Disney brought its upcoming animated adventure Moana to Friday’s D23 Expo in Anaheim with the help of surprise guest Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The film, set in the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, follows spirited teenager Moana, who longs to be a “wayfinder,” or navigator. She takes to the seas to find the long-lost island that can connect her to her ancestors, along the way teaming up with Maui (Johnson).
“This is my heritage,” an emotional Johnson told the audience at the Disney fan expo. “I am proudly half-Samoan and half-black.”
In the film, Moana and Maui battle monsters of the deep and explore an underworld where the ocean is the ceiling above them. There, they encounter the ancient ones, but they also cross paths with a vengeful island spirit made of molten lava, the Guardian of Tefiti.
The D23 presentation featured two clips from the film, one of which showed the heroine as a baby, interacting with the ocean, which is essentially its own character in the film. The water parts so she can collect shells, exposing a turtle swimming by and other sea life, plays with her hair, and eventually pushes her back to shore when her dad calls for her.
Another clip gave fans a better look at Johnson’s Maui, a large man with long, black, curly hair who is covered in tattoos (which themselves are animated to move) and wears a shell necklace as well as bottoms made out of plants. A self-professed demigod, Maui also wielded a giant fishhook in what seemed like an attempt to show off to Moana. “What does a demigod have to do?” he asks, when it’s clear that she’s not impressed.
Johnson said that his character was born human but was raised by gods, so he never quite fit in one way or the other — and that Moana could be the person to help him find his true self.
The presentation also featured a song from the movie, performed live by South Pacific fusion band Te Vaka, which uses traditional island instruments. Moana will feature music from Te Vaka artist Opetaia Foa’I, a New Zealand guitarist; Mark Mancina, the composer behind Con Air, Speed, Tarzan, and Planes; and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who won a Tony and an Emmy for In the Heights. Miranda is the mastermind behind the new Broadway show Hamilton, a hip-hop version of the life of Alexander Hamilton. The artist rapped his own Moana announcement, which you can watch in the video below.
Disney’s fan expo continues through Sunday.
Complete D23 Expo coverage
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