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'Moana': Who will star in the upcoming Disney animated movie?

'Moana' is reportedly set in the South Pacific and centers on a young girl who goes on a sea voyage to search for a legendary island, and meets the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson).

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    Actor Dwayne Johnson has been cast in the Disney animated film 'Moana.'
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The upcoming Disney animated film “Moana” has cast its title role.

Actress Auli'i Cravalho will reportedly lend her voice to the main character in the film. Cravalho is 14 and is from Oahu.

The character of Moana is from the South Pacific and in the movie, she goes on a sea voyage to search for a legendary island. “Fast and Furious” actor Dwayne Johnson voices Maui, a demigod who becomes acquainted with Moana.

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The film is co-directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, who have been behind some of Disney’s biggest critical hits, including “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” and “The Princess and the Frog.” Featuring Disney's first African-American princess, “The Princess and the Frog” did not do as well as the duo's earlier films, but it was well received by critics. 

“Moana” is the rare Disney movie not set in a Europe-inspired country. While Disney avoids using real European nations by name, some of the studio's biggest hits have clear European inspirations, such as the fictional kingdom of Arendelle in the recent hit “Frozen,” which not only has geography similar to Norway, but an attraction based on the movie is set to open in the Norway section of the Epcot Disney park.

Meanwhile, “Beauty and the Beast” characters speak occasional French and “Tangled” director Byron Howard said research for the movie took filmmakers all over central Europe: “We went to... Hungary, Austria.”

When Disney has chosen settings not inspired by European countries, their depictions have sometimes drawn criticism. For example, some were offended by depictions of characters in the film “Aladdin,” which was set in a Middle East-like country. “It's regrettable that negative ethnic stereotypes are reinforced by some aspects of the picture,” Monitor film critic David Sterritt wrote at the time.

But the choice of settings has varied over the last decades, with one of Disney’s biggest hits, 1994's “The Lion King,” being set in a Central Africa-like kingdom and “Mulan” taking place in a China-like area. Meanwhile, “The Emperor’s New Groove” borrowed elements of the Incan Empire in Peru, and the name of the film's protagonist, Kuzco, is similar to the name of the Incan Empire's capital.

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Disney's fortunes with animated movies have changed over the past several years. The company had a string of box office disappointments in the 2000s with such films as "Brother Bear," "Meet the Robinsons," and "Bolt." However, the 2010 movie "Tangled" and 2012's "Wreck-It Ralph" became hits for the studio, then 2013's "Frozen" was a pop culture-dominating force.

The film "Moana" will come to theaters in November 2016.

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