Disney’s animation adventure comedy Moana won’t be playing on the big screen for a little over a year, but the studio’s search for the title character’s voice is over. After auditioning hundreds of young women from the Pacific Islands, the very last of them to appear before the filmmakers landed the role: 14-year-old Native Hawaiian, Auli’i Cravalho. She becomes the latest actress to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a Disney Princess in earnest.
Moana, which already boasts Dwayne Johnson and Alan Tudyk on the voice cast, centers on a rather capable teenage girl living 2,000 years ago who sails out on a quest to prove herself to be a master navigator and seafarer. On the way, she meets the demi-god Maui (Johnson) who accompanies her on her journey across the open ocean. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker delivered the good news to the teenager during a second audition, a moment which was captured on video.
Watch Cravalho learn that she’ll be the voice of Moana in the video below (via Disney):
Co-star Johnson also welcomed Cravalho to the Moana team:
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) October 7, 2015
And, presumably, Cravalho’s own response:
In speaking with People, Cravalho shared her thoughts on voicing the new Princess:
“Moana is such an amazing character. She’s brave, she is so empowered, she knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get it, and I think that’s something that I can relate to as well. I just love watching how she goes along in this wonderful movie and grows as a person and helps her culture along the way.”
And she also commented on starring alongside Johnson and getting to hear him sing:
“I am very excited about that, my gosh. I’ve never heard him sing before so it’s going to be really interesting!”
In Disney’s press release announcing Cravalho’s addition to Moana, director Musker shared his thoughts on the casting decision:
“Auli’i demonstrated a certain fearlessness in her auditions and call-backs. She has a playful, mischievous wit. She can project vulnerability, she doesn’t seem intimidated at all by the challenges ahead, and her Polynesian background has helped shape her connection to family, hard work and music. These are all qualities she shares with Moana.”
Clements, meanwhile, shares more insight on the character of Moana herself:
“Moana is a vibrant, tenacious 16-year-old growing up on an island where voyaging is forbidden. But Moana has been drawn to the ocean since she can remember and is desperate to find out what’s beyond the confines of her island.”
Here’s the film’s official synopsis for Moana:
Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast South Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one today knows why. From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes “Moana,” a sweeping, CG-animated adventure about a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission to prove herself a master wayfinder and fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auli’i Cravalho) meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), and together, they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous fiery creatures and impossible odds. Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “The Princess & the Frog”), and produced by Osnat Shurer (“Lifted,” “One Man Band”), “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016.