Auli’i Cravalho was just a teenager from Hawaii before she scored the lead role in “Moana.” She performed at her school’s Concert Glee Club, she studied for her AP and she liked to dance the hula. When word came that Disney was searching for teenage girls for their latest animated film — an ocean adventure set centuries in the past, about a girl who sets sail by herself to save her island from destruction — Cravalho wasn’t even going to audition. But she did, and all of a sudden a Disney fanatic has found herself becoming a bona fide Disney princess, sharing vocal space with no less than Dwayne Johnson.
Bubbly and friendly, Cravalho — who turns 16 the day before “Moana” hits theaters — talks to us about her dramatically changed life, being inspired by “Mulan” and her adorable, fat stray cat.
How much has your life changed since making “Moana”?
It hasn’t changed that much. Finding a balance between school and this incredible blessing is a little tough. [Laughs] I’m still doing homework, whether it’s on a plane or in a hotel room. My friends have changed just a little bit. They’ve started calling me “Moana” instead of Auli’i. My teachers call me that, too. But they’re so proud and supportive. Even though I’m across hundreds of miles of ocean, I still get Skyped and texts. That’s all I could have ever hoped for. But I am missing my cat right now.
What kind of cat do you have?
Oh my god. [Laughs] I have a domestic shorthair tortoiseshell cat. She’s a stray.
So you found her?
Sort of. My childhood friend found a stray cat, but she was moving. So I took her. She’s become my lovable fat kitty who I feed too much. [Laughs] She falls over a lot and makes me laugh.