Let’s Get to Know Moana, Disney’s Newest Princess

By  · Published on October 21st, 2014

Walt Disney Animation Studios

We’ve long known that Disney’s animation arm has been cooking up a brand new Princess for fans of the House of Mouse – and, presumably, the legions of Frozen fans who have either fallen in love with the Princess brand for the first time or had their adoration reignited – to look forward to meeting. Her name is Moana (and, hey, that’s the name of her film, too, which is currently simply titled Moana) and she’s poised to be only the fifth Disney Princess of color (in a line up that is currently thirteen-ladies strong). Although Moana has been teased for quite some time, with a planned 2018 release date, she’s now hitting our cinematic shores much earlier, late in 2016.

This is certainly a good thing for the animation world and the Disney brand, which is still riding high on the success of Frozen. This year has quite notably gone without a Pixar release, so fans of animated features have been given far less to consume than they’re used to. In short, they’re hungry (we are, too) and the news that we’re getting a brand-new Princess a full two years early is just excellent. So who is Moana?

Per a press release, Moana’s plot is as such:

In the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, Moana, a born navigator, sets sail in search of a fabled island. During her incredible journey, she teams up with her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui, to traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore.

Hmm. A navigator who goes out on an adventure with a pal named “Maui.” I wonder what they could possibly find out on the sea. Moana is rumored to be set nearly 2,000 years ago, which – surprise! – is in line with ancient Hawaiian history, which holds that the island chain was first settled by Polynesian people between 300 and 800 CE.

Wait, is Disney making a film that supposes that the Hawaiian islands were discovered by a teenage girl? That is awesome. We’re sold (we were already sold, but come on.)

The film will be directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, who previously teamed up to helm other Disney offerings like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Princess and the Frog. The duo are clearly enamored of their new subject, and Musker has already shared: “Moana is indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself…She’s the kind of character we all root for, and we can’t wait to introduce her to audiences.”

As part of the film’s new release date announcement, the studio also tweeted out a first “official” look at the film – not to be confused with a whole mess of unofficial stills and concept pieces that have long circulated on the web – and you can get a better look at it below. The film will be CG-animated (Frozen was a combination of both CG and hand-drawn animation), although it will reportedly adhere to a more “painterly” approach, which certainly seems apparent in this first still.

Walt Disney Animation Studios

Entertainment Weekly shares that “there is already a strong Internet fanbase for the Polynesian Moana, who was previously expected to make her debut in 2018, and she serves as an example of Disney furthering representation of diverse and minority characters” (hit that link to dive a bit deeper into the burgeoning Moana fanbase, thanks to a close look by the Daily Dot). Moana already has her very own page on the DisneyWiki, one we expect will look pretty complete before the film even arrives in theaters. Time to set sail with a new Princess!

Moana will arrive in late 2016.

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