One of our favorite things about new films is getting introduced to new Disney characters. And when we saw the first teaser trailer for Moana, we connected right away to the title character. Adventurous and tenacious, Moana is a character we want to be best friends with and we want to know her entire life story right away.
While we’ll have to wait just a bit longer to discover Moana’s journey (Thanksgiving can’t come soon enough!), we recently had the chance to find out more about Moana’s costumes from Visual Development Artist, Neysa Bové.
“Costume design is such an important part to develop these characters. You’re not only trying to tell a story with it, but you’re trying to give the characters their personalities,” said Bové. “With Moana, we did so much research with the Pacific Islands as far as what materials they had at that time. This is supposed to be taking place 2000 years ago, so we didn’t really have any photo reference of what they were at the time, but we did get some material reference from our Oceanic Trust.”
Moana’s look consists of items that would naturally be found on Motunui Island. Her top is called a tapa, which is a textile made from a mulberry tree, while her skirt is made from pandanas. “She’s a voyager; she needs to be moving around, running, swimming, so it has to be a functional costume, not only beautiful, but functional. It has a slit in the front, which creates movement, and she can do all these different activities,” explained Bové.
Her signature accessory—a necklace—has many nods to Moana’s story and her home. “We did a lot of exploration with the necklaces. And we showed John Lasseter, and he just told us, ‘These are all beautiful, but we need something special that that reflects this story we’re trying to tell,'” Bové shared.
“We found this abalone shell. It’s actually a mollusk, and you find this on all the Pacific Islands; it’s something they use quite a bit. What’s beautiful about it is that it sort of looks like a rock until you start scraping that away, and you reveal this beautiful abalone beneath it with all these ocean colors … I sort of added a curve to the shell, and it’s a nice juxtaposition between land and sea, and as a voyager she uses the stars to navigate, so I added some star carvings up on top of the shell.”
Another outfit we’ll see Moana wear in the film is the taualuga costume, which is one of Bové’s favorites. “As the chief’s daughter, she has a [ceremonial] costume. She wears this outfit with a headdress … the red has a real significance to Pacific Islanders, [because] it means royalty… and back in the day, they didn’t have sewing machines, so for example, on the back, for buttons I added a boar’s tusk and that’s how it would be together,” said Bové.
Isn’t all the artwork beautiful? We can’t wait to see more when Moana sails into theaters this Thanksgiving.