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What’s The Deal With Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Mini Maui’ In MOANA?
Michael John Lee on Sep 07, 2016. Posted in Editorials, Featured, Movies
Special thanks to Walt Disney Animation, Rama’s Screen had the opportunity to speak to several groups of the creative forces behind their upcoming new film, “Moana,” which is also the name of the story’s lead character. One of the core elements in Moana’s journey of self-discovery is her relationship with the demigod Maui, voiced by fan favorite Dwayne Johnson. While Moana is initially put off by Maui’s blustering personality and massive ego (he lists his many embellished titles and offers to autograph her oar upon their first meeting), he eventually grows to be a mentor, and the two bond through a series of adventures together.
During their research phase, Ron Clements and John Musker heard widely varying accounts of the myth of Maui from different islands. According to the directors, there were opposing opinions on his physical appearance. Additionally, while some cultures saw him as a Superman-type figure, others emphasized his nature as a trickster and shapeshifter similar to Loki of Norse mythology (and subsequently Marvel mythology). One element that seemed to be universally consistent, though, was that he wielded a mighty, magical fish hook that was akin to Thor’s hammer. That instrument of his will is depicted in Disney’s version of the character, and provides an impressive visual during the intense action sequences.
MOANA’S MISSION — Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) may be a demigod—half god, half mortal, all awesome—but he’s no match for Moana (voice of Auli‘i Cravalho), who’s determined to sail out on a daring mission to save her people. Moana’s first challenge is convincing Maui to join her. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, produced by Osnat Shurer, and featuring music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa‘i, “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
In coming up with the physique of Maui, the animators of “Moana” looked to pro wrestlers, football players, and contenders in World’s Strongest Man competitions. Because most of Maui’s body is exposed, his physiology was an important detail to get right, given that his musculature would not be covered or hidden by clothing. Unlike Moana, Maui’s design is heavily influenced by his voice actor, with specific expressions and mannerisms of Johnson’s, and even his overall charisma, making their way from the recording booth to the screen.
MAUI is a demigod—half god, half mortal, all awesome. Charismatic and funny, he wields a magical fishhook that allows him to shapeshift into all kinds of animals and pull up islands from the sea. Featuring Dwayne Johnson as the voice of Maui, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
Johnson’s specific expressions are preserved even when Maui utilizes his shapeshifting ability. The demigod fluidly transforms into a variety of animals, including a hawk, a lizard, and a shark, all of which are infused with the unique tone of Johnson’s performance.
Another signature aspect regarding Maui’s look is his elaborate collection of living tattoos. All of them have a very distinct meaning that tell a part of his legend, but one dubbed “Mini Maui” takes center stage. Compared to Jiminy Cricket for his role as Maui’s conscience, Mini Maui is animated with traditional hand-drawn techniques, offering the opportunity to blend 2D with CG in a new and exciting way. He is frequently at odds with his larger counterpart, as the two have different opinions as to how to go about their business. Famed Disney artist Eric Goldberg, who was the character designer and supervising animator for the Genie in Aladdin, was responsible for bringing Mini Maui to life.
MAUI visual development. Artist: Bill Schwab, MOANA Art Director, Characters.
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