Disney: Moana

On November 2016  I had the opportunity to meet with Disney Animator Hyrum Osmand the head animator of Disney Moana and supervisor of the animation of Olaf, Frozen and also worked in “Wrecked-Ralph” and “Tangled.”


I gained some inside perspective of animated film making and what inspires studio artists ~ In the case of Mr. Osmand, he studied his son’s behavior and movements, eventually his son became a huge influence in animating Olaf.

Today, I am going to focus in the behind scenes’ presentation “Moana.” Prior to its creation, the production wanted to create an animated and emotive character that interacts with the ocean, Moana.

Water is the character of the film, the ocean is Moana’s friend, assists her on her journey and sometimes communicates with her by forming a small wave above the ocean’s surface as if it was trying to talk to her.
Fun fact: This wave was given a nickname “Gretchen”

Also in the event,  David G. Derrick, Jr. who worked on “Moana” as a story artist, helping visualize the film.

Inspired by his ancestry, Derrick said he wants Moana to be a source of pride for Polynesians and teach how great Polynesian culture is 🙂

“I felt like I was on the journey with Moana. I have ancestors from Samoa and just as Moana comes to understand her heritage, working and researching this film brought me closer to my own.”

Yet, that message isn’t limited to those with Polynesian ancestry.

“Whoever you are,” Derrick said, “wherever you come from, you stand at the end of a long line of heritage and genealogy that can inspire you in your journey through life.”


After an intensive research phase in the pacific islands, story artists began their collaboration to visualize the story ~

Derrick said that being a story artist is one of the most thankless jobs in animation because they are the ones who creates the initial characters and settings which are used to visualize the script before it gets animated.
A lot of the story artist’s works gets scrapped because it is cheaper to erase an idea early before it gets animated but when one’s work makes it into the final movie it is an amazing feeling

” It is like Christmas  Day when you see your scene animated, it is something that has been planned out and staged, and then it is alive, these characters are real and you believe them !”


When it comes to animation, Mr. Osmand said that it was very challenging to animate hair and water ~~ many Pacific Islanders have long, wavy hair and because they live near the water, their hair often gets wet.

Mr. Osmand says that the surpervisors are tasked to understand who the character is, and it is important to match styles and behaviors of those characters.

Another character is Mini-Maui, the name given to the demigod’s array of tattoos, which moves and changes. Mr. Osmand said they called him Jimmy the Cricket with attitude and added that it was fun to supervise its creation because it was animated by Eric Goldberg, who animated the Genie in “Aladdin” so now you know where Maui’s charismatic personality comes from ^o^ !!

Both Osmand and Derrick said that it is important to test – and – match different behaviors and you have to test for the character’s IQ as well. Derrick said that it is important to have the means to justify your chosen character’s behavior and how its presence fits into the story.

“Every character has to earn their way into the movie,”


Learning from Disney animators like Mr. Osmand and Mr.Derrick was life changing not only on technical skills but it changed me personally ~
Moana itself taught me a lot, for instance, during my December trip to Tokyo I faced an unfortunate fate. In the moment when I felt a huge failure [ The story had a good ending ]  ~  I remembered Moana’s reprice “How far I’ll go” the song is very inspiring because it brings back your confidence when you are in a journey, specially when you are all by yourself in foreign lands ^^;  this song remind us to take a leap of faith when you venture yourself into the unknown.

Disney does a pretty good job into making us believe, doesn’t it ?

Another thing I learned from Mr. Osmand was:

” … in every story there is a piece of us including the struggle ….
When you are out there designing/creating pick an element and make a symbolic connection …. baby Moana interacting with ocean; those are the things that makes films more human.”

You can watch baby Moana symbolic scene here
If you do ~ let me advice you to study elements like music, behavior, interactions and how it influences Moana’s life and finally can you come up with an example on how it applies to real life?

Thank you for taking the time to read my stories ^^