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Monday Nights: Veteran Animator Eric Goldberg Presents Disney’s “Moana”

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Animation Professor Shane Acker (left) leads Q&A with veteran animator Eric Goldberg at the Monday Nights Moana event.

On Monday, November 14th, animators and Disney lovers alike filled Mayer Theater for a sneak peak of Disney’s newest animated film, Moana. Its protagonist of the same name is a fierce, young woman who must navigate dangerous waters in order to save her island’s vitality. Along the way, Moana (voiced by newcomer Auli’l Cravalho) is joined by the legendary demi-god, Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), who is more concerned with escaping the island he is trapped on than assisting Moana’s cause.

Supervising animator for the film, Eric Goldberg (Wreck-It Ralph, Aladdin, Hercules), presented a series of behind-the-scenes clips and led an animation demonstration for the audience. For Moana, Goldberg’s expertise was primarily focused on 2-D animation, specifically the character of Mini Maui. He described Moana as a blend of hand-drawn and computer-generated imagery that will hopefully be a pioneer for more films to come. Goldberg was very adamant on teaching the crowd of aspiring animators to create “a character that people will identify with,” no matter how much larger than life they seem to be.

Goldberg described Moana as “a grounded story out respect for the Pacific Islander culture that defines it.” The first behind-the-scenes snippet he showcased was prefaced by the quote of a Tahitian elder, “We’ve been swallowed by your culture. One time, can you be swallowed by ours?” The short video documented the various research voyages directors Ron Clements and John Musker went on prior to production to better understand the Pacific Islander culture. Upon returning to the studio, the duo was steadfast on respectfully portraying a world not usually represented. Moana is the product of that admiration.

To close out the evening, Goldberg offered a piece of advice to the audience. His words were succinct: “observe and caricature.” He knew that he wanted to be an animator when he was four years old, and has spent many years surveying the world and sketching since. His passion became his profession, showing LMU’s hopeful animation students that their goals are indeed achievable, but more importantly rewarding.