#Moana Backstage: All That Work For Something You’ll Never See

Six seconds on the screen…hundreds of hands bringing it to you.  The creative genius of Moana and every Disney animated feature is more than just brilliant storytelling and fluid animation.  It’s the attention to detail that you may never see – and in fact what the creators of these movies hope you never do.  As we toured the Walt Disney Studios Tujunga facility and talked to the different people involved in bringing Moana to life they echoed one another when it comes to the details.  They do it so that you don’t notice it.

Moana and Maui were kind enough to pose with me for this pic along with Heihei and Pua
Moana and Maui were kind enough to pose with me for this pic along with Heihei and Pua

I was invited to the studios about a month and a half ago to see an early screening of clips from the upcoming animated feature, MoanaAfter the screening, we were taken to the Tujunga building and had the chance to interview some of the lead creators for the movie. We heard about how the story came to be, how the effects were created, how Moana and Maui were designed, and how Moana’s island was developed.  And in each interview, the creators all seemed to echo the same mantra: We pay attention to detail so you won’t.

All the hard work that goes into painstakingly researching every aspect of the environment – from Moana’s home to her clothing to how things are referenced are all done so that it all has an air of believability.  Even though this is a fictitious story, this team of movie magicians know that if you are jarred out of the story because something is off or doesn’t make sense or doesn’t seem right, then the feeling of connection to the character and her story is shattered and the movie would be ruined.

MOANA village costume design. Artist: Neysa Bové, Visual Development Artist.
MOANA village costume design. Artist: Neysa Bové, Visual Development Artist.

As an example, Neysa shared with us about costume design for Moana and how much work went into creating an outfit for a dance sequence that would only be on the screen for about six seconds.  But within those six seconds were a number of vital decisions.  What types of material would be available during that time?  What kind of clothing would someone like Moana be wearing?  What design elements should go into it?  Because Moana means “from the ocean” they added details like starfish and sea urchins in her costume.  This dance in particular is a coming-of-age dance, and since she is the chief’s daughter her costume prominently featured the color red. Red was considered a royal color by those who lived during that time and place. And because they didn’t have sewing machines, Neysa shared with us that they designed it in such a way that it could actually be created.  She said they designed these costumes with the idea in mind that people could recreate it.  Moana cosplay?

MOANA visual development. Artist: Bill Schwab, MOANA Art Director, Characters.
MOANA visual development. Artist: Bill Schwab, MOANA Art Director, Characters.

All of that work just for six seconds on screen.  But if you are curious about how the Disney magic is made, you have to start with the details.  It is the key to why Disney has long been the gold standard in animation.  Over the course of the next couple of months leading up to Moana‘s release, I’ll keep sharing more about this amazing film that I learned while at this press event.  I am sure Moana will be the latest to join the Disney pantheon of animated classics.  Be ready.  This is going to be one of the best.

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