If you've seen Disney's delightful Polynesian adventure Moana this week, you're probably belting out "How Far I'll Go" every five minutes and wishing you could be on a tropical island right about now. The latest wonder to come out of the animation studio, #Moana is wooing audiences worldwide and delivering another much-needed tale of a strong and independent girl who likes to get things done. Three cheers for Moana!
The only thing we could complain to #Disney about is the relative absence of Pua, the adorable little pig that was seen everywhere in posters and promo clips, and barely appears at the beginning of the movie. Fortunately, she's got a second best friend in the form of Heihei, a stupid rooster who was essentially born for the role of the village idiot — and is a complete scene-stealer throughout the movie.
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You Think Chickens Are Stupid? Wait Until You See Heihei
Heihei is a skinny rooster that the kind Moana saved from the chopping block, but never actually intended to take with her when she leaves on her long and arduous journey. He would have probably preferred to stay on land, too, but on that tiny boat they're stuck with each other, and Moana will make sure he doesn't drown.
His complete lack of a survival instinct doesn't only provide comic relief to each of Heihei's scenes, it also adds a little extra challenge for Moana, who would probably have moved a bit faster if she didn't have to save the rooster from unintentional suicide — and if he didn't swallow the treasured stone that half of the ocean's population is after.
As screenwriter Jared Bush puts it:
Once Heihei could really be a complication to Moana and make her journey more difficult, it's great for our main character. So sometimes it's not for entertainment's sake — although it's hugely entertaining. It actually really helped the Moana story quite a bit.
But Heihei Almost Didn't Make It Into The Movie!
While Heihei had been in the story from the start, he almost didn't make it into the final version. After innumerable iterations over five years, his character didn't really fit in anymore — but the story team had grown so attached to him that they reinvented his purpose to try and save him from the studio's figurative chopping block.
When speaking at Disney's D23 expo last year, the team had presented him as a stereotypical macho character, following Moana around and acting like a watchdog. He definitely didn't have those crazy eyes and looked like he could take care of himself, but his aggressiveness didn't match the tone of the movie.
So the story team behind Moana went the opposite direction and made him an equally endearing and annoying obstacle in Moana's journey. Once they had added him to the fight scene between Moana and Maui and the Kakamora — the movie's obvious and surprising reference to Mad Max: Fury Road — he'd started making sense again.
His presence puts the spotlight on Moana's ability to handle several things at once, and in her quality as village chief, to never leave anyone behind. Still, as director Ron Clements sees it:
He might be the stupidest character in the history of Disney Animation.
And that's just one more reason to love him.
Do you feel like Heihei added to Moana's story? Who's your favorite Disney animal sidekick?