Life as The Voice of Moana


Settling down from the busy life of a Disney princess, Auliʻi Cravalho, who recently turned 16, shared just how much her life has changed following the release of Moana in a recent interview with Ka Mōʻi.

Born and raised on Hawai’i Island, Auli’i Cravalho has lived the life of an average island girl– up until she was discovered.
Knowing how difficult the acting industry was, Cravalho admitted that she originally planned to pursue a career in law, or even microbiology. However, in an audition for the chance to perform in the charity, Kids for Cause, a Disney casting director took notice of her, changing her life forever.
When asked about why she thought she received the role, Cravalho humbly admitted that she had “no idea. I’ve heard in a few interviews that I had ‘it’, I don’t know what ‘it’ is, but I’m glad that they saw ‘it’, because it has changed my life.”
After the premiere of Moana in Los Angeles, Cravalho travelled to countries around the world to promote Disney’s new animated movie, which has grossed over $177 million worldwide. Talking about her favorite place to visit, Cravalho said, “I would have to say London. I think I loved it so much because it was so different from Hawaii, and even the people, can we just ‘holla’ at their accents!! I loved every second of it”.
From England to Canada and all the way to Samoa, Cravalho has definitely made headlines. Featured in articles from Buzzfeed and Teen Vogue, it seems as though our islands and school are but a memory to her.
“As much fun as it is traveling, I love you guys and I want to come back. I’m ready to braid each other’s hair and complain about homework – I’m ready for all of it,” Cravalho said about returning back to the islands.
Despite her world travels, Cravalho is still a junior at Kamehameha Schools, dealing with homework and tests just like the rest of KS students.
“It’s interesting. If I’m doing schooling on a plane, sometimes literally on a boat, or wherever I am, it’s just about getting it done. Time management is something that I’m learning,” Cravalho said about balancing school and fame.
With her infectious laugh and witty remarks, Cravalho remains true to her character and friends. Despite her newfound success, Cravalho said, “I think having a really good support system: you folks, and school, and family, you know all of that is what keeps you going, especially in this kind of Hollywood glitz and glam, it’s easy, really easy to lose who you are, and I can’t afford that. So I thank friends. When I come home I’ll be able to go to Pearlridge with them and be the normal person I believe I am. And thinking of myself as who I’ve always been is something that really helps.” Junior Chaylin Wong, who has been a friend of Cravalho since middle school agrees.
“Even though she is super busy and she seems to need the most support, she still seems to support us, even in the little problems we have.”

For more information on how life as the voice of Moana has been, read below for the Q & A with Kamehameha’s own, Auli’i Cravalho.

Q: Did you ever imagine this as your career?

A: “I’ve always loved singing, as many students know, I’m always singing in the hallways but I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would ever be voicing one such an amazing character and two watching it propel me so far along.”

Q: What did you see yourself doing before landing the role?

A: I thought I was either going to pursue a career in law, or even in microbiology, I was kind of setting my sights elsewhere, besides acting or singing because I understood how difficult the industry was to get into, but now that I’m in it I really don’t want to get out, I’m really living my dreams.

Q: Do you think you embody the character, Moana?

A: “I like to think so, I don’t know if I have as much as an adventurous spirit as Moana does, not going to say that I would hop on a waʻa and travel hundreds of miles of open ocean, but I do love her spirit, and I love going to the beach… and I really love her for the fact that she’s adventurous and beautiful inside and out and I hope that I share some qualities with her.”

Q: How many hours did you spend in the studio?

A: “If I spend 6-8 hour days, on weekends, for about a year? What does that give me? Yeah a lot! I’ve loved every minute of it though, it was being in a recording booth and watching Moana come to life, from where she was to who she’s become, as well, that process just amazes me.”

Q: What is the worst and best parts about working with celebrities?

A: I can’t really think of anything bad about working with celebrities, or Dwayne Johnson, we can say his name. Dwayne is awesome, he’s so kind and humble and this being my first project, he really did allow me some time to shine, which I really appreciated. He also taught me some things as well, he taught me that no matter what, you need to be on-time, you need to be professional which seems like it should be basics but at the same times, those are the qualities that will really bring you a long in this industry, if you have a good resume, you know you are known to be good at these things, and that’s what’s going to have people calling you back and so I really appreciated learning from him.

Q: What kind of relations did you develop with the cast/crew?

A: I developed a really amazing one of a kind relationship with everyone there, there were animators, and voice actors and actresses, and everyone understood the importance of Moana. That was one of the things that I admit I was kind of wary of in the beginning, because before I was working on this film, (and I think I can kind of maybe speak for some others as well) I was a little nervous, learning that there would be a Polynesian film, that Disney was making, Disney has come out and has, you know, made some mistakes in the past, but with this film, they’ve done their research. They’ve consulted what we call “the oceanic story trust” which is a group of people, whether it’s fisherman’s, or story-tellers, or a group of kūpuna, whatever their craft may be, that’s who they consulted. Nothing was just kind of like “we’re just going to put that in there because we didn’t have time” this film has been 5 years in the making, and the time was well-spent. I am so proud of this film and what it’s become, because I’ve gotten to work on it, I’ve gotten to see just how much heart the voice actors and actresses and the animators have really put into it, so my bond with them, I mean I’m always going to have my Moana ʻohana, I really am.

Q: What is your favorite location you’ve travelled to?

A: I would have to say London, that was my first time going to London, and its cold, and it’s kind of dark, but I think I loved it so much because it was so different from Hawaii, and even the people, can we just a holla at their accents!! I loved every second of it, If I could live there for a portion of time, just to grab the accent, then i totally would.

Q: What do you think made you stand out?

A: I have no idea, i would love to know, Iʻve heard in a few interviews from the producer of our film that I had “it”, i don’t know what “it” is, but I’m glad that they saw “it”, because it has changed my life, I just remember going into the audition, thinking that i probably wouldn’t get it, knowing just how many young, beautiful singers and actresses who auditioned for the role, Including Dinah Jane, I thought if anything, this is just a good exposure or just a good experience, for me to try, and I remember it was the… I had fun, that was probably something that set me apart from others, was that because i didn’t necessarily concern myself in getting the role, I just had the most fun I have ever had in front of camera.

Q: How has your life changed?

A: “Well, I don’t come to school as often as before, I’m travelling to amazing places around the world, I’m meeting amazing people, I’d like to think I’m still the same person, I am now wearing more makeup then I use to, but underneath I’m still Auliʻi, I haven’t changed too much.”

Q; At which moment during this whole process did you believe you had “made it”?

A: “When I knew that Moana was something really special, as far as a film, was when I actually saw the first bit of animation, was “the water test”, which is where baby Moana meets the ocean for the first time, and initially, they weren’t even planning to add that to the film. It just had such a resonating kind of warmth to it, of how a little toddler could become so connected to the ocean, and it also showed that the ocean is more than an object, which is so important in Polynesian culture, it’s really something that’s alive, that we cherish, that we take care of, so to see it as a character in the story, and to see just the whole animation and the whole story come to life like that, that’s when I really knew it was going to be something special.”

Q: Was there a time you noticed any cultural discrepancies?

A: “I was kind of looking for it, but I didn’t find any, the only thing that I was kind of confused of was initially that Moana’s flower was in her left ear, which I learned, because in Hawaii, you wear it on the right. But in other parts of Polynesia, they wear it on the left. That just shows how much research Disney did and how much time and how much pride they put into their work, where I learned something.”

Q: What was your main concern with being in the spotlight?

A: “There are a lot of concerns when you go into this industry, or any industry for that matter as young as I am, but Hollywood especially, whether it turns to Instagram followers or e-magazine or just tabloid all that, there’s always a certain poise you have to carry, and just understanding that people are watching you, they’re going to be watching you, which is something that I haven’t fully grasped just yet, it’s interesting trying to be a highschool student whole kind of inspiring others as well, it’s super exciting to be someone that inspires others, but at the same time, I’m still learning who i am, so it’s a process of kind of solidifying who you are, which will come.

Q: Do you receive homeschooling?

A: Believe it or not, I’m still a student at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama. I know, I know it’s crazy, but because I’m travelling so much, I’ve worked it out so I can still travel, I can still get the work done, I can still do trig, and all that fun stuff. It’s interesting. It’s such a new experience, everything that is happening is something new that’s being thrown at me, schooling s another one. If I’m doing schooling on a plane, sometimes literally on a boat, or wherever I am, it’s just about getting it done. Time management is something that I’m learning.

Q: Do you still consider yourself a Kamehameha Schools (KS) Warrior?

A: I’d really like to say that I’m still a KS warrior, i have gone to a few football games, I rep blue whenever I can, I’ve kind begun to understand what it means to carry Pauahi’s legacy. I know, I never thought I’d say that either but it’s interesting because i am a junior, and usually I think people feel that when there a senior, but being out in the public eye so much, it’s just feeling the responsibility of not only carrying your family, and your family name, but also where you come from, and even the friends that you associate with. So I really value KS ad all the education they have given me, I mean learning about Hawaiian history and coming up with that strong rooting in my Hawaiian culture is something that I truly value, through this film and wherever I go, I will always be Hawaiian. No matter if I’m a Hawaiian living in California, or if I am Hawaiian filming in Canada, I will always be who I am. And I will always have KS thank for really solidifying me in my culture like that.

Q: Where do you picture yourself in 5 years?

A: That’s a long time. Hopefully in college, Not even hopefully, i will be going to college, hopefully in film. I’ve really loved that. Hopefully singing, just carrying out what i love, i think that’s all our dreams, to do what we really feel is right for our career and for our lives, and i just want the same thing.

Q: What are your thoughts on criticism?

A: The saying “don’t fight fire with fire” is something that is entirely true. There have been more than a few comments on social media i think, social media has blown up and just like everything else, people have an opinion of it– which is fine, you know, opinions are important. I think it’s important knowing who you are, and having a real good support system: you folks, and school, and family, you know all of that is what keeps you going, especially in this kind of hollywood glitz and glam, it’s easy, really really easy to lose who you are, and what your values are, and I can’t afford that. So I thank friends… When I come home Iʻll be able to see them and i’ll be able to go to Pearlridge with them, and i’ll be able to be the normal person i believe i am. And thinking of myself as who i’ve always been is something that really helps. Through the haters, through everything.

Q: Do you feel there’s the possibility of you coming back to school next year?

A:Yeah? I mean, I’ve missed you folks so much, and as much fun as it is travelling and meeting new people, and living this life, I love you guys, and I want to come back. So yeah. Im super ready. I’m ready to see you all on a daily basis and braid eachothers hair and complain about homework, i’m ready for all of it.

Q: How do you plan on being a role model for KS students?

A: I’m not sure just yet. I’m still learning who I am, and I suppose if nothing else then I want them to know that it takes time to figure out who you are, I’m not a finished product, I’m not done growing just yet, so as a role model? Gee, thanks! It’s an honor to be looked at that way, but I’m still learning.

Q: Have you encountered anything you haven’t expected?

A: There were definitely some surprises on set, if you listen closely in the film, there’s a fair amount of one, water, two, Moana falling in the water, and three, Moana running. Those are all components of voice acting as well. You don’t just record lines, you also record action noises and falling noises, and running noises, and running while talking noises, all of it is recorded. So having to do silent jumping jacks while saying a line– that was an interesting experience. Out of all of them, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the running while trying to sound breathless.