The short answer to that question is yes. The show uses “Moana” as a stand-in for “the American Samoa” where the film is set.
However, if you were to take the time to dive into “Avalanche Peak” — the first episode of our podcast series on animation — you’d learn quite a bit about the origins of the iconic film’s story. It has a lot more to do with the fact that when they were originally shooting “Moana,” the story of why it’s called that was “just the right color.”
Mama Moana has spent much of her life in the American Samoa. She has lived in the island since she was eight. Her mother, Moana, had a daughter called Moana that she adopted after she’d given away the baby, after she became pregnant with the child from her previous marriage. The story is that Moana was born in Samoa and, after her birth, she grew up in America. There, she eventually married a man and had two kids she fathered with him. Because she was adopted by Uncle Fauvelous (who’s Moana’s father) — a character referenced in the film’s story — she lost that adoption after she married her husband.
After that, she moved to Florida and later to Hawaii, where she settled with a man she’d met in Hawaii called Fauvelous’ father, Moili Fauvelous Jr. He lived with Moili and her sister, Tiki, at some point in her life. Moili’s parents had died, and they couldn’t bear to see their adopted daughter grow up and have children of their own. Fauvelous’ father eventually adopted Moana, and it appears in the film as a way through which he wanted to give her back to Hawaii, where she belonged. But by the time she met Moana’s father — and was able to move to American Samoa with her — Moili was already a mother.
So, despite the fact that Moana’s parents are referenced in “Moana,” it’s probably not a coincidence that “Moana” is, by the time of filming, set in American Samoa. (If the idea of Moana having a mother was part of the idea behind the story of the film, then why are the characters named after American Samoa?” I asked for answers!)
So, Moana is in American Samoa — and is, in fact, Moana. She’s Moana,
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