Moana makes her 'Disney on Ice' debut at state fair
Disney's newest inspiring heroine is going as far as Jim Norick Arena as Moana makes her debut at the Oklahoma State Fair.
The title character of the 2016 animated blockbuster, Moana is featured for the first time in a live production in “Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream,” playing through Tuesday at the fair.
Naturally, the trickster demigod Maui, her charismatic co-star, will be taking the ice with her.
You're welcome, Oklahoma City.
For skater Marie Hanford, the opportunity to portray the bold, wayfaring teenager is a reason to give thanks. It's the biggest role the Elk Grove, California, native has played since joining Disney on Ice in 2016.
“It's been an amazing new experience. It's definitely made me have — well, I already had such a deep appreciation for the character − but an even deeper appreciation for the character and how well loved she is,” Hanford said in a recent phone interview from the road in Mexico.
“The children and the audience, you know, they really get behind you when you're out there performing, which I so appreciate. The overall experience has been amazing, and I'm very, very fortunate and honored to be able to portray such a role.”
Character of color
An adventurous chieftain's daughter who sets sail across the ocean on a quest to save her homeland and people, Moana is the first female Pacific Islander to be the main character of a major Disney animated film. While making the movie, the Mouse House took the unprecedented step of creating an Oceanic Trust of scholarly and cultural advisers to ensure it was respectfully rooted in Polynesian folklore.
Although she's not Polynesian, Hanford said she does have Islander heritage: Her mother is from the Philippines.
“Everybody wants somebody that they feel they can relate to and kind of look up to, so I think it's amazing to bring this character to any and all communities,” she said. “I'm so proud to have that aspect to my heritage ... and my mom especially is quite proud because there is that emphasis on family in the culture and the ‘we' as opposed to ‘I.'”
As she crosses the ocean on her quest, Moana not only has to persuade the self-centered demigod Maui to help her but also has to convince him to keep going when they face formidable foes.
“She goes on an adventure to literally save her home, to save her island, and to really find her true self in the process. You know, having something of an adventure, you're filled sometimes with doubt: ‘Can I do it? Can't I do it? Am I doing the right thing?' But you still follow your heart and listen to that voice inside that's telling you that you are on the right path, you are doing the right thing,” Hanford said. “I think that's something that everybody, any person, of any age, of any background, can relate to. That's something, that's a journey that I think everybody has to go through in their own way, so that's why that message is kind of transcendent and can reach so many people.”
Making Disney magic
But Moana's adventures aren't the only ones played out in “Disney on Ice presents Dare to Dream.” Hosted by Minnie and Mickey Mouse, the show features several other Disney Princesses who demonstrate great courage in their stories, including Belle, Elsa, Anna, Rapunzel and Cinderella. Ticket holders are encouraged to arrive early to celebrate family and tradition with Miguel from Disney/Pixar's “Coco” in a special singalong preshow appearance.
While she plays Moana, Hanford's sister, Tosha Hanford, plays Princess Anna.
“We have an amazing cast of ladies − and gentlemen, of course,” said Marie Hanford, who is the show's ladies' line captain, acting as a liaison between the cast and performance director and ensuring the choreography is executed as set.
“I think that the overall message of the show to go on your journey and discover your inner hero that's an amazing message. I think everybody does their jobs to the best of their ability to make these characters come to life.”
Translating Moana's adventures from ocean to ice − and from animation to real life − involves canny choreography, lighting effects and a bit of Disney magic, she said.
“She is very strong and her journey takes place on the ice, so there's kind of a solo, it's very calm and kind of questioning. And then there is that build (up) throughout the number as she finds more strength and confidence within herself. So, the skating becomes faster and more powerful,” Hanford said. “You know, in the movie, the ocean is helping Moana along and is a large part of her journey as well. And the ice is just frozen water, so I think that's a great little correlation.”
For Hanford, there is a great little tie between her and Oklahoma City, too, since it's the first city she traveled to when she started with Disney On Ice as a performer in the show “Worlds of Enchantment.” She said she especially enjoys performing as part of the state fair.
“It's a treat,” she said. “It was amazing to be able to explore a little bit when there was time.”
'Disney on Ice presents Dare to Dream' at the Oklahoma State Fair
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sunday; 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Monday; and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Jim Norick State Fair Arena.
Tickets and information: 948-6800 or www.okstatefair.com.