There are many things we know for sure when it comes to Moana—for instance, that Maui can shapeshift, and that Moana loves the ocean. But there are also a number of unknown fun facts—including fascinating ideas about Pua, Heihei, and Gramma Tala that changed the outcome of the film—which Moana producer Osnat Shurer revealed to Entertainment Weekly:
1. Baby Moana Almost Never Met the Ocean
One of the most touching scenes in the film is when toddler Moana first encounters the ocean. This was a scene in which animators made the ocean come to life. But, it almost didn’t make it in to the film! Here’s what Shurer had to say:
“It was so beautifully animated, but we originally thought we needed to have her first interaction with the ocean at the age that we spend the movie with her, which is 16. But we were all kind of yearning for the sweet sequence that we loved so much, and eventually the story shifted and we were able to put it back in.”
So glad that happened. *High fives the ocean*.
2. Moana at One Point Had Brothers
In a very early version of the story, Moana has seven brothers, and her dad was the one who wanted to revive voyaging. That would totally be cool, except that Moana’s dad doesn’t take her along—even though she’s the best sailor—simply because she’s a girl. Shurer had a different vision, as told to Entertainment Weekly:
“But then we realized that we wanted this to be a true hero’s journey, in which our hero just happens to be female; we didn’t want her flaw and her problem to be her gender.”
It’s who she was meant to be!
3. Heihei Was Very Different in the BeginningOur dearest Heihei almost got cut! Shurer dishes the details on this dilemma:
“In the beginning, Heihei the rooster was kind of an ornery, angry dude. We weren’t loving where he was at, and there was a moment we thought we might cut him. We gave the team a couple of days and went, ‘Save the chicken if you can.’ The story artists came back with a pitch about ‘the stupidest character in Disney history’ and had us crying laughing. We celebrated with a fried chicken party.”
The chicken lives! We now want Heihei shirts that say, “Save the chicken if you can.”
4. Why Pua Did Not Go on Moana’s Journey
Don’t get us wrong, we love Heihei—but we never understood why Pua wasn’t by Moana’s side as well! Shurer offered an explanation:
“Pua the pet pig was originally going on the journey with Moana, but the issue was that in a classic hero’s journey, the hero leaves all comforts behind. And so we made the difficult decision to leave poor Pua at home, so that all things of Moana’s family are left behind. It wasn’t a very popular decision around the office; there was almost a petition through the studio to [have Moana] take the pig.”
We would’ve wholeheartedly signed that petition.
5. “Shiny” Was a Tribute to David Bowie
Originally, Maui and Moana ventured to the underworld in disguise so they could avoid monsters that Maui had taken down in the past. But because of the story’s length and the movie’s time crunch, that scene was ultimately cut. In place of it, we were given the sequence featuring Tamatoa, in all his shiny glory. According to Shurer:
“Lin-Manuel Miranda sent in the song ‘Shiny’ about a week after David Bowie passed away, and it was a little bit of an homage from all of us; we knew we had the sequence we wanted within that single song.”
We’re not complaining!
6. How Gramma Tala Came to Be
Gramma Tala didn’t come to fruition until later on. Her character was inspired by the team’s experiences in the Pacific Islands, where they met a woman named Hinano Murphy residing on Mo’orea, eventually becoming an integral part of their Oceanic story trust:
“She’s this incredibly inspiring woman who has created a nonprofit that brings forward the original culture of Tahiti. She has a particular wisdom, a sense of mischief, a sense of humor, and a willingness to do everything she needs to do to help the next generation learn who they are. She was our main inspiration for adding Gramma Tala to the story.”
Meeting the real-life Gramma Tala would be a dream come true.
The secrets are out! We suddenly feel like watching Moana again and appreciation every little detail, especially Heihei. Which lost storyline called to you the most?