MOANA Singapore Press Conference

Just so you know, 16-year-old Auli’I Cravalho is single. The Native Hawaiian, who was in Singapore earlier this month to promote Disney’s 56th animated feature film, revealed that fact to the media.

When asked whether there is any significance wearing the Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ (fondly known as the Singapore Orchid) behind her right ear, Cravalho giggled: “It means I’m a single lady.”

It is hard not to like Cravalho’s bubbly character. Born in Kohala on the island of Hawaii, she is a sophomore at the Kamehameha Schools Kapalama – where she enjoys singing and dancing for her family and friends. That is probably why filmmakers earned the title role of Moana, thanks to raw talent.

Cravalho’s life is probably going to change with this starring role in a Disney movie. “As a junior and newcomer, I’m very happy and feel blessed to travel to so many wonderful places to promote this great movie,” she said.

Cravalho’s favourite Disney heroine is Mulan (voiced by Ming Na Wen in the 1998 movie) because she “broke gender norm” and “brought honour to her family”. Incidentally, Moana is a character who is inspired to leave the safety and security of her island in the vast Pacific to go on a daring journey to save her people.

Smiling with pride, Cravalho said: “We need more heroes and heroines like Moana in real life, and I think it’s a great deal for Disney to tell such stories, and in this movie, it is such a story about my people.”

On working with Dwayne Johnson (a pity The Rock wasn’t available to grace our sunny shores) who voices a demigod who goes on this oceanic journey with Moana, Cravalho channeled the fan girl in her and exclaimed: “He gave me flowers!”

At the Southeast Asia Press Tour held at Marina Bay Sands, producer Osnat Shurer was also present to talk about the film: “This is beyond gender and age. Moana is a story about doing what’s right for the heroine’s culture, family and people.”

A visual development artist at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Griselda Sastrawinata shared her experience working on the animated feature. “I am not a fan of creepy monsters, so this movie is fun for me to work on,” laughed the Jarkarta-born, who is a fan of Ariel from The Little Mermaid (1989).

Doing Singapore proud is Roger Lee, a lighting artist at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Born and raised here, he moved to the United States four year ago to pursue a career in animation. Having worked on Frozen (2013), Big Hero 6 (2014) and Zootopia (2016), he talked about how the story of Moana is similar to his journey to pursue his dream.

He humbly explained: “It seemed totally unreachable for a Singaporean to work on a Disney movie, but all it takes is a lot of perseverance and focus. I hope this will lead the way for fellow Singaporeans to achieve that dream.”

Text and Photos by John Li

Our review of MOANA right here