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'Moana' star to reprise role in Hawaiian-language version of Disney hit

The Hawaiian-language re-recording of "Moana" is scheduled to begin in January 2018 with star Auli'i Cravalho reprising the title role.

by Agnes Constante /

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The University of Hawaii's Academy for Creative Media System (ACMS) is spearheading a project to produce a Hawaiian-language version of “Moana,” where star Auli'i Cravalho will return as Disney's first Polynesian princess.

“I’m so happy to be reprising my role as Moana, and this time in the Hawaiian language,” Cravalho said in a video posted on social media. “Thank you to Disney, the University of Hawaii and everyone who’s teaming up to create our very special Hawaiian-language version of the film.”

The project to redub “Moana” in Hawaiian comes after the film was translated into Maori — the indigenous language in New Zealand — and screened for free at 30 theaters in the country in September.

Prior to the Maori language version, “Moana” became the first Disney feature film to be translated into Tahitian.

"The filmmakers are thrilled that Moana continues to uplift and inspire all over the world, particularly in the cultures that inspired the film,” producer Osnat Shurer told NBC News. “Hawai’i is at the heart of the renaissance of traditional voyaging, and Nainoa Thompson, the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the incredible voyages of the Hokulea were a major inspiration for Moana. It is a great honor that our Hawaiian friends and partners would like to translate the film into the beautiful Hawaiian language.”

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The new translation of “Moana” was initiated after a Hawaiian-language speaker who works in Hawaii's film industry approached ACMS to see if there was any interest in pursuing the possibility of translating the film, Heather Giugni, a producer of the Hawaiian-language version of the film, told NBC News.

Crucial to the success of the translated version was putting together the team who would be involved in the project, Sharla Hanaoka, a producer of the Hawaiian-language version of the film, added. Among those involved in the translation of the film include a team of translators made up of former and current students of the University of Hawaii, Manoa's (UH Manoa) Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language. The team will be supervised by Puakea Nogelmeier, a professor of Hawaiian Language at UH Manoa and executive director of a non-profit that deals with Hawaiian translation.

Earlier this month, ACMS put out a casting call for fluent Hawaiian-language speakers and singers.

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"The process in preparing for this project was like solving an exciting puzzle,” Hanaoka said. “Getting people who were both well respected in the Hawaiian community as well as fluent in the Hawaiian language was a must."

The project is being funded and coordinated by ACMS, and will be available on DVD. It is expected to be distributed via the Hawaii State Department of Education throughout the state as a Hawaiian language educational tool, Giugni said.

Re-recording of the film is scheduled to take place in January 2018 at Honolulu Community College’s Music and Entertainment Learning Experience Studio. The project is expected to be completed in March 2018.

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