Disney’s feature film Moana required cultural consultants from all over Polynesia and one of them naturally had to be from The Islands of Tahiti! Directors of Disney’s Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, Ron Clements and John Musker, were the ones to work on Moana. The story relied on cultural consultants, scientists, artists and elders from New Zealand, Samoa, Hawaii, Fiji, Tonga and of course, The Islands of Tahiti. I was able to sit down with the cultural consultant chosen for The Islands of Tahiti to get a glimpse of what it was like and the important points to communicate for Tahitians. Disney chose the president of the Association Atitia, Hinano Murphy, as the cultural consultant.
The movie tells the story of a little girl who’s your average islander, she’s a free spirit, she loves nature, animals and most of all, the ocean, for which she is named. Moana is every Polynesian child and she says: I am Polynesian, my ancestors were navigators, I am proud of who I am and where I come from. Murphy reminded me that there was a time when we were all one people and though today we may carry different passports, we are still Polynesians. “We love the ocean, we are made of ocean, we live on the ocean, we are a people of the ocean, we are ocean.” We come from a people of navigators and explorers and we must not forget where we come from, the values and traditions that have been passed down and we must be proud of it. This common ground is what brings Polynesians together and it’s what makes us one of the most beautiful regions in the world.
Upon one of the first meetings with Disney, Papa Mape made a special request. Papa Mape was one the elders who also consulted for the feature film. This request was to have the movie translated in Tahitian. Papa Mape’s reasoning was that we, The Islands of Tahiti, were giving knowledge to produce this and Disney would make a profit, but what were we getting in return? The one thing we wanted was to have the movie available in Tahitian. That request was granted and within The Islands of Tahiti, there was so much excitement for the movie and people felt that every child who watched, would be able to relate and see themselves as Moana or Maui and feel proud to be Polynesian.
The Atitia Center, located on the island of Moorea is a learning center devoted to the knowledge of Tahitian culture, traditions and science. More information: www.moorea.berkeley.edu/outreach/atitia
In 2011, National Geographic did a piece on bridging western science and Polynesian tradition. In this article, they consulted with Hinano Murphy and Papa Mape. Take a look: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/02/110223-biodiversity-cultural-tradition-moorea-indigenous-knowledge/