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Auliʻi Cravalho Explains Why She’s Not Reprising Her Role in Live-Action ‘Moana’

Disney's animated Moana closeup, next to a closeup of her voice actor, Auliʻi Cravalho.

The lead actress of Disney’s 2016 Hawaiian-centered island adventure Moana, Auliʻi Cravalho, has announced that she won’t be reprising her role in the upcoming live-action film.

In a new video posted to her Instagram, Auli’i Cravalho says, “When I was cast as Moana at 14, it wonderfully changed my life and started my career. In this live-action retelling, I will not be reprising the role.”

She goes on to explain that she wishes for a better representation of Moana’s character and will step aside to let someone new take on the role: “I believe it is absolutely vital that casting accurately represents the characters and stories we want to tell.

“I am truly honoured to pass this baton to the next young woman of Pacific Island descent to honor our incredible Pacific peoples, cultures, and communities that helped inspire her story, and I look forward to all the beautiful Pacific representation to come.”

Some fans have theorized that this is largely due to the fact that Cravalho is much lighter in skin color than her character. The decision to replace her comes in the wake of backlash to the casting of Nani in the upcoming live-action Lilo & Stitch remake, whose actress’ skin is much lighter than Nani in the animated film. So, it seems Cravalho’s decision may be an effort to avoid colorism—that or it has to do with her age, as Moana is supposed to be 16 while the actress is now 22, although it really wouldn’t be the first time Hollywood has taken liberty in actors’ ages in contrast to their characters.

However, Cravalho will still be involved in the remake. She announced in the video that she is set to become an executive producer. “As an executive producer on the film, I cannot wait to help find the next actress to portray Moana’s courageous spirit, undeniable wit, and emotional strength.” Hopefully that means that she’ll be able to make sure that the casting actually addresses her reasons for giving up the role in the first place.

There have been both positive and negative reactions to her announcement:

Cravalho had previously spoken about the live-action film, saying, “[Moana] has had such a profound impact on how we think of Disney princesses. Moana’s strength and perseverance are inspiring—to audiences around the world, to me, and to everyone who helped bring her to life. I’m looking forward to sharing her story in a whole new way.”

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Brooke Pollock is a UK-based entertainment journalist who talks incessantly about her thoughts on pop culture. She can often be found with her headphones on listening to an array of music, scrolling through social media, at the cinema with a large popcorn, or laying in bed as she binges the latest TV releases. She has almost a year of experience and her core beat is digital culture.