Disney's hunt to find its first Polynesian princess has left New Zealand to continue in other parts of the Pacific.

Walt Disney Animation Studios caused huge excitement late last year when it announced it was looking for a young woman - aged 14 to early 20s - to play the voice of its latest Disney princess, Moana.

The film of the same name is due out next November.

A call put out by CNA Casting in New Zealand generated thousands of video auditions.

Advertisement

But the search for the coveted spot has since moved on to other parts of the world and specifically the Pacific - including Hawaii and Samoa, where live auditions are being scheduled over the next two weeks.

CNA casting director Christina Asher declined to comment on how the New Zealand hopefuls had fared, saying Disney was now taking all media calls.

A request to Disney for information did not receive a response in time for publication.

But a post on the CNA Casting Facebook page on January 23 read: "For those of you wanting to know about progress with casting, we are still in the process of sorting through the many auditions from around the globe.

"I hope to have news for those people I have seen within the next fortnight."

Disney has since called on a casting team in Samoa to carry out auditions on the main islands of Upolu and Savai'i over the next few weeks. Kiwi-Samoan playwright and actress Fiona Collins, a graduate ofthe Toi Whakaari NZ Drama School, is among those who are helping in the search.

She acknowledged they had strict orders from Disney not to speak to the media unless given the okay, but said they were excited to be involved.

Auckland acting agency Fresh Talent Actors & Extras recruits a number of people with Maori and Pasifika backgrounds. Co-founder and talent-booker Becky Tia said a number of girls from the agency had submitted video auditions. None, however, had heard anything back.

Advertisement

"With a big production like that, they don't reply individually. We were hopeful, but unfortunately not."

Ms Tia said there was definitely no shortage of Pasifika talent but some girls tended to hold back.

"I think we definitely have the great combination of having girls that have the singing ability and [the look]. But what it may lack, slightly, is the natural confidence.

"Polynesian girls have a certain sense of shyness. I'm not saying that's why they're not getting it ... but perhaps that may be one of the reasons.

"They're looking for that right voice and I guess they're going until they find it."

Hawaiian gets Disney callback

A gospel singer from Hawaii has received the call-back thousands of aspiring Polynesian princesses have been hoping for for more than a month.

Makamae Kailani Auwae has proven to be a hit with Disney producers and they have asked her in for a live audition for the role of Moana in the movie of the same name. It is understood the audition will take place in Los Angeles within the next week. Auwae, 19, from Maui, sings in the band Christafari.

Local media reported she posted her video audition online in mid December and got a call-back from Disney officials last month.

In her audition video, a laid-back Auwae greets producers with a cheerful "Aloha!"

She goes on to say she grew up loving Disney animation.

"I think I would fit the role of Disney's Princess Moana because it is my culture, I speak fluent Hawaiian and I'm a professional singer."

She sings Walk Through Paradise With You, by Hawaiian-American singer Melveen Leed, using her native tongue for half the clip.

The criteria
• Pasifika or Maori girl aged between 14 and early 20s
• Has a strong singing voice
• Some acting skills are also preferred but not necessary