The former Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger will voice the titular character’s strong-willed mother, Sina, who is desperate to protect 16-year-old Moana from danger as she sets sail on a life-changing journey across the sea. Nicole joins a cast which includes Hawaiian teenager Auli’i Cravalho, who tackles the lead role, and Dwayne Johnson, who was previously cast as Polynesian demigod Maui. Other new cast members include Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Alan Tudyk, and Flight of the Conchords star Jemaine Clement, who will play a giant crab.
The animated picture, set in the South Pacific, will be directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the same due behind The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. “Our assembled voice cast for this film is beyond our wildest dreams,” Musker says in a statement issued to WENN. “We are so fortunate to have this group of talented actors, many from Oceania, breathing life into their characters.” “We are so thankful to have found such extraordinary people who not only capture the voices of these characters, they elevate them in every way,” adds Clements.
Moana, which is set for release in December (16), already has its critics – activists from Hawaii, New Zealand and Samoa are unhappy with Johnson’s obese character, claiming he trivialises their heritage and stereotypes natives. New Zealand politician Jenny Salesa led the criticism directed at filmmakers and animators, stating, “When we look at photos of Polynesian men and women from the last 100-200 years, most of our people were not overweight and this negative stereotype of Maui is just not acceptable.”
Calling Johnson’s animated character “obese”, she adds, “The environment our kids grow up in and what they are exposed to have a role to play. Disney movies are very influential on our children… It is disappointing that Maui, one of our beloved historical ancestors from hundreds of years ago, who was a very strong man (and) a skilled navigator, is depicted to be so overweight.” The filmmakers and their Disney bosses have yet to respond to the criticism.