Exclusive Interview: Auli‘i Cravalho is Moana

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Imagine being a 14-year-old girl, singing along to Disney songs at home, singing in your choir at school, and singing at church – and dreaming of something more. With no real formal training then beyond that, you interview for a role in a Disney movie. And then you get it! You GET the part! That is exactly what happened with Auli’i Cravalho from Hawaii! And she IS the part! Auli’i is the embodiment of Moana; she’s absolutely perfection in the role. After seeing the movie (you can read our MOANA review here), we got to meet with the talent from the movie as part of the #MoanaEvent press trip, including Auli’i. It was SUCH a pleasure to be able to talk to this adorable, bubbly, smart, humble, inspiring young lady who just so happened to turn 16 the day before MOANA sailed into theaters. aulii-moana-interview

Q: 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.  How does it feel for you and how do you think everyone’s going to react to it?

I’ll admit, I was a little wary before I got put into this role. Because I think anyone who hears that a movie is going to inspired by their culture, they want it to be done right. And we don’t want any misrepresentation, that it’s portrayed correctly on the screen. And that was how I felt. But after working on the film, I learned that we have an Ocean History Trust, made up of individuals who are elders, who are fishermen, or navigators.

Every single component, like just a small little dancing scene in there, was choreographed by a Polynesian dancer. But 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.

MoanaQ: Before you started on the film how much Polynesian culture did you know?

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 ourselves immersed in.

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
                                (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Auli’i even danced a traditional hula at the premiere! So special and amazing – I LOVE how proud everyone in this movie is of their culture!!! That’s why in so many ways, Auli’i is JUST like Moana! And you can’t help but notice that Moana and Auli’i have some striking physical similarities. So we asked her about that too!

Q: Did you notice any of your personal mannerisms or characteristics making their way into the animation?

Yes! I have just learned not to touch my hair when I move it. But that’s something that Moana does. Also during the recording process, I wasn’t able to 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 did a lot in the booth. She smiles a lot, which is something I don’t quite do often.

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. aulii-moana-interview

Q: What is your message you want children to take away from Moana, not just girls, but boys too?

I think the underlying theme of Moana is something everyone can take away. Yes, young women but also young men – be the old heroes and heroines of their own story. It’s so important. I’m 15, going on 16, and I’ve found that I can live up to Moana. And that she’s a true heroine. She’s determined and beautiful. But being strong doesn’t mean that you don’t have your weaker moments or you can’t be as connected emotionally. Moana is all of that, and I think her journey of finding herself is something that everyone can take away from, girl or boy.

aulii-interviewQ: What advice do you have for kids trying to find their way?

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. But how I would add up to my competition? I had seen wonderful auditions on YouTube. And I put myself down. What could I possibly give that the directors haven’t already seen? But I thought to myself, why don’t I just try? And I had my first audition and my mom was so proud of me. 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.

I LOVE this and I LOVED talking with her! SUCH an incredible young lady! Plus, the former high school science teacher in me got SO excited to find out some of Auli’i’s other interests!!! This girl is going to do AMAZING things (even more than she already has)!

For some interesting reason, fate decided to make my interests tied to one another. So what I was working on was a science and molecular cell biology program, focusing on how our sunscreen 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 the natural algae in our system. It’s able to absorb and refract so much light, which gives it the 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. The land and the world stems from our oceans. And we need to protect it. We have a Hawaiian saying, “If we protect the ocean, if we love on it, it will love on us.” And you know, be a 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.

YAY for girls who LOVE science!!!!!!! I love this so soo much!


MOANA is now in theaters everywhere! So make plans to go see Auli’i and Dwayne Johnson in their roles as Moana and Maui – the music from Lin-Manuel Miranda is fabulous as well! 

Moana Poster

Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows exactly why. From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes “Moana,” a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auli‘i Cravalho) meets the mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.

Disclaimer: I was invited and hosted by Disney the #MoanaEvent as part of an all-expenses paid press trip. As always, all opinions and love of Disney are entirely my own. Photos used in the post are courtesy of Disney and  Louise Bishop/MomStart.com.

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I’m Sara, a mom to three adorable boys living in the Arizona desert. As a former teacher, I love sharing my passions with others. So, have a look around for creative inspiration about cooking, creating, celebrating, traveling with kids, and more everyday mom endeavors!


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