Animator discusses new Disney film, ‘Moana’

November 04, 2016 / by / 0 Comment
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By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau

The story of Moana, the protagonist and namesake of the newest Walt Disney animated film, is similar to that of Grand Canyon University students, at least one level.

Darrin Butters

Darrin Butters

“It’s a story of finding your purpose and your identity,” Disney Animation Studios animator Darrin Butters said Thursday, echoing one of GCU’s themes during a presentation to students at Ethington Theatre.

GCU’s Digital Film program had invited Butters to speak about “Moana,” a 3D computer-animated, musical-fantasy, comedy-adventure film scheduled for release Nov. 23.

Audience members oohed and ahhed when Butters named a few of the beloved classics from the same studio, including “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King,” “Frozen” and “Zootopia.”

The newest Disney movie, "Moana," is about a fierce teenager on a daring journey.

The newest Disney movie, “Moana,” is about a fierce teenager on a daring journey.

Their enthusiasm erupted into claps and cheers when Butters showed a slide of film co-songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda, best known as the creator and star of Broadway musicals “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” and the winner of a Pulitzer Prize, two Grammys, an Emmy, a MacArthur “Genius” Award and three Tony awards.

Butters also showed the delighted crowd several stunning sneak-peek clips, noting that the particular snippets might not appear exactly the same in the final version. The previews introduced main character Moana, the fearless, high-spirited, headstrong 16-year-old daughter of Chief Tui of Motunui Island.

The obstacles and foes Moana faces are the visually stunning stuff of 3D-computer animation. Among the characters are Pua, the incredibly adorable pet pig; Maui, the tattooed, muscle-bound demigod; and the ocean itself.

Not unlike students entering GCU,  Moana sets sail on a voyage of growth and self-discovery. Only her Disney journey involves Hei Hei the stowaway rooster and the added pressure of trying to save the world as she knows it.

The College of Fine Arts and Production regularly invites speakers such as Butters for the benefit of students striving to enter similar careers.

“Anytime you bring an industry for which we train to campus, it’s a win-win for students,” said Claude Pensis, the COFAP dean. “They not only get to see him talk about what he does for a living, they get to see what he does for a living and to interact with him.”

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or laurie.merrill@gcu.edu.


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