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Disney is a master of animation, which might lead one to believe that they know exactly how to do everything perfectly. After decade upon decade of making animated feature films, certainly they've done it all, right? However, even the best still have challenges they must overcome. The Rock's character of the demigod Maui in their upcoming film Moana was a very special case for the animation team for a very unusual reason: most Disney characters wear more clothing than he does.
It might be something that you don't notice very often, but most Disney characters wear clothes. As such, you never have to see a characters' muscles reacting to their movements. Maui, the demigod from Moana, isn't covered in clothing, just tattoos. During the Moana panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Animation Supervisor Amy Smeed explained that her team had some unique challenges to overcome, but they succeeded.
Maui you'll notice...he's not wearing a shirt. Usually on our films, the characters, the clothing hides a lot of their muscle and skin and anatomy, so we spent a lot of time, our supervising animator Mack Kablan, spent a lot of time with the rigging supervisor and created all the muscle shapes so as Maui's moving around different muscles are engaging.
We got to see some animation examples of Maui's movements in the panel, running and jumping around, and you really can see his different muscles interacting with each other as he moves. One doesn't necessarily think about the idea of animation going down to the muscular level, but somebody needs to do that work to animate the different parts of the body reacting to different movements. While some of the early response to Moana has been critical because Maui looks to be overweight, which reinforces a negative stereotypes of the Polynesian culture, what you really see here is that Maui isn't fat, he's just really damned big. In fact, I'm convinced that what we see in the Teaser Trailer isn't fat, but pure muscle. This is The Rock, after all.
Maui wasn't the only challenge that the animators faced. Water itself, as can be seen in the international trailer, is a character itself and animating it to move properly was also difficult. While the name of the movie may be Moana, Maui is just as important a character to the plot of the film. The two will work together to navigate the oceans of the South Pacific in order to return order to the world. We'll see the results of that quest, as Moana hits theaters this Thanksgiving.