Dreams Do Come True
Hawaiian teen Auli'i Cravalho was chosen from hundreds to fill titular role in new animated movie Moana
Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that she would one day be the voice of a Disney princess.
But like a "dream come true", Hawaiian teenager Auli'i Cravalho snagged the part of Moana after three rounds of callbacks last year.
Cravalho, 15, is currently in Singapore with Moana's producer Osnat Shurer, lighting artist Roger Lee and visual development artist Griselda Sastrawinata to promote Disney's latest animated film.
She voices Moana, a Polynesian teen who feels a deep connection to the ocean and eventually sails out on a daring mission to save her people.
"It's an amazing blessing," Cravalho said at the film's press conference yesterday at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.
The film, which also features the voice of US actor Dwayne Johnson, opens here on Nov 24.
"I now believe in fate. I think (getting the role) was meant to be because I do love the ocean, just like Moana," she said.
The first-time actress revealed that adapting to the "performing" environment of a recording studio was tough.
"I'm used to doing backyard plays and in those (performances), you can bounce off the people around you, but working in a (recording) booth, it's just you and a microphone.
"Learning how things flow was one of the harder things that I had to do."PLUCKY ROLE: Auli'i Cravalho voices the character of Moana (above), a Polynesian teen who sets out on a mission to save her people. PHOTO: WALT DISNEY PICTURES
Cravalho saw many similarities between the film's heroine and herself, thanks to their similar age and heritage. It was her strong connection to Moana's character that eventually helped her cope with the challenges.
"When I didn't know exactly what to do in terms of recording, I found relief that at least I knew exactly how Moana was feeling, and I knew exactly how to play her."
When asked what it was like to work with Johnson, who plays Polynesian demigod Maui, Cravalho said: "He was the nicest person.
"Not that I expected him to be mean but he was just really nice and he actually bought me flowers."
Interestingly, she almost did not get the part because she wasn't part of the initial group of women who were vying for the role.
The high school student ended up being the very last girl, among the hundreds of young women from all over the Pacific Islands, that casting director Rachel Sutton saw during the try-outs.
She said: "When I first heard about the auditions, I thought to myself that whoever gets this role is going to be amazing but I never planned on trying for it."
"Just like Moana, I doubted myself. But I eventually trusted myself and went out on a limb.
"And if there was something that I want everyone to know about my story, it is that dreams do come true, even if they are dreams that you might not say out loud... They do come true if you believe in them enough and you go out on that limb."
She added: "I also hope that people know that, although I love being called a role model, I'm still learning and I'm still growing... just like Moana.
"The film is going to be helpful for everyone who watches it because Moana goes on this journey of finding herself and she grows.
"I feel like I've grown with the character and I hope others do as well."