The headlines are all over the internet now, but we have had to keep this exciting news a secret since the middle of 2013 - more than 2 years!!
The trips to the US started in December 2013 when Opetaia first went to the Disney Animation Studios in Burbank to sign the contract, his task - to write songs for "Moana", a magical, musical, animated feature film set in the South Pacific 2000 years ago. As you can appreciate anything set in the South Pacific is close to Opetaia's heart and come the beginning of 2014 he had started writing for the movie and could think about almost nothing else.
Although Opetaia met his first award-winning music partner, Mark Mancina, (Lion King, Tarzan, Cars and many more!) on his first Disney trip, he didnt meet lyricist and Broadway sensation, Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights and Hamilton) until the memorable Disney team trip to New Zealand to experience Auckland's Pasifika festival in March 2014. Lin hoped off a flight from New York and straight onto the Cook Island stage at Pasifika where he won an improvised dance-off, Island style. Lin is of Puerto Rican descent, but a man of endless enthusiasm, talent and surprising freestyle island dance skills which went down extremely well at Pasifika.
Back then we were all still signed to secrecy so the whole Disney team including legendary Disney Directors John Musker and Ron Clements, (The Great Mouse Detective, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Frog) spent 2 days cruising anonymously through the Pasifika festival experiencing all things Pacific.
The week before Opetaia had flown with the Disney team to Western Samoa so everyone involved in the movie could get really intouch with the people and the culture. The visual arts people were there too, photographing, sketching, taking in every detail of the environment - water, trees, foliage and more for later use in the movie. It was not the teams first trip to the South Pacific either and when John Lasseter (Head of Disney animation and Pixar) announced at the Disney D23 Expo that they had been changed by the South Pacific experience it was true.
Well it has been a long journey but we can finally talk about it. It was hard to wait for Disney's D23 Expo for the songwriters to finally be announced but when Te Vaka performed "We know the way" (a song written by Opetaia for the movie) and the crowd errupted with a standing ovation it was definitely worth the wait. The D23 is Disney's biggest live event and it only happens every 2 years. There are so many surprises lined up for the 8,000 Disney fans that attend and no-one knows beforehand who is going to be there. In and around the Greenroom backstage we were bumping into everyone from Johny Depp to Ellen Degeneres. As you can see by the picture at the top Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) was a favourite of the band. He is in 'Moana" as the demigod "Maui" which is so perfect.
As you can imagine we are all very excited about this movie - it is going to be amazing! Release date is November 23rd 2016 only one more year to wait.
Here is a snippet of Te Vaka live at the D23 - https://youtu.be/kBEBpQDSwQE