Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Disney's MOANA Press Conference Singapore

From left: Griselda Sastrawinata, Auli'i Cravalho, Roger Lee, Osnat Shurer

A press conference was held earlier today at Marina Bay Sands for Disney's latest upcoming animated feature, "Moana". Moana is about an adventurous teenager who is inspired to leave the safety and security of her island on a daring journey to save her people. In attendance at the press conference were Auli'i Cravalho (voice of Moana), Osnat Shurer (Producer), Roger Lee (Lighting Artist) and Griselda Sastrawinata (Visual Devlopement Artist).

Things got off to a rousing start as five singers from Southeast Asia belted out a multi-language version of Moana's song, "How Far I'll Go". The singers are (from left in the following image) Janella Salvador from the Philippines, Maudy Ayunda from Indonesia, Myra Maneepat Molloy from  Thailand, Ayda Jebat from Malaysia and Minh Nhu from Vietnam. All of them will be singing a cover of "How Far I'll Go" either in English or in their local language. Myra Maneepat Molloy (Thailand) and Minh Nhu (Vietnam) will be dubbing the film in their local language as well, playing the title character Moana.

From left: Janella Salvador (Philippines), Maudy Ayunda (Indonesia), Myra Maneepat Molloy (Thailand), Ayda Jebat (Malaysia) and Minh Nhu (Vietnam)

Everyone was in good spirits after the song and it set the tone for what would be a fun press conference. The invited guessed seemed very cheerful and relaxed. Moderated by Carla Dunareanu, we got to find out more about the movie, what went into making the film and more about the talent on stage.  

From left: Carla Dunareanu (moderator), Roger Lee, Griselda Sastrawinata, Osnat Shurer and Auli'i Cravalho

Roger Lee is a Lighting Artist and some of his past work include "Frozen", "Big Hero 6" and "Zootopia". He is from Singapore and he moved to to the US four years ago to pursue his animation career at Walt Disney Animation Studios. He is glad to be back. And he is proud to be able to share his work with Moana with everyone here. He describes his job as a childhood dream come true. It seemed a dream that was out of reach but through focus and perseverance he eventually achieved it.

Roger Lee

Griselda Sastrawinata is a Visual Developement Artist. She joined Disney Animation Studios about a year ago and Moana is her first film for the studio. She designed several monsters in Moana and she found the experience challenging and fun. She said that she did not think that she would be working with directors whose movie she watched as a kid and it was amazing to get to do that. Osnat Shurer chimed in that Disney are lucky to have her. She said that Disney has hundreds and hundreds of artists and that adds to the richness and diversity of what they do.

Griselda Sastrawinata

Auli'i Cravalho was chosen as the voice of Moana out of hundreds of young woman who auditioned throughout the Pacific Islands. She did not intend to audition at first after seeing many other wonderful auditions on Youtube. A casting director recalled her singing performance from a video submission for a talent showcase and invited her to come try out. And the rest is history. Auli'i is a junior at the Kamehameha School on the island of O'ahu. Her hobbies include dancing hula, paddling and sailing. She says she does not do any land sports as she is a "klutz on land". Moana is her first ever filmed and she feels lucky and bless to be in it.

Auli'i Cravalho has such a cheerful and bubbly personality. There is a lot of positive energy about her and she has an infectious smile. She wore the Vanda Miss Joaquim, which is the Singapore National flower in her hair. She explains that wearing the flower on the right side means you are single and wearing it on the left side means that up are in a relationship. No prizes for guessing what is her current relationship status. 

Auli'i Cravalho

Osnat Shurer served as the Producer of Moana. Before joining the Walt Disney Animation Studios she previously served as the executive producer of the shorts group at Pixar Animation Studios. Some of the shorts she produced include "Lifted", "One Man Band" and "Boundin".

When asked for three things why we should watch Moana, she exclaimed, "Do I have to pick only three?". The short version she answers, is that the movie will make you laugh, cry and think. She explains that Moana in part is about stopping and listen to the voice inside ourselves. "At any age and any gender. Just stopping to listen and follow that call is something relevant to all of us." 

Shurer's favourite part of the movie is the relationship between Moana and her grandmother. The warmth, the depth and love and how it allows Moana to fulfill her destiny to become what she is meant to be. 

Osnat Shurer

The floor was opened for questions. Here are some of them. All responses are paraphrased.

On which Disney character or film they gravitate the most when growing up. 
  • Sastrawinata lists Ariel,Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. She mentioned she likes Ariel a lot and used to wrap a towel around herself and make believe she is a mermaid. 
  • Shurer picked the Jungle Book. 
  • Cravalho picks Mulan who she says is "badbutt". She thinks Mulan is amazing and someone who kinda broke the gender norm. Cravalho says she wants to be like Mulan and honour her family wherever she goes.
  • Lee also chooses Mulan as she is closest in terms of culture and is someone he can relate to.

On what kind of effect they hope the film will have among the younger generation.
  • Shurer says that there are a number of messages in the movie. The main one would have to be that it is okay to follow your inner call. She proceeds to describe what Moana does and how her sense of duty and calling are linked which leads her to act selflessly for the sake of her people.
  • Cravalho is proud that Moana is a heroine. She hopes that people will be inspired by the character to have the same qualities

On what is the shift like from basing films on fairy tales to basing a film on on actual historical people?

  • Shurer explains that many of the stories that have become Disney movies are inspired by folk stories. There is an incredible worldwide canvas to base the stories on. The more they are able to expand where the inspiration comes from the more exciting the ideas. Moana is a completely invented fictional story and yet is inspired by a specific place at a specific time which is something that gave them incredible material to work with.
  • Cravalho says that as she is living in Hawaii and of Polynesian descent, this film is really close to her heart. There are no words to describe how proud she is of the film. Wayfinding and navigating the stars are things that her ancestors really did do.
  • Sastrawinata adds that Disney had done an incredible research amount of research and consulted various experts to respect the culture that inspired the movie. 

On what are some of the good things the movie can bring.
  • Cravalho relates her story on auditioning for the role. On how she had self doubt. If there is something she wants everyone to know is that dreams can come true. She also hopes that people continue to grow in character, just like Moana does on her journey. 
  • Shurer hopes that the movie can let people think of the idea to follow the calling of your heart. 
  • Sastrawinta concurs to follow your dreams. If you stay true to yourself dreams do come true. 
  • Lee says that the movie got him interested in the Polynesian culture and he thinks the moive will get others interested as well. 

On what would Moana's love interest be like if a sequel were to happen.
  • Cravalho says she is not sure. What's important is that Moana is her own person. We will have to see what happens in a sequel. Maybe... Hopefully...  
  • Schurer opines that for a sequel to happen the filmmakers must have a great, burning need to tell another story and if there is an amazing idea which comes up. We will have to wait and find out.

Auli'i Cravalho was asked of what difficulties she faced when working on the movie and what it was like working with Dwayne Johnson.
  • She replies that she had a lot of fun working on the film. One difficulty she had was to learn how to work in a booth where you only see a mic and glass. She was not used to acting by herself and had to adapt. She describes Dwayne Johnson as being a very cool and nice guy. He even gave her flowers which was very sweet. 

The press conference came to an end after the Q&A but before the guests left, they were presented with a special bento box comprised of local food and made to look like characters from Moana. 

Moana opens in Singapore on 24 November 2016. Be sure to catch it!

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