in front of like real life people. Besides my mom. And I had a lot of fun. And then that was my kind of second callback, I suppose. And they told me I’d just do some more ad lib and my mom was like, okay, I have work, you’re gonna go with your aunt, the world is gonna continue. This is awesome but like, the world continues. So she went to work and I went with my aunt to the audition process. And I did more ad lib and they were like, “You know, could you say it a little bit more happy, like for instance if we gave you the role, how would you react?” And I was like, “Okay! Wow!” I gave forth my best shot. And that’s when they told me I was gonna be in MOANA. Which was I was crying and I was so happy. And just thrilled that, first of all, they thought that I was worthy enough for this role. I didn’t think that I was, I could never imagine in my wildest dreams that I would be voicing this character. But I was just so happy and blessed. Then I called my mom and I had another cry fest. So, It was really good.
I loved seeing the Polynesian culture play out in this film, it was so infused and beautiful. And it made me proud. I’m not even Polynesian, I was like, oh, this is so beautiful. How does it feel for you and how do you think everyone’s gonna react to it?
I’ll admit, I was a little wary before I stepped foot into this role. Because I think anyone who hears that a movie’s going to inspired by their culture, they want it to be done right. And we don’t want any misrepresentation, we want to make sure that what we feel our culture’s about, that it’s portrayed correctly on the screen. And that was how I felt. But after sort of working on the film and I learned that we have an ocean of story trust, made up of individuals who are elders, who are fishermen, or navigators. That every single component, whether it was just a small little dancing scene in there, that was choreographed by a Polynesian dancer. That just the little details, even just listening to the palm trees swaying in the background, that they got all of that. Because that’s what it’s about, it’s in the fine details that I think make just the large production that much more special.
Before you started on the film how much Polynesian myth did you know?
I knew quite a bit. I kind of describe Maui’s mythology and the folklore of it as my bedtime stories, because they really were. The stories of him pulling oceans out of the sea, or slowing down the sun. I not only heard it before going to bed but also at my school. I go to an all Hawaiian school. So even voyaging across the open ocean, it’s something that we find deep pride in. It’s pretty connected into our curriculum.
What is your message you want children, not just girls, but boys to take away from this movie?
Absolutely, thank you so much. I think the underlying theme of MOANA is something that everyone can take away. Yes, young women but also young men who are going to go into this era and be their own heroes and heroines of their own story. It’s so important. I’m 15, going on 16, and you know, I’ve found that I can live up to MOANA and that she’s a true heroine. That she’s determined and beautiful in inside and out, but being strong doesn’t mean that you don’t have your weaker moments, you can’t be as connected emotionally either. MOANA is all of that, and I think her journey of finding herself is something that everyone can take away from, girl or boy.
How does it feel to be the youngest Disney princess? I mean, you’ll go down in history at this point of being the youngest Disney princess.
Yes, thank you! That’s pretty incredible. I’ll be the same age as the character, my birthday is on November 22nd and the film comes out on the 23rd. And Moana’s 16 in the film. It kinda just worked out like that. I’m really proud of the character that Disney has portrayed on screen. I’m proud of her built, the wonderful tan that she has. I love that, not only will people look up to her but people will begin looking up to me. That’s something I can’t quite wrap my mind around just yet. I guess I am a 15 year old whom has so much more to learn. And I have so much more to grow. I just am really excited for everyone to see her on screen because I find her someone that I look up to.
Did you notice any of your personal mannerisms or characteristics making their way into the animation?
I have learned not to touch my hair when I’m nervous, but that’s something that Moana does. All throughout the recording process, I would either touch my hair or my flower. You’ll see at some point, when work needs to get done, Moana puts her hair up. Which is something that I do a lot in the booth. She smiles a lot, which is something “I don’t quite do often”. There is some mannerisms in there. And of course she was actually designed before I had even stepped in there. So the fact that she kinda looks like me is kind of uncanny. And now that she shares my voice, this is a little weird.
What advice do you have for kids trying to find their way?
When I was thinking about show business and I was thinking about the world of Hollywood, I was like, okay, you know what, I have the thought. Now I’m gonna be serious about it. And I’m not gonna even set my hopes too high. And so I focused myself on schooling. Which is really important. Don’t get me wrong, I focused on science and I was planning on continuing my career there. And when MOANA popped up, it was in my freshman year of high school and I remember thinking okay, I sing pretty well. I’m an okay actress. I mean, my backyard plays are directed and produced by me. Thank you very much! I know how I would add up to my competition. I had seen wonderful auditions on YouTube and I put myself down. I thought, you know what, it’s fine. What could I possibly give that the directors haven’t already seen? But then this big blessing happened. And I thought to myself, why don’t I just try? I’m gonna get older and I’m gonna say to myself, oh, maybe not and I realized that all that time that my mom spent, saying, okay, just try it, you never know what’s gonna come up. I was totally twisting that around in the way that she wouldn’t want me to and I think she was away at work and I was at school and I thought to myself, just – if anything, I want to make her proud. So when I had the art lesson, the first like audition in Hawaii, it was at the Hawaii 5-0 casting studio she just said, “I’m so proud of you”. I was like, I haven’t even done anything. I’m not even like solid on these lines, do I know all the words to my song? I’m going to mumble some of the words. But she was still so proud of me and so that’s what encouraged me to continue on my journey. I hope that anyone else just goes out on that limb because they don’t know what life has in store for them and please, please don’t put yourself down. Because there is so much more potential than you even know.
What kind of projects are on the horizon for you, where do you see yourself?
I love this industry, I love that I get to meet wonderful people like all of you and I get to travel to places that I would never even dream of going to. I just came back from Singapore! Which is so cool! I mean, I have no idea what’s on the horizon for me, but I had kind of focused my thoughts and my direction on science and it’s something that for some interesting reason fate has decided to, you know, drop things into there, make my interests timed to one another. So what I was working on was actually – I was in a science and molecular cell biology program and I was focusing on how our sunscreen although very important for us to wear, is incredibly harmful to our natural reefs and our oceans. So what I’m hoping to do and what I’m hoping to kind of complete as my research project in the future, is using – if you can follow – If I don’t get crazy about this. The natural algae in our system is able to absorb and refract so much light. Which gives it it’s wonderful fluorescent sometimes deep green color and with that I’m hoping to create some kind of suntan lotion that is better for us and better for the environment. There are so many – the life of, I believe, just the land and the world stems from our oceans and we need to protect it, as kind of a Hawaiian saying, “If we protect the ocean, if we love on it, it will love on us”. And you know, and return the blessing to us. So hopefully in the future I’ll continue in this field of film. As well as kind of a passion of mine which is science. We’ll see how it works out.
What has been the biggest challenge or something that put you out of your comfort zone during the filming process?
I had a definite learning curve. I think that was certainly a challenge. Like I said, backyard plays were my thang, but I didn’t know how to kind of work in a booth. For one it was cold. I don’t like being cold, I get cranky when I’m cold. I didn’t have anyone to bounce off of. I wasn’t rubbing elbows with Dwayne Johnson like I thought I would be in the booth. I did have a writer though, Jared Bush and he really helped me throughout the entire process, because it was all new to me. The directors as well. They made me feel right at home. They understood that, you know, this is your first time doing this, but that’s what we want. I think that’s also something that makes Moana relatable, that I’m not a seasoned professional, but I think the emotion that I bring to her is something that is very true. I was able to connect to Moana on a deeper level as well. So though the learning curve was there and the challenges there, I think I overcame it pretty well.
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MOANA is now playing in theaters everywhere! So make sure to go see it!