"Moana," the story of Disney’s first Polynesian sea-voyaging princess, is one of the most anticipated Disney Animation projects on the studio's upcoming slate.
Despite its late 2016 release date, the internet can't stop freaking out over "Moana" -- and with good reason, because Moana is a Disney princess like no other. The computer animated film introduces a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission (with her pet pig Pua!) to fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest. She meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), and together, they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage of self-discovery.
Sounds like one courageous princess, right? Legendary directors Ron Clements and John Musker -- who are responsible for Disney classics like "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin" and "Princess and the Frog" -- are bringing this sweeping emotional tale to life.
The filmmakers presented "Moana" -- alongside Johnson, the film's charismatic star -- at this past weekend's D23 fan expo in Anaheim, California. But there was one person missing: Moana.
So far, the only actor attached to the project is Johnson, who is half-Samoan himself. Since the film's announcement early last year, fans have been waiting for the studio to announce its Moana. One young hopeful has recently garnered a lot of attention on social media: Fifth Harmony member Dinah Jane Hansen.
Fifth Harmony fans were hoping the D23 animation panel would reveal that the singer won the role of the feisty Polynesian princess, but no casting announcement was made. So, how close are Clements and Musker to finding their Moana?
"There have been about 400 people that have auditioned for the part of Moana throughout the world," Musker told MTV News at D23. "It's a key part of this movie, the part of Moana, so we want to take our time with it, but we're hoping we can make the announcement relatively soon in the future."
"We haven't heard all 400 yet, but we've heard many, and we're still going through it all," added Clements.
When asked about Hansen, specifically, Clements confirmed that the Fifth Harmony singer did come in to read for the part of Moana.
D23 attendees were treated to an early look at the film during the Disney Animation presentation with two visually stunning sequences: one, a funny clip of Maui and his "mighty, magical fishhook" trying to impress Moana, and the other, a beautiful look at Moana's rich history with the Pacific Ocean, who is as much of a character in this film as anyone else. And that's all rooted in the ancient history of this culture.
"We pitched a barebones version of this story to John Lasseter, and he's very big on research, so he told us to dig deeper and get into the culture," said Musker. "So we went to the islands and met people who were connected to the ancient culture and to the things that really made them unique."
"The whole idea of voyaging wasn't in our initial story," he added. "And then we learned what a source of pride it was for them, that they were the world's first great navigators, using dead reckoning to find their way across the ocean. We wanted to celebrate that."
"Even the idea that this movie would be about a 16-year-old heroine came out of our trip," Clements added. "We came away from the trip knowing that we wanted to set a story in the world of voyaging and wayfinding, along with the fantasy of Maui. So for the story we were trying to tell, this 16-year-old heroine seemed like the right character to tell that story."
And we can't wait to see (and hear!) more of groundbreaking princess when she comes to life on the big screen on November 23, 2016.