Why Maui Looks The Way He Does In 'Moana'

There are so many reasons to be excited about Disney's Moana , which finally comes out on Nov. 23, but one of the best has to be the fact that Dwayne Johnson is in it. Recently elected the Sexiest Man Alive by People , he has been making incredible career choices of late, and he was also the highest paid actor in 2016, thanks to roles in movies like Central Intelligence and Baywatch. The latest Disney release rounds out another amazing year for the former wrestler, especially since Johnson's character in Moana seems to be based on him in more ways than one. His body type seems to have inspired the portrayal of Maui, changing the character from traditionally thin into a larger than life figure.

Johnson is incredibly excited and emotional about the movie for a very good reason. As he told a Disney Expo in Aug. 2015, "This is my heritage. I am proudly half-Samoan and half-black." Disney's new film focuses on a Polynesian adventurer princess, and the demigod who accompanies her on her travels, so it's very exciting that the actor playing Maui is himself of Polynesian heritage. But it's equally interesting that he is physically depicted as someone whose body type is more aligned with Johnson's as well.

Robert Ito at The New York Times reported that, "Maui often resembles a lithe teenager on the verge of manhood," noting that the character's evolution in Moana is striking indeed. Not everyone is on board with Maui's new look, with several critics noting that, "the depiction perpetuates offensive images of Polynesians as overweight." While it's natural to assume that Disney were keen to make their depiction of Maui unique to them, presumably the character's voice actor was also taken in to account when designing his body. And as everyone everywhere knows, The Rock has a distinctive look (he's the Sexiest Man Alive, no less).

Speaking to The New York Times about Maui's physical changes, producer Osnat Shurer said,

“Even in the myths where he’s small, he’s larger than life. And in animation, we’re not literal. You’re trying to find the essence of the character. We always felt that the audience needed to know right away, visually, that this guy is stronger than anybody else.”

Clearly, Johnson is the perfect person to play a character described as "stronger than anybody else" and "larger than life," but I'm definitely curious just how much of an influence the actor's body type had on the character. Johnson's distinctive muscles, iconic tattoos, and wrestling physique are totally unique, and, as a performer, he's completely at ease with comedy. I've no doubt that Johnson's voice performance is the perfect fit for a character that's a demigod, especially since the actor is naturally hilarious and handles emotions with real care.

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The new Disney movie has already been praised for its portrayal of the princess. As The New York Times writers, "Moana has been celebrated for her extra heft and more realistic body shape," which, compared to the majority of Disney princesses, is much more relatable. I'm excited to finally see Johnson's portrayal of Maui in Moana , especially as the character seems to be inextricably tied to him and celebrates everything he stands for as an actor.

Images: Walt Disney Pictures