Disney's latest animated picture, centred around young Polynesian princess Moana and her family, has already struck box office gold, starring many huge names such as Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Nicole Scherzinger and Jemaine Clement. But who you may not have heard of is Opetaia Foa'i, Kiwi musician and lead singer of South Pacific fusion group Te Vaka, who worked on much of Moana's soundtrack with Broadway genius Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton).
As Chinchilla News reports, Foa'i was rung up by the film's producers and asked to work on the film, out of the blue. "It was just like that. I think they'd been listening to lots of Islander music at the time," he said.
"We flew to Los Angeles in December 2013 and I met two of the directors, John Musker and Ron Clements, and then they started to tell me about the movie they had in mind with a focus on the ancestors in the Pacific. I've been telling these stories for over 20 years, so I was overjoyed to be involved."
Having penned songs like We Know The Way, An Innocent Warrior and I Am Moana alongside Miranda and composer Mark Mancina, his involvement in the film has seen Foa'i flown to premieres around the world and sharing the stories of Polynesia.
"It's been fantastic traveling the world; we've done 40 countries so far. Every performance I do I rave about our ancestors, how they traveled the seas and to see this in a movie, and running in cinemas around the world… boy, that [sic] a dream come true."
Foa'i commends Disney and the film's four directors for respecting the South Pacific's traditions and staying true to the culture in the film. With numerous Pacific Islander voices and characters in the film (including The Rock, who is Samoan), he says the stories in Moana are very close to the traditional tales told back home.
"I spent three years with the directors and to be honest I should have been fired four or five times for refusing things if they didn't align. But at the end of the day they were very respectful, and very willing to look at them."