Behind the scenes: Aulii Cravalho, local cast proud to record ‘Moana’ in Hawaiian


Aulii Cravalho is returning as Disney’s first Polynesian princess in a Hawaiian-language version of “Moana.”

She’s joined by a new, all-local voice cast.

Busy working on projects on the mainland, the “Moana” star says “being away in New York and Los Angeles, it feels so good to be connected in Hawaii again.”

Cravalho says she’s loved re-recording “Moana” in Hawaiian.

“I worked on ‘Moana’ for such a long time that I felt I was really one with the character. Now to hear the songs and every bit of dialogue translated into the native language, it really does touch my heart,” she said.

Hundreds of fluent Hawaiian speakers auditioned for the film. Producers chose 23 local voice actors, including 20-year-old Kahaluu resident Kaipu Baker, who plays Maui.

A sophomore at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Baker is proud to bring his native roots to the film.

“Having the movie in olelo and having it preserved that way for the greater lahui so we can see a Polynesian story in our own language, and having our story told by our people in our language is really essential to legitimizing the identity of the people of Hawaii,” Baker said.

“Moana” is the first Disney picture to be re-recorded in Hawaiian.

One-hundred pages of script and 10,000 words were translated into olelo Hawaii with the help of Puakea Nogelmeier, UH Manoa’s director of the Institute of Hawaiian Language Research and Translation.

Chris Lee with the Academy for Creative Media serves as the executive producer of the film.

Native Hawaiian filmmaker Heather Haunani Giugni and director of Creative Media Sharla Hanaoka are producing the film.

UH West Oahu cultural specialist Aaron Sala is the musical director.

UH Manoa theatre and dance kumu Tammy Hailiopua Baker is directing the dialogue.

The local production team spent hours recording in the Mike Curb MELE studios at Honolulu Community College.

MELE recording faculty Jon Ross is supervising the student recording engineers, and UH Manoa ACM graduate Kaliko Maii is associate producer.

“‘Moana’ was loved across really the nation, and I hope that because we made this for home, they feel what we put together, that they’re more encouraged to learn the language, to sing their favorite songs in Hawaiian now, and to feel connected to their culture like I feel,” said Cravalho.

The Hawaiian language version of “Moana” is due out this summer.

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