There was just no telling how far Auli’i [owl-LEE-ee] Cravalho would go after her star-making role as the titular Disney heroine in 2016’s Moana, but now we all know the answer: far, indeed.
In honor of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Cravalho reflects on the legacy of the role that started her career.
“Moana shaped me, first and foremost,” she tells ABC Audio. “I will always be grateful for her character traits of strength and resilience, and her adventurous nature. And I take them with me wherever I go.”
Cast in the role at age 14 and only 16 when the film was released, Cravalho has quite literally grown up as a Disney princess. Now 21, she understands how important it is for children to see “a young Polynesian heroine that doesn’t have a love interest.”
Cravalho was also given the opportunity to rerecord the film in Olelo Hawai’i, the official Hawaiian language. “Hawaiian is a dying language,” she said. “So, to have that representation, and to hear my cousins who are in Hawaiian immersion school – they [are able to] use that as a teaching aid for language.”
Nielsen consistently reports Moana at the top of its streaming charts. Although the film premiered three years before Disney+ was around, it was made available to stream on the service the day of its launch on November 12, 2019. When Nielsen released its Streaming Unwrapped 2021 data, Moana ranked #2 on the 2021 Top 10 Streaming Movies list.
That’s right – a film that was released in 2016 beat out movies that were released in 2021 – popular titles like Red Notice and Jungle Cruise.
“Moana lives on in so many different ways,” Cravalho said. “And I can just only sit back and be just as grateful for it.”