In classic Disney fashion, Moana is packed to the gills with memorable and funny side characters, but certainly one of the funniest is Hei Hei -- the incredibly dumb rooster played by Alan Tudyk. While he never actually talks, his impressive stupidity regularly lends to some of the movie's funniest moments. He is just about guaranteed to become a fan-favorite for years to come... which is why it might surprise you to learn that he was almost cut because he initially just didn't work within the story being told.
I learned about the story of Hei Hei and his near meetup with the cutting room floor when I had the pleasure of sitting down with Moana directors Ron Clements and John Musker earlier this month during the film's Los Angeles press day. While discussing Alan Tudyk's role in the movie (having featured in every Walt Disney Animation Studios film since Wreck It Ralph, I learned from the two filmmakers that there was a point when the team almost decided to remove Hei Hei completely. Of course, at that time he was a very different character than the one audiences have grown to love on the big screen. Said Musker,
Fortunately for us, this wasn't something that the Moana animators were too keen on doing. It turns out that they had grown attached to Hei Hei, and while there was talk from John Lasseter about axing the character entirely, they worked hard to try and keep him in the movie. What ultimately became the key to the entire situation was an idea from story artist Ryan Green, and a way to use the rooster in a special way during the action sequence with the coconut-shaped Kakamora. Said the directors:
Do you think that the Moana directors and animators ultimately made the right choice? Hit the comments section below with your thoughts, and in case you haven't seen it yet, you can check out the new Walt Disney Animation Studios film in theaters now.
NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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