ByRochelle Marsh, writer at
Rochelle Marsh

The Search

Although many may have heard about Disney's upcoming animated feature, the update regarding who will play the voice of Disney's first Polynesian princess may not be known to all.

Due for a late 2016 release, the search for the perfect Moana has moved from New Zealand to other parts of the Pacific, following a call that CNA Casting put out which generated thousands of online video auditions.

The 56th animated feature is set 2000 years ago in the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania. Moana, a spirited teenager full of passion and determination, sets sail on an impossible search for a fabled island to fulfill her ancestor's request. During her enthralling journey, she is joined by the legendary demigod Maui (confirmed to be voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). Together, they discover an incredible world, alive with diverse sea creatures, enchanting underworlds and ancient folklore.

Moana, which will be directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, will be the first full-length animated feature from Disney set in the South Seas since Lilo & Stitch (2002).

Clements, who has collaborated with Musker before, is excited for Disney's newest project:

“John and I have partnered on so many films—from ‘The Little Mermaid’ to ‘Aladdin’ to ‘The Princess and the Frog'. Creating ‘Moana’ is one of the great thrills of our career. It’s a big adventure set in this beautiful world of Oceania.”

Finding the right voice for their princess is essential. For Moana to even come close to what Frozen achieved, it is paramount that they look far and wide. The guidelines for Disney's search is as follows:

"Smart, passionate, and funny. Brave, inquisitive, and confident. A teenager who yearns for something more. Strong singing voice a must.”

In addition to the basic criteria, Musker has described Moana further to make hopeful applicants aware of what they're looking for:

“Moana is indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself. She’s the kind of character we all root for, and we can’t wait to introduce her to audiences.”


Amongst thousands of auditions, official callbacks have been confirmed for two native Hawaii teens after the submission of their YouTube auditions. Although they present very different performances, both girls are equally talented and share a strong passion for the chance to represent their culture for Disney.

Their successful performances have resulted into internet fame. Despite the many unknown callbacks, the following two hopefuls now have an army of fans routing for one to become Disney's first Polynesian princess.

Makamae Kailani Auwae

A 19-year-old gospel singer from Maui, Makamae Auwae believes she would be the ideal choice to play Moana because she speaks fluent Hawaiian and is a professional singer. In addition to singing in the band Christafari - based in Los Angeles where she lives now - Auwae has grown up loving Disney. Speaking with HuffingtonPost, an American online news aggregator and blog, she said:

"I would be honored to lead the role of Moana because it would be a big opportunity to represent where I come from. The Polynesian and Hawaiian cultures could teach the world the value of family and how respectful Polynesians are of the world around them, from navigating stars to taking care of the land that take cares of them."

In another interview, she explained:

“The way they described Moana — a free spirited person who goes for it — well, if I was to say how I see myself, that is what I would say. And it’s my culture. Who doesn't want to represent their culture?"

As part of her audition, Auwae even uses her native tongue to sing some of the lyrics.

Ciana Kamalu o'nalani Pelekai

The second successful audition presents 14-year-old Ciana Pelekai, born in Waianae, Hawaii. Her young age, however, hasn't limited the confidence in her voice. Furthermore, despite being eliminated in the Quarterfinals of America's Got Talent Season 8, she is determined to play Moana in order to pursue her singing and acting career.

In her audition she shows genuine Disney Princess charm. She states:

“That would be the world to me because right now I want to pursue my singing career and my acting career, and I would love to be in that movie and be the princess. I’m just really happy and really excited.”

Pelekai also told HuffingtonPost:

"I relate to Moana because she's Polynesian and I'm Hawaiian and I know I could be an inspiration to others. Down here in Hawaii, there's not a lot of opportunity to be recognized [nationally] like there is in Los Angeles. I just hope they choose a Hawaii girl."

As a result of her powerful performance, Disney asked her to read a few lines for the title role.

As of yet, we have no further updates regarding other callbacks or when the final decision will be made. Nevertheless, there are plenty more Moana auditions to enjoy online in the mean time.

Be ready and waiting for the announcement of the new Disney princess.


Who would you prefer to play the voice of Moana?


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