Princess Moana: Disney’s Newest Princess Has Finally Been Cast — Meet 14-Year-Old Auli’i Cravalho

Disney’s newest princess has finally been cast after an exhaustive worldwide search. Auli’i Cravalho, a 14-year-old Hawaii native, has officially been announced as the newest Disney princess, Moana.

The CG-animated feature Moana — which is slated to hit theaters November 2016 — will be directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, who are no strangers to creating Disney princesses that aren’t your stereotypical blond-haired, blue-eyed white girls. The pair worked together to help create and direct Princess Jasmine in Aladdin and Princess Tiana in The Princess and the Frog. In a statement released by E! Online, Musker described the South Pacific Princess.

“Moana is indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself. She’s the kind of character we all root for, and we can’t wait to introduce her to audiences.”

A “unique connection to the ocean itself” seems fitting for Princess Moana, considering her name in Hawaiian and Maori actually means “ocean.”

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While thousands of young girls were lining up to audition for the role of Moana, Cravalho says she was just getting through her freshman year of high school, and, having seen so many amazing auditions through YouTube, felt she just wasn’t good enough. In fact, she didn’t even bother auditioning for the part of Moana. Luckily, the fates were smiling on the Mililani, Hawaii, native, and an Oahu casting director spotted her singing at a charity competition. The casting director tracked her down and asked her to audition for the part of Princess Moana. Cravalho and her mother were eventually flown to Burbank, California, where she auditioned once more, and she immediately fit the part, says Musker.

“Auli’i demonstrated a certain fearlessness in her auditions and call-backs. She has a playful, mischievous wit. She can project vulnerability, she doesn’t seem intimidated at all by the challenges ahead, and her Polynesian background has helped shape her connection to family, hard work and music. These are all qualities she shares with Moana.”

Moana also stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Maui, a shapeshifting demi-god who helps Moana on her journey. It was Johnson who announced Cravalho’s casting of Princess Moana in an Instagram post.

Of her role as the newest Disney Princess, Cravalho says she’s excited to play the first ever Polynesian princess, and that being a Disney princess has been a dream of hers since she was a baby. She also tells People that she feels she can relate to the character of Moana.

“Moana is such an amazing character. She’s brave, she is so empowered, she knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get it, and I think that’s something that I can relate to as well. I just love watching how she goes along in this wonderful movie and grows as a person and helps her culture along the way.”

What she’s most excited about, however, is working alongside Dwayne Johnson and getting the chance to hear him sing.

“I’ve never heard him sing before so it’s going to be really interesting!” she said.

Moana, Disney’s 56th feature film, follows the journey of 16-year-old Moana living in the ancient South Pacific with her father, Chief Tui, and her grandmother. Moana’s father often tells her about the amazing journeys the people of her village used to take and of a mysterious island connected to those journeys. Eventually, the voyages of her people stopped, and no one will tell Moana why. Moana is determined to leave her tiny village and find the island that was the center of so many of her father’s stories, so she embarks on an adventure with only her pet pig, Pua, and a cranky rooster, Hei Hei, as her travelling companions.

Are you excited about Disney’s newest princess, Moana? Will you see the movie when it hits theaters next year?

[Image Credit: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney]