Disney Princess Moana Release Date 2016: Casting Ongoing, 2 Hawaiians Get Callbacks

Walt Disney Animation Studios is still searching for the perfect person to play the singing and speaking voice of its new princess, Moana. The studio recently left New Zealand after scheduling open casting calls there. They are also doing casting calls in islands in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Samoa, according to reports.

Disney announced in October 2014 that it will introduce a new princess to its line-up of Disney princesses. Moana is described as "a spirited teenager" who goes on an adventure across the seas to "fulfill an ancestor's quest." The movie is set in ancient times, 2,000 years ago in a world called Oceania in the South Pacific. Moana is driven to finish the quest in order to save her people, according The New Zealand Herald.

The casting call specifically asked for a female aged 14 to 24, with the following qualities: "Smart, passionate and funny. Brave, inquisitive and confident. A teenager who yearns for something more. Strong singing voice a must." Online video submissions were also accepted.

Movie Pilot reports that of the thousands of auditions and submissions, two native Hawaiian girls have received official callbacks. These two stand out because their video auditions already have a growing legion of fans rooting for them. One is Makamae Auwae, a 19-year-old professional gospel singer from Maui but based in Los Angeles who speaks fluent Hawaiian and according to her video audition, is very passionate about representing Polynesian culture. Another is 14-year-old Ciana Pelekai, from Oahu, Hawaii, who despite her age showed confidence in her singing. She was also asked to read a few lines from the movie.

Disney's casting company has not released results of casting calls in New Zealand, but the New Zealand Herald reports that some local agencies who know of several video submissions say that none of the girls have heard from Disney yet.

Moana will be Disney's first princess of Polynesian descent. It will be directed by Ron Clements and John Musker who also directed "The Princess and the Frog," "Aladdin," and "The Little Mermaid." Its release is scheduled in late 2016. Disney has confirmed that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will voice the character Maui, a demi-god who helps Moana in her quest.

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