Moana isn't your average Disney princess; she's a cool Disney princess. During a press day for Disney's anticipated animated flick, directors Ron Clements and John Musker — the dynamite duo behind The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Princess and Frog — revealed that they wanted Moana (voiced by teen newcomer Auli'i Cravalho) to stand out among Disney's princess squad.
"That was a deliberate attempt, partly inspired by wanting her to be different," Musker told a group of reporters, via Buzzfeed. "We wanted her to be an action hero, capable of action."
Of course, Moana's cultural identity also played a part in her character design. As Disney’s first Polynesian sea-voyaging princess, Moana has to be able to hold her own against whatever the ocean throws her way — like, for example, a battalion of tiny yet fierce Kakamora or a fearsome Lava Monster.
"Even the visual development drawings we had done and stuff, based on drawings of people in the South Pacific... It just seemed right for this character to have her look like she could physically hold her own for what kind of stunts we wanted her to do, and the physicality of the role," Musker added.
Her physical stature isn't the only quality that separates Moana from the rest; she's also the hero of her own story. Moana's not on a quest for love — she's on a quest to fulfill her chosen destiny and become a master wayfinder. She's even more fearless than her demigod companion, Maui (voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). And that strength and resiliency is reflected on the screen.
"Certainly, some of the women involved in the film, our producer and some [others], were very supportive and more involved in that as well, pushing, 'Let's not have her be a wasp-thin woman. Let's have her be a more realistic body shape and feel like she's not going to be blown over by a strong wind,'" Musker said. "And we agreed — we really wanted to get more of that."
We want more of that, too.
Moana hits theaters this Thanksgiving, on November 23, 2016.