There are some amazing and powerful women in Hollywood – Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm; Suzanne Todd, producer of several award-winning films, and Osnat Shurer, producer of Moana, one of the highest grossing animated films of 2016. I had the pleasure of meeting with Osnat in November to discuss her involvement in Moana (still in theaters!)
Osnat Shurer met Moana directors Ron Clements and John Musker while heading up the Development Department at Disney. It was 4 1/2 years ago when Osnat was asked to produce Moana and life changed from there.
It’s a big love of mine. What’s not to love about going to the Pacific islands, let’s face it. We went many times to the islands. I was just in Tahiti last week. We were there announcing that we were translating the movie in Tahitian, which will be the first time in history that a movie’s in Tahitian. And the whole Tahitian Language Academy is involved. The Minister of Education will be teaching in the schools. It’s very, very exciting for us.
I spent a lot of time in research, both in the islands and with our experts. I would be Skyping with people constantly. We were phoning back and forth. Every new tattoo design went to our master tattoo artist to get his blessing. Nothing went through without, um, going through some of our Pacific island trust. It was very cool. We were very lucky to meet incredible people who wanted to stay involved.
Deciding on the idea of Maui the demi-god was something that came naturally to the production team. Maui is a shape-shifter with tattoos depicting his successes, so it was something that Osnat’s team really wanted to focus on.
The shape shifting just begs for animation. It’s like we even got a superhero here. It was how we were going to figure out the shape shifting and the tattoos. When we landed on this idea of a living tattoo that’s his conscience, we totally fell in love. We thought it was like the most original side kick we had ever at Disney, and so we went pretty crazy with that. At first, we over did it, but it was really cool. And we also needed to figure out new technology, because it’s done in traditional animation by one of the greatest animators in the world, Meyer Goldberg and his team.
And yet, it’s not just mapped onto the CG animation, it actually like is under the skin to figure out how we, how we deal with the surfaces, how we make it feel like a real tattoo, and yet it’s alive, so where do we bend the rules. Where can it make a little sound or something because, you know, for comedic effect. So it became something that we were really interested in.
One of the most exciting things about Moana is the music. Osnat hired Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina, and Opetaia Foa’i to head the music of Moana. Lin-Manuel wasn’t quite finished with his broadway hit Hamilton: The Musical but was a fixture in music entertainment already with In The Heights, Bring It On!: The Musical, and several independent projects.
We were in New York and Ron and John and I was, it was, just pre-Christmas. We met with a whole number of songwriters and just loved Lim-Manuel. I loved In The Heights. I loved that it was bilingual. It was so easy for him to move between languages.
Ron and John adored the opening of the Tonys, all those great, those great songs he wrote for Neil Patrick Harris, and we just loved him. What’s not to love? So he comes into the room and we’re just like yeah, him. And so we went away, talked about who we wanted and it was Lin. And at one point, we were sitting at the table, I remember this in New York when I first met him. I said, well, what are you working on now? He said, you know, I’m working on a hip hop musical based on the founding fathers for the public in like 2 months, and I have been full time, and it’s not going anywhere.
He always found time for us and, um, he always made time. We were always working with him, Skyping with him. He was in his dressing room in the back in Hamilton, and all our demos were done by people from Hamilton. (you can hear the demos on the Deluxe Moana Soundtrack)
It will be hard for Osnat Shurer to top her involvement with Moana, but I know we are all looking forward to seeing what’s next for this powerful woman in Hollywood.