The first Chilean Disney Princess?: Moana’s almost unknown link with our country

The protagonist of the Disney film comes from the islet of Motu Nui, a distant sector of Easter Island. Here we tell you his story.

At the end of 2016 Disney premiered one of its most endearing films, starring an intelligent and brave girl named Moana.

The film, titled under the same name, hit theaters in November of that year and enchanted millions with the story of a young sea enthusiast who discovers that the demigod Maui caused the misfortune of his people after stealing the heart of the goddess Te Fiti. The only way to save the fate of your island, Motunui, is by persuading him to return Te Fiti’s heart. So, the teenager embarks on a risky adventure to save her village with the demigod Maui.

Five years have passed since its premiere and a curiosity has gone almost unnoticed all this time, at least for the vast majority. The story takes place on the fictional island of Motunui, but it turns out that Rapa Nui there is a real islet named Big Island. That has led some fans to consider Moana, unofficially, as the first “Chilean Disney Princess”.

The data was discussed between 2019 and 2020 in some forums and internet portals, but it was not until the beginning of this year that the tiktokera Zahori Balmaceda He was surprised by the finding and shared it on his networks.

Moana’s locations | Disney

The history of Motu Nui

According to books like The Mystery of Easter Island (1919), from Katherine Routledge, Y Among Stone Giants (2003), from Jo Anne Van Tilburg, Big Island (“Big Islet”) is the largest of the three islets located at the southwestern end of Easter Island, the westernmost place in our country. The other two are called Motu Kao Kao (“Acute Islet”) Y Small Island (“Little Islet”).

The trio of islets are known for harboring sea birds, however, Motu Nui is considered an essential place for the ancient ritual of Bird Man (“Bird Man”), recognized cult of the island’s religion between the time of the moai and the Christians. It should be remembered that the island converted to Catholicism in the 1860.

In terms of its appearance, Moana’s islet is the summit of a volcanic mountain of great size that rises above 2,000 meters from the bottom of the sea, and its extension reaches the 3,9 hectares.

The three islets: Motu Nui, Motu Iti and Motu Kao Kao
The three islets: Motu Nui, Motu Iti and Motu Kao Kao | Rapa Nui National Park

Tangata Manu: the mortal competition of Rapa Nui

The Tangata Manu, also known as the Bird Man ritual, was an arduous and extreme physical test in which the natives of Easter Island competed annually so that their tribe got the power for the following year.

Considering how hard the activity was, many participants died during its development. Therefore, to this day it is considered one of the most extreme challenges in the world.

The objective of the competition was for the participants to arrive as soon as possible at the three islets, Motu Nui, Motu Kao Kao and Motu Iti, which were a few meters from the island, in order to obtain the first egg put by him Manu Tara, in our language known as the slaty tern.

The Slaty Tern
The Slaty Tern | Rapa Nui National Park

This tern, considered by Easter Islanders as the lucky bird, is a migratory bird that came to the island in spring to lay its eggs and take care of its young. It was precisely in this period that the celebration of the Tangata Manu took place. Currently, the slate cannot be seen on the island since stopped migrating to that place several years ago, according to the website of the Rapa Nui National Park.

However, the path to find the egg was extremely difficult: the contestants had to quickly go down a vertical cliff of about 300 meters, which connects to Orongo -ceremonial village located on the edge of the crater of the Rano Kau volcano- with the seashore; swim more than 1 kilometer to the largest and most distant islet, Motu Nui, in a journey that included sharks, a rough sea and strong currents; and there wait for about three weeks for the birds to hatch. Few have achieved such a feat. and many perished on the way.

After one of the inhabitants collected the precious egg, it became the new Bird Man of Rapa Nui and the representative in the land of Make Make -God creator of everything for the Rapa Nui culture, which began to acquire power within the island-. The winner and his tribe obtained special privileges and hierarchy on the island for a whole year, until the competition was held again.

Recreation of the Tangata Manu
Recreation of Tangata Manu | Rapa Nui National Park

Motu Nui today

Although the rituals of the Tangata Manu cult were suppressed several years ago – the last competition was held in 1866-, visitors to Rapa Nui continue to enjoy the beauty of the three islets.

Currently, those who travel to the island usually view Motu Nui, Motu Iti and Motu Kao Kao through small boat tours from Long Build, the city of the island.

Another of the activities that are usually done on the islet is the diving. And it is that, according to the inhabitants of the area, diving between Motu Nui and Motu Kao Kao is exceptional and a highly sought after place by lovers of this sport worldwide.

This activity has become very popular in an area that was previously known to be densely populated with sharks. In recent times, however, Rapa Nui’s coastal waters have become much safer due, in large part, to the overfishing.

Motu Nui and Moana
Motu Nui and Moana | Disney
Motu Nui in reality
Motu Nui in reality | Wikimedia Commons

Immersing yourself in the culture of the Pacific

But centering a film in a place as far away as unknown to the vast majority, It was not an easy task for the creators of Moana.

According to Ron Clements Y John Musker, directors of the film, the duo took five years to complete the project, because they had to document a lot about the origins of the characters that would star in the film.

In conversation with the media Sensacine, the directors affirmed that they had to learn in detail about the pacific tribal culture to be able to capture in the film, in the most authentic way possible, the appearance and customs of Maui (Dwayne Johnson), Moana and her entire family.

They even said they traveled to the Rapa Nui area to learn more about the traditions and its inhabitants, their connections with the ocean, how essential nature was for them and other vital details for develop the argument of the cinematographic work.

Did you want to enjoy Moana? Currently, you can see this memorable film on the Disney streaming platform, Disney+, entering to the following link.

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