"Know your mountain." You'll not know where you are going until you know where you're coming from...
And so it is with Walt Disney Animation Studios. As I've remarked before (The Making of Disney's Zootopia with Animator Darrin Butters), what we see on the screen in our 90 to 130 minutes as audience members is the culmination of years of extensive research, soul-searching, and MILEAGE. In the case of Zootopia, it was exploratory safari trips to Africa; for the making of Moana, it was deep-diving excursions to Polynesia.
It is this exquisite process- the plunge into these John Lasseter treasures- that enables each fan drink up every drop of what we are about to experience on the screen. On November 17th in New York City, it was Jessica Julius's turn to plot the journey to the latest of Disney's films, Moana. As Disney Creative Executive and shepherd of this project, Jessica had a hand in every stage of development. Along with Ron Clements and John Musker (directors of Moana), they continue the "culture of collaboration" that has come to be synonymous with the Disney artistic process. Over a five-year period, three trips to Polynesia (including the islands of Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Bora Bora, and New Zealand), they persevered to "find the heart" of the South Pacific. (I can't be the only one who wants a gig with them!!)
Moana is a CG-animated tale of an island teenager (Auli'i Cravalho) who, born with the heart of an adventurer, sets sail to fulfill her destiny and save her people. She finds the demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson "The Rock") who will help her find the lost Heart of Te Fiti.
This "wayfaring" is the impetus for Jessica's latest book: The Art of Moana. In exploring the landscape, the oceans, the sounds (in addition to Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda and Grammy winner Mark Mancina, local Opetaia Foa'i, founder and lead vocal of the band Te Vaka, was slated to keep the score authentic and traditional), and most importantly, the islanders, the goal was to map an authentic Oceanic Story Trust. Jessica recants an early interview with a resident elder: "For years we have been swallowed by your culture, this one time, can you be swallowed by ours?"
|Two books authored by Jessica Julius.|
Moana sails into a theater near you on November 23, but fully appreciating the Disney artist's navigation to the film will make the journey SO much more compelling.
|Thank you Jessica!|
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ MOANA – In Theaters November 23
ABOUT JESSICA JULIUS: JESSICA JULIUS (Sr. Creative Executive, Development) has been involved with “Moana” since day one, supporting the filmmakers’ development efforts. In addition to taking part in story/character/world development, Julius conducted intensive research for the film, utilizing books, online resources, expert consultants, local field trips and targeted island treks. Julius joined The Walt Disney Company in 2004 as a marketing assistant. She transitioned to the development department at Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2005, where she found her professional bliss. Julius is proud to have been part of the development of every WDAS feature film since 2008’s Oscar®-nominated film “Bolt.” In addition to her role in development, she served as the story production supervisor for the Oscar-winning feature “Frozen.”
Julius is the author of The Art of Moana, The Art of Zootopia (a New York Times bestseller), The Art of Big Hero 6, and multiple children’s picture books. She has served as a mentor and panelist for Cinestory, Women In Film, and the Austin Screenwriting Conference. Prior to Disney, Julius worked as a publicist for Oscar®-nominated films ranging from “Finding Nemo” to “Seabiscuit.”Julius is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in Film & Media Communications and Women’s Studies. Originally from Minneapolis, Julius lives in Los Angeles with her husband.
ABOUT THE FILM: Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows why. From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes “Moana,” a sweeping, CG-animated feature film about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana (voice of Auli‘i Cravalho) meets the once-mighty demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity. Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “The Princess & the Frog”) and produced by Osnat Shurer (“Lifted,” “One Man Band”), “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016.