Moana JR. celebrates the rich stories of Oceania and is based on the collective history, folklore, and mythology of the cultures and peoples of the Pacific Islands.
ABOUT MOANA JR.
In creating the original film, the producers at Disney Animation formed an Oceanic Trust. This group of anthropologists, cultural practitioners, historians, linguists, and choreographers from islands including Samoa, Tahiti, Mo’orea, and Fiji was integral in the creation of the film, providing feedback and notes on character design, song lyrics, and the depiction of culture onscreen. This respect and careful attention to detail was carried forward in the creation of Moana JR. for the stage. We encourage you to involve the Pacific Islander community in your area and to use the show as an opportunity to educate and engage your cast and audience alike in learning about Oceanic culture.
New York Charter School of the Arts (New York, NY)
When designing props for Moana JR., avoid using Western elements and themes, such as colonial ships, flags, coins, pirates’ treasure, nautical décor, and compasses. Look instead to materials and objects found in nature, and which reflect wayfinding, the ancient Oceanic method of navigation and exploration.
“In creating the original film, the producers at Disney Animation formed an Oceanic Trust…This respect and careful attention to detail was carried forward in the creation of Moana JR. for the stage.”
Theatre 360 (Pasadena, CA)
It is important to keep in mind that Moana JR. is set in ancient Oceania before the discovery of Hawai’i. Though Motunui is a fictional island, it is inspired by the actual cultures and peoples of the Pacific Islands. As such, elements like synthetic grass skirts, coconut bras, leis, and Hawaiian prints should be avoided in favor of handmade, organic, and found materials and natural-looking fabrics. Additionally, specific cultural references, such as ceremonial dress, including Moana’s red tuiga headdress from the animated film’s final scene should not be used.
To be respectful of Oceanic culture, avoid any design that utilizes elements that are closely associated with 1950s Hawaiian “tiki” aesthetics, such as tiki carvings and luaus, and use restraint when incorporating floral motifs. Furthermore, we encourage you to involve the Pacific Islander community in your area and to use the show as an opportunity to educate and engage your cast and audience alike in learning about Oceanic culture.
Maui’s tattoos, which are an important part of the Disney animated film, have been removed from this adaptation so that this character’s integrity remains intact across all productions. Tattoos are an earned, sacred part of Pacific Islander culture and should not be worn by any non-Pacific Islander as part of a costume; under no circumstances should your actor wear any tattoos.
Costume research can be a fun way to continue your education on Pacific Island communities; have students look into traditional clothing of these islands for creative ideas. For example, tapa cloth, made from the bark of a mulberry tree and easily dyed, is traditionally used to make clothing, mats, and sails.
New York Charter School of the Arts (New York, NY)
An adventure story set in Oceania (also known as the Pacific Ocean and the islands within it), Moana JR. showcases some quintessential features of that region – a village, islands, and the ocean – as well some fictional settings, such as the Realm of Monsters and Tamatoa’s lair. The design of Moana JR. should be minimalistic, reflecting a “handmade” quality that feels organic to the story.
Rather than construct elaborate scenery to create these locations realistically, use simple set pieces to suggest each location – a lot can be achieved in this show with backdrops and basic set pieces. This will also keep the focus on your young performers, and transitions will be quick and seamless with your actors helping to carry on any necessary set pieces.
“We believe that musicals allow young people to engage with stories, characters, cultures, and communities they might not otherwise be exposed to.”
Remind the cast that Moana JR. draws inspiration from Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. Before facilitating this rehearsal exercise, watch the “Polynesian Dance Demonstration” video provided below and with the Choreography Videos in your Moana JR. ShowKit®.
If you do not have a background in Polynesian dance, consider bringing in an expert to facilitate a masterclass with your actors and choreographer to further expand their knowledge of this art form.
ONE FINAL NOTE
As with all Disney shows, we encourage casting that represents your community. Your production will benefit from a cast that includes a variety of races, genders, abilities, and body types, so approach your casting process with care and an open mind. Musicals allow young people to engage with stories, characters, cultures, and communities they might not otherwise be exposed to, and that all young people should have the opportunity to engage with every story. The Director’s Guide provided in the ShowKit® offers important guidelines for your production to ensure that you are celebrating Oceanic culture in a respectful manner.