Moana is one of Disney’s newest princesses and is beloved for the way that she challenges what it means to be a princess.
Thanks to her unstoppable perseverance and unwavering courage, Moana has become a favorite for Disney fans of all ages.
From her athletic build to her rightfully rebellious nature, this Polynesian princess offers a fictional role model for the young girl who doesn’t back down when it comes to helping those they care about.
How Old Is Moana?
Moana is 16 years old during the 2016 animated Disney princess film.
She is the second princess to be a member of a Native Civilization and is the second Disney protagonist to be of Polynesian descent.
The story of Moana follows the journey of Moana, the daughter of Motuni Chief Tui, as she breaks her people’s law against crossing the reef in an attempt to return the Heart of Te Fiti to the life-creating goddess.
While on her oceanic adventure to return the Heart of Te Fiti, she is accompanied by the shapeshifting demigod named Maui, who originally stole the Heart from the goddess and brought on the time of darkness for Moana’s people.
Moana is known for her headstrong nature and her love of the sea, despite the fear that her Chief father has tried to instill in her.
Even her grandmother, Gramma Tala, describes Moana as someone who “stands out from the crowd.”
To match her strong-willed personality, the daughter of the chief is known for being incredibly athletic and physically capable.
For a teenage girl who has never left her home island, Moana is able to handle herself perfectly fine while out on her own.
Although Moana is known for her confidence, she often struggles with trying to balance her dreams and aspirations with the expectations that her parents and community members have for her.
Like her father, this Disney protagonist takes her responsibility to her people seriously.
Her devotion to her community is what led her to go against her father’s orders and take on the mission that Gramma Tala sets for Moana.
When Moana was first created as a character, she was meant to be a secondary character and potential love interest for Maui, but instead, she completely took the spotlight from Maui.
Is Moana Considered A Disney Princess?
Yes, Moana is considered a Disney princess and became a member of the Disney princess franchise in 2019.
She is the second Disney princess to not be based on a previously existing character, with Disney’s first original princess being Merida from Brave.
Although Moana is considered to be a part of the Disney Princess franchise, she wasn’t inducted into the franchise with the normal coronation ceremony that her predecessors got.
Instead, Moana was quietly introduced as a Disney princess through her book and toy lines.
It took three years after Moana’s movie was released for her to be inducted into the mainstay Disney franchise.
When Moana appeared in Ralph Breaks the Internet alongside all of Disney’s other princesses, she was not yet considered a Disney princess, and she wouldn’t be a part of the franchise until a few months after that film was released.
Moana is considerably unique when compared to Disney’s other princesses.
She is one of the few princesses whose outfit consists of more than one main color, joining the ranks of Ariel in mermaid form, Snow White, and Mulan.
Moana was another Disney princess movie to be named after the main character, with the other films to take on the naming trope being Mulan and Pocahontas.
Unlike the other Disney princesses, Moana is the only one who fully rejects the title of “princess.”
This groundbreaking character is also the fifth non-white Disney princess, preceded by Tiana from Princess and the Frog, Mulan, Pocahontas, and Jasmine from Aladdin.
When photographer Annie Leibovitz created the Disney Dream Portrait Series, Moana and Mulan were the only princesses not portrayed by celebrities.
Moana was made for the young girls who didn’t want to sit back and be princesses, but rather explore the world and help those they love most.
Is Motunui A Real Place?
No, Moana’s home island of Motunui is not a real place.
However, her home island is based on a combination of Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga.
The village where Moana’s father is the chief is considered to be a chiefdom, also known as a Fa’amatai.
Unlike kingdoms with their kings and queens, the passing of the title of chief doesn’t rely on the death of the previous royalty.
Instead, each chief on the island of Motunui has simply had to step up peacefully as the rightful ruler after placing a ceremonial stone atop the island’s sacred mountain called the Place of Chiefs to prove their devotion.
Many of the traditions seen in Moana are heavily inspired by the Polynesian culture, even down to the way Moana behaves and traverses the world around her.
From her deep devotion to her family to the way Moana uses the stars as her navigational tool, this princess and her home village were purposely given a fictional place to live to allow the writers to equally represent all of the countries of Polynesian descent.
Many fans have theorized that the name Motunui is either of Maori origin or Rapa Nui origin.
Those who believe it is of Maori origin have pointed to the Motunui settlement on the north island of New Zealand, Taranaki.
The fans who believe that the name of Moana’s home island is of Rapa Nui origin think that the name comes from the Motu Nui islet, which is located on the south side of Easter Island, Chile.
The writers behind Moana have yet to verify either of these fan theories, but most likely never will due to their goal of making Moana a representative of all that Polynesian culture has to offer.
Although fans can’t go to Motunui, there are real-life equivalents.
Who Voices Moana?
Moana was voiced by Auli’i Cravalho when she was only 14 years old.
By the time Moana was released in 2016, Cravalho was the same age as her animated character.
Cravalho is a Hawaiian native who loves singing, acting, microbiology, swimming, and horseback riding.
She never thought that she would be making such a huge splash in Hollywood.
Since her role as the Disney princess, Auli’i Cravalho has performed at The Oscars and has even made her way into live-action films.
Her first live-action film was All Together Now, which is based on Matthew Quick’s novel Sorta Like a Rockstar.
As Cravalho has gotten older, the young actress has found that she loves exploring deeper topics and showing more intense emotions.
Although her best-known character may be a Disney princess, Cravalho wants to show the world that her acting has plenty of range.
One of the biggest challenges for Auli’i Cravalho when making the transition from voice acting to live acting is trying to figure out what she’s supposed to do with her face at all times.
As a self-proclaimed “optimist almost to a fault,” Cravalho didn’t let her fears get in the way when she auditioned for the role of Hayley in All Together Now.
While she may have been a bit saddened by the fact that she didn’t get the role of Hayley, she was more than excited to take on the role of Amber instead.
Both Cravalho and her character share a sunny outlook on life.
To make it easier to pursue her career in acting, Auli’i Cravalho moved from Hawaii to New York before settling down in Los Angeles.
This move seems to have worked in her favor, with her face appearing in many popular films, like Amazon’s thriller The Power.
Does Moana Have Superpowers?
Moana may seem to have superpowers at first glance, but many of the supernatural things that happen around her are more controlled by the magic surrounding her and her people.
Although some people may believe that Moana is capable of water bending, a la The Last Airbender, it’s actually just her people’s connection to the ocean at work.
In Moana, there are multiple occasions when Moana has the water part in front of her.
This isn’t her direct doing, but it’s the ocean’s reaction to her.
Rather than looking at the ocean as simply water, the people of Motunui understand their ocean is a sentient being that is normally more than willing to help them.
That’s why the water parts for Moana and is even seen helping her from time to time, such as when Maui throws Moana off her boat and the ocean plops her back onto the boat.
Some Disney fans believe that Moana is almost supernaturally athletic, with most people pointing to the time that the princess moved and knocked down a statue of Maui that was vastly larger than her.
However, those who don’t believe that Moana has superhuman strength are quick to recognize that she spends all of her free time zip-lining among the trees and running at incredibly fast speeds across her entire home island.
Another ability that seems unnatural for Moana to have is her near-instant sailing talent.
Some fans may argue that Moana went from being completely inexperienced to a master sailor in a manner of minutes or a couple of hours, others are quick to point out that sailing is in her blood and has been the way her people survived for generations.
Whether Moana’s abilities are beyond what is naturally possible is frequently argued, but no one denies her go-getter attitude.
How Old Is Maui?
Maui is thousands of years old because he is a demigod and wouldn’t change even 1,000 years after the events of Moana.
According to Hawaiian folklore, it was Maui and his brothers who pulled the islands out of the water.
Hawaiian natives once believed that Māui was out on a fishing trip with his brothers, but he was also known for being a trickster.
Māui used his Manaiakalani, his fish hook, to latch onto the ocean to make his brothers believe he had caught a massive fish.
Despite knowing that his mighty fish hook was attached to the ocean floor, the mischievous demigod told his brothers to paddle their boat as fast as they could.
His brother paddled so hard that they lifted each of Hawaii’s islands out of the water.
Although Maui is best known as a troublemaker who just chases down a good joke, he has also been helpful throughout mythology.
As stated in the song You’re Welcome, Maui was also the one who helped his people remember how to create fire.
After years of eating raw fish and vegetables, Maui was on the hunt for a new way to make food taste better.
While surveying the land, the demigod noticed a plume of smoke in the distance and raced towards it.
When he arrived, Maui found a Hawaiian moorhen, also known as a ’alae.
Maui immediately grabbed the throat of the bird and demanded that the bird share his secret, which the bird was quick to give up.
The bird told Maui that he had rubbed two pieces of mai’a (banana tree) together.
However, the bird hadn’t been completely honest the first time, which resulted in Maui strangling the bird again.
This time, the bird told him to use dried kiawe instead, which worked.
What Easter Eggs Are Hidden In Moana?
Like every Disney movie, Moana has plenty of hidden details, also known as Easter Eggs, for the company’s biggest fans to spot.
Disney movies are packed with tiny details that may refer to previous movies or even spotlight upcoming movies.
One of the first Easter Eggs you can spot in Moana is inside Moana’s basket that she takes to go hunt down Maui, which contains the nose and arms of Frozen’s comic relief Olaf.
Olaf isn’t the only character to make an appearance, with Maui turning into Sven for a moment.
Fans are quick to point out all the characters who are referenced from The Little Mermaid.
Tamatoa the crab makes a joke that refers to Sebastion, with him stating “If my name was Sebastian and I had a cool Jamaican accent, you’d totally help me.”
A 2-D portrait of Flounder can be seen during Maui’s song You’re Welcome around the 2:26 mark.
Like young Ariel, baby Moana is also seen wearing a pink flower that is tucked behind her right ear.
At the beginning of the movie, some fans believe that the baby turtle that Moana helped was actually Squirt from Finding Nemo.
A portrait of Ralph from the Wreck-It Ralph series can be seen at the end of the credits on one of the tapa cloths.
Mini Maui, which is the tattoo version of Maui, was designed to be a Jiminy Cricket alter ego.
Not only is Mini Maui a helpful side character, but his mannerisms and the way he moves are influenced by the classic Disney character.
Fans have also been quick to point out how similar the ocean and Aladdin’s magic carpet behave.
One of the hardest Easter Eggs to spot is Genie’s lamp from Aladdin as a part of Tamatoa’s treasure hoard.
What Historical Event Is Represented In Moana?
The historical event represented in Moana is The Long Pause, which occurred about 3,500 years ago.
Although the real reason this historical event occurred may have nothing to do with an angry deity, The Long Pause is a hot topic for Polynesian historians.
An estimated 3,500 years ago, settlers called the Lapita first arrived in the Bismarck Islands.
For a short 500 years, the Lapita people’s technology was rapidly being innovated and allowed the people to island-hop from Melanesia all the way to West Polynesia.
These people eventually reached Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga before settling down once again.
There was a sudden shift that caused innovation to slow down rapidly, but no one knows the true reason the people stopped traveling.
The Long Pause lasted for at least 1,000 years before the descendants of the Lapita people would settle in places such as Hawaii, Rapa Nui, or Aotearoa.
Now, historians are frequently questioning what caused these ocean navigators to lose their love of nautical travel.
Scientists have used carbon dating on the many artifacts that they have found across West and East Polynesia to identify the 1,000-year gap.
Most scientists believe that West Polynesian islands were settled around 800 B.C.
Through the use of computer models, researchers have studied the effect that the change in wind direction and ocean currents could have had on the Lapita’s canoes, the waka ama and waka hourua.
Waka ama were smaller canoes that were used during earlier journeys.
The waka hourua didn’t come until the later journeys that the Polynesian settlers went on.
These canoes could go further distances and carry more supplies and people.
Many Polynesian historians point to this boat innovation as the solution for The Long Pause.
Why Does Moana Have A Different Name In Europe?
Moana has a different name in Europe due to trademark issues, which is a rare problem for Disney.
This 2016 Disney princess may be known as Moana in the United States and most other countries, but European audiences know her by another name.
The European name for Moana is Vaiana because there was a famous Italian adult film star and LGBTQ+ advocate named Moana Pozzi.
With Disney being a family entertainment company that prides itself on being safe and fun for everyone, they didn’t want to run into issues with their Disney princess having the same name as a well-known adult film actress.
Moana Pozzi was an adult film actress who first rose to popularity in the 1980s after experimenting with the world of adult film.
She originally worked under an alias because she was already the star of a show meant for children and didn’t want her work getting mixed up.
However, fans of the actress were quick to discover her secret, which led to a boom in her popularity during the 1990s.
Despite her controversial past works, Pozzi became a beloved public figure in Italy best known for her work surrounding LGBTQ+ rights.
The story surrounding Disney princess Moana and actress Moana Pozzi is an excellent example of why it is so important to do some research before deciding to go with a certain name or title.
By being proactive, Disney could have avoided the confusion that came with their character having two different names.
The name Vaiana comes from Vai meaning water and combining it with the end of the character’s original name, -ana.
Despite the name confusion and the close relation to an adult film actress, Moana/Vaiana has become a beloved character.