The street in front of the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood became an ocean of stars, filmmakers and guests Monday night celebrating the premiere of Disney’s “Moana,” the tale of a South Pacific island teenager who sails off on an adventure to save her village.
Before the blue carpet opened, attendees were treated to a short performance by the film’s stars Dwayne Johnson and Auli’i Cravalho, along with songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda and an array of Polynesian dancers.
Miranda was brought into the project very early on, before “Hamilton” hit the boards, and he admits that writing music for a Disney film “was intimidating at first.” But it was exciting, too. “I was so thrilled and surprised by how much collaboration goes into it. You’re working with unmatched visual storytellers.”
He described what is was like to be in the room as part of the music team with the filmmakers. “Mark (Mancina), Opetaia Foa’i and I would raise our hands and say ‘Here’s what we think music can contribute to this moment.’ It was a joyful collaboration and not unlike making a piece of theater.”
Magic plays a big part in the film, including a magic fish hook that gives the demi-god Maui (played by Johnson) his powers. And if Miranda had a magical item, “it would be a pen that wrote lyrics for me when I was asleep.”
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Screenwriter Jared Bush got to work with two of his heroes, long-time Disney directors Ron Clements and John Musker, on “Moana.” “Their movies really are my childhood,” he explained. “One of the first home movies I ever did, I used music from ‘The Little Mermaid.’ To work with these guys, who influenced so much of what I view storytelling to be, is amazing.”
Alan Tudyk, who had the unique job of giving cluck to the character of Hei Hei, the bumbling rooster, is no stranger to Disney, having voiced characters in all of it’s animated films since “Wreck-It Ralph.” Tudyk finally got to see his “Moana” character fully realized at a screening and dinner at the studio last week. “He’s very, very funny. At one point, he floats away, and then, of course, he comes back at just the right moment.”
With “Moana,” he’s added to a very special art collection. “After the screening, they have a dinner and present the cast with a drawing of your character done by the artists,” Tudyk explained. “I have several of them now. It’s really neat.”
Joining Johnson, Miranda, Cravalho, Bush and Tudyk at the party were Disney executives Alan Horn and Robert Iger; Disney-Pixar’s John Lasseter; directors John Musker and Ron Clements; producer Osnat Shurer; co-stars Rachel House, Nicole Sherzinger and Temuera Morrison; and guests Patton Oswalt, Pete Wentz and Tori Spelling.